People, Alas, Are Devilish Enough

AsmodeusI don’t mean to beat the Urrutigioty/Groeschel dead horse, but I thought commenter Brian Gallagher had a useful observation:

EWTN has a phenomenal batting average for finding these guys. I’m especially impressed by the damnatio memoriae efforts they take to scrub these men from their history after a scandal. You might think it’d dawn on them that something is awry but no doubt they’re chalking it up to Satan.

I don’t know about EWTN’s record with “awry” guys. I don’t watch. I don’t count. I’m sure they rely more on the orthodoxy of their celebrities than morality. Myself, I’d rather go with the son who said he wouldn’t work in the field, then changed his mind and did.

I also don’t know who their remaining radio and tv personalities blame or don’t blame. But I have heard and read many people blame a certain supernatural imp for any number of bad things. Count me a skeptic on the blame game.

One significant point I’d like to address is this. I have no problem with a mature figure like Pope Francis talking about hell, the devil, and such. That has a context within the Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit training that I find is sound.

One of my early spiritual directors, when I pressed him on the matter almost thirty years ago, told me–urged me, really–not to focus on the dark side. Don’t name you-know-who, don’t emphasize it, don’t explore it, don’t talk about it. In my and his context, I think I understood where he was coming from.

It is important for people, especially Christian believers to own up to their personal faults and responsibilities. “The devil made me do it!” just doesn’t cut it. As Liam pointed out recently, the half-@$%ed apologies don’t impress or convince. (My term, not his.)

Good things go bad, and the first place I look is my own tendency to screw things up. Or I might lament the tendency in another. When bad things happen to good people (like EWTN–who I believe are basically good) it’s just human sin. Not perfect GLB’s and GLG’s getting tripped up by some supernatural despot.

And if we are observers, I think we feel badly for the failings of people who have messed up. We don’t give them a pass and blame someone else.

Side point: the scrubbing of tv line-ups and web sites of embarrassing stuff. Check the Psalmist’s view:

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

God does the cleansing and washing. I don’t think we human beings have bleach quite strong enough.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to People, Alas, Are Devilish Enough

  1. crystal says:

    Interesting the Spiritual Exercises take on the ‘bad spirit’. The spiritual director I had took it fairly seriously but I think most don’t. I’m not sure how I feel about it myself, but I had a past post about Francis and the discernment of spirits last year that touched on that …

  2. Jenny2 says:

    I’m sure any reputable psychologist or psychiatrist could offer quite the disquisition on why, exactly, certain people find it useful to get rid of their own failings by projecting them onto an externalised (and conveniently non-materialised) Evil One.

    • Liam says:

      They certainly can and do that, but it would not be an explanation that would be persuasive to non-materialists; its persuasiveness only works in a materialist worldview. In the Abrahamic traditions, btw, demons are fallen angels; angels are a complementary order of creation – non-corporeal, pure spirit. (No medieval theologian spent time wondering how many angels could dance on the head of a pin – that idea is a mere tautology; only moderns who don’t understand angels get stuck wondering about such things.) And modern psychology and psychiatry are still a long way from being as empirical as physical medicine, for that matter.

      • Jenny2 says:

        I’m well aware of the Abrahamic and indeed medieval traditions regarding angels, both good and bad, thanks – and I’m with Todd in his reply to you, below. Whether angels exist or not is beside the point of human beings’ responsibility for their own actions, faults, sins and crimes. Free will and all that, remember?

  3. crystal says:

    There’s actually some interesting stuff to be found online about angels –
    – Why Can’t Angels Think Properly? Ockham against Chatton and Aquinas” …
    – “The Individuation of Angels from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus” …

    Click to access IndividuationAngel.pdf

    – “Angels heard and demons seen” …
    – I have an excerpt on angels from one of Rahner’s books here …

    • Liam says:

      That second link is a great example of the kind of angelology debates that DID occur in medieval controversies.

      Angelology developed as a compare/contrast to theological anthropology: two different kingdoms of creation, as it were.

      • Todd says:

        I had a priest friend who was very much into the “study” of angels. He also practiced exorcisms. I remained a skeptic. Even less empirical than psychology. A focus on such things strikes me as possibly avoiding more important matters. Angels and demons make for interesting fiction. Actual sinfulness, addictions, faults, and such are more daily meat for the practicing Christian.

  4. crystal says:

    I’ve only really paid attention to the idea of angels/demons because of the Ignatian idea of the good and bad spirits in discernment. But I’m bothered by the whole idea of a spiritual hierarchy in which angels mediate between us and Jesus/God …. I guess I’m more Protestant than Catholic in my view of angels.

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