Devils are hot; as in topical!

Giotto, Exorcism at Arezzo (1297-99), Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

No, not hot as in tropical!

Okay, bad wordplay, but Tim Muldoon’s started it, here with his look at our current interest in all things devilish:

“. . . it’s hard to avoid the fact that there’s suddenly a fascination with all things demonic. Consider this Discovery Channel series in production, cooperating with the Vatican (though the article does not specify who or what office of the Holy See). Then there are the films The Last Exorcism and, coming this month, Anthony Hopkins in The Rite– the latest in a more-or-less constant fascination with demons dating back to films like The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976) and others. And even the Catholic Church–at least in the United States–convened a conference in November for the sake of educating bishops (56 attended!) and priests on exorcism. Catholic News Service reports that a 2005 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specified that every bishop is to appoint an exorcist in his diocese.”

What is interesting to me, and a little odd-seeming, is that so many exorcists are going “public” and identifying as such. I once knew a diocesan exorcist–a very holy man–but he didn’t let too many people in on the fact that he was one. He did tell me a few hair-curling stories, though and warned me, when my kids were very young, about ouija boards which, he said were “mere things” in themselves, but things which helped dupe people into innocently inviting terrible things into their world.

Muldoon acknowledges that our understanding of “demonic possession” has changed with the advent of psychology and advances in medicine, but he also brings up scripture and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and he writes:

The Church’s exorcists will seek to identify when psychological or medical help is called for, and indeed there is good reason to support the idea that our knowledge of the sciences renders understandable much of what was once taken to be divine or demonic forces in the world.

But conventional wisdom errs at a fundamentally epistemological level when it dismisses demons a priori, or suggests that we have all the evidence to safely conclude that there is no such thing as possession. How can we possibly know that? The reason why people find demons uncomfortable is that they do not fit the diminished notion of transcendence that moderns and postmoderns have dangled before us. We’re just a little too uncomfortable with the idea that demons have power that only God can save us from. That would make us unable to have perfect autonomy!

You’ll want to read his whole, thoughtful post!

UPDATE: I wonder, sometimes, whether we have not listened enough to Our Lady of Fatima, when she warned of “diabolical disorientation” – what I think perhaps Pope Benedict might call part of the “dictatorship of relativism,” particularly when I see something like this demonstration of vast confusion on the part of our young Catholics. A combination of many things, I am sure, but perhaps it all begins with the dissolution of the “family” which in turn has robbed us of the sort of necessary grown up leadership which Peggy Noonan is describing here; for the past few decades, no one wanted to be the grownups, and even our priests and bishops, our parish Liturgy and Education committees, tried to escape being the unpopular, grown-up voice of the “establishment,” which wreaked havoc on our catechesis, our liturgies, our ability to communicate our church and pass on our treasure. Perhaps the desire to seem “cool” and “with it” and “up to date” has created just the sort of disoriented, relativistic hothouse in which demons may best flourish.

Hmmmm…that’s a cheerful thought.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • ALL2Jesus

    I noticed that Walmart and Target had an extensive line of occult-looking books and very little Christian fiction and non-fiction available.

    In Barnes and Noble, there are some dark evil-looking occult books for children!

    Having seen in prayer ministry the results in the lives of people who have dabbled in the occult, even as a child, I would strongly advise parents to guard their children’s minds and hearts against this kind of material in books and media (including Harry Potter), even if it means home-schooling and limiting with whom they socialize.

  • archangel

    What about Narnia and Lord of the Rings? And don’t forget the Wizard of Oz.

    If you knock Harry Potter, you have to take those to task as well. Just because there are wizards and goblins, it doesn’t make it the spawn of Satan. Parenting and guidance have a lot to do about how the concept of FANTASY is related to kids in literature. Now if the children start talking to lions about the witch next door, or start brewing concoctions while waving a stick at me, or even clicking their heels together in an attempt to go home, I might think there’s a problem. That hasn’t happened yet.

    I’d be more concerned about Satan worshippers who break-in churches to steal the Blessed Sacrament.

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  • Jeff

    I saw the HD version of The Exorcist recently on Apple TV. Apart from how compelling the exorcism and possession scenes are, you watch and movie like that and realize how awful 90% of what comes out of Hollywood is today. The Exorcist is a masterpiece as a movie. And I’ve always said that, at bottom, it is not a horror film but a profound and deeply moving love story: the love of a priest for a helpless child, a mother for her daughter, and God for man. I hope The Rite comes close to it in quality.

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  • Lainie

    I believe the interest in demons, devils and the diabolic are so prevelent because they have entered the minds, hearts and souls of a good number of people, including the leaders of the church, who have since Vatican II, led millions of souls out of true Catholicism into a man-made, heretical, Communist/Socialist/Protestant/New Age “religion” designed to overthrow the one true Church.

    Couple that with the media, academia, public schools (and even some “Catholic” schools), television, movies, and music, public figures and public policies which all serve the Devil rather than God, and what can we expect?

  • Chloe

    As an 8th grader I left the Church for the black arts- witchcraft and worse. I have walked where demons walk and only by God’s grace am I mentally and spiritually healthy again and currently a catechist. It was not public schools or the media or music or public figures that lured me away but the feel good religion passed off as Catholicism in the 1970′s and the lack of mature Christian relationships among the parishioners.

    I tell parents all the time that I have read the spells in Harry Potter and yes they are derived from real practices and yes Ouija boards will attract fallen angels, demons or whatever you would like to call them. I have witnessed books being offered, cursed to Satan and music too, before they are placed on sale at local stores.

    If your child likes werewolves and witches and vampires, the whole Goth and cutting scene, this curiosity can attract and open the soul to evil and oppression by that evil. It is a slow process but once there Jesus is an irrational delusion to the soul and the mind. It is a painful journey back that often ends in addictions and suicide. Many of those that engaged in this life with me are dead or suffer from deep depression and psychological disorders.

    All I can tell you is to pray the rosary with your children once a week at least with your kids as a family with a no excuse for parents or children rule. Make your children participate in the sacraments and do it by leading through example. You be first in line once a month for Confession. You sit down in full view of your kids and comment about making an examination of conscience. Apologize when you are wrong and forgive when they are wrong. Teach them to pray by praying aloud. Teach them to love the Holy Mass by loving it first. Don’t miss Mass but go to two or three if need be to make sure everyone able to go gets the opportunity even though they still have sports or sleepovers etc. Know your faith and teach it to your kids.

    This obsession or interest in the diabolical is because of the spiritual voids within our people. The soul will seek to fill with the spiritual but if it is starving for the good spirituality and bad comes along well it too fills you and a starving man sometimes eats even if it is poison and those dying of thirst drink salt water in desperation. Be good Catholics and read Scripture, you will be great Catholic examples for our youth and maybe just maybe you will help a child or young adult avoid this spiritual death.