I saw the CNS headliner, and I wasn’t going to comment on what happened when the Congregations for Liturgy and Priests get together to do a conference. But Jesus was an exorcist in Thursday’s gospel, and I’m not so sure I want to discount what he says about evil, especially toward the middle of Luke 11.
I had a fine spiritual director in my final years of grad school, and once I asked him about you-know-who and the influence of evil personified. He demurred in talking much about it. I didn’t get the sense he was avoiding evil in any way. His reason was twofold, as I recall. First, by refusing to name evil, one denies it having certain power over you. People who focus too much on such things might find their focus on God may veer. And second, it can lure a believer into looking too much beyond the pilgrim world we live in. Maybe as a science fiction and fantasy lover, he saw some inkling I might find secrecy, sin, and the supernatural rather exciting.
My own sense is that I am a mortal and flawed human being. I certainly do enough wrong in my life that I never need to look beyond my own sins. I’m also big on accountability. It’s one of the themes I’ve tried to impart as a parent. I do something wrong. I admit it. I go to the person and apologize. I don’t rate myself 100% on that standard, but when I fail to live up to that, it’s a real minus.
I see the exorcists quoted as desirous of avoiding petty discussions and the appearance of magic. I worked for a particularly difficult pastor many years ago. A good friend of mine who had been psychologically brutalized by the priest thought he was possessed. I wasn’t willing to let my boss off the hook so easily. He was a talented man and a devoted priest. But he was also self-tortured and often lacked good sense, including moral judgment.
Would exorcists have suggested I confront the guy? His choices certainly generated much ill in me and the others around him. Because of that, I had a stretch to confront my own poor choices and my own sins. Ultimately, I had to focus on Christ, and on the path of virtue, and on doing the best with the one person over whom I had any illusion of control–myself.
Call me a doubter on Father Gabriele Nanni’s statement:
The devil has more power today precisely because there is more sin.
This is another approach I find unhelpful: comparison between generations. Great versus Boomers. Boomers versus X. Ruth versus Aaron. Does it matter? Can anybody prove it? The so-called Great Generation lynched blacks, turned refugees away who later died in Nazi camps, and failed to follow through on FDR’s social reforms. Better, I think, to focus on the person we are called to become.
If there is something demonic in the Church today, I’d say it’s behind the covering up of sex scandals. But do you think an earnest exorcist will sprinkle holy water on his bishop?
What do the commentators think? What’s the right mode of attention on evil, and how do we see an increase in holiness?