Romanism and Spiritism

A look at religious world trends.

By Robert Leo Odom, Editor of the Watchman Magazine, Nashville

Not long ago Religious News Service sent us a report from Lisbon, Portugal, which said: "A chair of Spiritualism for the study of psychic phenomena will shortly be established at the Catholic Institute, Paris, France, it is reported here. The institute, founded by the bishops of thirty-three dioceses, continues to function despite the German occupation. En­rollment at present number 3,200 students, of whom sixty are preparing for the priesthood."

This news brings to mind a Roman Catholic book entitled The Church and Spiritualism (Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Wis­consin, 1933) which I read a few years ago. The Jesuit author, Herbert J. Thurston, declares that his interest in psychic phenomena dates back about sixty years. While he frankly re­gards spiritualistic practices as "dangerous and undesirable" for the masses, he contends "that genuine and inexplicable phenomena, even of the physical order, do occur in the presence of cer­tain exceptionally constituted persons called 'mediums.' "—Author's Preface, p. xi. On page 16 he says: "There are quite a number of cases on record where the guidance received through automatic writing, and even through recog­nized mediums, has proved beneficent and salu­tary."

He cites, for example, the case of Mme. Mink Jullien, who tells in her book, The Ways of God; The Story of a Conversion (London, 1925), that after her husband died she took up automatic writing and began as she believed, "to receive a series of communications from the dead man."

In his recitation of the case, Mr. Thurston says:

"These after a while took the form of urging her to seek peace in the bosom of the Catholic Church. She complied, and, as Pere Mainage, who contributes a preface, attests, she has proved herself for some years a most fervent and exemplary convert. The case is not so uncommon as might he supposed. I have myself known two excellent Catholics, one of them a nun, who have had a similar experience, and some other examples will be found, treated more in detail, later on in this volume."—The Church and Spiritualism, p. 16.

Thurston shows (on pages 32-39) that as early as 1854 Margaret and Kate Fox, the sisters whose dabbling in spiritistic phenomena in 1849 is said to have given rise to modern Spiritual­ism, "had leanings toward Catholicism." . Al­though he could find no proof that Kate ever did join the Catholic Church, he proves that Mar­garet did in August, 1858, and that "even at that time she cannot have been entirely faithful in her renunciation of spiritualistic practices." —Page 39.

Margaret's death was terrible, she being an object of charity, a mental and physical wreck whose appetite was only for intoxicating liquors. Hers was a face marked by o- and dissipation, and her lips uttered little else than profanity. (See the Washington Daily Star, March 7, 1893, which is quoted in The Medium and Daybreak, April 7, 1893, p. 212.)

A British author, Henry Spicer (Sights and Sounds, page 444) is quoted as saying that "one of the most remarkable media in answer to a question, 'Which religion is the true one ?' answered—'None are perfect, but the Roman Catholic Church is nearest to the truth.'"

Thurston remarks that "there was a distinct Romeward trend in niany more religiously minded inquirers whose curiosity was awakened by the phenomena of the early spiritualists."—The Church and Spiritualism, pp. 45, 46.. He mentions D. D. Home, a famous medium, as having become a convert to Roman Catholicism, and says that he continued to practice spiritism in spite of his religious profession. A whole chapter of his book is entitled "The Conversion of Home, the Medium." (See pages 46, 61-82.) He says:

"That there have been other prominent spiritual­ists who with more or less of sincerity and constancy have coquetted with Catholicism, will be known to those who have studied the literature of the move­ment. A conspicuous example was Florence Marryat (Mrs. Lean), the author of There Is No Death and other spiritualistic works. The Dictionary of Na­tional Biography states that 'although a Roman Catholic, she received permission from her director, Father Dalgairns of the Bromptori Oratory, to pursue researches of the kind in the cause of science.' "— Id., p. 46.

He adds: "Even Mr. Stainton Moses, whom Sir A. C. Doyle regarded as one of the greatest seers of Spiritualism, seems at one time to have fallen under the spell of Catholic influences." A spirit, alleging himself to be the prophet Malachi gave him a message of warm praise foi- the Roman church. (See pages 46, 47.)

Another instance, the conversion of Dr. T. L. Nichols and his wife to Romanisni in Cincinnati in 1857, is worthy of special note. Doctor Nichols wrote that they "accepted the dogmas of the church, as explained by what purported to be the spirits of two eminent Catholic saints.- They said that in the winter of 1856, while they were "in a circle," there appeared to Mrs. Nichols a spirit who declared himself to be a Jesuit. The shade appeared, wearing a dress resembling that worn by the Jesuit order, and said that his name was Gonzales, and that he was an early Jesuit missionary and martyr.

About the same time another spirit, claiming to be that of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, appeared to Mrs. Nichols and gave further instruction concerning the Roman church. Another ghost appeared and declared himself to be Francis Xavier, also a Jesuit. As a result of the religious instruction received from these spirits, who began with the doctrine of the sacrament of baptism and culminated with that of the immaculate conception, the doc­tor and his wife were baptized by the rector of St. Xavier's College in Cincinnati, on March 29, 1857. (See pages 52-60.)

Other interesting cases are cited. And the Jesuit author shows that the Roman Catholic Church "has not banned psychic research, neither has she, despite a widespread impression to the contrary, pronounced all the phenomena of mediumship and the various forms of autom­atism to be necessarily diabolic in origin."— Id., p. 84. He cites instances, with proof for them, where Catholics have been granted per­mission to investigate psychic phenomena by at­tending sittings with mediums. We may well believe that the day is not far off when Roman-ism will take a great interest in spiritism, that is, when the time for its mighty workings comes. We read in The Great Controversy:

"Church members love what the world loves, and are ready to join with them; and Satan determines to unite them in one body, and thus strengthen his cause by sweeping all into the ranks of Spiritualism. Papists, who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church, will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power ; and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded, Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the con­version of the world, and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium."—Page 588.

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By Robert Leo Odom, Editor of the Watchman Magazine, Nashville

May 1944

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