Tom McDonald has been doing a series on ghosts

Tom McDonald has been doing a series on ghosts October 6, 2014

over at God and the Machine. The series is here. His latest post is here.

I’ve always found the topic interesting since I have great respect for human traditions that are universally attested throughout all of human history, as ghosts are. At the same time, I find it fascinating that the Church is, in its doctrine, resolutely quiet on the matter. It’s one of the many broad areas of human experience where the Church is open to mystery and does not attempt to make any hard and fast pronouncements. She, of course, warns against attempting to summon the dead. But she says nothing, so far as I know, for or against the idea that the dead may, on occasion, be allowed to visit us. She warns against over-credulity in such matters, and also cautions that Satan can appear as a angel of light, but there also seems to be room in the Tradition for the possibility that hauntings (presumably by souls in Purgatory like Dincocrates) can occur (as there is emphatically room in the Tradition that saints in glory can appear on occasion).

I don’t really know what to make of it, and have often wondered if some theologian has ever considered the matter.


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  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Didn’t Padre Pio once converse with a ghost that informed him was in Purgatory? Or am I confusing my saints? I remember that he saw the ghost serving at the altar, and when he asked why, the ghost told him it was because he had been remiss in his duties.

  • Ken C

    In a little-known book called ‘Ghosts and Poltergeists,’ Jesuit priest Fr. Herbert Thurston (1856-1939) explores this subject in detail from a Catholic perspective. He examines historical cases through different cultures and concludes that poltergeists (and ghosts) are a reality. It’s a rare resource for a subject that doesn’t get much theological attention.

  • PalaceGuard

    I am open to the possibility that ghosts exist, without having, insofar as I know, ever seen or heard one. I recall that twice (later edit: after reading the article I notice that it was actually 3 or 4 times) in the NT the disciples mistook Our Lord for a ghost. In each instance, He assured them that He was not a ghost. He did not, however, then say, “Silly disciples! Ghosts just don’t exist”. That being said, if there are ghosts, they are most probably in need of our prayers.

  • KM

    “…visions of the dead in dreams (oneiric apparitions) and waking sightings of ghostly figures were both considered types of spectral encounters.” (From the second link)

    Until I read Tom McDonald’s article, I had not considered visions of the dead to be a type of apparition, so this article was intriguing and gave me comfort. A few years ago a dear friend of mine passed away, and I was praying for him constantly. I had two dreams about him after his death. In the first dream I had met him at a home, and talked to him there. He was with his favorite dog from his earthly life but he was unable to leave the home. In the second dream, I went to visit him at his home which was in a slight state of disrepair, and found that the home was empty. He had left it to gather with other joyful people by a rushing river which was flowing thousands of gallons of water due to thawing snow. This dream made me feel at peace for my friend.

    Thanks for linking to such interesting and thought-provoking articles.