Do you believe in ghosts? As Catholics we know that the supernatural is real, and that we shouldn’t mess with things like Ouija boards or tarot cards because they can open us up to the demonic. But what about ghosts? Are they real?
Dr. Thigpen began the discussion of whether or not ghosts exist by defining what ghosts are. Some believe that ghosts are tortured souls, souls of people who have “unfinished business,” or the souls of people who refused to enter into the afterlife. Dr. Thigpen went to the dictionary to determine the definition of ghosts.
“If you go to Webster’s the first definition there is that it is a disembodied human spirit that is deceased,” he said. “So someone lives on earth, died, body and soul separated, and now the spirit is without the body.”
“So, in basic Catholic teaching, sure that’s what we believe happens with death. The body and the soul separate. And, in fact, everybody except Our Lady who is a saint in heaven would fit into that category of ghosts. Because they have not received their body back after they were separated from them in death.”
“With that definition we can affirm that ghosts do indeed exist,” Dr. Thigpen determined. “Demons are different, of course. Demons are not human spirits, they are fallen angels. ”
From the Old Testament, Dr. Thigpen gave an example of a “ghost story,” saying, “We have the story Saul having the Witch of Endor calling back the spirit of Samuel. Some say that because it was a necromancer, and that is something forbidden by God’s law, it must have been a demon. You can make that argument. St. Augustine looked to that and said that the Scripture keeps calling it Samuel, not a demon, so it must have been Samuel.”
In another example, he said, “In the New Testament, to me the clearest example is on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses had been dead for centuries, but his spirit shows up. Peter, James, and John all see him, so that is definitely a ghost.”
“All that means, yes it can happen. Then the question becomes, how much are they allowed to do? Are they purgatorial spirits? We have evidence from as far back as Pope St. Gregory the Great in the 6th century. He collected stories like that. We have lots of stories that are credible from the people who reported them in which the apparition (I’ll just call it that in general) asked for prayer or tries to gain someone’s forgiveness, or does something that is good. In which case, it really seems as if God has allowed them, in their purgatorial purging process, to interact with human being.”
So if ghosts are real, what should someone do if they are visited by a ghost? “It does fit with Church teaching that God might, on occasion, allow someone who is being purged in the purgatorial process to appear so that they can either help someone or so they can be helped by someone. That is why I always encourage people, if they’ve seen an apparition of that sort, the first thing you should do is have Masses said for that person. Because if it is a deceased spirit that is almost surely why God allowed you to see them.”
Listen to the full conversation at The Drew Mariani Show podcast.