Is using witchcraft a sin?

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BY MSGR STUART SWETLAND, STD

Dear Father: Years ago I was in love with a folk singer. After we parted, I felt sad that we couldn’t have done so in friendlier circumstances. I visited a white witch who gave me a friendship spell. I later ran into the singer at a Christmas fair. The following year, we went to dinner and parted ways in a friendlier manner. Did I commit a sin? It would be hard for me to repent because it turned out perfectly. Is there anything dangerous about experimenting with witchcraft and the occult?
— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: Thank you for your questions. While I am happy that your relationship with your friend ended on a better note, the means that you attempted to use to achieve this end were sinful. In fact, these means did not actually help you achieve your desired goal of a friendlier parting. To the contrary, resorting to witchcraft or any occult practice could never help you or anyone else achieve authentic friendship. A more detailed explanation is needed.

When speaking of human persons, morality is about human acts. Every human act is freely chosen. If it is not freely chosen, then it is an act of man but not a human act. For an action to be good, every aspect of the act must be upright. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this clearly when it discusses the sources or “fonts” of an action:

The morality of human acts depends on: the object chosen; the end in view or the intention; the circumstances of the action. The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the “sources,” or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts. … Amorally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. (CCC, 1750,1755)

When you desired a more friendly relationship with the folk singer, your intent might have been upright (only you and God know the truth of what you willed), but the object chosen (the use of witchcraft and spells) was an intrinsically evil object. No amount of good intentions or circumstances can make a directly chosen evil object good. The Catechism states it clearly:

A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. (CCC, 1753)

Resorting to witchcraft (“white” or “green” or “gray” or whatever) is intrinsically evil because it violates the First Commandment of the Old Testament and the greatest commandment of the New Testament: “I am the Lord your God. … You shall not have other gods beside me” (Exodus 20:2, 3) and “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). The Catechism specifically lists magic and sorcery as two of the serious sins against the First Commandment:

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. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. (CCC, 2116–2117)

You desired supernatural powers to make your friend do what you wanted. This desire is always self-defeating.

In an ironic way, your attempt to make the folk singer friendlier to you destroyed all possibility of authentic relationship. You did not actually desire a friend — someone who freely chose to be in a loving relationship with you — but rather someone you could control in some way, large or small, through spells or magic. This is not how relationships work. Even God will not force us to love him — we must freely accept his offer of intimate friendship. If God forced us to love him, it would be a form of slavery, not friendship.

In fact, your use of spells was most likely useless. If they had any real power, it would be from the Evil One and his minions, whose ultimate intent is always to do us harm. This is why it is always dangerous to experiment with witchcraft and the occult. They are “an abomination to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:12) to be absolutely avoided.

The good news is you can always repent of the sin you committed (not the “perfect outcome” but the sinful means you attempted to use and your desire to manipulate and control another through “magic” rather than respect that person’s freedom). By repenting and receiving God’s grace, you will be able again to authentically love God and your neighbors, including the folk singer. Real relationship always begins in freedom and requires loving respect of the other person.

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