Pope Speaks Out Against Astrology
LONDON, 12 JAN. 2002 (ZENIT).
The start of the new year is boom time for astrologers and
fortunetellers who publish special guides on what the coming months
hold. Perhaps with this in mind, John Paul II warned against futile
attempts to divine the future.
In comments during the celebration of solemn vespers on New Year's Eve,
the Pope acknowledged that all of us are curious about the future. Even
the apostles asked Jesus if the time had come to establish the Kingdom.
John Paul II observed that Jesus was not prepared to answer, replying
that only the Father knows the time or dates (Acts 1:7).
The Pope noted that Jesus has exhorted us not to make useless attempts
to find out what is reserved for God's knowledge only. We should seek to
use well the time that each one of us has available, motivated with
filial love in spreading the Gospel's message.
In its report on the Pontiff's remarks, the Italian paper Corriere della
Sera on Jan. 2 noted that around 25% of Italians consult the astrology
columns at the start of each day. The paper also claimed there are no
fewer than 150,000 astrologers in Italy, of whom about 8,000 are
registered with a pair of professional associations. Many Italians, it
seems, pay $150 or more for an annual session with their astrologer.
The Repubblica newspaper, in a Dec. 22 article, was more conservative,
putting the number of fortunetellers in Italy at 70,000. It quoted a
study estimating that about 10 million Italians believe in the stars and
other forms of divination.
Missed the mark on Sept. 11
But as the Guardian newspaper in England pointed out in an article Dec.
13, none of the world's astrologers were capable of foreseeing the most
important event of the year—the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The Guardian noted that while the intelligence agencies were condemned
for their ignorance of the terrorists' plans, the reputation of
astrologers has escaped intact, "not even faintly stained by this
awesome demonstration of occult incompetence."
The article quotes an astrologer who confesses that when he woke up late
on Sept. 11, the scenes on television reminded him that he'd just
dreamed about bombing: "As you can tell, this was a 'symbolic'
dream where I was alerted. But 2:30 p.m. was too late for me to alert
Astrologers are being vague about 2002. The Guardian observed that
Prediction Annual says 2002 will be "ruled by the colour
green," "continue to be wet," and feature "the same
old trouble spots." Horoscope Annual adds that "the United
States may be vulnerable to a very destructive attack."
The Independent too noted that the astrologers' failure to foresee the
Sept. 11 attacks hasn't reduced their popularity in England. Since the
New Year, the newspaper reported Jan. 9, "every tabloid and women's
magazine out there has been promising its readers their very own astral
route-planner through the maze of sexual relationships and career
The article mentioned that in past years The Mail on Sunday has added up
to 12.5% to its usual readership with the aid of an astrology
For the Independent, the enthusiasm for fortunetelling "is a
disease—a kind of scabies of the intellect." What astrologers are
offering "is a kind of psychic plasticine—endlessly malleable
into whatever shape suits you." What should cause outrage,
continues the article, is not that astrologers are frauds, but that
"the public shamelessly allowing themselves to be duped."
Martin Rees, the British royal astronomer, noted in the Sunday Times on
Jan. 6 that people use astrology to satisfy a desire for "comfort
without the demands made by more traditional religion." He
encouraged readers, however, to "live with uncertainty and
ignorance, and not be seduced by easy answers that bypass the slog of
At home in the universities
In spite of their failures, astrologers received academic recognition in
several countries last year. In the United States a federal body, the
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology,
gave accreditation to the Astrological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
The New York Times on Aug. 28 explained that this is believed to be a
first for a school of astrology. The accreditation of the school will
allow it to seek approval from the Department of Education for its
students to get federal grants and loans.
The school's founder, Joyce Jensen, said that courses in the institute
include a "master class on the asteroid goddesses" and
"how to write an astrological column." The school offers one
program: a diploma in astrology and psychology.
Judith Eaton, head of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in
Washington, D.C., said the accreditation did not validate astrology, but
only recognized that the school fulfilled its promises to students.
In India, education authorities decided to recognize astrology as an
undergraduate and postgraduate university degree course, the Financial
Times reported May 5. Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resources
development minister, proposed the creation of astrology departments in
no fewer than 24 universities.
Joshi belongs to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu
supremacist group behind the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. According to
the Financial Times, one of the essential premises of RSS' revivalist
ideologues is that virtually all modern science, including nuclear
physics, is prefigured in the Vedas, the ancient sacred books of
Even the Sorbonne in Paris has given its stamp of approval to astrology.
Last April, Elizabeth Teissier received a passing grade for her 900-page
thesis on astrology, the New York Times noted June 2. Teissier is a
weekly horoscope columnist for a popular television guide and the author
of a half-dozen books on astrology. She also was the astrologer to
French President François Mitterrand.
The decision by the university to accept the thesis led more than 400
sociologists to sign a petition asking the president of the Sorbonne to
make an independent evaluation of the case. The Times newspaper of
London quoted Bernard Lahire, a sociologist at the École Normale
Supérieure de Lettres et Sciences Humaines in Lyon, as saying of the
thesis: "There is no trace of empirical fact or research
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2115, acknowledges that God
can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints.
"Still," it adds, "a sound Christian attitude consists in
putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever
concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about
No. 2116 calls for all forms of divination to be rejected, and adds:
"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."
For those anxious about the future, John Paul II recommended in an
Angelus message on Sept. 6, 1998, that "if we want to give good
direction to our life, we must learn to discern its plan, by reading the
mysterious 'road signs' God puts in our daily history. For this purpose,
neither horoscopes nor fortunetelling is useful. What is needed is
prayer, authentic prayer, which should always accompany a life decision
made in conformity with God's law."
The Pope advised all to direct their prayers to the Holy Spirit:
"No one knows our future better than he or is more capable of
guiding our steps in the right direction."