Gamaliel Giving Counsel
By Charlie Johnston
Two weeks ago, I was notified by the Archdiocese of Denver that Archbishop Samuel Aquila had reached a decision concerning my “writings and presentations” and would soon issue a formal letter on it. I was asked to come to the Chancery last Tuesday afternoon to get an advance copy of the letter, to have it explained to me and to discuss it. A copy of the formal text of the letter is at the bottom of this article.
I will confess, I was more nervous than I usually am on election day when I am working for a client in a big race. I especially thank the tnrs answers team. Originally formed to handle the volume of emails I receive, they have also become critical in developing FAQ’s and taking care of much of the technical angle of this website. Over the next few weeks, they will gear up to help coordinate resources for people around the country and the world who decide to hold public Eucharistic and Marian Processions. They were waiting at the ready to begin poring through this website to make it compliant with any restrictions the Archbishop might put on, for they were completely committed to help me live obedience – as I have always pledged to do – and will always live.
In the end, though, no restrictions were placed on my writings. The only restriction placed on my presentations is that I can’t use a Church or Church property in Denver for the venue for them. They explained that not being an “approved speaker” simply means I can’t use Church property in the Diocese as a venue. I remain free to give public presentations in Denver at other venues. In my original rush of relief, I told them I would stick to private meetings in Denver. They reiterated that I am free to give public presentations here with that restriction. If I ever do give a public presentation in my home Archdiocese, I will check in with them first.
The letter was cautionary. Archbishop Aquila strongly advised the faithful to exercise prudence and caution in considering my work. He noted that while I insist that the ‘prophetic’ aspects of my message are not essential and should not be the focus, nonetheless the ‘prophetic’ nature of them is what attracts many readers. Certainly, the sizzle of private revelation is what has brought many here for the first time, though I would argue that the steak of the solid, divine hope that is in Christ is what keeps them here.
Yet the Archbishop’s caution is, itself, a prudent exercise of his duty to protect his flock while not quenching the spirit. I think almost everyone here has seen cases where someone began with promise and degenerated into a cult of personality or a big commercial enterprise. The Archbishop may renew and expand the preliminary investigation at any time. If abuses became common, I have no doubt he would – and I know he should.
The officials I met with last week did voice one theological concern. There had been suggestions that I believed the satan could still convert. The thread on which that was based started when my son asked me if he could pray for the devil. After thinking about, I told him the devil will not convert, but it might throw some obstacles in his way, so go ahead. The Magisterial teaching of the Church is that the devil and the demons were irretrievably condemned from the moment of their rebellion. What I publicly wrote on the matter is consonant with that, at least what I remember writing and can find. But privately, I have speculated at times over when the rebellion became irretrievable. With over 53,000 comments on the site now, I may very well have let some bit of that private speculation out at some point.
But now I know when it became irretrievable: from the moment of the devil’s rebellion. If I have ever publicly said anything other than that, I renounce it entirely. For this and any other private speculations I may sometime err on, it is a good opportunity to reiterate that I KNOW that the formal Magisterial teaching of the Church is true – and binding on all the faithful. I do not just submit to the Magisterial teaching of the Church, I fully embrace it at all times – including those moments where my speculations may not be fully informed by it.
Now some critics will jump on the ‘not an approved speaker’ phrase to mischaracterize the letter as condemning me. Some who do that will honestly not know the specific meaning of the phrase. Some will know and will not care. That is something that will happen and which neither I nor you can do anything about. What I am concerned about is that some of you will be tempted to make the equal and opposite mischaracterization by saying I am ‘approved’ because no significant restrictions were placed on me. ‘Approved’ and ‘not restricted’ are very different things.
First off, as the Archbishop noted, the investigation did not encompass whether these things are of divine origin. They make no comment on that subject. Rather, their main (but not their only) concerns were whether my work was fundamentally sound theologically and whether it has been fundamentally consistent. In early December, I gave them over 200 documents from private archives sent to me by the Priest who has kept the archives. That Priest was clearly forward-looking, for he had not just saved my letters, but the post-marked envelopes in which he received them. Copies of those envelopes were included with each hand-written letter. The Archbishop noted in his letter that archival materials going back to 1998 were examined.
In essence, Archbishop Aquila has adopted the Gamaliel option here, neither endorsing nor condemning what I write and say, but allowing it and waiting to see what fruit it will bear. If it does not bear the fruit of greater devotion to Our Lord, greater love for Our Lady, and helping to build up the bonds of affection and love between the faithful and our proper spiritual leaders, the Bishops and Priests, then it is barren regardless of how well the mere ‘predictions’ play out.
I strongly caution you to use great restraint and prudence when dealing with critics who attack. Early on, most critics mounted frontal assaults that were clumsy and ham-handed. These sometimes resulted in damaging the professional reputations of some of those who depended on obviously garbled misrepresentations. Over the last month, the shrewdest of them have been much more clever, often pretending to be a fan while trying to goad me into saying something obviously improper. Last month there was one who pressed me to be more specific and certain about predictions. Had I done so, I would have gone beyond what I am allowed. One just last week who made some garbled, confused comments was trying to goad me into doing the same – and when he said he had checked and there was no investigation into me, so I am a liar, what he was actually doing was trying to goad me into saying that the Archbishop had already made a decision. You see, I was embargoed from speaking of this until tomorrow – and to break the embargo would have been to violate the agreement I made in honor. (The Chancellor sent me a note earlier today letting me know I could speak of it today). Don’t get bogged down in such arguments. The apparent angle of attack is often not the real angle of attack these days. You may properly note that I am not restricted from writing or speaking on these matters, that I am fully obedient to my Archbishop, then move on. To say more than this is to be tempted into error.
I want you to know that Archdiocesan officials have been very kind and courteous to me. The lines of communication are open and strong. This stuff has been scary to me all my life. I was grateful once I began getting direction from my wonderful Priests. It made me feel safe. I am grateful now to get specific comments from my Archbishop – confident that he is watching over me and will correct me when I need it. Frankly, this is scary stuff to have to figure out, and when you have serious men of spiritual authority watching over you, it is not so much intimidating as it makes you feel not so all alone. In all things I do I want to make the Lord proud. I have wanted these last 21 years to make the Priests who have guided me proud. Now, I want to make my Archbishop proud. We do it by building each other up.
Now it is time for me – and for you – to go forth and bear fruit that will last.
Text of Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s Formal Letter:
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).