Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wicca Teen Becomes Catholic

How a ‘teen witch’ found the Church

By Liz Dodd, UK Catholic Herald
The Catholic Herald (UK) (

In her teens Elizabeth Dodd delved into the world of Wicca, casting spells and conjuring 'spirits'. Then one day she went to Mass in secret. 'One day I came across the Teen Witch Kit by Wiccan author Silver Ravenwolf. It comprised a thin introduction to witchcraft, a pop-up cardboard altar, charms (from a small bell to a pentacle necklace, the five-pointed emblem for Wicca). The book laid out the basic tenets of witchcraft and, crucially, the practice of "magick"

LONDON, England (UK Catholic Herald) - My parents bought me a cauldron for my 16th birthday. Providing no explanation, I had asked for that and a chalice. At a loss, mum suggested it would look nice outside with the geraniums.

My interest in Wicca began as I entered my teens. Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Danger, the booklet I wrote recently as part of the Catholic Truth Society's Explanations series, condenses - after some factual basics about the philosophy and practice of "white" witchcraft - the conversations I had with a Catholic friend and her family that eventually led to my conversion to the Catholic faith. The booklet has caused controversy on the blogosphere: it sold out on and cropped up on the websites of the Telegraph and Daily Mail. What began as a small document to inform Catholics about the realities of Wicca - eg that it isn't Satanism - appears to have re-ignited the persecution complex among Wiccans that I was hoping to diffuse.

I am concerned that as a culture, perhaps as a Church, we can too easily dismiss the spiritual needs of young people. In my family, religion was something to explore and debate. Both my parents are Oxford graduates and historians, my father a Doctor of Maths and Philosophy. His atheism prevailed over my mother's Anglicanism, and neither I nor my sister were baptised.

One day I came across the Teen Witch Kit by Wiccan author Silver Ravenwolf. It comprised a thin introduction to witchcraft, a pop-up cardboard altar, charms (from a small bell to a pentacle necklace, the five-pointed emblem for Wicca). The book laid out the basic tenets of witchcraft and, crucially, the practice of "magick". Wiccan spell casting is governed by two ethics: karma (that what you send out will return threefold) and "an' it harm none, do what you will". I cast my first spell, for protection, when my mother travelled abroad for a work trip: it was the first time she'd been in an aeroplane. As a teenager, with only a limited amount of say in what I'd have for dinner, for example, the idea of unmitigated supernatural power, coupled with such a self-governed morality, was very appealing.

My interest in Wicca increased, even in the face of frequent magickal failure. In the booklet I suggest that Wicca can be an important stage in spiritual growth for a young person. Like many of my generation, I was looking for a religious home. Wicca is far removed from mainstream western religion; it has no hierarchy or clergy, no central texts or commandments. It is a framework upon which young, spiritually hungry people can construct a religious identity independent of their parents. Wicca suited me because it was, quite literally, an unorthodox religious choice. I embraced the Wiccan "holy days" and the duotheism - belief in a goddess and god - that underpinned them. I lobbied my school to include "Wicca" as an option on their registration database; I gave presentations in Religious Studies classes about the heroines of modern witchcraft.

But within a year I had exhausted the canon of literature marketed to teenage Wiccans. An innate respect for history, if not tradition, led to an uncomfortable awareness that the religion as I knew it had existed for little over 20 years, and had manifestly been created by people. I began to study Wicca's older literature: books written by Gerald Gardner, the witch who ostensibly re-introduced Britain to witchcraft and others of his circle (literally and figuratively), including the notorious Victorian occultist Aleister Crowley. I learned about ceremonial magic, branched out into the Jewish Kabbalah and familiarised myself with H P Blavatsky's works on Theosophy. I bought a book about self-initiation into the Golden Dawn tradition - a quasi-Masonic occult order - and began to follow the steps toward its first grade. But my interest in politics, environmentalism and feminism had expanded beyond the questions Wicca could address. If the earth was a deity, did earthquakes suggest she was malicious? Worse, despite some feminist trappings, the occult witchcraft I was studying was at core misogynistic. Crowley wrote some unpleasant things about women; in the works of Anton LaVey, the self-appointed Satanist and a friend of Crowley's, I encountered rants about women's intellectual inferiority.

Finally, inevitably, about three years into my study of witchcraft - like any teenager who has ever played with a Ouija board - I became convinced I had communicated with a "spirit" whom I had failed to banish. The accompanying sense of dread lasted for weeks. A Catholic schoolfriend wrote out the Hail Mary for me - I'd never heard it before - and suggested I say it when I felt spiritually threatened. I stopped practising witchcraft soon afterwards.

My subsequent conversion to Catholicism was gradual. I had been exposed for years to the best means of evangelisation in the Church: the example of a generous, loving Catholic family (the parents and siblings of my schoolfriend) who were ready to argue philosophy over the dinner table. I had always known my friend was a better Catholic than I was a Wiccan. She took my foray into witchcraft with a seriousness that I didn't, challenging me intellectually and morally. She lent me books to explain her Christianity; out of loyalty, I fought her side in the RS lessons in which she was the only vocal Christian. I went to Mass with her family on the eve of a school trip we were taking together. Finally, I sent her a faltering, confused email about where I was, spiritually. Her discretion and her patience were inspiring: it took another three years until I was received into the Catholic Church.

By then I was a fiercely Left-wing, politically active Buddhist vegan: rumours of my conversion would have startled most of my schoolmates. Recognising this, we kept the process low-key. I would accompany her family to the Easter Vigil, amazed by the beauty of the liturgy. I began attending Mass after school, in secret. My life was turbulent. I'd sit in the peace of the Church until the last person was leaving. I realised that the spiritual core of the Buddhism I was trying to practise was Catholicism. I believed in God. From the example of the Catholic family I had grown up around, I believed that Catholicism made you a better person, that it increased your capacity to love.

Soon after leaving school, in my gap year before university, my schoolfriend put me in touch with a wonderful priest. We met almost every week; I studied the Catechism and he, somehow, managed to handle the demands of an intellectually stubborn teenager about to leave to study Theology at Cambridge. After a year's catechesis I realised that nothing intellectual or spiritual separated me from a faith to which I had never imagined I would subscribe. I was baptised and received into the Church at the Easter Vigil - my schoolfriend was my sponsor and "fairy godmother".

My experience of neo-pagans had in fact been largely positive: many Wiccans are intelligent, kind, sincere people. Wicca attempts to meet the needs of a generation terrified of hypocrisy: if even our coffee is Fairtrade, a faith needs to be outstanding to convince us. I was now surrounded by outstanding Catholics; as a Catholic, I know the example I should be setting.

Wicca was an important step in a spiritual journey that led me to Catholicism, but when I was asked to write about it in a booklet, written by a Catholic for Catholics, I felt it would be irresponsible not to mention its inherent dangers - not least the lack of a real support structure. Wicca may be adaptable and relevant; but ultimately I found it intellectually and spiritually unfulfilling.

I still struggle with and face challenges in my faith; I know there are areas I need to better understand. But you can love a work of art without translating every reference. If it is beautiful enough, you can accept that there are elements you won't understand until you meet the artist. The values that brought me into Wicca - ecological, feminist, pacifist - are addressed more deeply by the Catholic Church. It is our responsibility as Catholics to let young people know that these are issues we care about, questions which are posed and answered throughout salvation history.

I passed the cauldron on to my sister: she stores magazines in it.

Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Danger by Elizabeth Dodd is available from the CTS, priced £1.95


It is much easier to scramble an egg than to unscramble it.

Criticism is cheap; counsel is laborious.
Strive to unscramble the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Schedule for Beatification of Blessed John Paul II

The Vatican has released a schedule of events for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, outlining “a major ecclesial event” that will be divided into 5 separate ceremonies.

•On Saturday evening, April 30, a prayer vigil will be organized by the Rome diocese in the Circus Maximus. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar for Rome, will preside; Pope Benedict XVI will participate by a video link to the Vatican.

•The beatification ceremony will take place in St. Peter’s Square beginning at 10 on Sunday morning, May 1. The Vatican has already announced that no tickets will be required for the ceremony, which is expected to draw 2 million people or more. However the announcement notes that “access to the square and surrounding areas will be regulated by the police.”

•Immediately following the ceremony itself, the remains of Pope John Paul II will be exposed for veneration in St. Peter’s basilica, in front of the Altar of Confession, “for as long as the faithful continue to arrive.”

•On Monday, May 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, will preside at a Mass of thanksiving in St. Peter’s Square.

•Finally, the remains of Blessed John Paul II will be re-interred in the Vatican basilica: in the chapel of St. Sebastian, near the main doorway. This ceremony will be held privately, the Vatican has indicated.

Police will undoubtedly close streets near the Vatican as the time of the beatification approaches, and even pedestrian traffic will be slow on the morning of May 1. Security measures and procedures for gaining access to St. Peter’s Square will be announced as the date approaches.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The network is airing an incendiary advertisement explicitly maligning the pro-life stance as anti-woman, with the worn out and patently erroneous argument of making abortion "safe."

"Safe abortion" is an oxymoron! Legal abortion kills women and abuses girls and distorts femininity, in addition to destroying maternity in the destruction of the child. It is anti-woman and anti-girl and especially anti-mother; not just anti-baby, though it is also that.

The point in all of this is that pregnancy is a relationship, a personal relationship. Abortion destroys the relationship in destroying one (and at times, both) persons in that most intimate maternal, filial relationship. When that relationship is violently destroyed both persons are violated and damaged.

Abortion is against women and especially against the most innocent women, the young women, the girls, and it is a cover-up for the abuse of women, especially minors. Abuse of women is the major cause of abortion! It is false and deceptive, not to mention, way out-dated, to portray it as their salvation: "safe."

Go to for exposure of Planned Parenthood's conspiracy against women.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Muting the Screen

In line with the last blog entry, I suggest a new function on television and video controls: a "mute" for the screen. In other words, to facilitate home censorship of gratuitous sex scenes on the screen, we need (and have long needed) a "shield", "screen", or "block" button to blacken the screen (at will) during the sexually explicit scenes.

A more advanced form of the same thing would be to have a firewall feature built in to all videos and all television programing to make them decency friendly with one press of a button, sort of like what is already widely available for the Internet.

At the very least, what the ubiquitous mute button is for the audio, we also need for the video a "shield" button.

This could greatly facilitate seeing Jesus in our home theater for "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God". It could also help create a safer home environment especially for the youth.

Censored Cinema Need

What might be of great use would be a sort of league of decency to clean up the blockbuster films and market them under a trademark such as "Decency Films". Perhaps EWTN or even Vatican Television could do that.

This is necessary and, with digital technology, should be very easy. Excise the gratuitous sex scenes from many of the top movies world-wide and you would open the cinematic world to many men and women who hitherto refuse to watch, show or promote those very films because of their indecency and pornographic scenes. Opening that world to holy people might increase the involvement and influence of virtuous people on that world, which is presently so corrupt.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Volume 2 Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth second volume is coming to bookstores on 10 March, published in English by Ignatius Press. The theme is the final phase of Christ's life on earth: His passion, death and resurrection.

The Holy Father, a world-wide best selling author, is meanwhile working on Volume 3 of Jesus of Nazareth which will treat the infancy of the Lord: drawing from Matthew and Luke texts on the annunciation and nativity narratives.

This information comes from Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli's great Italian blog.

Condoms are Bad for Your Health

That was basically the corrective message of Pope Benedict en-route to Africa a couple of years ago and more recently in his comments in Light of the World. The point is that condoms do not technically prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and, more importantly, their use damages the very logic of true love (which is all or nothing) and thereby kills people interiorly (in the depths of their beings [the soul]). That is what we call mortal sin. An act such as condomastic sex is mortally sinful because it destroys the person interiorly and the interior destruction has exterior consequences, viz. venereal disease.

Cardinal Ratzinger clearly made these points in his 29 May 1988 letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the full text which I include below.

On "The Many Faces of AIDS"
Letter to Archbishop Pio Laghi
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
May 29, 1988

The lively discussion, widened and sometimes distorted by the press worldwide, which followed the publication of the NCCB Administrative Board's well-known document, "The Many Faces of AIDS," and in which were involved distinguished representatives of the episcopate, has generated in many of the faithful, and not only in the United States, a good deal of confusion regarding the authentic Catholic position on the moral problems involved. The Holy See wishes, therefore, to express its deep concern that the unity so necessary among the bishops in the teaching of Christian moral doctrine be clearly and publicly demonstrated.

In the first place, and on a more general level, one must keep in mind the problem posed by the worldwide reaction which accompanies certain documents issued by various episcopal conferences. This requires a particular sense of responsibility and prudence in the choice of themes to be treated and in the manner in which these statements are published, not to mention a careful composition of the texts themselves. At least in some cases, when the subjects under discussion are of interest to the universal church, it would seem advisable to consult in advance with the Holy See.

Secondly, regarding the precise moral issue in question here, I want to draw attention to the clarification which appeared in the March 10 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, in an unsigned article entitled "Prevention of AIDS: Christian Ethical Aspect," and I quote,

"To seek a solution to the problem of infection by promoting the use of prophylactics would be to embark on a way not only insufficiently reliable from the technical point of view, but also and above all, unacceptable from the moral aspect. Such a proposal for 'safe' or at least 'safer' sex -- as they say -- ignores the real cause of the problem, namely, the permissiveness which, in the area of sex as in that related to other abuses, corrodes the moral fiber of the people."

In the case here under discussion, it hardly seems pertinent to appeal to the classical principle of tolerance of the lesser evil on the part of those who exercise responsibility for the temporal good of society. In fact, even when the issue has to do with educational programs promoted by the civil government, one would not be dealing simply with a form of passive toleration but rather with a kind of behavior which would result in at least the facilitation of evil.

The problem of educational programs in specifically Catholic schools and institutions requires particular attention. These facilities are called to provide their own contribution for the prevention of AIDS, in full fidelity to the moral doctrine of the church, without at the same time engaging in compromises which may even give the impression of trying to condone practices which are immoral, for example, technical instructions in the use of prophylactic devices.

In a society which seems increasingly to downgrade the value of chastity, conjugal fidelity and temperance, and to be preoccupied sometimes almost exclusively with physical health and temporal well-being, the Church's responsibility is to give that kind of witness which is proper to her, namely an unequivocal witness of effective and unreserved solidarity with those who are suffering and, at the same time, a witness of defense of the dignity of human sexuality which can only be realized within the context of moral law. It is likewise crucial to note, as the board statement does, that the only medically safe means of preventing AIDS are those very types of behavior which conform to God's law and to the truth about man which the church has always taught and today is still called courageously to teach.

I am confident that these considerations, which are known to His Holiness and have his fullest support, will be welcomed by the cardinal and bishop members of the conference and I wish to express my sincerest hope for a successful conclusion of this important meeting of the entire episcopate of the United States."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect, Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Great Films From Around the World

Yesterday, having watched "Adam's Apples" (Denmark, 2002) I concluded that it was among the best movies I had ever seen in it's technical quality combined with it's deep intellectual creative genius--and no nudity or sex scenes!!!

This movie is one of hundreds of selections distributed by Film Movement (based in New York) which seeks to give wider access to the top films from the worlds' top film festivals. Bravo, Film Movement!

A word of caution regarding the nudity in many of their offerings, which is typically limited to one or two skip-able scenes.

Where did I find this resource? My local library!

P.S. This post replies to a previous post.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

There Be Dragons

In New York last Wednesday evening I saw a pre-release screening of There Be Dragons. It is a most secular movie. In fact, it is probably the most secular movie you'll ever see about a saint. That is my assessment.

I would say that it is an honest portrayal of a saint as he might be viewed by a non-believer, and can therefore be very effective for our time. Every agnostic, atheist or any non-Christian or lukewarm Christian should see it. It is not a religious movie though religion is featured in it. It is extraordinary for it's lack of triumphalism and it's lack of clericalism. It is a testimony to the unobtrusiveness of holiness. The saint never draws unnecessary attention to himself. This movie is remarkable in that the saint simply passes by without any flare, so that, if you don't pay close attention, you won't even notice that he was there or what his presence did. The bar is very low here. The message is that a saint (like Christ) does none harm and is only humbly trying to help fix a very broken world in which everyone needs to cooperate for the necessary repair. And he does not need center stage to do it!

This movie very well portrays what is said of Christ in Matthew 12:15-21.

"Jesus withdrew from the place; and many followed him and he cured them all, and warned them not to make him known; that what was spoken through Isaias the prophet might be fulfilled, who said, 'Behold, my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will declare judgment to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle, nor cry aloud, neither will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking wick he will not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory; and in his name will the Gentiles hope.'"
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