Can Souls Get Stuck on the Way to Judgment?

We have had numerous questions about a Dominican priest named Father Nathan Castle who claims to minister to souls who get “stuck” after death and are unable to adjust to the afterlife. Is this even possible?

For those who never heard of Father Castle, he is the author of two books which detail his work helping souls who died and are allegedly experiencing problems adjusting to the afterlife. He and his prayer partners help these wandering souls to come to terms with their deaths.

In his first book, Afterlife Interrupted: Helping Stuck Souls Cross Over, Father Castle’s describes his calling as having begun years ago with a dream about the “burning man,” a 20 year-old man who burned to death while sitting on the radiator of a car in the 1950s. In his dream, the man burst into flames and was screaming. When he woke up, Father felt compelled to help the man but heard a feminine voice inside his head say, “Be careful. This one has not yet chosen the Kingdom.”

The following morning, he told his prayer partner about the dream and, after the two prayed about it, his partner said, “Whoever it is, he wants to talk to you. Would that be okay?”

Father trusted his partner who he claimed had a gift of prophecy for fulfilling sacred speech. They prayed to St. Michael and Our Lady, certain that “if this was a bad idea…my heavenly helpers would see that the process went no further,” he writes.

Suddenly, the burning man began to speak through his prayer partner’s voice and identified himself as a man named Ray who died while working on a car in his shop. Ray was angry at God for letting him die when things were going so well which was why he was just wandering around after death. When asked how he found Father Castle, Ray said, “I don’t know. Someone brought me here.” Father assumed it has his guardian angel. When asked how he could help, Ray said that he wanted to be with his wife, who was dying of cancer, when she passes away, but “I can’t the way I am now,” meaning in his in-between “stuck” state.

Father Castle proceeded to engage in long discussions with Ray who was channeled by his prayer partner. The two ultimately decided the best way to help Ray accept his new state of being was to solicit the help of someone he knew in life, and who had passed on. That person turned out to be Ray’s father. Ray agreed to “meet” with his father. Father Castle then arranged this meeting by entering into prayer and calling out to Ray’s dad, certain that this deceased soul could hear him. “Ray’s dad, would you like to see your son?” According to Ray, who spoke through his prayer partner, his father then appeared to him and the two went together to “look at cars.” Ray was eventually able to be with his wife when she died, after which time Father Castle dubbed him an official “after life greeter.”

Father Castle claims that since meeting Ray, he has been visited by more than two hundred and fifty others who had “interrupted death experiences” (IDEs), although he does not feel the need to verify the existence of any of the people who allegedly came to him in his dreams. This is unlike saints such as Padre Pio who was often visited by souls in Purgatory, one of whom was a man named Pietro de Mauro who appeared to the saint one night to ask for prayer. St. Pio later investigated the man’s story and learned that a man by the same name had lived and died exactly as was revealed during the apparition. This would be a prudent step to take in order to ensure that the dead people are who they say they are and not the devil imitating the deceased. Father Castle also claims that the number of “stuck” souls is very small, perhaps five percent of those who die, but offers no information about how he arrived at this figure.

One particularly worrisome episode in the first book was when God the Father allegedly asked Father Castle if he could use his voice in order to communicate with someone. Because the request came through a voice inside his head that didn’t feel quite like his own, Father decided to test it by telling God that he would give Him to the count of ten to produce a sign not to do it. At the end of the countdown, there was no sign, so he went through with it. In this incident, Father Castle appears to be “testing God” rather than “testing the spirits” by behaving much like the elders in the Book of Judith who gave God a time limit in which to rescue the chosen people from the Assyrian invaders. This behavior is better known as presumption.

While there were many questionable practices and beliefs outlined in Father’s book, the main question with regard to his work is whether or not it’s even possible for souls to “get stuck” on their way to judgment. What does the Church teach about this?

According to Father Jose Francisco Syquia, Director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism, there is no such thing as a “wandering soul.”

In his book, Exorcist: Spiritual Battle Lines, Volume Two, he explains that if this was true, “then Jesus and his Church would absolutely have a ministry for these souls since they are souls totally in need of compassion and mercy.” What could be worse than being stuck wandering the earth in some form of unfinished business? However, there has never been such a ministry in the 2000-year history of the Church, only to praying for the poor souls in purgatory.

As Father explains, the reason why Jesus never got involved in leading the wandering dead to the light is because this ministry goes against the teachings of God. We are repeatedly told in Scripture not to contact ghosts and spirits of the dead. We can pray for our dead and ask their intercession, but we are not to try to make contact with them in order to glean information about the future or for any other reason. Doing so constitutes the practice of necromancy.

Father Syquia also points out that when a soul leaves the material body it is enlightened by God and sees things as they truly are, which allows the person to clearly see why they merited the destination assigned to them during the particular judgment.

“Therefore, it would be impossible that a soul would not even know that he is dead and must wait for someone to tell him that he is and then be persuaded to enter the ‘light’,” Father writes.

In addition, why would a God who cares so intimately for a soul on earth that even the hairs of his head are counted allow that person to find himself in a state of confusion and aimless wandering on earth? “This is not the picture of God that Jesus is teaching us.”

Last, Father Syquia quotes the writings of the great theologian Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP who states that if a person were to die and be left by God to uncertainty about his final judgment, this would be contrary to the wisdom of God as well as to His mercy and justice.

“Hence, when a person dies, he immediately knows where he is supposed to go and is not left in a state of uncertainty, roaming this world in oblivion until a psychic/medium comes along and convinces him to go the ‘light’,” Father Syquia writes.

In other words, the theory of the “wandering souls” is false and is not a teaching of the Church.

“Those who believe in such a theory and practice the occult means to communicate with these ‘restless souls’ are not only in the wrong but they also place themselves in a dangerous situation….The occult teaching of ‘wandering souls’ is therefore a trap set by evil spirits to get humans to communicate with them which would then unknowingly invite them into their lives.”

He has encountered many cases in his ministry of persons who were oppressed and even possessed because they unwittingly believed that they were making contact with souls of people long dead.

As he points out, “The evil spirits would very accurately mimic the life of a long dead person. They can easily do this since they have been on this earth since time immemorial watching and tempting us.”

The practice of necromancy has been around since ancient times and continues to flourish in modern times under a myriad of seemingly innocent disguises, such as television shows about mediums who help people acquire closure after a death, or about “ghost busters” who contact the ghosts who allegedly haunt houses. Regardless of how entertaining these stories may be, contacting the dead will always be dangerous and should be strictly avoided.

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