Don’t Be A Catholic Shaman

With ugly regularity one reads of pious Catholics all too ready to give to simple facts a meaning that goes beyond the event, and that they take as unmistakable “God's special sign”; generally, these people do not resist the temptation to give voice to their own superstition, as if their strange theories were obvious for the world to see.

Let us take a couple of examples.

The day Pope Benedict resigned, a blizzard fell on St. Peter's dome. Countless Catholics were ready to read in it a sign of the wrath of heaven. They were ready to do it, of course, because they didn't agree with Pope Benedict's decision in the first place. If I don't like the decision, the reasoning goes, it follows that God must be displeased with it. If God is displeased with it, then let us look at something that corroborates my conviction.

If Pope Benedict had excommunicated Hans Kueng on the same day instead of resigning, I wonder whether the very same lightning would have been interpreted as a sign of God's wrath for the decision.

In those days, some went to even worse extremes: every natural phenomenon of some kind – there is always a storm somewhere, and the next earthquake can't be far away, either – was taken as a witness of what they were already persuaded of. It reminded me of Redskin shamans explaining to the uninitiated the wrath of Manitu.

I even read of someone having bad dreams, which left no doubt in her mind something very wrong had just happened. Hey, she had bad dreams. What else do you need to be persuaded.

But then during the 2013 conclave some bird took place on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, and the shamans were all in a flutter for the contrary reason adduced for the lightning. Ah, a bird stopped to rest over a chimney. What a miracle.

Or think of this: when an extremely strong earthquake and sea quake took the extremely Catholic Messina in, I think, 1908 and killed around 100,000 people, no one deduced from an earthquake and sea quake in a most Catholic city of a most Catholic Country with a most Catholic pope (St. Pius X, no less) that God must be angry at that particular papacy…

This “shaman” mentality extends to very trivial events; like predatory birds attacking the doves just freed by Bishop Francis The Peaceful Killer Of Clueless Birds. Ominous, they said. A sign of the times. Strangely, they never saw a sign of the times on the many occasions in which the doves went away peacefully (to be killed by some other bird shortly thereafter, surely…). Still, if one is prone to such coffee reading he is perfectly free to conclude that God protects the peaceful dove as it flies peacefully away from St. Peter's squares, showing God's support for the humble Pope Of Peace, Francis The Peaceful Protector Of Doves.

Look: birds attack birds. It happens all the time. It's part of the rich fabric of Creation.

The mentality that this implies is a very strange one indeed: God talks to us through events that can be deciphered only by those who already know what God wants to say. Funny world.

The simple truth of the matter is that natural disasters, diseases, and the like all happen because the Garden of Even is no more, and we must live in a world full of imperfections and troubles, and in which the disgraces and diseases are, as a whole, the fruit of our disobedience. Still, cancer will strike the good as well as the bad, earthquakes will destroy the most heathen or the most Catholic of cities, doves will be attacked or not attacked by predatory birds, and the lightning rods of the highest buildings of the surroundings will continue to attract lightnings more than the lightning rods of the surrounding buildings until the end of time.

I invite my readers to have a more reasonable approach to natural events; not only because it is the reasonable thing to do, but equally importantly because if one starts to take random facts as evidence that God is on his side he will rapidly blind itself to the falseness of the most outlandish theories, and will start to believe in whatever he pleases, certain of the reassurance of the next lightning, or earthquake, or comet, or storm, or anything else that may serve the purpose, anywhere on the entire planet.

If my Internet connection is not working, is God telling me I must stop blogging? If I opened my blog and the statistics reader says “666”, am I in the thrall of Satan? Pope Francis has a cold: surely, God is warning him! I got a cold: surely, God wants me to stay home today and blog like there's no tomorrow!

Do not give any heed to Catholic shamans. If you do, belief in daily apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, followed by a fax to the adoring crowds, cannot be far away.



About these ads

Posted on February 13, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. God “acts in and with every creature in each and all its activities.”

    “The universe is a system of real beings created by God and directed by Him to this supreme end, the concurrence of God being necessary for all natural operations, whether of things animate or inanimate, and still more so for operations of the supernatural order. God preserves the universe in being; He acts in and with every creature in each and all its activities.” Catholic Encyclopedia > Divine Providence

    • And when you have a copy and paste, what have you proved?

      “Non si muove foglia che Dio non voglia”, we say in Italy. “A leave does not move without God wanting it”.

      This does not mean that you – or anyone else- can take natural phenomena (like, erm, the moving of leaves through the wind) and call them as evidence that God is supporting your agenda.

      Read my posts seriously, or don’t read them at all. Don’t waste my time with this.


  2. With all due respect, I simply wish to make it clear that “natural events” are not “random facts”.

    • What is your point, then?
      You are talking about Providence (I have written about it extensively), and I am talking about this madness of thinking that Gos is supporting our last strange idea because there was an earthquake somewhere, or a dove has been attacked.

  3. Your post could not have been more clear, even to one who suffers from brain damage, as I do. I agree with what you have written and am of the opinion that it needed to be said. I’ve only been reading your blog for a short time, it is your clarity of thought that keeps me coming back.

    Thank you and God bless you abundantly,

    A Catholic returning home.

  4. Thank you for your concern. The damage affects my memory, which is why I’m taking a course for adults called Our Catholic Faith at the church I attend which is served by FSSP fathers. It certainly is different than the RCIA class I took for confirmation. While the Novus Or do masses at my old church were quite reverent (as far as they could be), I found that after 3 years I found myself thinking about what was going on around me instead of the sacrifice being offered for me with the same victim, same priest and for the same ends. I could offer a litany of the things that distracted my thoughts from the immensity of what was happening on the alter but I might find myself with karpel tunnel syndrome, and you’ve probably heard them all before. My pet peeve though had to be the sign of peace which took my mind off My Lord whom I was about to receive so that I could greet my neighbor.

    Sorry for the length of the post and again, God bless you.

    Linda R.

  5. Largely agree with you, Mundabor, although in the case of Benedict’s resignation the captured lightning strike then Russian meteor that week (not to mention the prophetic German desk calendar, ha ha) all certainly had a feel of the momentous about it at the time. Ominous, you could say, just as our first view of Francis on the balcony at St Peter’s, which scene I know is firmly and uncomfortably etched in the memory of many traditional Catholics. Perhaps that’s nuts, but I keep in mind the “night illumined by an unknown light” Our Lady foretold at Fatima, which presaged the war (which in its way set the stage for the upheaval of the Church). While none of us need be deluded by “shamanism”, as you say, perhaps Our Lord does choose to give the world – at some pivotal times – a more tangible nudge that all is not well.

    • I wonder how many meteors, *or* earthquake, *or* flood, *or* strange phenomenon could have been called to corroborate the argument.
      It’s always something, of some sort, somewhere.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,982 other followers

%d bloggers like this: