Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If we have to say it, we will: No conjuring up the dead on campus property

Granted, a lot of things get hosted in student unions that administration knows nothing about, and the same can be said of many postings on a college website, but by now the St. Bonaventure University higher-ups must know that their website was used to promote a “spiritualist” contacting the dead, on SBU property, on behalf of SBU students and staff. Seems to me it’s time for an addition to the SBU Policy Handbook, something along the lines of “No campus assets shall be used to promote divination or superstitious practices. Violations of this policy are grounds for disciplinary action.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2116 states “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance*, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone." See also CCC 2117.

Back in the day, Canon 2325 of the Pio-Benedictine Code (1917) stated “Whoever excites superstition or perpetrates a sacrilege is to be punished by the Ordinary according to the gravity of the fault, with due regard for the penalties established by law against such superstitious or sacrilegious acts.” The great Swiss-American canonist, Charles Bachofen, commenting on this norm, recalled for readers that Decretal canonical commentary gave “a long list … [of such deeds, including] geomantia, aeromantia, hydromantia, pyromantia, haruspicium, auspicium, augurium, pedomantia, chiromantia, omina, onyrocritica, physiognomia, spatulamantia, metoposcopia, pythonia, necromantia, and astrologia” adding “we quote these names to show that the number of fools has not yet decreased.” Dom Augustine, Commentary VIII: 313 (1931).

By the early 1970s, when modern penal canon law was being drafted, the occult was not a serious problem among Catholics, and Canon 2325 did not seem to warrant inclusion in the revised law. But SBU’s experience, and similar instances elsewhere, suggest that the spiritual crisis gripping the West has left the door open for a resurgence in these stupid, and evil, stunts.

Maybe it’s time to dust off some old canons.

* I do wonder, though, whether “the phenomena of clairvoyance” should be listed here. If clairvoyance, whatever exactly that is, is a phenomenon (as opposed to a willed action like palm-reading or astrology or seances) then further study of it might be legitimate, no? + + +

Same Day Update: Sounds like SBU is taking the right steps to address the mess.