Call for Catholic schools to ditch ‘occult’ Halloween celebrations

Call for Catholic schools to ditch ‘occult’ Halloween celebrations Photo: Charles Parker/Pexels
Chai Brady and Brandon Scott

Catholic schools should focus on celebrating the saints “instead of the demons” during Halloween parties according to a Rome-based professor of theology.

Fr Richard O’Connor, a priest of the Diocese of Kerry who teaches in the Pontifical Angelicum University, told The Irish Catholic that he believed that dressing up as devils, witches and the like can be “an avenue to the occult” even if parents’ intentions are pure.

“We’re supposed to be celebrating the Feast of All Saints’ [November 1] and we have the kids dressed up as demons and devils and witches and things like that – the very opposite. It shows a complete betrayal of the Christian faith, on this particular point,” Prof. O’Connor said.

If teachers could have children dress as saints and say something about them “it would give real meaning”, he insisted.

“Certainly, have Halloween parties but have them centred on the saints. I would expect Catholic schools to give the lead in that respect,” he continued. “There’s great room for imagination, you take at Christmas, the school will have a little play centred on the nativity, and the kids love dressing up as shepherds, the three kings and all the rest of it. The same way you could have a party centred on the saints.”

Prof. O’Connor added: “I would say certainly make a big thing of Halloween and have a great party but be celebrating the saints instead of the demons.”

Fr David Jones, a hermit priest based in Meath with experience of exorcism, also warned about practices around Halloween, saying: “The soft side of it [demonic activity] is new age, which can be especially represented by sinister forces at times like Halloween…it is a portal,” he told The Irish Catholic.

Paula McKeown, who is the Director of Living Church in the Diocese of Down and Connor said “let’s trust parents and their instincts”.

“Parents approach Halloween with a sense of fun, but we can always draw children in to the right traditions,” Ms McKeown said.

Halloween can also be a time to explain Catholic teaching about death and life after death “and what we believe,” she said, “we are all parenting in what is a more secular age and you just take opportunities like Halloween to actually teach about your faith.

“I know in our own parish, we put out our ‘faith survival kit’ last week, and our colouring-in page absolutely had pumpkins and all the rest but the message was ‘Do not fear God is always with you’. So, it’s about how you use what is happening in culture as a teaching moment as well.”

Columnist and author Mary Kenny said she believed it was a “question of degree”.

“Halloween is a traditional Irish practice, but it’s been over-merchandised, over-sold, and the demonic side exaggerated,” she said.