Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Afterword on Charlie Johnston
On Feb. 15, the Archdiocese of Denver issued a press release regarding self-proclaimed visionary Charlie Johnston. It referred to the March 1, 2016 statement, which explained:
Mr. Johnston’s alleged messages were reviewed by an archdiocesan theological commission and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila determined that the faithful should be warned to be prudent and cautious about Mr. Johnston’s predictions. In addition, Mr. Johnston is not permitted to speak in Church-owned venues in the Archdiocese of Denver.
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.
If you missed the previous story, then you just came in at the end. Although, there are still followers wondering if perhaps this is just a Jonah moment of God giving reprieve, or a St. Joan situation involving some misunderstanding amid divine prophecy.
Johnston came on the Catholic scene in 2010 with a Facebook page and, later, a blog. He told faithful Catholics what they already knew—the culture had lost its way. And he told them a lot of things they did not know — startling prophecies with specific dates.
Johnston preached all things Catholic and did not seem crazy. Could it be that his guardian angel had really appeared to him for over 50 years since he was a young boy? Did Jesus and the Blessed Mother also appear to him with warnings of a coming “storm” followed by a rescue?
Followers grew by the thousands as videos, speaking engagements, and radio appearances attracted attention. Photos and the claim of friendships with well-known Catholics seemed evidence that Johnston was someone worth noting.
According to his blog, Johnston’s past included work in radio, newspapers and politics. It also included an ex-wife, a couple of kids, a bout of immoral living prior to becoming Catholic, and a mission to warn the world about catastrophic events.
Archbishop Aquila did not want to hear it — at least not in churches. Johnston was not approved as a speaker. There was good reason for caution. People were putting their lives on hold — delaying college, or putting off starting a family — and some were moving out of cities and storing up supplies in refuges. And who wouldn’t, if what Johnston was saying were true?
Here are some of his predictions from a 2015 talk in Birmingham, Alabama: There would be no 2016 presidential election because we would be in the midst of a “storm” culminating in a global civil war and a total crash of the world economy. Money would be totally worthless. President Obama would not finish office. Utter chaos would ensue for 3-6 months and many people would die from panic during the first few weeks. Then, late in 2017, the Immaculate Conception would come to visibly and miraculously rescue us. The world would become like Mayberry. Everyone would be Christian thanks to an ultimatum during the Storm to “convert or die.”
Father Mitch Pacwa was present during that Alabama talk. His voice is heard asking questions. During an interview for this article, he said he was just there out of curiosity and to ask questions. “I told him [Johnston] that I didn’t want to be on camera,” he said. In the video, a photograph of Father Pacwa covering the screen was later edited in. “I mentioned frequently to people that I am not a Magisterial official; I don’t have authority to give approval or not,” he said. However, Father Pacwa said he had met with Johnston several times and found him to be a very pleasant fellow.
“But the key determination of a prophet is whether or not the predictions happen,” he said. Father Pacwa, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on prophetic literature in the Old Testament, pointed to Deuteronomy 18: 21-22. “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message.”
Father Pacwa said it’s good to have a sense of preparedness, “but making plans based on prophetic statements never struck me as good sense. If I had heard about people selling their houses, I would have been very critical.”
“The fact that the specific dates and events that were stated to be from his angel did not happen, we have to say those predictions were not from the Holy Spirit,” Father Pacwa said.
Regarding the possibility that it’s a Jonah or St. Joan moment? Father Pacwa said only the Magisterium of the Church can judge such things.
After the Failed Prophecies
I spoke with a man who made a comment on YouTube stating that he thought Johnston was delusional. “My parents believed him,” he said. “They sold the family home and moved one and a half hours away. It had been the family hub for my 11 brothers and sisters and all our nieces and nephews. We see each other half as much now.”
On January 21, after the peaceful transfer of the presidency from Obama to Trump, Johnston made his last blog post and handed the reins to follower Beckie Hess, who goes by the Internet avatar name “Beckita.”
By my own standard, I was wrong about the peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. yesterday. My favorite note came from a friend who said, ‘You got close on it, but this isn’t horseshoes.’
I was deceived on this – and God allowed the deception to persist without correction. I have been deceived before – and counted on my angel to correct me on those occasions. This time the deception was allowed to persist, either to chasten me or for other reasons yet unknown.
One of the over 900 comments under that article stated:
... You predicted a global collapse and chaos. ... All of this involved serious steps. ...
Now I’m ruined and lost thousand of dollars. Are you happy now Mr. Charlie Johnston? …Who will give my money and stuff back? There are other guys like me in the same condition. Are these the good fruits?
Charlie responded: “Karl, if you lost money because you put it towards preparations when I told you to trust God and not focus on preparations other than prudent things you could easily afford, that is not my fault. Who will give me all the money I have forfeited by living poverty since 2010 in order to be faithful to what I was called to? I will give no apologies to people who have taken steps I urged them not to…”
On January 23, in an interview with FOCUS TV (which has since been pulled), Charlie explained, “Some people that don’t know anything talk about everything and they don’t know the difference between a false prophet and a wrong prophet. Some prophets have been wrong at some times.”
Isn’t a prophet proven to be false by the very fact that their predictions do not come to pass?
In the end, I believe that Johnston and his followers sincerely love the Catholic faith. They are genuinely concerned about the events surrounding us and threats to the faith. Hoping for a miracle to save us, people turned to Johnston for answers. Perhaps now, with a hindsight that is still widening, we can see more clearly that our hope is in Our Lord and that, as Johnston rightly pointed out, our role is to acknowledge Him as Lord and always to be a sign of hope.