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Dictionary

A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.

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SPIRITUALISM

Belief that the spirits of the dead in various ways communicate with the living through the agency of a person called a medium. It is also a religious movement that profess to be Christian and has been organized into several denominations, with churches, scholls, and an ordained clergy.

The doctrinal position of spiritualists varies considerabley, but one doctrine is common to all of them, namely: "that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death; and that communication with the so-called dead is a fact scientifically pro ed by the phenomena of Spiritualism." Moreover, many adherents believe that Christ was a medium, that the Annunciation was a message from the spirit world and Christ's resurrection a proof that all human beings live on after death as disembodied spirits.

Religious services and séances are held in churches, in private homes, or in rented halls. They follow the general pattern of Protestant churches, with prayer, singing, music, reading from the Spiritualist Manual, a sermon or lecture, and spirit messages from the departed. Communication with the spirit world is not limited to regular church services, not even to public assemblies of professions. "Making contact" with the dead is recommemded at other times, even in the privacy of one's room and without the aid of a medium.

Normally, however, spirit communications require a person who acts as a medium between the mortal audience and the world beyond. Meduyms are not the ministers in a congregation; they are normally not supported by free-will offerings but through the fees that are charged for classes and séances.

The Catholic Church, through the Holy Office, has declared it is not lawful "to take part in spiritualistic communications or maifestations of any kind, whether through a so-called medium or without one, whether hypnotism is used or not, even with the best of intentions among the participants, whether for the purpose f interrogating the souls of the departed or spiritual beings, whether by listening to their responses or even in idle curiousity, even with the tacit or express protestation of not having anything to do with the evil spirits" (Denzinger 3642).

Behind the church's attitude toward Spiritualism is the concern that a Catholic would expose himself to the risk of actually dealing with the evil spirit. The assumption is that if fraud or deception are excluded, and maifestations occur that are beyond natural explanation, the aactive agent in these cases is neither God nor any one of the good spirits (whether angelic or human) but demonic forces that are sure to mislead the Catholic and endanger the integrity of his faith.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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