Still Talking About Charlie Johnston

I have written about the alleged mystic Charlie Johnston a few times over the past 5-6 years. Unfortunately, Charlie continues to say certain things in the public and the record needs correcting.

Brief Review

Charlie is an alleged mystic who lives in the Archdiocese of Denver. He made a splash onto the Catholic scene in 2014 with a web site entitled The Next Right Step.[1] On this site, Charlie made some spectacular prophecies. Among these prophecies was that owing to catastrophic events that would take place by the end of 2016, “President Obama would not finish his term.”

After the inauguration of President Trump, the Archdiocese of Denver issued a statement that cautioned people against re-interpreting Charlie’s alleged prophecies. Charlie talked about “retiring,” but left himself an escape hatch: if societal and political events got so bad, he’d remain in public view after July, 2018. Charlie is still with us today and has a new web site entitled A Sign of Hope. Charlie writes articles and goes on speaking tours. He has even founded an organization entitled “CORAC” for which he has solicited monies from people.

Charlie is not as talkative, at least publicly, about his alleged prophecies.

In 2017, he did claim that he had received “new instructions” from his angel and it looked like Charlie was attempting to make a comeback with these “new instructions” as the foundation of so doing. Charlie now mostly frames himself as a political and cultural warrior via CORAC and A Sign of Hope, up to and including his statement that what happened on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. was “the first skirmish of the counter-revolution” and that it “won’t be the last.”[2]

Around the time that Charlie’s web site A Sign of Hope became functional, his old site, The Next Right Step, went offline. This development created a difficulty with respect to fact-checking Charlie. What he says now may be different than what he said earlier, which leads me to the present article.

The Election Deception

On February 16, 2021, Charlie published an article entitled The Lion in the Streets. A person under the avatar name “Erin Bussian” made a comment at the end that castigated Charlie for some things he said about the 2016 elections:

And let’s not forget that you, Charlie, told us there wouldn’t even be an election in 2016, so I didn’t even bother voting! I listened to you and did nothing, paid the minimum on my credit cards as you had advised, and began girding my loins for the collapse of our society. And now I don’t even have the pleasure of knowing that I cast my vote in 2016 for the greatest president our republic has ever seen. Humility, please!

Six hours and 18 minutes later, Charlie posted a response. His opening paragraph states:

Okay, here I have to correct you, Erin. I NEVER said there would be no election. I occasionally said who knows – but made clear I did not precisely know how things would come about. I have no idea why it is my fault that you did not vote when there clearly was an election. Shoot, I spoke with a prominent Christian author who encouraged people to vote for Trump and wondered if he had done well or poorly – and assured him that I shared his sentiments almost exactly. I encouraged an organization that had been invited to meet with Trump to do so – and helped prepare the agenda.

What exactly did Charlie say in the past that made “Erin” think that she shouldn’t vote?

In July, 2015, Charlie gave a talk in Birmingham, Alabama. This talk, in fact, was one of his more significant early promotional pieces on The Next Right Step.[3] Not only was the talk on video and placed on Vimeo, but a transcript was produced by Charlie’s “team” of people who assist him. Regretfully, the video was removed some years ago. Here, though, is what Charlie said:

Question: Would you say the next presidential election will be pivotal for the country?

Charlie: I do not expect there to be a next presidential election. Politics is a dead man walking. We’ve got some other things coming. Now, I do not say there will never be another presidential election but I don’t expect there to be one. This next one, we’re going to skip over because we’ll be in the midst of crisis.

Here, Charlie speaks in terms of “I do not expect” and “we’re going to skip over” the 2016 elections because of the alleged societal chaos. There’s a subtle nuance that can be missed by the untrained ear. Is it Charlie’s opinion that he “does not expect” the 2016 election to take place, or is this expectation from his alleged revelations? Charlie is not clear on this point, leaving it up to one’s individual interpretation.

Charlie spoke again on September 16, 2015 about this matter, this time at Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery. This talk was also recorded and placed on YouTube by a user named John Guinan and it is still available. Around the 1:23:30 mark, Charlie is addressing a question and expressly stated:

We won’t, I do not expect, we won’t have an election in two thousand, uh a presidential election in 2016. God has a different plan. He’s going to carry us through so that we can rise from our needs, a shattered people and help get through this. And so there will be a national order. You will work, you will do your things and all of those sorts of things….

Here, Charlie stumbles a bit over his opening words, as if he is thinking about how best to phrase himself. To say “we won’t” vs. “I do not expect” is, once again, a subtle nuance. Charlie eventually settled upon the words “we won’t have” a presidential election. That is a more definitive manner of speech than “I do not expect.” He does continue his point, however, to state that people will go about their lives. Though, how this would happen under the precise terms of the societal chaos Charlie said would happen is not clear.

On January 8, 2016, Charlie wrote an article on The Next Right Step web site entitled Through a Glass Darkly. In this article, Charlie makes a distinction between what he calls the “immutable principles” that were allegedly given to him by his angel from his “interpretations.” He directly addresses the question of his past statements concerning the 2016 presidential election:

I constantly go back to what I call “first things,” what I was told specifically or the larger, immutable principles that have been embedded in me, to re-examine my interpretations. I have often said there will be no presidential election this year. Actually, there are some narrow circumstances in which there could be, but the results would be irrelevant. What I was told was that President Obama would not finish his term and that our next stable national leader will not come from the election process. You could have an explosion of events after an election and before an inauguration. You could have Obama declare a national emergency, cancel elections, extend his term and then depart before the extension was up. The most likely scenario is that everything will be up in the air before election, but there are narrow circumstances where that may not be.

On January 21, 2016, Charlie followed this article up with another post entitled Signs of the Times. In this article, Charlie discussed how the scene was a “minefield” that is constantly changing. He also implies that he plays a special (if not pivotal) role in the minefield by keeping intel away from the devil:

We are navigating through a minefield that is constantly being changed by the satan and his minions, by the prayers and trust of the faithful, and by Divine Providence. Even if you have an accurate snapshot at a particular moment, it has changed a moment later. [….] You will note that I have been very sparse on specific details in the few years I have been public, but dead on in the larger sweep of what I have described. It keeps people focused on God and deprives the devil of the intelligence he needs to confect fraudulent events to give people a false sense of security. I know more than I ever let on – but I also know that if I let on, it would very quickly either be discredited by the satan or…confirmed by him…in order to lay a later trap.

Charlie’s January posts demonstrate that he was developing how he spoke about his alleged revelations. He was not always clear as to what was germane to the alleged revelations from his own interpretations. As to why Charlie would not provide just his alleged revelations and not his interpretations, Charlie himself gave an answer on November 21, 2014:

I have given rare snippets of that. But for the most part, except to the priests, no, I wouldn’t. Because that is not what I am directed to do. I was given a lifetime of instruction to prepare me to be able to bear and feebly understand some of these things so that I could defend the faith, hearten the faithful, and defend the faithful while assuring them that God calls all men to salvation. To give primarily the raw material would merely stoke the fires of apostasy among the many who have itching ears but have not borne the discipline to discern well what they see and hear.[4]

From all that we have considered thus far, we can see the very real possibility of a wide margin of error with respect to understanding Charlie. He was open to the criticism that the horse was already out of the barn and some people may not have fully understood (or missed entirely) the later developments.

Based upon these facts, it is possible to make the following criticism of Charlie: he did not begin his public speaking about his alleged revelations with a clear and comprehensive message. Instead of presenting only his alleged revelations, he mixed them up with his own interpretations. It was not always clear to people which one Charlie was standing upon at a given moment, at least early on. Hence, it is understandable why “Erin Bussian” may have understood Charlie in the way that she did, however wrong she was to apply it as she did.

If we understand Charlie in this way, it also reiterates a point that I myself had made back in early 2016: Charlie is rather loquacious and it negatively impacts his case. At times, he was even backed into a public relations corner. I would like to raise two examples of when this happened.

First Example: Charlie Johnston and Kevin O’Brien

On September 2, 2015, the writer Kevin O’Brien challenged Charlie’s assertion that he walked 3,200 miles across America. O’Brien also questioned how millions of dollars could be spent to build a shrine on Mt. Meeker, Colorado. Charlie responded to O’Brien on September 3, 2015. On April 29, 2016, he again disputed with O’Brien, claiming that he and O’Brien had communicated. Charlie also alleged that O’Brien had edited his September, 2015 article regarding the raising of millions of dollars.

In response, O’Brien publicly denounced Charlie as a liar, saying that they had not, in fact, corresponded. Charlie amended his original assertion, saying that he had written “erroneously…that I corresponded with him for a few days.”[5] O’Brien also denied that he edited his September, 2015 article with respect to the raising of millions of dollars. When one compares archived copies of the article from 2015, no such editing appears.[6]

Second Example: Charlie Johnston and Kevin Symonds

The second example is between Charlie and myself. One of Charlie’s supposedly most-zealously guarded secrets is the identity of his three priest directors from Opus Dei. When I was researching my October, 2015 article for Armstrong’s web site, I collected a profile of information on these priests from nothing more than Charlie’s own statements and disclosures. I then cross-referenced this information with simple Internet searches.

While engaged with Charlie in the comments under my October article, I released two of the three names of his directors. Charlie immediately ceased posting. He did, however, make negative comments over at The Next Right Step. He also attempted to downplay the significance of my disclosure, saying that I got the title wrong for one of the priests. I had referred to one of them as “Fr.” Bill Stetson and not “Mons.” Bill Stetson.

Unfortunately, Charlie did not end there. He then speculated about how I got the names of his directors: a certain priest within the Archdiocese of Denver and who was hostile to Charlie might have colluded with me. By this time, however, I had published a second article about Charlie on Armstrong’s web site. In that article, I had revealed how I got the names, but Charlie commented on his web site that he only “skimmed” this second article.[7]

From all of the information presented here, we see Charlie was developing his public approach with respect to his revelations. In that development, there was room for a wide margin of error. This error is not only in regard to how Charlie spoke about matters, but also how people understood him. In terms of public relations, when challenged, Charlie resorted to fabrications and downplaying events, which damaged his credibility to having supernatural revelations.

Present matters with Charlie, unfortunately, do not end there.

Right on the Money

On January 3, 2021, Charlie published an article entitled Cry, the Beloved. In the comments under this article, Charlie yet again made another questionable statement. The article received a comment from a user named “Ann” on January 4 at 11:04 a.m. asking, “Why is Charlie Johnston collecting money??” Forty-six minutes later, Charlie replied:

Either you have not been paying attention or you are a troll. We have been covering the national organization, The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC) since I founded it in early July – to be an educational and activist group to help prepare people to endure hard times and to band together with each other. My apologies if you have been legitimately out of the loop, but one of the favored efforts of my more unbalanced critics at the height of the controversy was to try to find some money angle. They were all disappointed….

This matter of a “money angle” goes back to 2014 through 2016.

On November 15, 2014, Charlie published on The Next Right Step web site an article entitled Musings – China Rising, Refuges and More. About halfway through this post, Charlie stated:

I have had a few people who have large tracts of land mention they would be willing to sell it off in 50-acre parcels for use as refuges. The idea kind of flummoxed me. But what the heck, there is a couple with property in New Hampshire wanting to sell. If anyone is interested, drop me an email and I will put you directly in contact with them. I will have nothing else to do with it. But if you want to be put in touch with sellers, I will do that much. After that, you’re on your own. (And for what it’s worth, I will receive no commission, or finder’s fee or any other sort of recompense.)

Charlie used his platform, established upon his reputation as an alleged mystic and prophet, to help other people make money in relation to his “message.” The property was to be used for people to go (“refuge”) when Charlie’s allegedly future societal chaos arose.

In 2015, I came across this post and saw it as problematic in the light of Church instructions. According to those instructions, there should not be an evident gain of profit in strict connection with the alleged revelations. When I wrote my first article about Charlie, I pointed out the problem in these words: “What is the relationship between Johnston receiving no remuneration for his assistance and his helping others profit from apocalyptic prophecies off of concerned/scared people?”

In comments underneath my article, Charlie took exception to the fact that I claimed that he had endorsed people going to “refuges.” After Charlie initially denied the endorsement, I wrote back to him: “Mr. Johnston, You have indeed endorsed people going to these alleged ‘refuges.’ There is no room to deny it. My article proves it.”[8] In response, Charlie replied in early January, 2016:

Your article, Mr. Symonds, merely proves you are a sloppy, slapdash researcher. You put emphasis on things I do not, while de-emphasizing things I do – and then garbling the things that have a grain of truth to them. Making an assertion is NOT proof. I have given encouragement to those who are using their own money and resources to prepare to help others who may be dislocated. I have encouraged people to trust God, that He knows where they are at and will gently guide them to take the next right step. [….] I do not get much agitated at the malicious cranks who make things up about me and troll the internet posting nonsense where they can. From what I can determine, you are a reputable theologian. I would have expected better research from one who has your credentials.

Shortly thereafter, I wrote back to Charlie:

Mr. Johnston, Thank you for your reply. Sir, you set people up with a real estate business arrangement for property to be used for “refuges.” That, Mr. Johnston, is proof positive that you have given encouragement and support to this claim of people going to “refuges.” You wish to engage in shades of meaning whilst ignoring the plain and simple fact. Furthermore, by this arrangement, you offered assistance to others to make a profit from your alleged messages. You have not addressed, sir, how this act harmonizes with the Vatican’s 1978 Norms. You have jeopardized your case with the competent Ecclesiastical Authority. Those are the facts, sir. You may attack my [allegedly] poor communication skills all you like, but you must deal with the facts in the light of the Church’s teaching. Fr. Mark and Fr. Stetson are welcome to contact me. You have my E-mail address, feel free to communicate it to them.

Charlie ceased commenting on Armstrong’s site about the matter after my reply. He did, however, make some disparaging remarks on The Next Right Step in relation to this matter. Charlie commented underneath his February 4, 2016 article Houston, We Have a Problem in reply to a “Harry Flynn.”[9] It suffices to say, though, that Charlie never satisfactorily addressed the point about the sale and refuges. It remains an open question, in contradiction to Charlie’s present claim that his “unbalanced critics…were all disappointed.”

Conclusion

I wish to stress here that the most extreme caution must be taken with Charlie Johnston. The Archdiocese of Denver has instructed the faithful not to re-interpret Charlie’s alleged prophecies. His present activity comes across as suspect. His old web site is wiped away, making it very hard to fact-check him. For those of us, however, who have kept an eye on Charlie, we remember and know the truth.

Archdiocese of Denver Statements on Charlie:

My Previous Articles on Charlie:

Patti Armstrong’s Articles on Charlie:

Kevin O’Brien’s Articles on Charlie:

Glenn Dallaire’s Post on Charlie:


Notes:

[1] It was preceded by a Facebook page entitled Abraham’s Journey.

[2] On March 4, 2021, Charlie revealed that several members of CORAC are part of the Veritatis Splendor initiative within the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.

[3] In a post entitled Birmingham Video on July 21, 2015, Charlie said about this video: “I am delighted with the tape. It covers a nice overview – and the questions are very good. I will refer people to this tape when they seek a good overview. Thanks to my friends in Birmingham who got this made and up. I have already added it to the “Visit Videos” link at the top of the page.”

[4] Charlie was responding to “Observer” who had asked: “Charlie, Would you ever chance giving only what your angel told you, literally, and leave out any interpretation or just relate the context in which it was given?? Thanks.”

[5] Charlie reiterated this in a comment on May 1 that, “I did not send O’Brien a direct email.”

[6] The article had been edited to remove some references to Fr. John Corapi, a fact which O’Brien acknowledged.

[7] See also Charlie’s commenting policy on his web site.

[8] See also Charlie’s response to “Mary-Louise” on July 15, 2014 under his article “The World Enters Its Passion.” He also made a similar statement on July 26, 2014 at 7:42 p.m. to “Judy” under the article “Modern Day Prophecy.”

[9] I invite people to read my January, 2017 article about Charlie as it contains my response to his statements.