Speaking of the credulity of Spirit Daily…

Speaking of the credulity of Spirit Daily… May 10, 2012


Ahem. If I were to put up a headline that urged my readers “PAY ATTENTION TO HOROSCOPES” or “CONSULT WITCH DOCTORS” or “PAGAN PROPHETS SHOW US THE WAY” you would be understandably nonplussed. In fact, the Church discourages us from seeking out pagan prophets because they are, you know, pagan. (Not that God cannot reveal himself to a pagan, of course. But when he does so it is to refer the pagan to Jesus Christ in his Church–NOT TO SEND BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST RUNNING AFTER PAGAN PROPHETS.) But, Spirit Daily being Spirit Daily, the emphasis is not so much on the common sense teaching of the magisterial Church as it is on a sort of indiscriminate hankering for the spooky, the signs and wonders of whatever dubious provenance, and the murky shadowy area of what I call “X Files spirituality”. Is some of this stuff legit? I reckon so. They are indiscriminate enough that we get everything from approved apparitions to the Shroud of Turin (which I think is the genuine article), to increasingly dodgy stuff about statues with dripping legs, to conspiracy theories about anti-Catholicism sinking the Titanic, to fearmongering about Christian yoga, to paranoia about Munch’s “The Scream” and its relation to “prophecy” to “the new world order” to near death experiences. It tends to be all about stuff from the shadowy borders of human experience, not stuff from the sunlit uplands of common sense, natural law, and the central deposit of Faith.

What they intuit is something that really is and always has been a part of the Catholic tradition: the charismatic and mystical insight that we live in a world governed by a God who does some pretty strange things sometimes. (I’ve got a couple of lulu stories myself.) It’s not bad to acknowledge that, particularly in an age where both hyper-rationalists *and* some species of Catholic are deeply hostile to the mystical element of the faith. But there is a right and a wrong way to be open to the mystical and there is something unhealthy about cultivating a habit of running after this stuff as the central part of your spiritual diet while exercising what is often an astonishingly bad sense of discernment. God calls us to grow up into mature Christians who are formed by the ordinary common life, worship and teaching of Christ in his Church. When your *primary* diet of spiritual things comes not from the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church, the liturgy, the virtues, and the works of mercy, but from the latest rumor about what some dodgy apparition like Medjugorje says (and Spirit Daily is *huge* on Medjugorje and other dodgy unapproved “apparitions”) or what some alleged apparition to some alleged “pagan prophet” in “deep Africa’ says, you are treading on very thin ice. What often happens in such cases is that the “seer” or the apparition or the “sign” winds up taking the place of the Church’s teaching, with typically pernicious results.

Before I was Catholic, I thought Catholics believed that Mary was another god. After I became Catholic, I discovered that some Catholics (the sort who look to sites like Spirit Daily for their *main* formation in the faith) think Mary (or various *claimed* Marys in dubious apparitions) is another Pope. They run here and there looking for better revelation than the boring ordinary stuff the Church gives, hoping to have the inside track on the hidden history of our time and often deeply disappointed or, worse, deeply suspicious of the Church when she does not fall in line with what “Mary” or the latest prophet or seer is supposedly telling the Church to do. They prefer their Folk Hero to the Church. That is poison. Avoid it like the plague. And do not, for the love of God, entrust yourself to what some “pagan prophet” somewhere has to say.

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  • Well, he was pagan when Jesus allegedly first appeared to him. He presented himself for admission into the Church immediately after that, and was baptized the next year. I am not sure what to make of the whole story, but Immaculee has earned the benefit of the doubt from me, and I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. The stuff about the end of the world seems pretty sketchy, though, as Michael Brown indicates. I think some stuff could be lost in translation, and since the alleged visionary is now dead, there’s not much chance of it getting cleared up.

    • Rosemarie


      True, he did convert as a result of the apparitions at which point he was no longer a “pagan prophet.”

      I tend to stick with what local bishops say about an apparition, so I remain skeptical of Emmanuel Segatashya’s alleged revelations. However, maybe the “end of the world” stuff could be understood in the same sense as Our Lord’s words to His apostles about the destruction of Jerusalem and “end of the world” in the Gospels. I think we discussed this earlier on this blog; that for the Jews of the time, the destruction of Jerusalem was like the end of the world. Maybe the horrific Rwandan genocide was like the end of the world for many Rwandans? Just a thought….

  • ivan_the_mad

    Indeed. EWTN has a good article on apparitions and Church teaching regarding the same, private vs. public revelation, etc: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/apparitions.htm

    Of special note is the determination near the bottom regarding the decision the local ordinary can make of the veracity (or lack thereof) of the apparition. The scary thing is the reminder that extraordinary/supernatural signs could even be demonic in origin so as to deceive the faithful. Bottom line: Be very, very skeptical of such things.

    And you can almost surely dismiss any millenarian prophecies out of hand. I was around Emmitsburg, MD when a certain lady began having regular weekly visions of that type in a local parish … the bishop eventually shut that down, but quite a movement sprang up around her, including those who “remained loyal” despite the bishop’s decision that nothing supernatural was at work. A perfect example of what you write at the article’s end.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    When Spirit Daily picks up one of my blog posts my hits go through the roof. My approach is to write on the spooky stuff in such a way that Spirit Daily folks want to read it, then dish up good sensible Catholicism. You know Trojan Horses and all that.

    • Mark Shea

      Wise move. Of course, with this post, I’ve probably guaranteed they never link me again. 🙂

      • You’re becoming smug, and a pundit. You don’t know everything, most likely haven’t experienced everything.

        • Mark Shea

          I don’t claim to have experienced everything. And as I say, I have a certain respect for openness to wonder. But there is, nonetheless, a danger to the Spirit Daily subculture of credulity and fascination with dubious signs: obsession with Medjugorje being the most obvious manifestation.

          • It’s mixed, and I think Brown would be the first to admit it. Warning people off the site goes too far. How do you know which signs are dubious and which are not? You’re not anyone’s nanny, you’re not a bishop, and you are becoming much too judgmental of what you can’t possibly know.

            • Mark Shea

              Where did I warn people off the site? I thought I warned them to exercise better prudence and discernment.

              • “Avoid it like the plague”?

                Never mind.

                Fine, I take it back. And that’s what Michael Brown says, although he leaves out the word “better”, which is in any case superfluous in the context.

                • Mark Shea

                  Avoid preferring folk heros and private revelations to the Church’s teaching. Not “Avoid Spirit Daily” like the plague. Read, but exercise discernment and prudence.

                  • Who are you to say that people “prefer” folk heroes?

                    Let me get this straight: You are not telling people to avoid Spirit Daily, but you are urging them to read it with discretion. Fine. I have seldom read a commentary by Brown that doesn’t say the same thing. You probably haven’t seen those comments or you would have mentioned them.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      “Let me get this straight: You are not telling people to avoid Spirit Daily, but you are urging them to read it with discretion. Fine.”

                      9284308 combox entries later, we’ve finally restated what was already written in the original post as if it’s novel … I love the Interwebz <3

                    • Mark Shea

                      Who am I? Somebody who has watched repeatedly as fans of Maciel, Euteneuer, Voris, Sungenis, Jones, and Corapi have savaged critics of these Folk Heroes as apostates, enemies of the True Faith, members of a Shadowy Liberal Conspiracy, etc. for the crime of questioning the Folk Hero, even when the Folk Hero’s bishop has said, “Beware this guy”. As somebody who has been on the receiving end of a hell of a lot of abuse from people who preferred their folk hero over prudence, discernment and the rightful exercise of episcopal authority, I’m somewhat familiar with the reality of this phenomenon in the life of the Church. Just last week or so, I was being publically calumnied as part of a vast Sexist Conspiracy for the crime of thinking the local ordinaries at Medjugorje are right and there’s no apparition of Mary taking place there. The person making that outrageous calumny of me and several other people felt himself empowered to do so because he just knows, by his mystic arts, that the “visionaries” are right and the bishops are wrong and anybody who disagree does not merely disagree but is motivated by hatred of women.

                    • SecretAgentMan

                      Excuse me, just trying to see how many lines I can make.

          • Chris Faulds

            Hi Mark,

            Thank you for sharing your refreshing views.

            I agree I find the obsession that any Catholic that usually has done very little research on the subject of Medjugorje quite shocking.

            Follow the Pope , Mass, Confession, Prayer (avoid the tickling of the ear).

            There are a number of give aways that I have spotted when reviewing the alleged visions, that just do not add up! These fit perfectly with the mentality that the world has changed and reverance is no longer neccessary lets all be “Happy” “Clappy” “Catholics” . I also find it disturbing when people say or post the “Virgin Mary” said at Medjugorje. It’s complete arrogance to do this.

            When I was a lapsed Catholic I thought that Medjugorje was true, Now that I’m back in the one true Faith I personally do not think that it is true.

            What ever the Church concludes on Medjugorje I shall follow.

    • Good sensible Catholicism like Fatima, Lourdes, the apparitions and locutions of the saints, et. al.?
      You don’t have to believe in any of it, Fr. Dwight. But don’t “spooky things” ever happen to you?
      That’s exactly the term a priest used to describe something that happened to me in Russia.
      The Trojan Horse metaphor makes you sound smug. Superior, in your own mind.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        If you read my blog and the posts linked at Spirit Daily you’d realize plenty of ‘spooky’ things have happened in my spiritual life. I’m thankful for them and wonder at them and am happy for Spirit Daily to report them, but I write them up in a way that is interesting but faithful to church teaching and find that is what Brown does most of the time too.

    • As for Trojan Horses, I assume Fr. Dwight has told Brown that he is infiltrating his site with “Trojan Horses”.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        I think most of what Brown writes is fine, and that is why I don’t mind if he links to some of my posts. What I dislike about Spirit Daily is that, like Mark said, it can attract some loonies.

    • Padraig

      I followed that route, found your site and the vision – your dyed hair – scared the hell more surely out of me than any end time pallaver ever did/could.

      L’oreal, cause you’re worth it. Hmmmm 🙂

      Or it is “Jjust for ‘real men’ “?

  • I read Spirit Daily and I don’t believe that Mary is another Pope. I don’t think Michael Brown does either. He has constantly called for discretion over items he presents. Over the years I’ve read articles on the site that have inspired me and moved me. Some of them accord with my own experience.

  • People in their own lives are constantly being reminded of the “spookiness”, the unexpectedness, the violations of consensus reality that become apparent if they wake up from the dozy states of inattention that most of us inhabit most of the time. These experiences are not doctrine, not part of the deposit of faith and for the most part are never known to anyone but the person and perhaps close friends. But they are nevertheless signs, valid ones often, on a personal level.

    You don’t have to believe any of it happened the way people say it did. But don’t be smug and dismissive either. Keep your mind open.

    • Mark Shea

      I do. See my link ‘In praise of credulity”.

  • I believe that is the story of Segatashya, who I think is the only non-approved visionary from the approved apparition of Our Lady of Kibeho. I saw Immaculee Illibagiza two years ago at a women’s conference and she spoke a little bit about him. It isn’t just credulity.

  • SecretAgentMan

    As an arch traditionalist, I’ll stick with the Sybills, thanks very much. All this johnny-come-lately pagan prophecy is too faddish.

    • The Romans were stingy and refused to pay her price, so she kept on destroying the tablets until they got worried and came up with the cash.

      • SecretAgentMan

        Sure she did, wouldn’t you? Just like Romans to haggle over foreknowledge. As though she couldn’t know what their bottom line was.

  • The Church is under savage attack, and we waste energy by attacking one another – and that’s a sign of weakness and confusion. Is Michael Brown The Enemy?

    • Mark Shea

      No. And I never said he was. But lack of discernment is–leading to weakness and confusion: two of abundant fruits of, for example, Medjugorje.

      • There are many reasons – but I should think that belief in spooky stuff has little to do with it, although you might take that as a symptom of the spiritual dryness within the Church itself.

        • Mark Shea

          I do.

          • The whole world is spooky, starting with the astonishing news that there should be anything at all. Personally, I don’t know of a way of conclusively proving that a “spooky” experience is genuine in the sense of actually happening, and if it does whether or not it comes from a good place or a bad place, or if it comes from a good place but is misinterpreted. Our Lord tells us to look at the fruits, which include, I think, the orthodoxy of it, and that’s where I’ll have to rest.

            I wouldn’t assume that someone who has a spooky experience is necessarily heterodox in belief or desires to follow a folk hero.

            • Mark Shea

              I wouldn’t either, which is why I never said anything even remotely like that.

              • SecretAgentMan

                Excuse me, just trying to see if I can make another line.

                • SecretAgentMan

                  Cool. Another line.

  • justin
    • Mark Shea

      I hold what the Church holds: namely that a chemical analysis of the Eucharist would yield only the accidents of bread and wine. The Church does not teach the the Eucharist undergoes a chemical change, but a metaphysical and spiritual change. That is not heresy. That is orthodox. Conte has no idea what he is talking about.

      • Matt

        On the other, Conte did correctly predict that Hillary Clinton would be elected president in 2008, just sayin’.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Wait, so in addition to addition to our secret Muslim president, we also have a secret woman president? I CAN’T HANDLE THE INTRIGUE 😛

  • Brandon

    On a somewhat related note, I find it amusing that the article starts off talking about the “15-year-old pagan shepherd *born illiterate* and penniless in the deep recesses of Rwanda..” (emphasis my own)

    My goodness, those poor people! Illiterate even at birth!

    • SecretAgentMan

      ROFLMAO! (for the newborn, that means “funny”).

  • Didn’t C. S. Lewis say somewhere (the introduction to The Screwtape Letters, if I remember correctly) that the devils hail both a magician and a materialist with equal delight? In other words, both the occultist who is constantly in search of some kind kind of ancient dark secrets and other ooga-booga type stuff as well as the hyper-rationalist who thinks all that sort of stuff is pure bunk are equally prey to the deceptions of the Enemy?

  • SecretAgentMan
  • “Who am I? Somebody who has watched repeatedly as fans of Maciel, Euteneuer, Voris, Sungenis, Jones, and Corapi have savaged critics of these Folk Heroes as apostates, enemies of the True Faith, members of a Shadowy Liberal Conspiracy, etc. for the crime of questioning the Folk Hero, even when the Folk Hero’s bishop has said, “Beware this guy”

    I don’t follow these controversies. I have very little interest in them, except that as you probably know I used to contribute photographs to the Register, but even then I don’t keep track of the fortunes of the Legionaries.

    I think you’re reacting to things and people I’m hardly even aware of.

    • Mark Shea

      I don’t follow them either. They follow me. 🙂 But yeah, they do affect the way I look at such things.

  • I don’t follow any of that. I’m not interested in it. But I can see that you might be reacting to things and people I’m hardly aware of.

  • That was addressed to Mark.

  • Alfredo Escalona

    Ah! The old Gnostic Temptation… also known as…
    “I know something you don’t know! Na-nana-NA-na!”
    …where the more traditional follow up “But for $19.95 (plus S & H), I’ll let you know the secret!”
    …has now been replaced by “Hmmm… have to increse the hit rate on my blog, so my advertisers
    will pay me more… what kinda sensationalist scurrilous hogwash can I feed the eyeballs today?”

    “Plus Ca Change, Plus C’est La Meme Doodoo.” and “Sic Semper Stulti!”


  • kimc

    I followed Immaculee’s story closely since her faith is inspiring and her ability to forgive saintly. I cringed and worried at first when she decided to promote this young boy’s apparitions because I thought that she might better wait until the Church had made a decision.

    I understand that the Church has not made a final declaration on the validity of belief in his visions. Immaculee explained in her book that she was willing to listen to the Church’s decision. According to Immaculee, the local bishop is privately supportive of these apparitions, and Immaculee believes that they will one day be approved. I do not know how it will sort out. I trust the Church; I deeply hope Immaculee is not misled, and I have no interest in Spirit Daily, whatever it is.

    I finally did read Immaculee’s book about this boy despite my initial caution. I have no final opinion until the Church rules on the validity of the apparitions, but I will note 2 things. Although the boy asks Jesus burning questions that we all have, I could not discern anything from his answers that explicated anything more than what the Church has already told us… this includes general warnings about the end times. However, there is a sense of urgency about the end times that seems not out of sync with the same urgency we hear in prophecies like Fatima. (Which makes sense when you consider time from the perspective of God, who exists independent of time. )

    If the boy gave some kind of timeline or answers above and beyond revelation, I would have been far more worried. As it is, his answers can be manipulated, but his basic message: time is short, do penance, love God, be faithful, be ready….. are true, urgent, and consistent with the Church. He may be a modern-day prophet. I’ll let the Church decide, but I think in the meantime, it may be wise to heed his warnings where they line up with the Church’s message…

  • Teri

    “The Church is under savage attack, and we waste energy by attacking one another ”

    Good answer Pavel

  • I always believed there should be a balance between the rational and the mystical. Spirit Daily is deeply distrustful of the intellect. They’ve said as much in some of their editorials. I have no idea why, when the Father gave one to each of us. That always bothered me.

    And yet I was rabidly attacked in a combox (by someone with sockpuppets and/or a multiple personality disorder) by saying that (and that they rely too heavily on these unapproved apparitions, this being a perfect case in point) a couple of years ago.

  • Dear Mark,
    Just a few comments: Why is there even a hint a of division here between brothers in Christ? Surely there is enough room under the Catholic umbrella for many differing spiritualities! I have enjoyed your comments for years AND I read Spirit Daily as well as other related sites every day. It really is OK to have various takes on spiritual matters. BOTH are valid and have insights I have benefited from. Please do not resort to name-calling to prove your catholicity! As a man both theologically and scientifically trained, I have seen plenty of things I cannot explain except through the eyes of faith. I do not see myself as unprofessional because I value BOTH yours and Mr. Brown’s approach to our faith. Vive le differance!

  • Michael Guenther

    My favorite headline from SpiritDaily “MOTHER OF 13 LOSES 30 POUNDS IN 10 WEEKS”!

  • David Stapleton

    Yes sure…adherence to the teaching authority of Catholcism providing it lines up with your five senses!
    And yet…look around you! Droughts in the US….storms…billions being lost….and a society with a zero moral compass.
    Let”s end Medjugorrye tomorroww and for that matter…all the Fatimas…Marian nonsense…and toss out most of the Old Testament becuse there is really some very non-rational people there like prophets! For that matter…how does one explain….transubstantiation anyway! Or the Trinity…and what about that supposedly saintly JP 11…or that other kook…called Pio!

    Gee..problem is they were all mystics….! Now let’s look at the fruit! Ahh…the fruit…millions of confessions….vocations….all coming from Satan’s inspiration or six kids who fooled everybody!
    There is a point…where Catholics such as you sir….can offer little. So it doesn’t jive with your notion of faith.
    Come to Canada—-where nothing is ever mentioned about what really is underway fron any pulpit….and the laypeople are crying for the loss of faith in diocese after diocese.
    Sorry chum…I’ll take the mystics anyday….because without it…you have no faith nor any Christianity! Just how do you explain …the Resurrection?

    And lastly next time…..you write…get nto know your facts….and take a walk….in any large bookstore and see how many sections are devoted to wicca and new paganism and how many to Christianity? The signs of the times are all around you! Just look and figure it out…and I’ll bet you won’t need a bishop’s discernment!

  • maizie

    Michael Brown at Spirit Daily carries more information on the movements of evil spirits which do not get noticed by a larger part of Christian believers. This may be one of the attractions for some of us who intercede in those particulars.

  • Desiree

    I scan Spirit Daily occasionally and have had benefit and criticism of some of it’s content.What everyone seems to disregard is that it is a site that compiles varieties of news and info. from around the world that have human interest of spirtuality(ies) as well as relative material.It does report sensational sounding stories as well as Church action and hierarchical happenings. I’ve been to Medjugore. It is unique and very likely OUR LADY has made her presence known to many people throughout it’s history. I believe She is calling Her SONS friends and Inheritance to attention in that place.We will see as the Vatican makes decision soon.Last but not least All those in the KINGDOM are Priest, Prophet, King we should be mouthing GODS WORD to all we meet…whether the African boy was transferred from the kingdom of darkness to LIGHT remains to be seen and so far only GOD knows.Finally come on Catholic people.JESUS HIMSELF SAID He came to destroy the works of the devil which are as evident today as ever.Spirit Daily reports them. Mainstream media doesn’t ,won’t or better still has no authority to deal with it.WE DO! .Mysticism is part and parcel of our identity…look all throughout the Bible and read about the miraculous goings on. Mark I don’t know you but I can read how intelligent you are.Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to explore the AWE INSPIRING EXPLOITS JESUS SAID HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD DO.

  • Anderson Thomas

    Well satin is always on the attack. He hates anything or anyone who exposes the darkness to the light of truth. Of course Hank Green is going to make a 4 grade argument against spirtdaily in behest of the evil one.. Hank said he became a catholic. Well he in not quite there yet. Infantile spirituality at best. Incredulity is the game of those who claim to be catholic yet bash the mystical realities of the cosmos. Just the usual protestant palaver. The I got it it right with my spiritual iconoclasm is Hank’s kind of silly game. Spiritual daily never claims to be the definitive theology of the the faith. The site is just an excellent source of reading, not unlike a readers digest for spiritual awareness. Every article is not equal on the site, or ever held up to be. . So the reader needs to grow up and develop catholic adult decrement. GOD REVEALED HIMSELF TO SIMON OF SERINE. THE WOMAN AT THE WELL, EXORCISED THE DOMINIC, Veronica the pagan wife of Pilate who wipe Jesus face with the scarf became a follower of Christ. on and on. A point about the pagan boy at Kabheio Rwanda. God infused in him a complete understanding of the catholic faith. He became a flawless articulatory of the catholic way. think about that Hank! You say, Dogy stuff about bleeding and weeping statues. Dogy stuff!!!! hank berates, that which is out and out mystical supernatural manifestation fromGod. All Hank’s rattling is nothing but contempt for the manifestation of God, disguised in 2 bit phony intellectualism..