Question re: Generational Healing

A reader writes:

This week, my parish hosted Fr. Gregory Bramlage, who conducted a healing mission. Several of the attendees have approached me, knowing that I teach apologetics, to get my opinion on what happened at the mission, and I’m at a loss on how to answer them.

Here is my summary of the questions and points of confusion, and a link to the document on the missionary priest’s website from which I drew these quotes.

Our parish hosted a mission that was given by a priest whose ministry focuses on healing. One of the more prominent (and controversial) elements of this mission included prayers for generational healing. Here are some statements from his document on how to prepare for this service:

“Great traumas may be healed through generational healing prayer without your knowing their exact cause. However, if you find that your family’s problems are not completely resolved after one Holy Communion or healing prayer session, continue to intercede for them. In some cases, it may be necessary for prayer for the Healing of Generations to be repeated several times for family bloodlines.”

This seems to denigrate the value of redemptive suffering and deny the necessity of bearing the cross as commanded by Our Lord in the gospels.

Here is a prayer that’s recited during the petitions at this service:

“We ask you to surround us, Lord Jesus with Your Holy Light. Heavenly Father, let the healing waters of our baptisms now flow back through our maternal and paternal generations to purify our family lines of Satan and sin.”

This seems to pervert the purpose of baptism, which remits the guilt of original sin and any actual sins committed at the time it is received. How can it be claimed that the graces of my baptism can flow back to others?

Thanks for any guidance you can provide.

I don’t see a big problem with the idea of generational healing. The notion that the “sins of the fathers” afflict subsequent generations is, obviously, a biblical one and lies at the heart of the idea, not only of original sin, but of such phenomena as child abuse, addiction, and all sorts of other bondages to which flesh is heir. The prayer that people be delivered from such afflictions and bondage is no more at odds with carrying the cross than any other prayer for healing and deliverance.

Similarly, I don’t see a big problem with praying that the power of baptism purify the bondages of generational sin that can afflict us. The notion that the prayer you quote is somehow literally baptising our ancestors is, I think, an overly literal reading of the prayer. It seems to me the point of the prayer is simply to loose the believer from ancestral patterns and bondages to sin. This seems right in keeping with biblical teaching, so long as we don’t read it to mean that it magically baptizes unbelieving ancestors or magically removes from us all responsibility for sin.

That said, my habit is to always treat such things as *a* form of Catholic piety and spirituality: good and helpful for some, maybe not so much for others. In essential things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.

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