ASTROLOGY: We have received further letters on this subject, and, since interest in such pretended sciences always increases in time of war or crisis, we have decided to deal with the matter at sonic length.
Judicial Astrology, as its practitioners like to call it, is based on the belief that the stars and planets, especially the latter, exercise some kind of influence over the terrestrial elements; and that, through these, they affect not only such earthly phenomena as storms and earthquakes, but also the natural temperaments and dispositions of men. There is nothing directly superstitious in such a belief : many scientists have held it. Indeed, it was thought until quite recently that sunspots, for example, played a definite part in determining weather ; but all such theories are generally admitted nowadays to have no scientific basis whatever.
Unfortunately, astrologers are not content to let matters rest there, or to seek patiently for scientific proof of the theory of planetary influences. They hot only assume the truth of the theory, but pretend to know the precise influence which is exercised by each planet, and the precise laws by which their " conjunctions " or " oppositions " affect human conduct and world events. They even claim to be able to establish a connection between all the celestial phenomena and every event or action of our lives. This is pure nonsense. There is no reason why Mars should be considered the planet of violence, or Venus the planet of love, except that the astrologers choose to make them so. Nor is it true that people born under the same planetary influences have the same, or similar, natural powers. Hundreds of children were born on August 15, 1769, but only one of them was a Napoleon.
Still, if this were all, one could he content to describe astrology as mere foolishness: irrational, and a waste of time and money, but nothing more. Unfortunately, it leads inevitably to worse evils. On the part of the practitioner, it leads to fraud. Nearly all practising astrologers are fraudulent ; they do not even observe the so-called rules of their art, but invent for their clients the kind of predictions which they think will best serve to attract .money.
On the part of the clients, astrology leads to a belief in fatalism. However the astrologer may protest that his prophecies are only% probabilities, his patients will certainly begin to regulate their lives by them, instead of by their own free-will, and will, indeed, exert that very free-will. Consciously or unconsciously, to bring the seer's words to pass. The spirit of astrology, as of all other kinds of fortune-telling, is opposed to free-will. Nor is this surprising, since astrology was first invented by pagans who believed implicitly in Destiny, and the stars were originally used to foretell fates, not fortunes.
For these and other reasons, which we outlined in our previous answer on this subject, divination by astrology is prohibited by the Church. There is little hope that this prohibition will affect the true believers in the art, any more than they have been moved by the contempt of scientists: But Catholics at least may take warning, and avoid entangling themselves in this thicket of folly and fraud.
One last point : it is often urged by astrologers that their art received divine sanction in the Star that appeared to the Magi at the birth of Our Lord. The answer to this is simple: whateVer it was that brought the Magi to Bethlehem, it certainly was not a belief in astrology. Astrology knows nothing of special stars for special persons: its effects are calculated from the existing heavenly bodies. If, indeed, it was some astrological theory that induced the Magi to undertake their journey, how did it happen that, of all the star-gazers in Chaldea, three only came to Bethlehem ? We may note, too, that the star was miraculous, since it " went before them " and led them on. '
All things considered, it seems best to believe that they received a special sign from God ; and, since they were watchers of the skies, He sent them a sign in the heavens. One thing is certain: it was none of the signs knbwn to astrology.
May a Catholic believe in predetermined, inexorable fate ?
No. Fate is the supposed absolute necessity by which some things are bound to happen irrespective of any reason, purpose or free-will either of Gad or of man. There is no such necessity. Whatever happens is conditioned by the knowledge, intention and choice of God; and what happens in man's rational life is conditioned by man's free will. Fate is the direct denial of the Providence of God, and therefore irreconcilable with the Christian religion, which must accept the Divine Will as the ultimate rule of all things, and human free-will as the source of man's responsibility for his own actions.
Why, in the parable, did Our Lord praise the wickedness of the unjust steward ?
Our Lord did not praise his wickedness. The point that He wished to emphasise was the shrewdness and thoroughness which the steward applied to securing his temporal safety, as compared with our indifference to a matter of much greater moment—our eternal salvation. He called the children of this world wiser in their generation than the children of light, meaning that the children of light would do well to apply to the securing of their eternal welfare the same zeal that the children of this world (such as the unjust steward) apply to temporal things.