Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Return of Exorcists

Modernising theologians who thought that exorcism would disappear forever also believed that the Church no longer needed to oppose the world. In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council declared: “Those values which are most highly prized today … insofar as they stem from endowments conferred by God on man … are exceedingly good. Yet they are often wrenched from their rightful function by the taint in man’s heart, and hence stand in need of purification.” Progressives acted as though the Council had simply said: “Those values most highly prized today are exceedingly good.” They dreamed of an open Church that embraced the world. 
This required rejecting the apocalyptic view of Pope Leo XIII, which pitted the Devil against the Church in a grand battle. Leo wrote the St Michael Prayer (which has had a recent revival, encouraged by Pope Francis, in response to the abuse crisis). Leo also added an “Exorcism Against Satan and the Apostate Angels” to the Rituale Romanum. This exorcistic formula placed a novel stress on the freedom of the Church. “May you not dare further, most clever serpent, to … persecute the Church of God,” it said. “Accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you by the living God … stop harming the Church and casting her freedom into snares.” 
For those who sought to reconcile Christianity with liberal society, Leo’s confrontational language seemed altogether out of place. But Leo’s view turned out to be the one more aligned with today’s reality. The Church is at odds with an increasingly pagan culture. It is also wracked by internal divisions, which many Catholics see as the work of the Devil – the divider. The historian Francis Young has observed that there are “just two ingredients essential for a flourishing of exorcism: division within the Church and fear of an external spiritual enemy.” Neither is likely to go away soon. (Read more.)

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