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Intercession of the Saints and Necromancy

DAY 150


“The Catholic practice of asking dead saints for their intercession is wrong. The Bible forbids necromancy.”


Asking the saints for intercession is not necromancy.

Necromancy is an attempt to gain information by conjuring the dead. The term is derived from the Greek words nekros (“dead person”) and manteia (“oracle, divination”). This practice, which was common in the ancient world, is forbidden in the Old Testament: “There shall not be found among you . . . a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deut. 18:10–11).

The fact that necromancy was for purposes of gaining information is made clear by the Hebrew terms for “medium” (sho’el ’ob, “a spirit inquirer”), “wizard” (yidde‘oni, “a spiritist”), and “necromancer” (doresh ’el-ha-metim, “an inquirer of the dead”). The focus on gaining information is also made clear by the context in Deuteronomy, which specifies that God will send his people prophets instead of allowing them to use mediums, wizards, and necromancers (Deut. 18:15).

Necromancy is forbidden today, as well. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 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” (CCC 2116).

Both Scripture and the Catholic Church agree that necromancy is forbidden. However, asking the saints for their intercession is a fundamentally different practice. In necromancy, people attempt to contact the dead to obtain information from them—either about the future or about other matters that are hidden from the inquirer. The flow of information is supposed to be from the dead to the living.

When people ask the saints for their intercession, however, they are not seeking information. They are asking the saints to partner with them in prayer to God. If anything, the flow of information is from the living to the dead—that is, a living person is making his prayer request known to a departed saint.

The biblical injunction against necromancy is thus a condemnation of something else. It is not talking about the same thing. This means that the practice of asking the saints for their intercession must be judged on its own merits, and as we cover elsewhere (see Day 36), there are good reasons for the practice.

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