The Devil You Know
The annual Lenten reminder of Satanís temptation of Christ is sure to elicit the usual bouts of devil demythologising among apostate Modernist clergy and their liberal Protestant brethren. After all, rationalising scriptural passages such as Matthew 1-11 and psychologising Satan and Hell into non-existence is their devilish raison díetre.
The raving looney apostates normally lead the charge. Like the notorious former Bishop of Evreux, Jacques Gaillot, deposed by the Pope in 1995, who told France Soir some years back that everybody was destined for Heaven because Hell was the here and now, as evidenced by calamities like Kosovo and asylum seekers: "Let us not invent places [Hell] of which one knows nothing," he pontificated.
Around the same time, his atheistic Protestant counterpart, Scotlandís Episcopalian leader ĎBishopí Richard Holloway was telling The Scotsman: "I donít believe there is a Devil in any objective sense - I think itís a metaphor for all sorts of experiences. I donít believe morally in the possibility of hell because I think there is something contradictory in a God of justice giving eternal punishments for temporal transgressions."
Sadly, such heretical views are not confined to the clerical nutters. They are disseminated everywhere by parochial clergy reading off the same Modernist hymn sheet, though delivered in less jarring fashion via mocking asides or the ambiguous verbiage of modern biblical criticism.
That such unbelief is endemic within the Church is manifest in the universal lack of exorcists and the singular disregard in which they are held by so many bishops. As pointed out by renowned exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth during his 30 Days interview reprinted herein, Satanís principal aim is "To succeed in making people believe that he doesnít exist. And in this he has almost succeeded. Even within the Church. We have a clergy and an episcopate who no longer believe in the Devil, in exorcisms, in the extraordinary evil that the Devil can cause, nor in the power that Jesus has given us to drive out demons."
In his book An Exorcist Tells His Story [1999, Ignatius Press], Father Amorth recounts some typical comments Italian bishops have made to people requesting exorcisms on the basis of expert diagnosis: "I donít appoint exorcists as a matter of principle"; "I believe only in psychology"; "Do you still believe in such things?"; "I have not found any priest willing to accept this task. Go look elsewhere"; "I would like to know who put these idiocies in your mind."
From personal experience and notwithstanding devout and dutiful shepherds here and there, Father Amorth claims that the episcopal attitude is even worse outside of Italy. People have come from the UK and all over Europe to seek his help in Rome. One Swiss professional had called every Catholic bishop in that country and received nothing but negative answers. "In England," he once stated with righteous disgust, "there are more Anglican exorcists than Catholic ones."
The grassroots impact of this shocking hierarchical fact of Catholic life is omnipresent. It was on view, for instance, in familial reaction to the recent murder of 14-year-old Jodi Jones.
In June 2003, this English schoolgirl was brutally slashed and mutilated in an apparently ritualistic killing described by the investigating Detective as "the most violent Iíve experienced in 28 years in the police." The murder is thought to be linked to "satanism and black magic," since Jodi was immersed in the morbid Goth sub-culture which celebrates death, depression, anger and hatred.
Incredibly, her Catholic family seemed unable to discern a satanic hand in her ultra-violent death despite her involvement in the hellish Gothic world. "What is awful is that we donít know why this happened," Jodiís bewildered uncle is quoted as saying. "There is absolutely no reason for Jodiís death."
Oblivious to the occult elephant in the living room, he put it all down to neurosis, concluding that "Her killer clearly has severe psychological problems."
Now, obviously, there are difficulties in distinguishing between someone who is under Satanís influence or someone with psychological problems. As long ago as 1583, at the Synod of Reims, the Church officially warned about mistaking mental illness for diabolic possession. And psychiatrists can afford exorcists valuable help where both tendencies are in evidence. But whence this pervasive Catholic failure to recognise demonic powers as a contributing factor even in the blackest of crimes?
Without doubt, this lack of awareness and the accompanying rise of occult activities in our time, running the gamut from astrology to Gothism to ritual satanism, owes much to devil-denying ecclesiastics of one hue or another: either apostates like the above who openly deny everything; or those who, as Father Amorth says, donít deny the existence of Satan and his rebellious angels per se but "discount their influence on human affairs;" or still others who are simply embarrassed by the whole business and fear for the Churchís credibility, adopting Protestant deconstructor-in-chief Rudolf Bultmannís creed that "We cannot use electric light and radio, or turn to modern medicine in case of sickness, and at the same believe in the spirit world and in the miracles that the New Testament presents us" [New Testament and Mythology, 1969, p.100].
Only at Judgement will these churchmen perceive the magnitude of their complicity in the unspeakable sins committed, human misery endured and atrocities perpetrated by those who entered into devilish practices about which they were never forewarned. In the meantime, however, as Satanís "useful idiots," they continue to posit occult activity, however perverse, in purely psycho-social terms, not as the personal handiwork of that same wicked creature who tempted Christ in the desert.
This timely reminder, that Satan is indeed one of Godís creatures and not a mere socio-cultural abstraction (the Our Father accurately translates as: "And deliver us from the evil one") is among many forgotten, rejected or unknown facts about the demonic world contained in An Exorcist Tells His Story. Always instructive and sobering, often extraordinary and ultimately uplifting, Father Amorthís concise and practical book-cum-manual never fails to galvanise your faith. Allowing facts to speak for themselves, it acts as a form of spiritual electroshock therapy for a Catholic generation conditioned by doubting Thomas clergy on the one side and materialistic consumerism on the other.
In our present calamitous hour, therefore, I would recommend this work, the fruit of many years of face to face combat with Satan and his minions, as prime Lenten reading (or re-reading) material. Among much else, it powerfully confirms that "the whole world [i.e. everything opposed to God] is in the power of the evil one" [1Jn 5:19]. It graphically heightens our awareness of "all the wicked spirits" - i.e. incorporeal demonic powers gifted with intelligence, will, freedom and initiative - "who wander through the world for the ruin of souls." It affirms the astonishing efficacy of ordinary Catholic means - faith, prayer, the sacraments, sacramentals, etc. - against these invisible demons. And above all, as Holy Scripture exhorts, it keeps us awake and watchful.
To that end, the extracts from Father Amorthís book which follow, though by no means exhaustive, will help increase our faith, hope and charity during this penitential season by recalling precisely who it is we are fighting in our daily battles against temptation, and the powerful Catholic weapons God has provided to combat His Adversary at every level:
In addition, I would highlight these particular passages:
ē "Taking most of the exorcisms out of the baptismal ritual was a grave mistake." It was also "a mistake to eliminate the prayer to St. Michael at the end of Mass, without a suitable replacement."
ē "Every diocese should have at least one exorcist at the cathedral, and every large parish and sanctuary should have one as well."
ē As a result of episcopal negligence "we have now lost what was once the school; in the past, a practicing exorcist would instruct a novice." (Father Amorth himself was trained by Passionist Father Candido Amantini who had over 36 years of full time exorcist ministry.) Consequently, "some exorcists are unaware of the most elementary procedures". Some donít even own a Ritual book and are neither aware of the norms that they must follow or the prayers they must recite.
Apropos of this final point, Father Amorth directs the clergy, and bishops in particular, to Matthew 25 and the passage on the General Judgement, which clearly indicates that the sin of omission can be an unpardonable offence. The lack of faith underlying these sins of omission in respect of the ministry of exorcism is often manifested in clerical fears about demonic retribution, summed up in the response of one Italian bishop, who spluttered: "I do not appoint exorcists and do not practice exorcisms because I am afraid. If the devil becomes my enemy, what am I to do?"
Such clerics probably have in mind the sufferings of Saint John Vianney among others. In response, Father Amorth points out that while the Curé of Ars suffered for tearing souls from Satanís grasp, he was not an exorcist and never exorcised anyone. And he directs these admonitory words to his brother priests:
"A priest who is afraid of the devilís reprisal can be compared to a shepherd who is afraid of the wolf. It is a groundless fear. The devil is already causing each of us as much harm as he is allowed to do. It is false to believe that if I leave him alone, he will leave me alone. It is not only false; it is also a betrayal of our priestly ministry, which should be directed solely to leading souls to God, even by removing them from Satanís power, if necessary."
In other words, the devil you know is less dangerous than the devil you donít want to know.
Let us all, priests and laity alike, take this dictum to heart and confront the pervasive evil currently wrought by the prince of this world in a balanced yet unapologetic Catholic manner, adopting the positive, militant, elementary spirit of this recent call to arms from a Catholic mum:
"Use the sacramentals of the Church. Wear the brown scapular, sprinkle your homes and your car often with holy water. Bless your children and your grandchildren with holy water. But above all - donít be afraid. The devil is a chained beast as St. John Bosco described him. Donít go near him and you are in no danger from his wiles. But more than ever we must pray, fast, and fight."