Features > Ghost stories: Catholics uncomfortable relationship with all things spooky

26 October 2016 | by Melanie McDonagh

Ghost stories: Catholics uncomfortable relationship with all things spooky


Our secular culture may have little place for religion, but it is surprisingly comfortable with some aspects of the supernatural, particularly with the ghostly forms that traditionally emerge at this time of year. Even the Catholic attitude to ghosts is, at best, ambivalent

It’s quite possible, I suppose, that ghosts exist. The Church has generally been agnostic on the question. As Catholics, we can take them or leave them. We are not barred from believing, say, in banshees, but under no obligation to, either.  And Halloween is the season for ghosts; it’s one of the respects in which a secular culture is at ease with the supernatural, while drawing the line at actual religion.

But although the Church has never taken a categorical view one way or the other, Catholicism has always been hospitable to ghosts. The communion between the living and the dead in the body of Christ and the need of the dead for the prayers of the living – not to mention the agency of angels and devils in human affairs – give any amount of scope for apparitions. Anyway, it would be a dull sort of religion that didn’t take account of an aspect of human experience that is stubbornly persistent, even if it manifests itself very differently over time and culture.


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