What do Catholics believe about ghosts?

I am a devoted Catholic and I thought I had everything figured out. But lately new doubts have arisen.  The question that bugs me the most lately, is why are "ghosts" or "spirits" still here? I thought in the Catholic faith we weren't supposed to believe in ghosts? I've had grandparents pass away in the past couple of years and I've felt as if I've had experiences with them, like they were here with me. Does that make them "ghosts" too? I'm so confused on this topic I confuse myself trying to figure it out.  I believe there's a God; I just don't understand everything that comes with the Catholic faith.


I love that you wrote, “I believe there's a God, I just don't understand everything that comes with the Catholic faith.”  That’s a beautiful statement, and I can relate to it!  I have come to see the Catholic faith as being much like the ocean.  It’s so big, and deep, and mysterious that it can be tough to fathom.  But if you have ever watched any of the shows on the Discovery channel, you know that the ocean is awesome.  And full of life.  And to me, the Catholic faith is similar.

I think it’s great that you are trying to figure out what you believe.  And it’s great that you are asking questions. I think it was Einstein (and he was pretty smart!) who said, “Never stop questioning”.  And I would add to what Einstein said by saying that as you ask questions, keep praying to the Holy Spirit to guide you to truth.  And I would also add that my personal experience is that the fullness of truth regarding matters of faith, spirituality, and morals can be found in Catholicism.

I hope you don’t mind that I shared your email with a good friend of mine who not only has a more advanced theology degree than I do, but who has a lot of experience working with people who have experienced ghosts & spirits.  She shared with me, and I totally agree with this, that what you have experienced with your deceased grandparents is not uncommon and nothing about the experience is inconsistent with Catholic theology; many people have had such experiences.

As far as why such things happen and how we explain them theologically, my friend also wanted us both to know (that when speaking of ghosts) this whole area is “speculative theology”, which means that theologians and experts in theology know that such experiences happen, but because of the mysterious and varied nature of such experiences they are simply trying to explain them to the best of their abilities.  As with many things (like the mystery of suffering) we may not fully understand - until we are in the presence of God in Heaven - why He allows some things to happen.  But through it all we need to keep in mind is that God has his reasons, and that although we may not always understand them, He is with us and He loves us more than we can possibly imagine.

Although this is “speculative theology” there is a lot of evidence that a soul can attach itself to Earth before reaching its final destination of Heaven or Hell.  After we die we all eventually end up in either Heaven or Hell, but the Catholic Church also teaches that there is a state of being called Purgatory.  And although we all ultimately end up in one final state of being, God’s ways are not our ways and God’s timing is not our timing.  For reasons that we can only speculate about (since we are not God) it seems that He may allow some souls to revisit Earth/remain on Earth after death.  A part of Catholic teaching that may apply to this experience is the Communion of Saints – that we can still be in a relationship with those who have died after they have died…because the souls that are destined for Heaven are not really dead.  They are part of the body of Christ, and so are we, and so in Him we are all connected.  This is why the Catholic Church has never had a problem with us praying for those who have passed away, and why it’s legit to ask those who have died (like the saints and our loved ones) to pray for us.

My friend who is helping me to answer your email also felt that the following articles might be very helpful for you to read.  Again, although some of this is speculative theology, she feels that what you will read in these articles is totally consistent with what the Catholic Church teaches, the experiences of many good people, and should be helpful.  So, please read these articles when you have a chance.

From Catholic Exchange

From Catholic Answers

I hope this information is helpful.  If I can clarify anything further, please let me know.  You are in my prayers, and I appreciate you keeping me in your prayers.

God Bless,


Paul Masek

Coordinator of the REAP Team

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