The Invaluable Fr. Robert Barron…

The Invaluable Fr. Robert Barron… June 5, 2013

on the appalling spectacle of Episcopal muckety muck Jefferts-Schori speaking of demon possession as some sort of beautiful butterfly dance of Sacred Diversity.  All I could think of is the young Fr. Damien in “The Exorcist” talking to the crusty older priest Fr. Merrin and offering his blather about how to reason with the girl.  Fr. Merrin cuts him off abruptly and says, “The devil is a liar!”

Human enemies can be appealed to with reason.  Demons are your enemy.  You give them no quarter and you do not negotiate with them or hear them out.  Jesus is brusque and business-like with demons.  He talks to them like a lion-tamer, not a group process negotiator.  His usual approach is “shut up and leave”.

Another appropriate scene is “Independence Day”.  The President asks the alien “What is it you want us to do?”

Alien: “Die.”

The devil hates us.  That’s it.  That’s all.  He’s not interested in coming to an understanding.  He wills your utter destruction in body, soul and spirit.  Don’t dink around with him.

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  • Gail Finke

    I like the “Independence Day” analogy!

  • Imp the Vladaler

    One explanation is that Jefferts-Schori thinks that demonic possession is a good thing. Alternatively, she (like many contemporary Christians) may think that the Bible is a nice book about being excellent to each other, but you can’t take the facts in it at face value. (You know, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was a “miracle” of sharing and caring. That sort of thing.) I’d also wager a modest sum that she doesn’t think that the Devil is a fallen angel; that’s just an old poetic sci-fi/fantasy story that Milton made even more kick-ass. Probably doesn’t believe that the Devil actually exists. He’s just a concept.

    So sure, Luke tells us that the girl was possessed, but he didn’t know what we know about mental illness. Her “possession” was Asperger’s or something, or maybe she was just sassy. She certainly wasn’t possessed by a demon, which isn’t a real thing.

    Reading over her sermon, it just seems more plausible to me that she (i) rejects the concept of demonic possession than that she (ii) accepts it, but thinks it’s good.

    Bonus question: what’s with Paul taking so long to expel the demon? What are we supposed to draw from the fact that he apparently though her possession wasn’t worth curing for a while? And doesn’t that lead at least a sliver of credence to her theory that this wasn’t a demonic possession at all (or wasn’t bad), if Paul let it continue?

    • James Isabella

      This is just my guess but…

      Presumably, Paul didn’t cure every leper, sick, or blind person in the town either. From my readings of scripture, Jesus and the disciples usually cured when the effected person requested it. There are several types of ‘demonic possession’ and this girl seems to have been in possession of her free will; i.e., she wanted the abilities that the demon granted her.

      But after a time of being annoyed by the girl, Paul, who as an apostle still had authority over unclean spirits, decided to remove it… whether the girl wanted to be released from the spirit or not.

      • wlinden

        “There’s no pleasing some people!”
        “That’s what Jesus said.”

    • wlinden

      So it appears that she thinks belief in demons is a Primitive Superstition, but that the book which says there are demons and they were active here otherwise gives a factual and accurate account of events.
      You have to admire modernists for their “consistency”.

  • Pete the Greek

    Jefferts, like most moderns, probably doesn’t believe in demons. When you think about that, her statement then makes sense. You see, it’s not a demon in that case, that’s just those dirty old patriarchs who wrote the Scripture down changing a girl who was totally enlightened (and probably a vegan yoga instructor womyn pryst who was pushing for local minimum wage laws and free contraception access) to ‘demon possessed’. And they did it because they couldn’t stand the idea of ‘wise woman’. Paul drove away the girl’s “enlightenment”.

    In that manner, what she said makes total sense, and I think that is exactly what she had going on in her mind. If you read other things she has said, you get the VERY distinct impression of someone who actually doesn’t believe much in the supernatural at all, much less any form of Christianity properly understood.

    I think many people were surprised by what she said because they were trying to understand it from a Christian framework. Once you understand that what she is peddling isn’t Christian in a meaningful sense, once you stop trying to assume she is fitting it into a Christian framework, it becomes obvious.

    • Sean P. Dailey

      “that’s just those dirty old patriarchs who wrote the Scripture down changing a girl who was totally enlightened (and probably a vegan yoga instructor womyn pryst who was pushing for local minimum wage laws and free contraception access)”

      You left out lesbian.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    You really have to hand it to the Episcopalians these days. I never thought any religious denomination could make the Unitarians almost look sensivle, but the Eps are giving it the ol’ college try.

  • Mark R

    Not too long ago — about 15 years — in the Episcopal diocese of Olympia, WA a woman priest was defrocked for activities with witches or such like. Times have changed in a very short time.
    In Jesus’ time, all ailments were attributable to demons where one would now find a medical reason first before a spiritual. (In a sense, the ancients were correct; in that all ailments and death stem from the Fall.)

    • D.T. McCameron

      Surely not discounting demonic possession? Especially considering this particular case, where mental illness would not allow a person to tell the future…to any reliable degree.

    • bob

      She wasn’t defrocked. She *renounced her orders*. Important distinction! That was Laura Fraser. The Episcopalians had precisely no idea how to handle an issue of actual theology. She had been teaching about “channeling” at her parish. She was given three choices by her bishop: 1) renounce her teachings on “channeling” (witchcraft, simply put), or 2) resign her parish, or 3) face an ecclesiastical court. Of course only 1 & 3 are sensible. What they actually did was to catch her in “violation of rubrics”. She was conducting some unauthorized services in a non-episcopal church in Seattle. This was a charge unrelated to the spiritism she was into, but was a convenient way to get her without having to resort to talking about….God! It also avoided the publicity of getting rid of the first woman ordained in the diocese. She was cut a deal: renounce your orders and we’ll give you a full disability pension (!!). She wore a hearing aid and had for some years. She took the money and renounced her orders, at around age 50. This was in about 1986. They couldn’t then and can’t now discuss theology, hence the current bishopess.

  • Mark R

    Thanks Bob. For once I am murky about another denom’s business :-).

  • MarylandBill

    I am trying to figure out how any miracle (and expelling a demon would certainly qualify) can ever be placed on the person “performing” the miracle since they merely act as God’s agent and God is the one who really expelled the demon. If so, should we be talking about what a mean person God is?

  • It is all well and good, but it is oftentimes tricky if not impossible to know if something bad comes from the foe of our souls or from elsewhere.

    Greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son