What about Reincarnation?

Q. What is a good response to a fellow Catholic who believes she could have had previous lives? I told her that such belief is incompatible with Christianity, but lacked a good answer as to why.

M.K., Pahrump, Nev.

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

Reincarnation (also known as "transmigration of souls," or metempsychosis) was at least implicitly rejected by the ecumenical Councils of Lyons II (1274) and Florence (1439), which both affirmed that souls go immediately after death to heaven, hell or purgatory.

Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that death is "the end of man's earthly pilgrimage." It states flatly that "there is no 'reincarnation' after death" (No. 1013).

In Scripture, Hebrews 9:27 says, "it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment." And as Hebrews 6:2 makes plain, that judgment is "eternal judgment." We should note as well that the notion of reincarnation is at variance with the Church's teaching about the resurrection of the body.