It’s not just the Poles who are holding a conference on exorcism. The New York Times reports that American bishops are doing the same in Baltimore. The report is pretty fair-minded and two snippets in particular caught my attention:
[T]o R. Scott Appleby, a professor of American Catholic history at the University of Notre Dame, the bishops’ timing makes perfect sense.
“What they’re trying to do in restoring exorcisms,” said Dr. Appleby, a longtime observer of the bishops, “is to strengthen and enhance what seems to be lost in the church, which is the sense that the church is not like any other institution. It is supernatural, and the key players in that are the hierarchy and the priests who can be given the faculties of exorcism.
“It’s a strategy for saying: ‘We are not the Federal Reserve, and we are not the World Council of Churches. We deal with angels and demons.’ ”
All this flummery has a lot to do with control – and thus power.
And then there’s this:
The Rev. Richard Vega, president of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, an organization for American priests, said that when he first heard about the conference on exorcism, “My immediate reaction was to say, why?”
He said that he had not heard of any requests for exorcisms and that the topic had not come up in the notes of meetings from councils of priests in various dioceses.
The conference on exorcism comes at a time, he said, when the church is bringing back traditional practices. The Vatican has authorized the revival of the Latin Mass, and now a revised English translation of the liturgy, said to be closer to a direct translation from the Latin, is to be put in use in American parishes next year.
“People are talking about, are we taking two steps back?” Father Vega said. “My first reaction when I heard about the exorcism conference was, this is another of those trappings we’ve pulled out of the past.”
But he said that there could eventually be a rising demand for exorcism because of the influx of Hispanic and African Catholics to the United States. People from those cultures, he said, are more attuned to the experience of the supernatural.
Well, that’s just great.