Back in January, I posted an article about my experience with the alleged visionary Charlie Johnston. I posted the article after one of Johnston’s more famous prophecies, known as the “presidential prophecy,” failed to come to pass. I am again taking up the proverbial pen to write on Johnston in the light of some recent developments.
For those who need a quick refresher, Charlie Johnston is a resident of Colorado and under the canonical jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Denver. He claims to have been the recipient of private revelations since a young age.[i] He says they were preparing him for a mission of giving heart to people through a particularly difficult period he calls “the Storm” wherein 26 million people were, Johnston said, going to die. This period, he further claimed, would be from 2009 to the end of 2017, culminating in an event called “the Rescue” after which time, he once described, it will be as if we were living in Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show.[ii]
Several years ago, Johnston took his claims to the Internet. His web site The Next Right Step became the most central locus of his writings. His claims received growing interest among Catholics in more recent years. As time passed and various things that Johnston discussed seemed to be coming to pass, he received more attention and attracted a community of followers. A “team” formed to aid Johnston with the dissemination of his claims. As part of that promotion, Johnston traveled around these United States giving talks or interviews.[iii]
One of the specific prophecies made by Johnston was that President Obama “would not finish his term” and that there would be no peaceful transfer of power. Johnston even went so far as to hold a personal opinion that the situation within the United States would be so chaotic by November, 2016 that the elections would not take place. The election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President of these United States negatively impacted Johnston’s credibility, except to a strong core of followers who argued that he was right on “most things.”[iv]
Prior to the failure of his “presidential prophecy,” Johnston stated that he would leave the public scene if his prophecy did not come to pass.[v] After the failure, Johnston wrote a post for his web site and gave an interview with Janie Harney of FOCUS TV via Skype.[vi] He appointed one of his followers, Rebecca “Beckie” Hess (known as Beckita) of Montana, to run The Next Right Step web site.[vii] Johnston then left, indicating that he would return if anything changed.
Since his departure in January, Johnston has come again before the public. He posted no less than five articles for The Next Right Step web site between May and August, 2017. Among other things, Johnston wrote that he has been receiving further “instruction” (i.e. alleged private revelations). He will, however, not discuss specifics of these revelations. Johnston is now featured in a podcast program run by his son “Chaz” who writes under the avatar name “fighttheplight.” Johnston has also specifically stated that he is now returning onto the public scene after the events in Charlottesville.
My Concern with Johnston:
In light of recent developments, I want to remind people that the Archdiocese of Denver issued a statement in February, 2017. It stated (in part): “The events of 2016/17 have shown that Mr. Johnston’s alleged visions were not accurate and the Archdiocese urges the faithful not to condone or support further attempts to reinterpret them as valid.”[viii]
Johnston now claims to be receiving new “instruction” that allegedly demonstrate how wrongly he “interpreted” his prior prophecies, this claim is despite the earlier fact that he attributed a supernatural character to them.[ix] Johnston puts forth the idea of the new “instruction” before the public only then to declare that “there is no use in speaking of specifics.” He then proceeds to state how things are “bigger than I had imagined – and simultaneously easier and more terrible.”
What effect are these words
having upon his readers?
It is a fact of human nature that such declarations can pique people’s curiosity. Yet, if Johnston cannot (or simply will not) detail the “instruction,” why does he mention it at all? Is he not aware of the potential effect his declarations could be having upon people? I am deeply concerned that these statements could tantalize many—the proverbial carrot on a stick—and could be for them a “bait and hook” that draws them into Johnston’s world of alleged messages. Against that world we have been cautioned by the competent ecclesiastical authority since March, 2016.
It is possible that Johnston may defend himself with distinctions. He might argue that as these are new prophecies and the February statement from Denver only applied to past prophecies. Such a distinction, however, might be without merit. It would not consider that the alleged “new” instructions are from the same source(s) from which emanated the “old” ones. In other words, it could be a “fruit from the poisoned well” scenario—same well, different trip.[x] That source could only be one of three things: Heaven, Hell or Human. It is up to the Archdiocese of Denver to decide which, but such a decision does not appear to be forthcoming in the foreseeable future.
As we saw earlier, we do have what has been said already by the Archdiocese. What does Johnston think about Denver’s February, 2017 statement? He indicated his mind on this matter in June, 2017:
….The Archbishop warned that people should exercise prudence and caution when considering my prophetic statements [KJS note: this remark refers to a another statement from March, 2016], but did not restrict me from speaking or writing publicly, except that I may not give a formal presentation on Church property in Denver. He added no new restrictions after I made my errant interpretation…. I, of course, am fully obedient to my Archbishop, and my relations with the Archdiocese remain cordial and friendly (contrary to what some sites perniciously suggest) (emphases mine).
….[E]ven now I am not restricted from speaking or writing prophecy. That I break no new ground is a matter of prudent discretion on my part, not a directive from the Archdiocese. And I left open the possibility of it in an extraordinary situation. The Archdiocese specifically directed that people not seek to re-interpret my failed interpretation regarding the inauguration, a position I had taken firmly with all before the Archdiocese ever spoke on it. There is no general ban on reviewing or discussing other prophetic comments.
First, it is necessary to point out an error in Johnston’s above statement. Denver’s February 2017 statement did not tell people they were not to “re-interpret” a “failed interpretation” as Johnston says above. The Archdiocesan statement said not to re-interpret Johnston’s alleged visions. Why does Johnston say one thing when the Archdiocese said another? Secondly, it is true that Denver’s February, 2017 statement does not issue a positive law/order to Johnston (or others). Does such a lack, however, help his cause? That is questionable as there is an important reason for “prudent discretion.”
Whatever Johnston’s personal reasons are for his “prudent discretion,” his alleged prophecies and reputation as a prophet are now discredited by many people in the public forum. He has little to no credibility except in the eyes of some core followers. Thus, does the Archdiocese of Denver truly need to issue a law or command in the face of the evidence? Does the Archdiocese have to force the faithful with precept in this case? Shouldn’t this be a matter of common sense and not an opportunity for the proliferation of laws?[xii]
I am concerned that Johnston’s latest posts with reference to alleged new “instruction” have, effectively, laid a foundation for new opportunities for Johnston. It is human nature for people to want to listen to Johnston to see if what he now says will have anything to do with the new “instruction”—a sort of parsing game, if you will. It is not my place to say whether or not Johnston intended this effect. I do, however, speak to the objective facts. He made his statements and thereby began to paint a picture upon which people can gaze and make observations.
Lastly, I would like to remind people of how Charlie Johnston last year publicly defamed a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver. I had published an article about Johnston in February, 2016 in which I discussed his three Opus Dei spiritual directors. In response to this article, he twice wrote to his readers with a story of how there was a priest “with some little authority” with access to his records and who was “relentlessly hostile” to Johnston. While admitting that it was only “circumstantial,” and that he “guessed” at the matter, Johnston speculated that this priest must or could have given information to me about his case.
In fact, I had explained how I came across the names in my February, 2016 article and it was not because a priest passed along information to me. Here are my exact words:
By leaving anonymous the identities of these three priests, Johnston does not seem to anticipate that his own writings would undermine his intention. Johnston has written enough where one can research their identities. Out of the three, I discovered the identity of one of the priests. Another I could find with some effort and the last remains unidentified at this time.
Elsewhere, Johnston admitted that he only “skimmed” my article as he found it “tendentious.” Let me be clear: Charlie Johnston, a man who claims that he has a mission from God to tell people what is the “next right step,” publicly defamed an innocent priest. I reminded Johnston of this incident during our phone call in May, 2016 and I told him that it would do his case no favors with the Archdiocese of Denver.
Let it also be known that the above incident is not the first time that Johnston has not been careful in his speech. There was the situation with Mr. Kevin O’Brien of Missouri last year as well. Johnston publicly accused O’Brien of editing his September, 2015 article about Charlie without notice to his readers after the two men allegedly corresponded. O’Brien has publicly denied Johnston’s claim, and, after being confronted on the matter, Johnston issued a retraction on his web site.
Johnston has been keen to issue what I believe is a caveat, but true nevertheless—put your faith in God and not in Johnston. Thus, it seems to me that the “next right step” here is simple: adherence to what the Archdiocese of Denver stated in March of 2016, “seek [our] security in Jesus Christ, the sacraments, and the Scriptures.” Certainly, Johnston has/had good things to say. Whatever positive lessons one learned from Johnston, so be it, but his extraordinary claims leave much to be desired.
[i] Johnston speaks of these revelations as coming from various heavenly personages such as Jesus, Mary, and the Archangel Gabriel. He refers to them as his “visitors.”
[ii] Johnston utilized the theme of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from the apparitions at Fátima in support of his own claims, associating it with the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. This association between Johnston’s alleged prophecies with the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary predicted at Fátima makes it difficult to discuss Johnston’s notion of the “Rescue.” If one were to deny “the Rescue,” it could be perceived as denying the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Since we have not yet reached the end of 2017 when this event was supposed to take place (according to Johnston), some may yet believe it is still to happen. Johnston himself stated after the elections in 2016 that he would not be wrong on the “Rescue” (see also here):
Sometime in the next year, I will be significantly wrong about something. It won’t be the Rescue, but it will be something. When it comes, it will not be a test of me, for I already know that God is good and seeks our reclamation. It will be a test for some of you, to see whether you have put your faith in me or your faith in God. If it is in me, your faith was always ill-placed. God is good, all the time, whatever the circumstances – and works to call us all back to Him. When I am wrong, I will accept the correction with gratitude and more wisdom. I will not leave the scene unless it is one of the fundamentals, and then, in full obedience to Holy Church, I will wait on the Lord, knowing that He will strengthen my heart and that it serves His purpose to call all His children back to Him.
Beckita wrote on July 15, 2017 the following concerning the “Rescue”:
The Rescue is a great mystery to yet be lived. What does it really entail? Will this event immediately launch the Era of Peace? No one knows for sure but I don’t think it will. Lately, I’ve been pondering the possibility that The Rescue is a stage, a beautiful, refreshing and life-giving stage, in the unfolding of Our Lady’s Triumph. In my mind, every soul who repents and CHOOSES CHRIST takes us a step closer to this promise: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” When Father and I complete the Divine Office prayers of each evening, we like to dream aloud of the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. There is continued acknowledgement between us that God IS a God of sudden and surprising miracles AND, more often, He is a God Who works with us, His kids, in a process.
I’ve also been contemplating the Rescue as a Beginning in addition to being an end point – the releif from our conflict with China AND a time filled with GREAT opportunities to co-create with God as He grants us beau coup graces through His Mother’s Intercession that we may continue building a Civilization of Love. I perceive we will need those graces to proceed in wrestling with some difficulties as we accomplish such a mega commission in rebuilding from the ashes, one step at a time. But who can really know the Mind of God? I DO want what He wants. I KNOW His Ways are so far above our own and that He always and ever acts from Pure Love. His Infinite Imagination is filled with Promise.
[iv] For an interesting perspective on the effect of the failure of Johnston’s prophecy upon people, click here. Johnston has also been referred to as “papa” Charlie by at least one devotee even after the failure of his “presidential prophecy.”
[v] Though he would leave the public scene, Johnston also left open the possibility of returning. He said that he would “officially” retire in July, 2018.
[vi] The interview was removed from the FOCUS TV web site sometime around mid-February, 2017.
[viii] A post from Beckie Hess on The Next Right Step web site (dated February 7, 2017) was what prompted the Archdiocesan statement. Among other things, she attempted to distinguish between a “false prophet” and “false prophecies.” In her own words:
In recent comments, the topic of all of Charlie’s prophecies continues to be raised. For some, in discernment, there is a belief that the error in the inaugural prophetic piece puts belief in all of his prophecies at risk. Not so fast, please, Fellow Discerners. There is a distinct difference between a failed prophetic element as we experienced at the inauguration and a false prophet which, I firmly believe, Charlie is not. I emphasize that great care must be taken to gather indispensible information and facts into your discernment as you ponder where we are in this Storm (emphases mine).
Moreover, the Archdiocese’s statement is in reference to past prophecies. A question remains as to how the Archdiocese may view any “new” alleged revelations.
[ix] Johnston is stating that his error is a matter of interpretation. Yet, prior to the failure of the presidential prophecy, Johnston had devised a way of communicating to his followers what was his interpretation from what was directly from his “angel.” He expressed this distinction by the phrase “I have told you true.” Johnston clarified that the presidential prophecy was a matter of “I have told you true.”
[x] The Archdiocesan statement of February, 2017 was not issued directly by the Archbishop. It was, however, issued by his curia, and, was, presumably, done with his knowledge and/or consent. After the failure of Johnston’s presidential prophecy, the authenticity of his alleged visions is in bad shape. One wonders whether the Archdiocese of Denver will now see a need to convene a formal commission to examine his claims. Any appeal to the lack of a “formal” statement by the Archdiocese against Johnston’s claims could be construed as an attempt at haranguing the matter to keep it perpetually in limbo. Being in limbo has the practical effect of affording opportunity to Johnston to promote himself.
Before I began my pilgrimage five years ago, I knew that if I should ever publicly speak on these things, it must begin from the Archdiocese of Denver (from which I have no prior connection) and that it would be to the Archbishop of Denver that I owed my duty of obedience throughout the balance of the Storm.
Now you need to know it will not be some overly clever “wink and nod” obedience. It will be a true and faithful obedience. A few have asked me pointedly who I was going to obey, God or man. I have tried to conceal my anger when responding to such queries that I am a true believer, that Christ set up this Holy Church and gave it binding authority to which I am subject. If I disobeyed the lawful authority of my Archbishop, it would be to disobey God. Period.
Should there be a negative finding, I will go silent for a few weeks as I figure out how to fully comply with the direction.
I spent most of my life as either a secular political operative or a secular cultural commentator. It is, one might say, my default setting. I have a duty to both hearten the faithful and defend the faithful during these trying times. If necessary, I will live that duty from a purely secular and temporal standpoint after that period of silence. There would be no sly references to private revelation, nothing at all like that. I would simply go back to speaking in the manner I used most of my life. I will be absolutely obedient to my Archbishop’s lawful authority.
[xii] Let us ask another question. Johnston alleges to be receiving new “instruction.” This “instruction,” according to Johnston, has shown him how wrong he was with his interpretation of the old visions. Does this constitute a “re-interpretation?” If so, isn’t this exactly what the Archdiocese warned against in its February, 2017 statement? Is this, at least partly, why Johnston will not say anything? If yes, then why does he say anything at all?