When I first heard about Long Island Medium, I wasn't that surprised. It's not really big news that TLC has another show about a unique/interesting character and their attempt to have a halfway normal family. When you add Theresa's thick New York accent, her big hair, and her larger-than-life personality, you have a surefire recipe for cable reality show success.
The show takes a look at Theresa's life as she tries to balance family relationships with her daytime job as a medium, someone who can communicate with the spirit world. She believes that she can communicate with people who have died, so clients come to her looking for closure and answers as they hope to hear from those who have passed away.
It sounds harmless enough. After all, she's just offering help and consolation to people who are still mourning the loss of loved ones, right?
What does the Catholic Church say about channeling spirits or communicating with the dead? The Church has always been against using mediums or other means to channel spirits, but what could be so wrong about the idea that those who have died are still down here on earth trying to communicate with us?
The Catholic Church Says…
The Church is clear in her teaching against all forms of divination, astrology, trying to communicate with the dead, fortune telling, and other occult-related practices. In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of God are reminded that we can trust God to provide everything we need and that we shouldn't look to other 'spirits' or 'forces' for special knowledge or powers (Deuteronomy 18:14, Colossians 2:8, CCC 2116, 2117, 2138).
The first commandment requires that we have no other gods in our lives; in channeling spirits, we are turning our hearts, our souls, and our worship to other things (and spirits) other than God.
When a person dies, we believe that their soul either goes to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. We don't believe in a fourth option in which God says, 'You can enjoy eternal happiness with me if you want, or if you'd prefer, you can haunt watch over your family and friends.' Similarly, it makes no sense that a person who has rejected God for eternity and is headed for Hell would somehow have an opportunity to sneak out of damnation so they can fulfill their lifelong dream of making furniture move while being invisible.
But It’s So Real!
In the case of a medium, especially one on TV, it's very likely that a lot of what we see is just made up. Many self-proclaimed mediums and psychics have been exposed as frauds that just use words that are vague enough that they could apply to anyone. (For example, someone claiming to channel my dead grandmother could safely presume that she had a 'sweet, loving, sensitive, strong, and feisty' personality. I might feel like my grandmother has been perfectly described until I realize that those characteristics are fair assessments of most elderly women.)
Another possibility is that the medium or a psychic is actually communicating with an evil spirit (demon) who is posing as a deceased friend or family member. Whenever we try to communicate with other spirits, we open ourselves up to the influence of evil spirits and we invite them into our lives. That's why the Church is so strong in condemning things like Tarot card readings, Ouija boards, fortune-telling, and other attempts to contact (or learn from) spirits other than God.
What should we do?
If we're concerned about a loved one who died, or if we find ourselves thinking about them a lot, we should always take the opportunity to pray for their soul. We pray that they can be brought from the cleansing purifications of Purgatory to the eternal joy of Heaven.
When it comes to knowing things about the future, or even the past, we can trust God. We can trust that He loves us and that He'll reveal to us what we need to know in His perfect time. He's good like that.
So should we watch Long Island Medium? Probably not. We shouldn't celebrate or entertain ourselves with other people's terribly misguided efforts to find spiritual fulfillment in their lives.
Besides, there are tons of other intellectually stimulating shows on TLC, like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, American Gypsy, Hoarders, and Extreme Couponing. My wife tells me that there are also intriguing shows about wedding dress shopping, but I can neither confirm nor deny her report.