Monday, April 23, 2012

Catholic Necromancy - the Two-Legged Straw Man

I have had the experience, on a few occasions now, where I have encountered well-intentioned, but equally misinformed, Protestant Christians who have accused Catholics of being guilty of NECROMANCY. Basically, they claim that necromancy is communication with the dead, and because Catholics ask the Saints to pray for them, they are guilty of necromancy.

Having come across the argument again in the past couple of weeks, I thought that it would be a good topic to touch on...and in doing so, I hope to show that the accusation is nothing but a two-legged straw man.

The first leg is the redefinition of “necromancy” by those levelling the accusation. Necromancy is NOT simply communication with the dead (as our accusers propose). By definition, necromancy is communicating with the spirits of the dead in order to predict the future i.e. it is a type of “consulting” with the dead.

Understood properly, necromancy is forbidden in the Old Testament, and even called an abomination (see Deut 18:10-12). This is what King Saul was punished for when he sought to have the spirit of Samuel conjured up (see 1 Sam 28:7ff). The Holy Catholic Church takes God seriously on this matter, and continues to condemn the practice of necromancy, along with other occultic practices (e.g. CCC # 2115–2117).

The second leg of the straw man is that the TRUE Catholic position is misrepresented. Catholics do not “communicate” with the dead in the way that is purported, much less try to use the Saints to predict the future. Rather, what Catholics REALLY do is ask the Saints to intercede for us. We do this because we are firm believers in the Resurrection – not only of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also of all whom Christ has redeemed by His Precious Blood. We believe that whilst death marks the end of our earthly sojourn, it is not really the end. Rather, it is a beginning. Death is our passage from this mortal life to the fullness of Eternal Life in Him who is the Prince of Life. St. Paul put it this way – he said that in death, although we are “absent from the body”, we are “present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). Elsewhere he said that if to live is Christ, then to die is gain (Phil 1:21) pointing to the fact that the life that awaits us after this natural life on earth far surpasses it.

Furthermore, the author of Hebrews tells us that the faithful who have gone before us are witnesses of the race that we are still running whilst here on earth (Heb 12:1). Now, you can’t be dead and be a witness at the same time. So, the Saints who look over us are certainly anything but dead. Also, St. John reminds us a few times in Revelation that there are real LIVE Saints in Heaven, and they even offer up prayers on behalf of God’s Church on earth (cf. Rev 6:9, 8:3-5, etc.). On this basis, to deny the doctrine of the intercession of the Saints is ultimately a rejection of the doctrine of the Resurrection.

One final thing to consider on this basis is what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-3). If the Saints are dead, and shouldn’t be spoken to at all (requesting intercession or otherwise), then I wonder how many non-Catholics would accuse Jesus of necromancy? This is because Jesus Himself communicated with Moses and Elijah – men who were long since dead.

When examined properly and in the light of authentic Catholic teaching it isn't difficult to see that the accusation of necromancy so often levelled against the Catholic Church is really unfounded and misinformed. And when worked to its logical conclusion, the accusation is shown in fact to be illogical. On the other hand, what it does do is simply affirm that what the Holy Catholic Church proposes for our belief remains consistent with God's work of Redemption in Christ Jesus.

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