Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Paranormal State: (Dangerous) Adolescent Applications Of Laissez-Faire, Cafeteria Catholicism

During these days leading up to our society's increasingly perverted version of Halloween, I'm returning to the topic of the paranormal: Ghosts, Ouija Boards, Séances, and the Occult in general. This stuff can't be ignored -- especially when so many people are getting drawn into "ghost hunting" and other highly dangerous activities involving non-human spirits!

I've watched more than a dozen episodes of the A+E series Paranormal State.  It's a television series that showcases the exploits of the Penn State Paranormal Research Society ("PRS"), founded and directed by Ryan Buell.  I wanted to watch shows, not for entertainment, but to look for inaccuracies, especially in its presentation of metaphysical concepts and theological definitions.
Human beings attempt to get social with the discarnate (beings without bodies) generally out of a reckless ignorance of the dangers involved in playing around with these spiritual realities.  Generally, human souls do not comprise the majority of the population of discarnate spirits. Their dark realm  is inhabited by unsavory demons of lesser or more powerful rank among their own God-forsaken peers. 

But even the lowest-ranked demons are psychologically stronger than us, and smarter than us in some things, dumber in others. But, smart or dumb, they are hateful, devious, evil beings which* want to injure us and destroy us. They hate u(see The Book Of Genesis, Chapter 3) because we are the apex of God's creation. How much higher does God rank human beings above angels (good or bad) and all spirits?  God took on human flesh in Jesus Christ to save human beings, who fell into sin with the assistance of the leader of all evil spirits.  That's a pretty high rank, eh? 
*( I'm deliberately avoiding the use of "who" in reference to discarnate beings; who refers to people, and which refers to things or groups.  Discarnate beings are not human entities: they're bodiless creatures!  Okay -- now that the grammar is explained, I'll get to the point.)

Interestingly, PRS's Disclaimer on its website seems to indicate a concern about viewers taking their show seriously and being harmed in some way:

Please read the following Terms and Conditions of Use carefully before using this website. By continuing to access this website, you, the user, signify your acceptance of such terms. If you do not agree to any of the following terms, please discontinue your use of this website.
I. Informational purposes only
The contents of the Paranormal Research Society (“PRS”) website, including text, graphics, and images, are for informational purposes only. The PRS website is not intended to provide psychological and/or medical advice and should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific plan, product, or course of action. Under no circumstances shall PRS be liable for any such reliance on the contents of its website."

According to its disclaimer, PRS takes no responsibility for any problems viewers develop from dabbling in the paranormal. The show's paranormal "SWAT routine" is presented for profit and fame with no warning of the spiritual and psychological fallout that can cling to a person after engaging in what is presented as a harmless foray into the spirit world. A susceptible viewer may casually stroll into this dark sub-world and leave it without knowing that something may have followed them home.

I've been frightened by the show.   Not frightened by its purported video or audio of paranormal activities in  haunted houses, but afraid for the young adults who comprise the PRS team, and who have, at times, waded in "over their heads" during some of their investigations.  I fear for their spiritual lives. 

Ryan Buell, the young founder of PRS,is a self-professed Catholic who puts a religious veneer on his exploits.  However, as reported recently in the Chicago Tribune, Buell's view of his Catholic faith is that the Church is whatever he wants it to be.   In the interview, he discusses his beliefs and the impact of the recent announcement of his bisexuality on his commitment to Catholicism: 
"I am not going to leave the church...I want the church to change for me and I believe it will. I will be there in the pews to make a statement.'"  And in a book he published, "...Buell asserts that paranormal research is spiritual itself: 'What I do is a modern way of looking for god [sic]. It is a way of connecting with something spiritual and other worldly.'"  You're kidding, right Ryan? Connecting with evil discarnate beings is  "spiritual", in the same way as going to Church for Mass? 

When interviewed in September 2008 by Busted Halo, Buell  also said that, "...his signs of the cross, his prayers and the blessed medallions are for real, too, with or without A+E’s cameras capturing them. He goes to Mass a couple of times a month, and sets aside time to pray and reflect on days that he doesn’t...He likes his Catholic faith to feel personal.   'I’m by no means a cheerleader Catholic,' he told me. 'I don’t go to Mass every week, I don’t pray the rosary, and I don’t think God is a Catholic God.'  But he does think God is calling him to be a paranormal investigator.  'I believe I’m meant to be helping these people,' Buell said. 'If anyone’s doing something morally wrong, God will figure that out.' ”
    Buell's statements reveal a wrongheaded attitude toward the Roman Catholic Faith and the Catholic teaching that leads people to an encounter with God in Our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately he promotes an adolescent, laissez-faire application of the truths of Christianity with a  "pick and choose" mentality.  And  he is doing this within a dangerous minefield of paranormal investigation without the necessary protection of an adequate and fully developed practice of the Faith.

    The  Busted Halo article reveals Buell's feelings about mixing his faith with his paranormal activities and the concern of some Roman Catholic clergy:
    "Buell is aware some Catholics are uncomfortable with his combination of Catholicism and the paranormal. There are also the paranormal investigators who say he should leave religion out of it. Buell is firm on this issue. 'If you believe in spirits, there’s got to be a God,' he says.
    Still, some Roman Catholic clergy are concerned about his controversial use of psychics in dealing with haunted dwellings.  'Making use of someone who is frequently in communication with the ‘spirit world’ is extremely dangerous,' said Fr. Francis Tiso, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 'The only preternatural voice that the people of God are to listen to is the voice of God. Other voices can be deceptive.'
    Fr. John Gerth, a pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, also sees the danger.
    'Dabbling in cooking or writing the great American novel are relatively safe,' he said. 'Dabbling in the spirit world is not, unless you are properly disposed in mind, body and spirit. If people were to get involved with evil forces unexpectedly and without proper disposition of their own souls, it can be really bad. Worst case scenario, they could be in need of an exorcist themselves.'
    Buell is aware some Catholics are uncomfortable with his combination of Catholicism and the paranormal, but he is firm on this issue. 'If you believe in spirits, there’s got to be a god [sic],' he says.
    Still, Tiso, who studied exorcism while ministering in Italy and assisted Fr. Cipriano de Meo, the Puglia region’s exorcist, said the worst can be avoided: 'I think the safest thing for Ryan to do is to confine his work to research on well documented case histories, to learn from experienced exorcists, to travel to other cultures where exorcism and trance states can be observed, to study the documentation on the lives of the saints.'”
    Amen, to that, Father Tiso and Father Gerth! 

    Unfortunately, PRS has found one member of the Catholic clergy who doesn't seem to see the danger in this dalliance and the way it is presented. Father Bob Bailey, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Parish in Pawtuckett, RI, is quoted in the same Busted Halo article:
    "Not all members of the Catholic faith see Buell’s attitude as cause for alarm. Fr. Bob Bailey . . worked on two cases with the PRS during Paranormal State’s second season.   'I really support what they’re doing,' said Bailey. 'The usual occurrence after death is heaven, hell or purgatory. What we’re dealing with are anomalies. We don’t understand them right now.'
    Bailey does make a point of clarifying he doesn’t mean they aren’t real. 'Because so many people have had experiences, we have to admit there is paranormal activity out there, and that doesn’t go against our Catholic faith. I don’t find my work at all in contradiction to our Catholic faith,' he said.   Buell invited Bailey, who is not an exorcist, to bless a house for one episode of Paranormal State, and to pray for deliverance over a client in another. The difference between the rite of exorcism and the prayer of deliverance, Bailey said, is that exorcism is for people who are completely possessed by evil, who are violent and have lost free will.   Deliverance, he said, is for people who are oppressed by evil—and that attracted him to the paranormal long before Buell invited him to work with PRS. 'I’ve always had an interest in helping with the paranormal,' he told me. 'I have permission [from my bishop] to go out and help paranormal groups.'”
    Really?  Father Bob, have you also signed your name to the PRS Disclaimer?  I can only say that you are lending implicit approval of the Church to this very dangerous show and potentially leading many down a very dangerous path.

    Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

    Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
    Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.