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TAG | The Devil

Jul/14

5

Pressing Some Buttons

Exorcism?The Raw Story:

The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, giving its blessing to a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who claim to save the possessed from Satan.

The association’s practice of exorcism is now recognised under canon law, the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper reported Thursday.

Pope Francis often insists on the need to fight “Satan” and “demons”, and was captured in dramatic images last year placing his hands on the head of a boy in a wheelchair who appeared to slump at his touch — an act of prayer exorcists claim was intended to free the victim from the devil.

The first association of exorcists was founded by Father Gabriele Amorth, the Holy See’s chief exorcist for almost 30 years, who has described intense sessions with possessed people who scream, blaspheme and spit shards of glass.

He set up an Italian exorcists association in 1991, after which he began organising meetings with devil fighters from other countries, leading to the establishment of the international group.

Francesco Bamonte, the head of the association, told L’Osservatore that the recognition was “a cause for joy for the whole Church,” saying that “exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer”.

The Middle Ages, wrote that old crank Carl Jung, “live on… merrily”.

And so they do.

They are good box office too. As this cannily populist pope understands very well.

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May/14

11

Populist Pope, Populist Religion

satan_the_devil_painting_by_Michael_PacherThe Washington Post reports:

VATICAN CITY — A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone.

Well, if that is what he is “hardly known for”, people have not been paying attention. Listen to what he has, at least implicitly, to say about those who disagree with his pose on immigration (his speech on Lampedusa would be a good place to start) or economics, and there’s quite a bit of ‘fire and brimstone’, at least as that term is metaphorically understood.

But for this pope, there’s more to this than metaphor.

The Washington Post explains:

After his little more than a year atop the Throne of St. Peter, Francis’s teachings on Satan are already regarded as the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI, whose papacy in the 1960s and 1970s fully embraced the notion of hellish forces plotting to deliver mankind unto damnation.

Largely under the radar, theologians and Vatican insiders say, Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces­ of evil at his beck and call.

Last year, for instance, Francis laid hands on a man in a wheelchair who claimed to be possessed by demons, in what many saw as an impromptu act of cleansing. A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”

….Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will. Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a lofty German theologian, often painted evil with a broad brush.

Enter the plain-talking first pope from Latin America, where mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region. During his time as cardinal of Buenos Aires before rising to the papacy, Francis was known for stark warnings against “the tempter” and “the father of lies.” Now, his focus on the Devil is raising eyebrows even within the normally unquestioning walls of Vatican City.

“Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant,” said one senior bishop in Vatican City who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. “Had Pope Benedict done this, the media would have clobbered him.”

Yet, as with so many of his actions, Francis may simply be correctly reading the winds of the Catholic Church…

As a good, canny populist should.

Not so coincidentally, the Devil (or, more accurately, fear of the old monster) has always been a good recruiting sergeant for clergy looking to fill their pews.

And so the show goes on:

Although it is difficult to measure, Vatican officials talk about a resurgence of mystical rites in the church, including exorcism — or the alleged act of evicting demons from a living host. Cardinals in Milan; Turin, Italy; and Madrid, for instance, recently moved to expand the number of exorcists in their dioceses to cope with what they have categorized as surging demand.

But by focusing on old-school interpretations of the Devil, some progressive theologians complain, the pope is undermining his reputation as a leader who in so many other ways appears to be more in step with modern society than his predecessor.

“He is opening the door to superstition,” said Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian and writer.

Among the things lurking behind that door is the alleged gateway to hell guarded by the small cluster of officially anointed exorcists of the Roman Catholic Church.

By most accounts, the ranks of official exorcists number between 500 and 600 in a global church of more than 1 billion Catholics, with the vast majority operating in Latin America and Eastern Europe. This week, at the ninth and largest Vatican-sanctioned convention on exorcism, attendees gushed about the fresh recognition being afforded the field. Almost 200 delegates — most of them priests and nuns — from more than two dozen nations talked about how Satanic cults are spreading like wildfire in the age of the Internet.

…During the conference, the Rev. Cesar Truqui, an exorcist based in Switzerland, recounted one experience he had aboard a Swissair flight. “Two lesbians,” he said, had sat behind him on the plane. Soon afterward, he said, he felt Satan’s presence. As he silently sought to repel the evil spirit through prayer, one of the women, he said, began growling demonically and threw chocolates at his head….

Lesbians! Throwing chocolates!

Well, it beats projectile vomiting.

The Middle Ages, wrote that old crank Carl Jung, “live on… merrily”.

And so they do.

They are good box office too.

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Jan/14

9

Devilry Afoot

RosemaryThe Devil (or, more accurately, fear of the old monster) has always been a good recruiting sergeant for clergy looking to fill their pews. It’s thus no great surprise to read that the Roman Catholic church is taking advantage of a current surge in the jitters.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The diocese of Milan recently nominated seven new exorcists, the bishop of Naples appointed three new ones a couple of years ago and the Catholic Church in Sardinia sent three priests for exorcism training in Rome, amid concern that the Mediterranean island, particularly its mountainous, tradition-bound interior, is a hotbed of occultism. In Spain, Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid, chose eight priests to undergo special training in May to confront what he described as “an unprecedented rise” in cases of “demonic possession”. The Church in Spain was coming across many cases that “go beyond the competence of psychologists” and they were occurring with “a striking frequency”, the archbishop said.

Why the surge?

My guess is that decades of devilry on TV and in the movies have had quite a bit to do with the revival in beliefs of this nature, but the Roman Catholic Church seems to be looking elsewhere in its search for an explanation:

The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.

In a way, that’s fair enough. If someone is inclined to be religious, it is probably no bad idea to act on that instinct in a reasonably conventional manner: attend the local church, you know how it goes. For an individual to open him or herself up instead to a vague ‘spirituality’ or, indeed, more specifically esoteric alternatives, is to risk the prospect that any number of nasties (psychologically speaking) might come flying in.

The canny populist now presiding in the Vatican is well placed to take advantage of all this. The Daily Telegraph quotes the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen:

“After the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, there was a great deal of embarrassment among ‘enlightened’ Catholics about exorcisms and other aspects of the supernatural. It was seen as a medieval anachronism. But at the grassroots level there has always been a very strong streak of popular religion, a fascination with the occult and the powers of the Devil. We know that Pope Francis is a strong believer in popular religion such as Marian devotion, but that also includes belief in the Devil.”

In May it was claimed that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism during a Mass in St Peter’s Square.

Television images show him laying his hands on a wheelchair-bound man, who appears to go into convulsions with his mouth open before slumping down into his chair. The encounter was shown by TV2000, a channel owned by the Italian bishops’ conference, which quoted experts as saying that there was no doubt the Pope had performed an exorcism. Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, later dismissed the claims, saying Pope Francis “did not intend” to perform an exorcism — an ambivalently-worded denial that left many convinced that he had indeed done so. Pope Francis has not publicly commented on exorcisms, but many of his sermons and homilies feature references to the Devil.

Indeed they do.

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Oct/13

25

No Idle Hands Here

Santorum (Well, Savanarola)The Devil has been busy again, but Rick Santorum is on the case.

Right Wing Watch (I know, I know) reports:

Rick Santorum is asking you to do your part to free movie theatres from the Devil’s clutches by purchasing tickets to his upcoming movie, The Christmas Candle. He appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network last week to plug the new movie of his film company EchoLight Studios, which apparently is in a state of internal strife after his arrival as CEO. While speaking on a network where televangelists on a daily basis tell viewers that God will reward them financially if they send in contributions, the former senator and presidential candidate spent most of the time criticizing movies for being too materialistic.

Santorum, who has previously said that Satan has control over mainline Protestantism and universities, thanked viewers in advance for seeing the movie. “This is a tough business, this is something that we’re stepping out,” Santorum said, “and the Devil for a long, long time has had this, these screens, for his playground and he isn’t going to give it up easily.”

It may just be me, but I’m not entirely convinced that Santorum is helping build a GOP brand that can sweep to victory in 2014 and 2016.

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Aug/13

3

Rolling out Satan

The Devil Twilight ZoneThere’s been a lot of discussion recently on the significance or otherwise of what the new pope has had to say about homosexuality.

But less about these comments from three years back (via Breitbart):

New Pope Francis I is an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage, in coincidence with traditional Catholic belief. In 2010, he wrote, “Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

The “Father of Lies”!

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Nov/12

11

Darwin the Candidate

The election results didn’t give me much to smile about, but here’s one exception.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

Charles Darwin, the 19th-century naturalist who laid the foundations for evolutionary theory, received nearly 4,000 write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County in balloting for the 10th Congressional District seat retained Tuesday by five-year incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Broun [who was running unopposed].

A spot check Thursday of some of the other counties in the east Georgia congressional district revealed a smattering of votes for Darwin, although it wasn’t always clear, based on information provided by elections offices in those counties, whether those votes were cast in the 10th District race. And because the long-dead Darwin was not a properly certified write-in candidate, some counties won’t be tallying votes for him, whether in the congressional race or other contests.

A campaign asking voters to write-in Darwin’s name in the 10th Congressional District, which includes half of Athens-Clarke County, began after Broun, speaking at a sportsmen’s banquet at a Hartwell church, called evolution and other areas of science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

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Oct/12

6

Lies, All Lies, I Tell Ya

It’s no news that Georgian congressman Paul Broun is a strange bird (he’s the clown who wanted to ban Playboy from the PX), well, here he is again (TPM reports):

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

Okey dokey.

On the other hand, the décor of the venue where he was speaking clearly was worth seeing.

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Nov/11

25

Just Another Carnival Barker

Today’s Roman Catholic hierarchy knows that the old hoodoo is a good way to bring in the crowds, so here’s one veteran doing his bit:

Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.

Well, I give him credit for rejecting the intellectually absurd temptations of ecumenicism, but I interrupt:

Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist. The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.

“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.

“Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations.” Science was incapable of explaining evil, said Father Amorth, who has written two books on his experiences as an exorcist. “It’s not worth a jot. The scientist simply explores what God has already created.” His views may seem extreme, but in fact reflect previous warnings by Pope Benedict XVI, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy. In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises. They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said. Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said…

Father Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron and have such superhuman strength that even children have to be held down by up to four people. He has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.

Satan's Little Helpers

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Jan/11

8

Paranormal Activity

Via Entertainment Weekly:

Discovery Channel is teaming with the Vatican for an unprecedented new series hunting the deadliest catch of all: Demons.

The Exorcist Files will recreate stories of real-life hauntings and demonic possession, based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church. The project includes access into the Vatican’s case files, as well as interviews with the organization’s top exorcists — religious experts who are rarely seen on television.

“The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we’re not going to try to tell people what to think,” says Discovery president and GM Clark Bunting.

Bunting says the investigators believe a demon can inhabit an inanimate object (like a home) or a person. The network executive says he was initially skeptical when first meeting the team but was won over after more than three hours of talks.
“The work these folks do, and their conviction in their beliefs, make for fascinating stories,” Bunting says.

If the show’s first season is successful, the network hopes its partnership with the Church will pave the way for producers GoGo Luckey to take the series to the next level — joining Catholic investigators on live demon-purging ride-alongs.

Even if exorcism appears to have a more prominent place on the Vatican’s bill of fare than in the recent past, my first reaction was to think that this story was a hoax about as believable as, well, demons. It seems that my first reaction was wrong. This story is for real.

In a way this makes sense. Today’s Vatican has taken a distinctly traditionalist turn and demons have long had a role to play in many Christian cosmologies (if not one that I associate with the splendidly mild Church of England of my youth). What’s more, they make pretty good recruiting sergeants.

I just hope it’s better viewing than Ghost Hunters.

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Jun/10

19

Okey Dokey

Via the National Catholic Reporter, June 11, 2010:

Since the Catholic sexual abuse crisis erupted a decade ago, there have been numerous attempts to explain its causes, from a lack of fidelity to an over-emphasis on celibacy and clerical privilege. This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI pointed to a deeper unseen force lurking behind the crisis, especially its timing: the Devil.

It’s no accident, the pope implied, that precisely as the Catholic church was celebrating a “Year for Priests” in 2009-2010, the sexual abuse crisis once again took on massive global proportions.

“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy,’” Benedict XVI said. “He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.”

The term “the enemy” is a traditional Catholic way of referring to the Devil.

The line drew applause from the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a Mass bringing the “Year for Priests” to a close. The Vatican said that some 15,000 priests from more than 90 countries were on hand for the event.

Satan by Hieronymus Bosch (detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights)

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