Claims of apparition endorsement aside, such oils have been used for centuries in witchcraft for “protection.”
Alleged revelations from Our Lady to a Costa Rican woman that call for the use of essential oils to prevent infection by the coronavirus have gone viral on the internet. What should Catholics make of revelations such as these?
The “seer,” named Luz de Maria de Bonilla, allegedly received a message from Our Lady on June 3, 2016, which gave instructions about the use of an essential oil blend which she called the Oil of the Good Samaritan, to be used as a preventive measure against infectious outbreaks. She said the vision also recommended that people ingest a raw clove of garlic every morning or to use oil of oregano because “these two are excellent antibiotics.”
On Jan. 28, 2020, once again Our Lady is alleged to have told the seer: “Great pestilences, plagues generated by unknown viruses are advancing upon humanity. Use the oil of the Good Samaritan as protection, faced with a case of a highly contagious disease where you live — the quantity of the head of a pin on the earlobes will suffice. If the number of those infected increases, you should put it on both sides of your neck and on the wrists of both hands...”
The oils contained in the Good Samaritan oil are cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus. This is the same recipe as a popular essential oil blend known as “Thieves Oil” which is associated with the legend of four thieves who robbed the bodies of victims of the Bubonic plague but managed to escape infection while using these ingredients. Such oils have been used for centuries in witchcraft for “protection” and are touted by essential oil distributors who claim they improves the immune system and protect people from infections such as the flu and viruses.
Adding credence to the alleged messages is an imprimatur given by a bishop named Msgr. Juan Abelardo Mata Guavara, bishop of Esteli, Nicaragua, who approved the messages received by this seer which occurred from 2009-2017. There is no indication that Msgr. Mata — or any other Church authority — approved the 2020 message recommending these alternatives for use against COVID-19.
Even though the Church has rendered no decision as to the supernatural nature of the revelations, the messages have gone viral on the internet, with many Catholics hyping the oils as being a “Church approved” method of protecting themselves against the coronavirus.
As convincing as it all may sound, these revelations are raising eyebrows because they appear to contradict Church teaching found in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Healthcare Services. Based upon Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life (Evangelium Vitae), the Directives state: “A person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life.” This is particularly true in the case of life-threatening or communicable diseases.
As Kevin Rickert, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, told us, “the crux of this issue is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary care” and explains these distinctions as they regard alternatives in his article, “Alternative Medicine and the Duty to Employ Ordinary Means.”
Ordinary means are those treatments that are commonly considered ordinary for the preservation of human life such as food, shelter, avoidance of unnecessary bodily danger and the use of accepted medical interventions when needed.
Alternative medicine, such as essential oils, is typically defined as treatments that have not been scientifically tested or have not met the standards of what would be considered accepted medical interventions. This is why Our Lady’s alleged recommendation to use essential oils to prevent contagion is suspect.
Ongoing research into the use of essential oils for health care has found some products to be useful for general well-being, but even industry insiders admit that there is no scientific evidence to support their use in the way Our Lady allegedly prescribed.
Speaking on behalf of Dr. Russel Osguthorpe, an infectious disease physician and chief medical officer for essential oil supplier doTERRA, spokesman Kevin Wilson told Salon in March 2020: "doTERRA recognizes essential oils have profound health and wellness benefits, but we do not claim that our products prevent, treat or cure illnesses or diseases, including COVID-19."
If this is the case, why would Our Lady instruct us to use something that is neither scientifically proven nor in accord with local public health policy to protect ourselves during a serious public health emergency? Why would she give messages that do not include at least a recommendation to obey local health policy or to seek sound medical advice?
Experts such as Michael O’Neill, author of ‘Virgin, Mother, Queen’ and creator of MiracleHunter.com, have doubts that Our Lady gave these instructions.
“While St. Bernadette was pointed to the waters of Lourdes by Our Lady, typically Mary doesn't recommend natural remedies or flout medical advice,” O’Neill said. “This appears to be a non-standard request of Mary in an apparition and therefore casts some doubts on the validity of these apparitions.”
As for the imprimatur, O’Neill explains that an imprimatur does not mean that a supernatural event occurred. It merely states that the messages are free of doctrinal error. Such a statement is usually given by the ordinary of a place where an alleged Marian apparition is taking place. Because the Costa Rican-born Luz de Maria currently lives in Argentina, it is unclear why an imprimatur was given by a bishop from Nicaragua. Attempts to seek clarification from Bishop Mata and Argentinian church authorities are ongoing.
“Getting wrapped up in any unapproved apparition can cause great challenges to one's faith and it is important to remember that the centrality of our faith should be found in the words and works of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, not in alleged apparitions,” O’Neill advises. “If the faithful find that the messages help them draw closer to Christ, the messages can certainly provide a great spiritual benefit but likely not secret potions for warding off viruses.”
This advice is common sense to most Catholics, so why are these revelations making so many inroads into the Catholic population?
It could be due to a movement among some Catholics to regard “natural” health care means as better because they are “gifts from God.” However, as Dr. Rickert warns, this notion is “a trick” because “everything that exists comes from God,” including science.
Another possible reason for the embrace of alternative methods to prevent COVID-19 could be the natural anxiety caused by the pandemic.
“Even for religious people, divine ‘revelations’ promising healing through essential oils or other formulas may seem to open up ‘magic solutions’ and a way for us to ‘stay in control,’ rather than confronting our fears and entering into a deeper spiritual acceptance of the Divine Plan, a plan that may include passing through the valley of death,” says Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
“With respect to COVID-19, we need to rely on properly conducted research studies, rather than claims of visionaries, as we seek to develop drugs or treatments that will offer protective or therapeutic benefits. God intends for us to use science and medicine to push back disease, but we must always temper our push for survival with a sobriety about the finality, inevitability and unpredictability of death. The prospect of the ‘Thief in the Night’ should command more of our attention than any ‘Thieves Oil.’”