Paul Fidalgo has taken to calling Pope Francis I “Pope Fluffy.” Personally, I’ve liked a lot of the things he’s said and done and found him mostly, though not entirely, refreshing. But he apparently has a bit of an obsession with the devil, the most convenient myth in Christianity.
A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone.
Yet, in his words and deeds, the new pope is locked in an epic battle with the oldest enemy of God and creation:
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…“ ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.
The devil, the all-purpose boogeyman used by some Christians to get out of every dilemma and inconsistency and to explain things they can’t explain. And a dangerous one, as well, but not in the sense that they think he is. It’s a dangerous boogeyman because it is used to justify all sorts of barbarism and authoritarianism to chase him down and root him out. Thus the periodic Satanic panics throughout history.