PIUS IX 1846-1878

The Misuse of Magnetism*


[From the Encyclical of the Holy Office, Aug. 4, 1856]


1653 . . Already some responses on this subject have been given by the Holy See to particular cases, in which those experiments are condemned as illicit which are arranged for a purpose not natural, not honest, and not attained by proper means; therefore, in similar cases it was decreed on Wednesday, April 21, 1841: “The use of magnetism, as it is explained, is not permitted.” Similarly, the Sacred Congregation decreed that certain books stubbornly disseminating errors of this kind should be condemned. But because, aside from particular cases, the use of magnetism in general had to be considered, by way of a rule therefore it was so stated on Wednesday, July 28, 1847: “When all error, soothsaying, explicit or implicit invocation of the demon is removed, the use of magnetism, i.e., the mere act of employing physical media otherwise licit, is not morally forbidden, provided it does not tend to an illicit end or to one that is in any manner evil. However, the application of principles and purely physical means to things and effects truly supernatural, in order to explain them physically, is nothing but deception altogether illicit and heretical.”


1654 Although by this general decree the lawfulness and unlawfulness in the use or misuse of magnetism were satisfactorily explained, nevertheless the wickedness of men grew to such an extent that neglecting the legitimate study of the science, pursuing rather the curious, with great loss to souls and detriment to civil society itself, they boast that they have discovered the principle of foretelling and divining. Thus, girls with the tricks of sleepwalking and of clear-gazing, as they call it, carried away by delusions and gestures not always modest, proclaim that they see the invisible, and they pretend with rash boldness to hold talks even about religion, to evoke the souls of the dead, to receive answers, to reveal the unknown and the distant, and to practice other superstitious things of that sort, intending to acquire great gain for themselves and for their masters through their divining. Therefore, in all these, whatever art or illusion they employ, since physical media are used for unnatural effects, there is deception altogether illicit and heretical, and a scandal against honesty of morals.*

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