Archdiocese releases statement on alleged visionary Charlie Johnston

Caution urged in face of claimed divine visions and messages  

The Archdiocese of Denver released a statement on the alleged visionary Charlie Johnston, urging the faithful to “exercise prudence and caution” with regard to his claims that he has received “divine visions and messages.”

The statement, released March 7, reveals that the archdiocese has conducted a preliminary investigation into the writings and speeches of Johnston that date back to 1998.

“Johnston claims to have received both visions and messages from the Blessed Mother, the Archangel Gabriel and other saints since he was young,” the statement discloses. “According to Mr. Johnston, the purpose of these visits was to train him to serve as a messenger for God and strengthen the faithful, particularly during a time of economic and moral upheaval, which he refers to as ‘The Storm.’

“In his writings and in person, Mr. Johnston also insists that the ‘prophetic’ aspects of his message are not essential and should not be the focus of those who follow him. However, it appears that those same predictions are what attract new followers to his message and give them a sense of urgency and zeal.”

Chancellor David Uebbing explained to the Denver Catholic that “the scope of the commission created to assess Mr. Johnston’s messages was limited to conducting a preliminary investigation. Should Archbishop Aquila later decide to launch a full-fledged investigation, the question of whether or not Mr. Johnston’s alleged visits from saints and angels are divine would be addressed. As a result of the preliminary investigation, Mr. Johnston will not be approved as a speaker in the Archdiocese of Denver.”

The full release is below.

Statement on the alleged visionary Mr. Charlie Johnston

On March 1, 2016, officials from the Archdiocese of Denver met with Mr. Charlie Johnston to inform him of the findings of a preliminary investigation into his writings and speeches. A special commission composed of two theologians and a canonist reviewed material from his blog, videos of presentations from various parts of the country, and an archive of writings detailing Mr. Johnston’s alleged visions as far back as 1998.

Mr. Johnston claims to have received both visions and messages from the Blessed Mother, the Archangel Gabriel and other saints since he was young. According to Mr. Johnston, the purpose of these visits was to train him to serve as a messenger for God and strengthen the faithful, particularly during a time of economic and moral upheaval, which he refers to as “The Storm.”

In his writings and in person, Mr. Johnston also insists that the “prophetic” aspects of his message are not essential and should not be the focus of those who follow him. However, it appears that those same predictions are what attract new followers to his message and give them a sense of urgency and zeal.

After hearing concerns and inquiries from Catholics throughout the United States and within the Archdiocese of Denver itself, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila decided to launch a preliminary investigation to advise him on the content of Mr. Johnston’s writings and presentations. It should be noted that the commission’s mandate did not include determining whether Mr. Johnston’s messages are divine in origin.

After reviewing the commission’s findings and in keeping with his pastoral office, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has decided to strongly advise the faithful to exercise prudence and caution in regards to Mr. Charlie Johnston’s alleged divine visions and messages. As has been demonstrated with other alleged apparitions, the danger exists of people placing greater faith in a prediction than in Christ’s words and promises.

For these reasons, Mr. Johnston will also not be approved as a speaker in the Archdiocese of Denver.

For those who are disappointed by this finding, the archdiocese encourages them to seek their security in Jesus Christ, the sacraments, and the Scriptures. The faithful should also remember Christ’s words: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24:36).

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.