Up until today, I didn’t know you could get statues of Baphomet at Wal Mart.
I was informed of this by a puzzling article by Patti Armstrong in the National Catholic Register. Armstrong has interviewed an anonymous source claiming to be an exorcist about the danger of all the Satanic paraphernalia for sale at your local Wal Mart Supercenter. She writes:
“The products include demonic sculptures and figures; satanic pornography that blasphemes Christ’s crucifixion; numerous products and jewelry with pentagrams and other demonic images, and books that include the Satanic bible and books on spells. Especially featured is Baphomet, the horned, goat-headed figure trademarked as the Church of Satan symbol.”
I was shocked and frankly incredulous at this. When I was young, Wal Mart was considered a pro-life, family-friendly place to shop, because of an anecdote we’d all heard about them refusing to sell Plan B in the pharmacy. For all I know that anecdote was an urban myth, but we believed it. The Catholic homeschool moms I knew swore by Wal Mart; they also liked to buy gigantic portions of meat and barrel-sized containers of cheese balls at Sam’s Club, and they considered themselves to be making a pro-life gesture by doing so.
I have been to Wal Mart approximately twice a month for the past thirteen years. I don’t like shopping there, but when you’re living in Steubenville with no transportation but the city bus you don’t usually have a choice. You can’t get everything at Aldi and Ollie’s. But in any case, I go up and down every aisle at Wal Mart on a regular basis. And I have never once seen anything Armstrong is describing at my local Supercenter. I’ve seen hunting decoys and guns. I’ve seen astonishingly ugly beach towels and body pillows with the haggard cast of Duck Dynasty on them. I’ve seen gallon-sized tubs of Philadelphia ready-made cheesecake filling that you can spread in a crust and pop into the oven, or just eat with a spoon on a bad day. I’ve seen miniature croissants with cheese on the inside that were meant as guinea pig treats, even though animal products give guinea pigs dementia and they’re supposed to be on strictly vegan diets. I’ve seen scandalous jeggings so tight they cut off the circulation in your legs, for girls my daughter’s age. But I have never once seen Satanic paraphernalia.
I Googled “Wal Mart Baphomet,” and found that I’d been living in a fool’s paradise. You can indeed buy cheap tacky idols of the devil, pentagram necklaces, black and white prints that look like tarot cards, and even something called an “Ebros gift ancient relic dark Satanism occultic Sabbatic goat Baphomet wine goblet with Pentagram star,” at some Wal Mart locations. I clicked on that last one to see what it was like, but it only got me to an error page, so I guess I’ll never know. I hope one of my readers includes an item with that name in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
I can readily see why these dreadful items are never for sale at the Wal Mart location in Steubenville. That’s a shrewd decision on Wal Mart’s part; we’d end up with earnest young people picketing the store with a Rosary in one hand and a “Vote for Trump” sign in the other, and then things would get comical and undignified. But in any case, Ms. Armstrong is correct and she has educated me. You can buy things at Wal Mart that are even more diabolical than Duck Dynasty body pillows. The article goes on to quote an alleged exorcist about why these items are dangerous– but the exorcist, oddly enough, does not want to be named or identified in any way.
According to Father Michael (not his real name) who has been the designated exorcist of his diocese for 10 years, trivializing evil by selling satanic products puts people at risk. “Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they might be held liable, so they might want to pay attention to that,” he said.
Who is this Father Michael? Why won’t he use he’s real name? If the priest is ashamed to be quoted about this in his capacity as exorcist, why is he pronouncing on it at all? Why is Patti Armstrong going into detail about how many years the only expert she quotes has been the exorcist for his diocese if he doesn’t want to reveal who he is? And who on earth thought it was a good idea to write an article for a major Catholic publication relying entirely on the authority of a single exorcist who refused to be identified? It doesn’t seem to me to be controversial to say “Wal Mart is selling Satanic paraphrenalia and as Catholics we shouldn’t buy any,” maybe throw in some Catechism citations and call it a day. But Armstrong brings in an exorcist to quote, and the things he says are odd.
“Frankly,” Father Not-Michael is quoted as saying about Wal Mart, “I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they might be held liable, so they might want to pay attention to that.” This supposed exorcist with ten years’ experience thinks Wal Mart could be sued for causing a customer’s demonic possession.
The article goes on with some facts about demonic possession that anyone who’s studied Catholicism and exorcisms has likely heard before– don’t traffic with evil spirits, renounce evil, go to confession, that sort of thing. I can’t say I disagree. We as Catholics really ought to know better than to invite the Enemy into our homes, and once we find him there we ought to get him back out again by conversion of hearts. I am puzzled by one line, however. I reproduce it here by copy and paste, exactly as it appears in the article except for italics:
Evidence of demonic oppression or depression can be very frightening, he explained. It often includes physical attacks and symptoms and strange occurrences.
There are no quotation marks in those two sentences, so it could be that Armstrong is not directly quoting the so-called Father Michael, but rather summarizing what he told her in her own words. But the “he explained” connotes that she is. And what he’s saying is very odd indeed. I’ve heard of demonic possession, and of demonic oppression which is sort of like possession lite– the demons don’t actually inhabit and control a person but just harass them. Exorcists use terms like that. I’ve never in my life heard of “demonic depression.” I’ve not read about it in any theological sources or even in the books by the late Father Gabriel Amorth. I Googled “demonic depression” and “Catholic demonic depression” to see if I could find anything about it, and got nothing. I even Googled “demonic depression Wal Mart” but all I got was this same article. Either the mysterious Father Not-Michael is pulling Armstrong’s leg, or he just randomly made up a new term, or perhaps she misheard him. Or perhaps a copy editor didn’t do a very good job before this issue of the Register was put to bed.