Francis’ respect for and practical belief in the reality of the demonic has allowed people who were hitherto shy about discussing the devil and similar facts to come out of the woodwork and ask for the graces and helps the Church provides in confronting Old Scratch. This includes exorcisms and there has been a corresponding uptick in priests getting trained to act as exorcists.
People are often astonished to discover that I believe in the demonic. I’m even more astonished that, after the 20th century, anybody could doubt the existence of the demonic. The arguments of postmoderns are typically absurd non sequiturs like “But this is 2015!”, a reply with all the logical rigor of “But this is Tueday, April 14!” or “But this is 12:15 in the afternoon!”
So what? What does the year have to do with whether or not God can create non-corporeal intelligences which, abusing their free will as we do, can use their powers to harm and dominate certain human beings? I’ve never seen a sound argument against the proposition and the world teems with evidence that this is precisely what happens sometimes.
Beyond the appeal to the calendar is the Argument from Personal Incredulity. It just seems ridiculous, so it can’t be true. What is striking about such arguments is that the person who makes it typically sees himself as the hard-headed fact-based rationalist and the believer as the obscurantist afraid of science and reason. Yet in truth, it is the believer who goes and sees the evidence (the Church typically spends a lot of time diagnosing claims of possession and typically refers people to shrinks), while the skeptic simply refuses to look while hiding behind a fusillade of insults against the intellect of the believer.After that, the last beloved tactic of the skeptic is the old fallacy “Some claims of the demonic are fake, therefore all are.” The trick is either find a fake or a crazy person and then generalize from that to all the other stories of encounters with the demonic.
But despite such tactics, the fact remains that the testimony of plenty of witnesses down through the ages bears witness to the reality of demonic evil and demonic power. The good news is that such evil, while real, is by no means an ultimate power. Christ conquers sin, death, and the devil and spent a goodly portion of his ministry doing what the Church still does today by the living power of His Spirit: driving out the devil.
All of which is to say, there’s really nothing new modernity has to add to the conversation about the existence of the demonic, except for blank, baseless prejudice. In a century that has seen Auschwitz, the Cultural Revolution, theGreat Famine, and Sandy Hook, only a fool would declare that the demonic is prima facie ridiculous.