An Exorcist Tells His Story

Thanks to a Barnes & Noble gift card, Zach and I got yet another book to add to our super-duper library earlier this week. We were debating between various titles in the Christian section (besides Jane Austen and Dostoevsky, what else is there worth reading?) when we found Fr. Gabriele Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story. I've been really intrigued by the subject since we listened to a talk by Fr. Euteneuer earlier this year. It's a topic that Christians hear about so little within the religious community. The secular world seems much more willing to enter into the conversation, if only to use exorcisms as material for cheesy movies or as a subject to be denounced as an anachronism rendered moot by the development of modern psychology and the introduction of Prozac and Zoloft. Besides educating his readers on the mechanics of exorcisms, bringing the subject back to the table is one of Fr. Amorth's main goals in the book. He fears for the souls of those suffering from demonic possession who find it nearly impossible to locate a modern exorcist, and he fears for the souls of those bishops who fail to recognize the expulsion of demons as a necessary and crucial task given by Jesus Christ to the Church Militant. It is the job of Bishops to appoint exorcists to parishes and diocese, yet Fr. Amorth tells how he (the chief exorcist of Rome) performed exorcisms on victims from around the world, all unable to find an exorcist when they or a concerned family member approached their local bishops.

Whatever the reason for the dearth of modern exorcists (and the author has many damning things to say about certain religious leaders and theologians and their lack of backbone and proper catechesis), Fr. Amorth insists that the need for exorcisms grows stronger with each passing decade as faith is falling by the wayside and new age "spirituality" is on the rise. In the age of Harry Potter, no one seems to find it odd or disturbing that the Wiccan section of Barnes & Noble appears to have doubled in size every time you look. Fr. Amorth, in reinvigorating the discussion of demonic possession, asserts the Catholic truths that religious leaders (often) at best present as abstract, and at worst completely ignore: that there is a very real battle for the surrender of our souls. Fr. Amorth emphasizes the teaching that Satan and the legions of demons are real creatures and that they desire nothing more than to win possession of our immortal selves. If one internalizes this Catholic teaching, than the very real need for exorcisms logically follows.

Lest potential readers of An Exorcist Tells His Story think that the book is a depressing lamentation on the state of modern souls and the Church's unwillingness to provide a cure, I want to say that it is one of the most uplifting and heartening religious works I have read in a long time. First, Fr. Amorth reminds readers that the final battle has already ultimately been won, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the soul of every man, woman, and child. Demonic possession, although very real, is nothing more than a last-ditch effort by a group of defeated creatures whose last chapter is already written! Additionally, there are many nuances to possession which Fr. Amorth outlines eloquently and by analogy and example, but the point to take away is that a demon can only enter or oppress a soul which has invited the demon's presence, which includes living life in a state of sin. Frequent reception of the sacraments and the living of a Christian life are like immunizations against evil (as one victim in the book puts it). Fr. Amorth calls confession "more painful to a demonic creature than the act of exorcism," presumably because it dilates the soul and increases receptivity to grace while closing oneself off from the hollow whispers of Satan.

Finally, I'll end with a quote from a victim's story in the book. Posting the following words is really the reason I wanted to write this entry in the first place, but I thought they would be best received on the foundation of an explanation of what I had been reading.

"Satan's true goal is not to make you suffer or to harm you. He does not seek our pain but something more. He wants our defeated soul to say, 'Enough. I am defeated; I am a piece of clay in the hands of evil. God cannot liberate me. God forgets his children if he allows such suffering. God does not love me; evil is greater than he is.' This is the true victory of evil. We must rebuke it even if we no longer have faith because our pain dulls it. 'We must want faith.' The devil cannot touch our will. Our will does not belong to God or to the devil; it is ours alone because God gave it to us when he created us. We must always say 'No' to those who want to destroy it. We must believe, like St. Paul, that 'in the name of Jesus Christ every knee must bend in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth.' This is our salvation."

Read this book and Psalm 27 and you'll sleep soundly at night.

The Lord is my light and my salvation/whom shall I fear?


the many reasons for opposing the Democratic plan for health care

Via the Weekly Standard:
The reasons for the public revolt are easy to see. The Democrats want to spend $1.5 trillion over a decade, impose an $800 billion tax increase in the midst of the worst recession in a generation, increase federal borrowing by $239 billion (on top of the $11 trillion the Obama budget already requires us to borrow through 2019), impose costly mandates on employers that will discourage hiring as unemployment nears 10 percent, force individuals to buy one-size-fits-all government defined insurance, and insert the government in countless new ways between doctors and patients. All of that would occur whether or not the plan includes a "public option," which at this point it does include and which will exacerbate all of these problems.
Read the whole thing here. Yuval Levin is one of the most thorough policy experts around.


selections from Schall's column on environmentalism

Ignatius of Loyola teaches that man is created to “praise, reverence, and serve God and by this means to save his soul.” Modern man thinks little of saving his soul, if he has one. He wants to “save” the earth. He does not want “dominion” over the earth to achieve his worldly and transcendent purposes. His “transcendent” purpose is immanent, “to save the earth” from himself. Save it for what? Well, for future generations. For whom do future generations save the earth? For generations beyond the future, and so on, down the ages.
To claim to be saving future, not present, generations, gives any government a transcendent purpose: To save man from himself. What could be nobler or more statesman-like? Human beings are mired in original sin. They need to be redeemed, protected from themselves. They need laws and regulations. They need to be subject to a Spartan regime where everything they eat, drink, or do is factored into the “good” of future generations—who do not yet exist, indeed may never exist, since population control is allegedly part of the answer to warming.
No one knows what future generations will need or want or know how to do. The Lord probably created a world in which just enough resources are present for His intentions. With the help of the human brain, the only real resource, human beings might reach the end for which God created them. The end God intended is not in this world. The earth-warmers are really heretical theologizers who somehow think the purpose of the species man is to spin round and round on this planet forever, with the aid of much government control. Meanwhile, all actual men will have died, after being told that their only purpose in life was to save the earth.
- James Schall, S.J.

the difference between dualism and distinction, and the necessity of politics with different people

Michael Iafrate recently suggested to me that I think dualisitically about politics. By this he meant I unnecessarily and wrongly separate the natural and the supernatural community. Here is what he said:
As for church vs. politics, yes, what I have said applies to the Church as the Church has (among other things) a political dimension. In its on-the-face worldly level, the Church is a society (or a society-of-societies if you will). But I could not compartmentalize the tasks of the Church against the tasks of politics in general, Christianly understood. As you probably remember from Gutierrez (you also find it in De Lubac and Rahner) we should not too strongly separate the spiritual and the worldly as if they were two “spheres.” I think such a dualism is active in your thinking.

I’m usually talking about theopolitics, and yes, that often throws people because it is not politics-as-usual. It’s the politics of the Kingdom.
I would like to respond to this in some blog-like depth.

Let me get the nitty gritty out of the way first. I never suggested that we "compartmentalize the tasks of the Church...", and even if I did (which I didn't), I would never suggest an opposition between the two compartments, as he does instinctually when he finishes his sentence: "...against the tasks of politics in general". I believe Michael places opposition where there was none to begin with. I believe this is rooted in an intellectual disposition that sees distinctions as things that are necessarily opposed. In this view, distinctions must be eliminated because they are divisive. A healthy view of distinctions would see them as the work of the finite human intellect trying to understand reality. Things can be distinguished without being separated. I can tell my pupil is not my eye, and thus I have distinguished between them. But this does not mean I have separated my pupil and my eye. The pupil is a part of the eye, not separate from it.

In his book Socratic Logic, Peter Kreeft explains this better than I can:
If we do not distinguish things (in the world) or points (in our thought or writing or speech), we confuse them; and if we confuse them, we are confused. To have a clear idea, the idea must also be distinct.

Modern minds often have a vague ideological aversion to distinctions; they think they are "discriminatory." In other words, they fail to distinguish three very different kinds of distinctions: (1) distinctions between thoughts, which are always helpful, (2) just and reasonable distinctions between things and people, such as distinguishing between medicines and poisons, or between students who pass and fail, and (3) unjust and unreasonable distinctions between people, "discrimination" in the ideological sense, e.g. basing salaries on gender or race instead of performance.
We must make distinctions in our ideas; this does not mean we are separating things. On the contrary, as Professor Kreeft explains, this is a process necessary to have any meaningful conversation at all.

Now back to the original contention - At the time, I was trying to make the argument that his politics does not account for the natural community, by which I mean the community not bound together by Catholic faith. Political thinking that does not include and account for the reality of pluralism is fundamentally deficient.

I think a good case can be made that Catholic anarchism prima facie does not account for pluralism. After all, a Catholic anarchism must begin with Catholic people.

This is why I originally suggested to Michael
that he was not really talking about politics, but about the revitalization of small local communities. I am not saying these communities are not political, but that they are not political in the usual sense of including everyone.

This is also where Michael and I agree: small local communities are extremely important for human flourishing. Modern Western society works in many ways to the destruction of these communities. The "status-quo" does indeed prefer larger indifferent bureaucratic administrative arrangements and isolated autonomous suburban life, and this is truly something which Catholics of all political predilections can and should work to oppose.

Cross-posted at The American Catholic


a most excellent book to read

Is Matt Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft. I found it to be a refreshing apology for the manual trades, which in my time have been derided to the point that anyone who practices "a trade" can be seen as less of a person. This criticism comes from a common class of people who view academic accomplishment as the primary thing that makes a person valuable. This book is an excellent antidote for that felonious idea.

It's also a rather profound contribution to philosophical conversation, as Professor Deneen explains here. Check out Front Porch Republic's symposium for a greater appreciation of this interesting book.


Kudos to Rep. Christopher Smith

A New Jersey representative was on the floor of the House last night clearly and passionately articulating the connection between state-funded health care and state-funded abortions. Sure, the House was empty and he was talking to two other Representatives. His arguments were no less compelling.

The number of abortions will dramatically increase under the coming state-controlled health care plan. This is something we need to amplify for public consideration; especially to those of a religious mindset who may be inclined to favor state-enforced health care.

I hope to find a video soon; let me know if you do!


the unique genius of the American political Constitution

A former Professor of mine is currently contributing to a blog which seems to be an effort to recover the uniqueness and greatness of American republicanism in the minds of its readers. It comes highly recommended. Click here to check it out.

Here is a taste:
For Machiavelli, and those won over by his lively political philosophy, politics was and always has been a struggle for importance between the haves and the have nots. Moving forward, the haves would be granted a higher designation as long as they kept the have nots “satisfied and stupefied” with bread and circuses. The have nots should not expect to rule but should happily accept a pleasant form of mediocrity in which their patrimony was made secure. In essence, everyone was a have and a have not in Machiavelli’s schema.

If one accepts the premise that the American founders understood the creation of the American republic as simply another chapter in this Machiavellian novel on politics, than it is possible to imagine that we are as republican now as we were then, that leaders and led have always enjoyed a symbiotic relationship at the expense of liberty.

But part of what we are attempting to show on this blog is that American republicanism (referenced in Tuesday’s posting in John Adams’ definition of a political body in which leaders and led ascribe to an empire of laws rather than an empire of men) is a different species of republicanism than Machiavellian republicanism. While American republicanism is challenged by the lingering effect of Machiavelli’s reformulation of politics, it is not beyond our reach as Americans to re-acquire the knowledge and sentiments that first gave it life. We’re not where we need to be because these timeless principles are covered in muck and mire. Yet we’re not completely lost because these timeless principles are.

Firing Line Reflections, Pt. 1 - Malcom Muggeridge

Thank you all for your well wishes! My new wife and I have returned from our Caribbean excursion and have settled into our new apartment.

We received as a Wedding gift episodes of William F. Buckley's the Firing Line. And within the first episode we watched we have already been able to extract something immensely useful. WFB is talking to Malcolm Muggeridge, a rather confused European intellectual who calls himself a man of the left. Within the course of the episode, they begin discussing the usefulness of the Christian gospels, and of the appeal of religion without dogma. In this context, Muggeridge brings up an interesting proposition for WFB to consider. He asks him to recall Christ's temptation in the wilderness, when the Devil offers him the Kingdoms of the Earth.

The point Muggleridge is making is actually quite profound, despite his total incoherence in almost everything else. I will let him speak for himself:
"Let's take what is the most fascinating thing: that temptation in the wilderness, when the Devil offered Christ the kingdoms of the earth. He wouldn't take them, of course (interestingly enough the kingdoms of the earth should be the Devil's gift, which I cordially approve of, cordially agree with.) Now you see from the point of view of the sort of Anglicans, other clergyman, and so on, that I am talking about, that was an act of madness. Christ should have accepted the kingdoms of the Earth, and he should have set up excellent socialist, egalitarian, forward-looking, welfare-creating, governments in them - and then mankind would have lived happily ever after. That's the view of the clergy today.
It seems to me that Mr. Muggeridge quite accurately describes the position of many Christians today who favor "immanetizing the Eschaton", so to speak. Our world is a fallen one; it will not be not so until it has all passed.

In other less somber tones, if you get a chance to see this episode of the Firing Line, titled "The Culture of the Left", I highly recommend it. Dissecting the muddled ideas of Mr. Muggeridge is worth many hours of entertainment.