Young people cautioned against 'Charlie Charlie Challenge'

Pilot illustration by Gregory L. Tracy

BRAINTREE -- Officials of the Archdiocese of Boston are joining others in cautioning parents and young people about a game being spread through social media centered on young people allegedly contacting the dead or spirits to answer questions.

Like a simplified version of the Ouija board of decades-past, in the "Charlie Charlie Challenge" participants write "yes" and "no" on four quadrants of a piece of paper, balance two pencils intersecting the words in the shape of a cross, and ask questions of an entity called "Charlie." The top pencil then supposedly rotates, with the point indicating the answer to the question.

In differing accounts online, "Charlie" is either the spirit of a child, a deceased accident victim, or even a Mexican demon.

The phenomenon has spread among young people taking photos or videos of themselves playing the game and then posting them on social media.

The hashtag -- a word or group of words indicating a topic on social media -- #CharlieCharlieChallenge spiked on Twitter, May 24, on its way to gathering two million Tweets in a social media frenzy.

In the first days of June, various sources online began explaining the trend as part of a viral marketing campaign associated with an upcoming horror film, but social media entries by the film's promoters seem to have come after the Twitter spike over the Memorial Day weekend.

Services that track social media trends indicate that the phenomenon moved into English-language social media from the Spanish-speaking world through the Dominican Republic. The hashtag spread quickly or "went viral" within days, and reached Father Matt Williams, director of the Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adults, that week.

"A friend of mine forwarded me an article about this topic and how a priest had come out cautioning and even warning young people of the dangers of this and telling them to stay away," Father Williams said.

In response, the Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adults Ministry of the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support posted information about the game on the archdiocesan website, and is also available at The Pilot's online opinion site,

"We need to equip our parents and our leaders with some tools to be able to have these conversations with our kids," said Father Williams.

Father Williams drafted a series of talking points with details for how catechists, parents and those serving young people in ministry can address the issue with young people, which the website makes available through a link.

"So, what are the dangers here?" Father Williams asked.

"Even if this is a gimmick, you're teaching kids. You're welcoming kids down the road or showing them down the path of divination, and you're planting seeds for the future, which is not a good thing at all. Or, you're going to open up the curiosity for them to start looking into the occult in other kinds of ways, which could find themselves getting into trouble down the road," Father Williams said.

However, Father Williams also addressed the reality of Church teaching on attempts to contact spirits in order to seek knowledge otherwise unavailable to human perception.

"You're starting to open up doors to things that are not meant to be opened. The Devil is real. There's no such thing as Casper the friendly ghost," Father Williams cautioned.

In his talking points, he advised spiritual guidance to young people in a way that affirms the desire to explore the supernatural, but not for supernatural yearnings for power or divination. Father Williams encouraged the affirmation of the desire for the supernatural love of God, which he identified as the purpose for God's creation of humanity in his own image.

"We want to affirm that desire and show them what that's really for, and it's for a relationship with the Most Blessed Trinity," he said.

He said thinking with what he called a "drive thru" mentality encourages people to seek easy answers, like one might seek through divination, and weakens our faith.

"There's the instant gratification. Everyone is mesmerized by, 'Oh is it real? Is it not real?' and that kind of thing, but it really weakens our faith. Going to 'Charlie' is not helping you to walk by faith. It is, in fact, feeding that desire for instant gratification and to have it your way," he said.

He pointed to prayer as an antidote.

"What is prayer really about? Is prayer really about having it my way, or is prayer really about friendship with God, communion with God, and my surrendering my will to God's will, being conformed to Christ?" he asked.

He compared prayer to the relationship in a loving marriage, and the desire for control through divination with idolatry.

"It's not about having it my way in the marriage. It's about dying to myself and giving myself in love to my bride. Prayer, in our relationship with God, is just like that. It's about dying to myself and giving myself in love to the Lord and seeking to be one with Him. Charlie, it's the complete opposite. It feeds into the mentality of selfishness, of egoism, of narcissism. It feeds into a life focused on myself. It feeds into this reality of idolatry," Father Williams said.

The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" also provides guidance on divination and magic in paragraphs 2115 through 2117.

In particular, paragraph 2116 addresses fortune-telling and similar practices, saying, "All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. 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."

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...