Apparition claims aside, such oils have been used in witchcraft for "protection" for centuries.
By Susan Brinkman
The alleged revelations of Our Lady to a Costa Rican man requesting the use of essential oils to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have gone viral on the internet. What are Catholics to think of such revelations?
The "medium", named Luz de María de Bonilla, would have received a message from Our Lady on June 3, 2016, giving her instructions on how to use a blend of essential oils, which she called Good Samaritan Oil, as a preventive measure against outbreaks of infection. She said the vision also recommended that people eat a raw clove of garlic every morning or use oregano oil because "both are great antibiotics."
On January 28, 2020, Our Lady reportedly said to the seer again, “Great plagues, plagues caused by unknown viruses are encroaching upon mankind. Use Good Samaritan Oil for protection, for highly contagious diseases where you live, use just the amount of a pinpoint in your earlobes. As the number of infected increases, you should place it on either side of your neck and on the wrists of both hands..."
The oils found in Good Samaritan Oil are cinnamon, clove, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus. This is the same recipe for a popular essential oil blend known as "Oil of Thieves," which is linked to the legend of four thieves who stole the bodies of bubonic plague victims but managed to escape infection while they used these ingredients. Used for centuries in witchcraft for "protection," these oils are touted by essential oil vendors who claim they boost the immune system and protect people from infections like the flu and viruses.
To lend credence to the alleged messages, there is a nod from a bishop named Don Juan Abelardo Mata Guavara, Bishop of Estelí, Nicaragua, who approved the messages this seer received between 2009 and 2017. There is no indication that Dom Mata or any other church authority approved the 2020 message recommending these alternatives for use against COVID-19.
While the church has not made a decision about the supernatural nature of the revelations, the messages have gone viral online, with many Catholics touting the oils as a "church-approved" way to protect against the coronavirus.
As compelling as they may seem, these revelations are surprising because they appear to contradict the Church's teachings contained in the ethical and religious guidelines for health services. Based on Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the value and sanctity of human life (Evangelium Vitae), the guidelines state: "A person has a moral obligation to employ ordinary or proportionate means to preserve his life." This is true especially for communicable or life-threatening diseases.
As Kevin Rickert, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, tells us, "at the heart of this problem is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary care," and he explains these distinctions in terms of alternatives in his article. , "Alternative Medicine and the Duty to Use Ordinary Means".
Ordinary means are those treatments commonly considered ordinary to the preservation of human life, such as food, shelter, avoidance of unnecessary bodily harm, and the use of approved medical procedures when necessary.
Alternative medicine, like essential oils, is generally defined as treatments that are not scientifically proven or do not meet the standards of what would be considered accepted medical procedures. For this reason, Our Lady's supposed recommendation to use essential oils to prevent contagion is suspect.
Ongoing research into the use of essential oils for health care has found that some products are helpful for general well-being, but even industry experts concede that there is no scientific evidence to support their use in the ways Our Lady supposedly prescribed.
I speak on behalf of Dr. Russell Osguthorpe, infectious disease physician and chief medical officer at essential oil supplier doTERRA, spokesman Kevin Wilson told Salon in March 2020, “doTERRA recognizes that essential oils have profound health and wellness benefits, but we make no claims about them that our products prevent, treat or cure any disease, including COVID-19."
If this is the case, why would Our Lady instruct us to use anything that is not scientifically proven or in accordance with local health policy to protect us during a serious public health emergency? Why would you distribute messages that don't include at least one recommendation about following local health guidelines or seeking good medical advice?
Experts such as Michael O'Neill, author of "Virgin, Mother, Queen" and creator of MiracleHunter.com doubt Our Lady gave these instructions.
"While Our Lady pointed the waters of Lourdes to St. Bernadette, Mary generally does not recommend natural remedies or disregard medical advice," O'Neill said. "This appears to be a non-standard request by Mary for an apparition and thus casts some doubt on the validity of these apparitions."
As for the imprimatur, O'Neill explains that an imprimatur does not mean that a supernatural event took place. He simply states that the messages are free from doctrinal errors. Such a declaration is usually made by the Ordinary of the place where an alleged Marian apparition is taking place. Since Costa Rican-born Luz de María currently resides in Argentina, it is not clear why she was authorized by a Nicaraguan bishop. Attempts to get clarification from Bishop Mata and the Argentine church authorities are ongoing.
"Participation in unauthorized apparitions can present great challenges to faith, and it is important to remember that the centrality of our faith is found in the words and works of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, not in alleged apparitions," advises O'Neill. "If believers find that the messages help them draw closer to Christ, the messages can certainly bring great spiritual benefit, but they are unlikely to be secret potions to ward off viruses."
This advice is common sense to most Catholics, so why are these revelations reaching the Catholic population even now?
It may be due to a movement among some Catholics who value "natural" health care better because it is "God's gift." But as of Dr. Rickert that this idea is "a gimmick" because "everything that exists comes from God", including science.
Another possible reason for adopting alternative methods of preventing COVID-19 could be the natural fear caused by the pandemic.
“Even for religious people, divine 'revelations' promising healing through essential oils or other formulas can seemingly open 'miracle cures' and provide a way to 'take control' rather than face our fears and enter a deeper spirituality . Acceptance of the Divine Plan, a plan that may include crossing the valley of death,” says Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., director of education at the National Catholic Center for Bioethics.
“Regarding COVID-19, we must rely on properly conducted research studies, not the claims of visionaries, when attempting to develop drugs or treatments that offer protective or therapeutic benefits. God wants us to use science and medicine to ward off disease, but we must always restrain our urge to survive with a sobriety about the finality, inevitability, and unpredictability of death. The prospect of Thief in the Night should grab our attention more than any Oil of Thieves.