Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Faith, Reason, and Exorcisms

Checking the headlines at the CNA (Catholic News Agency) website, I ran into this these:
Exorcism, the Blessed, faith, and reason are some of my favorite topics - along with physics, art, and several dozen other facets of creation, so I'm opining a bit on 'all of the above.'

Exorcism? Exorcism?!

American culture has - interesting - ideas about exorcism. I suspect that assumptions formed in a sincerely Protestant country, embellished with the sort of theology taught by items like The Exorcist and Scream Blacula Scream, leaves American culture with a somewhat-distorted picture.

Maybe I'm being unfair.

Hollywood histrionics aside, exorcism is
  • Real
  • Involved in the sacrament of Baptism
    • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1237, 1673
  • A power and office the Church received from Jesus
Here's a sort of 'dictionary' definition:
"EXORCISM: The public and authoritative act of the Church to protect or liberate a person or object from the power of the devil (e.g., demonic possession) in the name of Christ (1673). A simple exorcism prayer in preparation for Baptism invokes God's help in overcoming the power of Satan and the spirit of evil (1237)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, E) [links added]
Also see

The Realities of Exorcism: Pretty Dry Reading

"When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.178 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called 'a major exorcism,' can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.179"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1673)
Informative as that passage is, it's fairly dry reading. Little wonder, perhaps, that movie makers prefer a more colorful approach.

Exorcising ADHD? I Don't Think So

Exorcism is about driving out demons in my Lord's name. It's like the Catechism says:
"...Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science...."
(Catechism, 1673)
For example, I deal with a disorder that's been diagnosed as ADHD-inattentive. Also Asperger's. Whatever it is, I'm taking medications - which help. I've been over this before. (March 4, 2010)

And when I get a cold, I don't ask a priest to exorcise Demon Rhinovirus. I rest, and drink plenty of fluids. Including chicken soup. (February 6, 2011)

The (Real) Exorcist of Rome

CNA (Catholic News Agency) ran an article on the official exorcist for the Diocese of Rome today. During 26 years, he's done around 70,000 exorcisms. That's an average of a little over seven a day, if I did the math right.

I don't expect a movie to be made of his career. He's done most of those exorcisms in a "small, unassuming office in south-west Rome."

An excerpt from that article:
"Rome’s exorcist finding Bl. John Paul II effective against Satan"
David Kerr CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 17, 2011)

"...'The world must know that Satan exists,' he told CNA recently. 'The devil and demons are many and they have two powers, the ordinary and the extraordinary.'...

"...'The so-called ordinary power is that of tempting man to distance himself from God and take him to Hell. This action is exercised against all men and women of all places and religions.'

"As for the extraordinary powers used by Satan, Fr. Amorth explained it as how the Devil acts when he focuses his attention more specifically on a person. He categorized the expression of that attention into four types:..."
Breaking the rest of that paragraph out into a list:
  • Diabolical possession
  • Diabolical vexation
    • like Padre Pio's experience
      • He was beaten by the Devil
  • Obsessions
    • Which can lead a person to
      • Desperation
      • Infestation
  • Cases when the Devil occupies a
    • Space
    • Animal
    • Object
Remember: I've got the teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." Although learning my faith is a high priority with me - I do not speak for the Church. I recommend following links to the Catechism and other resources I put in these posts. The Catholic ones.

What IMDB has to say about Scream Blacula Scream, while informative about the motion picture, is not - in my opinion - a particularly authoritative source for theological insights.

Back to that article, briefly.
"...Fr. Amorth says such extraordinary occurrences are rare but on the rise. He's particularly worried by the number of young people being affected by Satan through sects, séances and drugs. He never despairs though.

" 'With Jesus Christ and Mary, God has promised us that he will never allow temptations greater than our strengths.'..."
If you're waiting for a rant, or hand-wringing over how just simply awful things are: that's not gonna happen.

It's like I said:
I'm not complacent, I hope. But I also follow the man who said He is I AM: and who was killed but didn't stay dead. (John 8:23-30, John 8:58, John 18:4-8, John 20:19-31, for starters)

On the other hand, I wouldn't try an exorcism myself. Apart from the sort of low-key thing I did a day or so ago, sprinkling holy water through the house, asking - in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - that God bless this house. ("Name," not "names." (Catechism, 233))

And I'm getting off-topic again.

Faith AND Reason

Faith and reason are not mutually-exclusive terms. Not for an informed Catholic.

Which, as the after-dinner speaker might say, reminds me of an amusing story:
"A Muppet Show episode - I think it was the one that introduced Uncle Deadly - had the back-stage Muppets telling Kermit that the theater was haunted. Kermit assured them that there was a 'rational' explanation for what they'd seen. Then, as I recall, Uncle Deadly did a horror-house 'bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha' laugh. Kermit's reaction was something along the lines of 'or, not.'...

"...The (very entertaining) Muppet Show episode's gag relied on a notion that's deeply embedded in American culture - western culture, in general, I think.
  • " 'Supernatural' means 'irrational' or 'illogical'
  • " 'Logical' and 'reasonable' people 'know' that 'supernatural' things aren't
    • "Real
    • "Logical or reasonable
"For folks who put their brains in 'sleep' mode inside church; or whose religious leaders focus on emotional highs, rather than deep thought, that may be true...."
(December 18, 2009)
I've harangued about faith being reasonable before.

Never mind me, though: An archbishop had a few words to say on the topic:
"Archbishop Gomez tells graduates to overcome divorce of faith and reason"
Benjamin Mann, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 17, 2011)

"Addressing new graduates of Thomas Aquinas College on May 14, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez urged them to bear witness to the Catholic Church's harmony of faith and reason, in a culture that has lost its intellectual and religious bearings.

" 'The problem today is that our intellectuals and our cultural leaders no longer have confidence. They are skeptical that we can know our creator from what he has created,' Archbishop Gomez told the 82 graduating seniors and their families. 'So we bracket off the question of God as something we cannot know.'

"The archbishop contrasted this skeptical conclusion with the words of Blessed John Paul II, who described faith and reason as the 'two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.' He pointed out that God 'made us with minds that can reason and hearts that can believe,' with both abilities needed to know the truth about God and the world...."
My guess is that a person won't get hailed as "intelligent" by listening to what the archbishop said.

On the other hand, being popular or ranking high in the polls isn't necessarily the same as being right.

There's that whole John 6:48-69 thing. Particularly John 6:60.

And that's another topic.

Related posts:
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Brigid said...

Missing an article: "those exorcisms in 'small, unassuming office in south-west Rome.'"

Interesting place for a period when there isn't one in the rest of the list: "# Animal
# Object."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Ah, so. Right you are. Thanks!

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Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.