Dear Dan, a friend of mine has ghosts in his “new” old home. He knows someone who knows someone who can get rid of them and free the souls who are stuck in this world. I told him I believe there are ghosts; but, I don’t understand exactly how our Catholic faith addresses the problem of God allowing souls to get stuck here. Do ghosts exist? What does the Church say about these things?
Believe it or not, I have actually given this a lot of thought because of my own experience with these matters.
- Are there such things as ghosts? No. There are no such things as “ghosts” when ghosts are defined as people who are stuck in an in-between state (in-between heaven and hell or purgatory and the beatific vision). Scripture says that “It is given unto man once to die, and then comes judgment” (cf Hebrews 9:27). So, we die and are judged. What happens then? We either go to hell, heaven, or purgatory. There are no other options.
- Are these manifestations sometimes real? Yes. I believe there is sufficient evidence to say that there are actual manifestations of beings of some sort.
- If some of these manifestations are real, what exactly are they? This can be deduced by simple logic regarding created beings revealed to us by God. Human beings can only be alive, or dead and in heaven, in purgatory, or in hell. There is no in-between state of wandering in scripture or tradition. Thus, these cannot be humans. However, they often take on a human appearance. If they take on human appearance and are not ghosts and not humans, what are they?
- What are the only creatures than can emulate humans? There are only two kinds of non-human beings that can be or take the form of human beings, 1) God, and 2) angels.
- If these things called “Ghosts” are actually manifestations of God or good angels, can one deduce this by their actions or teachings? In scripture we see God or angels take on human form to do good, teach good, or lead someone to good. If these “ghosts” are doing good things (good as defined by the teachings of Jesus) then they are likely either manifestations of God or they are angels.
- What if they are not God or good angels? If they are not God, and they are not good angels, then there is only one more kind of being that can emulate human beings and these are bad angels or demons.
- How would I know if it was a demon? Demons teach untruth and lead people to believe untruth and produce fear that is unproductive and fails to lead the fearful to God.
- Are ghosts, if they produce fear or false teachings, actually demons seeking to deceive people into believing there are other possibilities than what is taught by the Church? Yes.
- If they are demons, how do I deal with them? Lysol sometimes works! But seriously, holy water can be useful. If this doesn’t work, check with your local pastor for assistance. He may come and bless the house. Never talk directly to the “ghosts” themselves. Persistent cases might require consultation of an exorcist.
Editors Note: The author does believe that it is possible for God to allow those in purgatory to communicate with those outside of this state. These, of course, would not be “Ghosts” in the common use of the term. However, has chosen to leave this topic for another post.
Art: Phantoms, 1903, Viktor Borisov-Musatov, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.