This Just In: Holy Water Can Kill!

shutterstock_53828143 - 2In a piece that showed blissful, if not invincible, ignorance of Catholic practices in the United States and around the world, Good Morning America reported Saturday that drinking holy water from containers or water from miraculous springs can kill.

“We need to warn people against drinking from these sources,” Dr. Alexander Kirschner of the Medical University of Vienna, told ABC News.

Kirschner is the author of “Holy Springs and Holy Water: Underestimated Sources of Illness?” a report in the Journal of Water and Health, which makes the odd claim that holy water is “used extensively for personal drinking water.”

The report finds that common bacteria that cause illness are often found in holy water, as are nitrates (chemicals used in fertilizers and commonly found in runoff from farms). ABC News says that “if ingested, water containing nitrates over the maximum contaminant level could cause serious illness, especially in infants younger than six  months, which could lead to death if untreated, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.”

ABC’s reporter, Liz Fields, did not say why she thought infants might be drinking holy water in the first place, much less why it might contain nitrates over the maximum contaminant level.

The report also found, unsurprisingly, that holy water stoups in hospitals have more bacteria than those in churches, and is thus more unsafe to drink. “This may represent a problem that has hitherto been underestimated, especially in hospitals, since there a lot of people with weakened immune systems there,” Kirschner told ABC.

Although Kirschner’s report suggested that sprinkling people with holy water or touching holy water to one’s lips might lead to an increase in infections, and that holy springs should be tested to see if they meet drinking water standards, it did not warn of the danger of death (even for infants). That was a health tip from ABC.

For the record: Holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest. The blessing includes adding salt, but neither the blessing nor the salt purify the water chemically. Water from holy or miraculous springs is not itself holy, and is no different from water from any other springs in terms of bacterial or mineral content.


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Gail Finke


Gail D. Finke is an author and mother living in Cincinnati, where she writes for The Catholic Beat at Sacred Heart Radio.

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  • Fred

    I will immediately stop drinking holy water. Thanks ABC.

  • Deacon Don Bourgeois


    For the record: Holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest or deacon.

  • JimmyChonga

    Holy water need NOT include “salt”. I also don’t think that springs emanating from a divine source are in the exact same class as “holy” water which has been blessed by a Catholic clergy member. Yes, the water from Lourdes is holy and there have been and will continue to be many miraculous healings from such springs but those have been “revealed” by divine gift through the intercession and loving care of the BVM.

  • Sebastian

    My understanding about holy water is that it is used for baptism and blessing of houses and individuals. It is not meant for drinking. However, the holy water from a divine source such as the spring in Lourdes is safe for drinking. I was in Lourdes last month. Three family members and myself together with thousands of pilgrims from all over the world drank literally gallons of the Lourdes holy water. I can testify that my family members and I are well and suffer not a hint of any ill-effects. I am certain that thousands of other pilgrims will also testify to the same.

  • Mooknino

    Let’s bash the Catholic Church again. What about the millions who drink from the River Ganges? Contaminated, caustic, poisonous yet no one seems to care. Most Catholics do not drink holy water. We use it to remind ourselves of our baptism. We did not see how much we can drink at baptism. If the water used for the holy water is contaminated we can be prudent in our use of it. Yet again what is not contaminated today? Beef? Vegetables? Eggs? Milk? Hot Dogs? Chicken? Oh come on, vilifying holy water is no different than anything else. Maybe there is another reason to keep people from using holy water…devils seem to flee at its use.

  • Belinda Walker Roccaforte

    I was taught that Holy Water was not for drinking. It is for sprinkling and making the sign of the cross through anointing.

  • AugustineThomas

    That’s why the priest got mad at me for drinking the holy water!

  • Cassie Wonderalke

    Sheesh, all these years I’ve been guzzling holy water like Lindsay Lohan guzzles booze. Never thought it could kill me.

  • Cassie Wonderalke

    ….and yes ABC is mind numbingly ignorant of Catholic practices and anything to with Christianity in general.

  • Suzi

    Anything Blessed is Holy, ye of little faith – believe in the power of Holy water

  • guest

    So the chemicals and added hormones in our food are ok to eat. And I can think of a couple things that could touch someones lips to make people sick (like stds? )
    These liberals will attack anything Catholic. When was the last time you hesrd of anyone dying from holy water. All Catholics know they arent supposed to drink holy water. Who are they trying to convince? Their birthcontrol carries more chemicals tgan anything and has cancer causing agents. Holy water contains a blessing made by a Priest.

  • Clint Ufford

    I imagine if the water was extracted from a sewage ditch, blessed without purification, than yeah, it could “kill”….. just like steroids in our meat and vegetables…

  • David Paterson

    Yes. The fact that demons flee from holy water is exactly the subtext to trying to get people worried about using it.

    Do you ever get the feeling that stories like this are the occasionally visible tip of a very big spiritual iceberg….?

  • Maryhelen

    Right! Since when is holy water openly available at secular hospitals?

  • toTelltheTruth1123

    Just an attack to get people to stop using sacramental. Nothing new here.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    Heck, the water from my faucet tastes nasty sometimes.

    Probably more dangerous is the advice from quacks!

    I have been Catholic for 50 years and never even tasted holy water. Give me a break!

  • waynelaugesen

    Like all good Catholics, I drink a gallon of holy water each day. I chase it with whiskey just to kill off all the holy bacteria. Thanks, ABC, for enlightening the rest of the world about this menacing public health crisis.

  • Dave

    Gail, can’t you go after these uninformed, misled, so-called reporters? Only us faithful Catholics read your article. I’m sure they don’t look at this website because they might learn the truth. They should be called on the carpet for unsubstantiated “reporting.”

  • faithandfamilyfirst

    Exactly. It is a spiritual battle that we are fighting. Our true enemies are not flesh and blood, but the very hosts of hell.
    It would not surprise me to learn that demons are writing our newscasts today.

  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    I AGREE 100%!
    This is a tactic the devil is using, we should all be very careful to fall for this trap.

  • BillinJax

    Then ABC should also run a similar article advising a study
    to determine the effects of eating pages of the Bible, especially the Catholic Bible
    since it has been around longer and may contain Holy bacteria not found in the
    newer streamlined versions. Many Christians believe and base their entire
    spiritual lives on the Bible and may be tempted to devour the Word of God in
    order to cure their ills and/or assure eternal life.

  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    The Media is serving their master satan, and scaring people from using Holy Water.
    This is just a tactic from the devil and we Catholics better NOT FALL FOR IT.

    Since the scare of the H1N1 swine flu virus in 2009 many Catholic Churches have removed Holy Water from their entrances. Stoups for Holy Water are empty in many Catholic parishes and as a result people don’t bless themselves with it when entering the church or when leaving. This is wrong.
    We need Holy Water don’t stop using it to bless yourselves ask your priests about it, if Catholic don’t ask for this important sacramental they will expose themselves to the attacks of the enemy, I for one use it frequently to bless myself before I leave the house and when I pray.

  • JMJ


  • James Stagg

    I gave the article to “GetReligion”; they will have fun with it too.

  • kirk

    I keep a bottle of holy water at my bedside, so in the middle of the night when i’m awakened by coughing my insides out, i grab the bottle and drink it down in 3 gulps. Cures the cough and i sleep like a baby the rest of the night. Dr Kirschner should give it a try – though it doesn’t work if she’s not Catholic. The Holy Water knows!

  • Brett

    It is amazing (and a little scary) that these types of things actually make it on to the national news.

  • anonymous

    Drinking Holy water is a common practice for us in the Eastern Churches. The water is given in bottle to bless ourselves and houses.

  • Belinda Walker Roccaforte

    thanks Anonymous. I love learning about the different traditions. I knew that people drank the water at Lourdes but my parents told us not to drink it. Probably because of germs but our church has a font we can obtain water by bringing our bottles from home. I’m sure it is tap water so it is good to drink.

  • Philip Sieve

    I heard about that site on Catholic radio, but it looked Protestant and not Catholic-friendly. I didn’t see an article about correcting the media.

  • Mooknino

    True that the holy water in the the Eastern Churches is drunk. It is potable water that is used and salt is not added like in western rites. I get bottled water and have the priest bless it. If it’s good enough for us to drink then it is fine to receive te blessing. This article is hype and not based on reality. People who travel to other countries drink water that harms yet they get through it and the native people guzzle it and are fine. Let’s see this article for what it is…Catholic bashing. The last remaining insultable demographic.

  • jenny
    …a link that show how by blessing , the water looks really wonderful, besides the prayers that now it incorporates.

  • Nancy

    UTTER NONSENSE!!! Yeah, like ABC or ANY of the other alphabet soup stations know SQUAT about Catholicism! Italians have been cooking with Holy Water for centuries. Move along people, there’s nothing more to see here!

  • Teri L. Hucker

    Gail, It would be wonderful if you could include ‘contact’ info for the ABC reporter, so that We Catholic’s could contact and correct the misinformation that is being spewed in the name of Catholic Bashing. Made-Up ‘news’ to distract us from what’s ‘really’ going on. Does she not have something of more ‘substance’ to ‘report’ on? If she’s going to report, she could at least get it right….. Maybe interview some Catholics, or a Priest, to get the ‘real’ truth. What a shame……..

  • LizEst

    The blessing of holy water doesn’t require salt in the western rites. It is only some that do this.

  • Hmmm interesting. I don’t suppose he did any tests on tap water coming out of his faucet. How about fluoride, hydrofluorosilicic acid, radium and other radiated particles, dead bacterias, Aluminum, Arsenic III, Arsenic V, Cadmium, Chromium VI, Iron, Maganese, Lead, Mercury and Silver?

    Of course not.

  • perfect.

  • Blessed salt is sometimes used in foods to “test” for diabolic influence.

  • Isabel Kilian

    I wonder how many people get sick or die from eating food and drinking water that is not blessed. Probably millions! Always say grace and ask God to bless your food and drink! Also, don’t pay much attention to science or medicine. They have never even figured out what humans should eat or drink.

  • blessedx4inTX

    You almost made me spit out my coffee! Best response yet! ha!

  • Albee

    sigh……another misleading ABC hack story, .BUT…THIS PICTURE of the naked infant being baptized IN the font certainly helps the story’s nonsensical motives. What comes to mind also is the “Jacuzzi” tubs/fonts that are now popular in a lot of Catholic churches where the person walks in it, stands or even gets totally immersed in holy water…sometimes with many people one after the next. A wacky trend if you ask me and not sanitary at all, not to mention the scandal it can cause with wet, clingy clothing. What purpose does THAT serve but to demoralize the faithful and distract from the sacrament. What the heck are the priests and parents thinking? Anyway, common sense is that no one would drink that water anyway, but the thought of these new age actions makes my stomach turn, even with having faith in the blessing of the water.
    No matter where one turns today, there is some one or some thing attacking the Faith
    in any way “it” can.

  • gratiaplena

    Anything to defame lamestream media’s Public Enemy #1: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!!!!! This, however, is a new low, even for Satan’s minions in the media!

  • Morag

    If you have Faith, you have no worries. Our Lady of Lourdes had asked Bernadette to go to the spring which was muddy and drink the water and this she did. I visit Lourdes annually and drink litres of the water. A friend of mine squirts holy water from a holy water bottle with a nozzle from time to time. It is not bottled water. We have never been told not to drink holy water. To grow in our Faith and Trust in the Lord is an on-going process which ends when we die.

  • Kimberly Gill

    Honestly just sounds like another tactic from the devil useing “Science” to keep people from the holy water. Are there any proven deaths (or serious sicknesses) from this?

  • JimmyChonga

    Not sure whether you actually READ my post – NOT, in ANYWAY, bashing a church that I would literally DIE FOR! I drink holy water AND I also take from the CHALICE even when I know someone who is sick has taken from it before me. I would rather give health to my soul, than worry with an illness that I’m not likely to even suffer. VIVA CHRISTO REY!

  • kirk

    You first. The Catholic Church does not teach us to drink the Holy Water. You do only because of your personal fetish, sort of like treading on a rattlesnake, or petting an alligator – you do so at your own risk. You may live to tell about it, or maybe not.

  • Texas3Step

    The Church does not teach us to drink the water, but doesn’t forbid it either. I don’t fear it, and have never heard of anyone becoming ill from doing so, but I do find drinking it to be a very strange practice, usually the sort of thing done by people obsessed with apparitions and seeking experiences. It is true that we should seek always to grow in faith and trust in God, Morag, but to say that if we have faith we won’t become ill is tempting God. Snake handlers say the same thing, and there have been numerous recorded injuries and deaths of some deeply faithful, trusting people in that cult.

  • angela thomas

    I honestly laughed so hard and couldn’t stop…My kind of humor!!!!Thanks ….from another “good Catholic”.

  • ettie

    ABC seems to have absolutely nothing to report but to make up stories for ignorants.

  • James Stagg

    Dear Philip,
    The site has bloggers of various faith backgrounds, all dedicated to having the media report properly and completely on a religious subject. They cover all venues, not just Catholic stories, but are very precise when they do cover Catholic subjects. If you go to their site, the lead article today is about this ABC fiasco.

  • Kimberly M.

    As an Eastern Catholic, we have water blessed during the Theophany service. After receiving Communion, we are all given a cup of the recently Blessed water to drink. Then we take containers of it home to have for use throughout the year. It is especially recommended to consume during times of illness. From some of these comments, it sounds like some Catholics are horrified that a person would actually drink Holy Water in the first place. Perhaps we shouldn’t be blaming someone outside of the Church for getting this subject wrong when there seems to be such division from within.

  • Joan

    In the 1980’s my husban had leukemia and someone at church gave us some holy water they had kept for 20 years. It was from Lourdes. I tried to get my husband to drink some and he wouldn’t ( he was a physician). So I drank the water to show him it was ok and had no ill effects, even though it had been ina bottle for 20 years.

  • Serafino

    First of all, American culture seems to be obsessed with germs. Now they are being found even in Holy Water? Secondly, most traditional priests use the old Roman Ritual to bless holy water . This rite, which the Holy See allows to be used in Latin by all priests, contains the exorcism and blessing of both salt and water and is a powerful protection against diabolical influence. The current Book of Blessings which contains the the normative rite seems to be more of a “request” that God make the water holy and is not really a blessing. I never use it! Some of my priest friends call it the Book of NON Blessings! Lastly, a deacon can only bless holy water when it is part of a rite in which he presides, for example, when he blesses the water for a baptism . A deacon would be prohibited for using the Roman Ritual 1962, for the blessing of Holy Water, since that blessing is reserved to a priest. The Holy See maintains that that restriction is still binding .

  • Mari

    Did your husband then drink the water?

  • spurgeon

    what is the death toll at the last count?

  • John

    All I can say is Ha..Ha..This so called Dr Kirschner where did he come from ? What a nut !

  • Richard III

    Actually, full-imersion Baptism has been around for quite a long time, as have Baptism by simply sprinkling or or pouring water, it’s just that the latter forms have been and still to some extent are more common the former in recent times. And full-imersion Baptism is just as valid as any other form of Catholic Baptism.

  • Commander8080

    Shaking my head…. I will not dispute the finding; they are most likely correct. However, lets make sure that we tell the whole story. The Holy Water examined were from Church Fonts; where all the parish members use to bless themselves. Therefore, yes I bet many people have questionable hygiene. In addition, many churches and my fonts at home do not get cleaned but many once in a blue moon. Who cares? Holy Water in a Church or Home Font is for external use. It is never meant to consumed. Now if a parishes wants Holy Water to consume, all that is needed is for them to purchase bottled water and have their priest bless it.
    Now, personally. I have no issue drinking Holy Water from a Font or anywhere else. But, I have faith much more than the person who wrote this column or many who believe what this article say.

  • Gail Finke

    Kimberly, it is not as common to drink holy water in the West as it is in the East. I don’t think a lot of Western Catholics are aware of that tradition. However, if one does want to drink holy water, obviously (or at least, obviously to anyone who is not from ABC) where the water comes from makes a big difference. If you are going to drink holy water that comes from a spring, it’s going to be different in terms of contaminants, etc., than holy water that came from a tap. Likewise, holy water that is distributed to you as you described is likely to be drinkable, while holy water from an open font or stoup in a hospital is not!

  • Gail Finke

    It is entirely about correcting the media and the coverage (or lack of such) of religion in the media. It covers all faiths. Perhaps you are htinking of a different site.

  • Gail Finke

    Thanks for the correction, I didn’t know that was one of the blessings deacons could do.