28 February 2009

Crystal Ball and Chain

"If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them', you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him." (Deuteronomy 13:1-4)

False prophets have always been a problem. Sure, their predictions might come true, or they might perform signs and wonders, but if their message contradicts the True Faith, then they should be rejected.

Fulfilled predictions or miracles do not validate doctrine. During my visit to Tennessee I met a young man who is converting to the Catholic Church from a "Oneness" Pentecostal church. He was a certified minister in a denomination that rejects the Trinity. They expressed the gifts of the Spirit just like charismatic Catholics, but their teachings were out of line with the historic Christianity. He gave up his ministry and his friends to be united to the Church founded by Jesus Christ on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.

But what about in the Catholic Church--are there false prophets there? Yes, there are people who claim private revelation from Jesus or the Blessed Virgin within the Church and gather followers around themselves. They might set themselves up as spiritual directors or "Secretaries of the Lord". People who are spiritually hungry, weak in their faith, or poorly catechized are easily influenced by such characters.

The result is bondage, especially when their messages lead to fear. It leads to distrust of the Church's teaching authority. It can turn into personality cults. When the hierarchy tries to correct such people, rather than submit to the apostolic authority of the Church, they consider themselves persecuted and above the Magisterium.

"...there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:7-9)

St. Paul wasn't just talking about those outside the Church. A message that produces panic and worry should be questioned. True prophets are used to convict and warn, but the fruit is repentance, not anxiety about the future.

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