Monday, October 31, 2011

Out of Eve's Shadow

Out from Eve’s Shadow
-How Eve impacted women

“Against the State, against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.”

-Margaret Sanger

“But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it.”

-Wisdom 2:24

Preface: Eve, Mary and Margaret

Against the Church, against men, against motherhood and against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, today’s voice of progressive feminism rails! Such was the message, such was the attitude and such was the spirit of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. And let there be no doubt, to varying degrees she was remarkably successful at transmitting envy and defiance against the institution of marriage, the family and the Church. The idea that women were and continue to be suppressed by the Catholic Church can be credited in no small part to Sanger’s propaganda.

Since history and sound theology enjoy little esteem in Western Civilization, pitting the Gospel against women has been advanced in our universities and public schools with relative ease. Nevertheless, there is a different story to tell. The plight of women begins with the real “First Lady,” that is, Eve, wife of Adam and mother of the human race. Because she yielded to the Serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, she merited a divine punishment that would not only burden her but it would cast a long shadow over her female descendants.

But when the Blessed Virgin was conceived in the womb of St. Anne a brighter day dawned. From that moment on the ancient pagan bonds, so oppressive to women, began to loosen. To be sure, Christ redeemed humanity at large but he used his own Mother in a particular way to elevate the status of women and in doing so, led them out of Eve’s shadow.

Part I: What Eve’s sin portended for women

1. Unending Tutelage:

In his book, Our Christian Heritage, published in 1889- just twenty five years before Margaret Sanger career got underway - James Cardinal Gibbons reminded Catholics of the Church’s role in elevating the status of women. He said, “In Ancient Greece, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, instrument of man’s passion.” Mind you, ancient Greece was indeed representative of women’s suppression in the pagan world. Gibbons continues: “Every impartial student of history is forced to admit that women are indebted to the Catholic religion for the elevated station she enjoys today in family and social life.”

Now, it is not the point of this post to elaborate on what is an overlooked historical fact: Women were second class citizens and were counted as having less dignity than men before the coming of Christ. Furthermore, during the Christian era, under the auspices of the Catholic Church, the social status of women significantly increased. This is why, during the first centuries of the Christianity, new converts were comprised mostly of women as opposed to men. Oh yes! Women came running to the Mother Church.

2. Her New Name:

After Eve, the social status of women rested in large part on her husband and her ability to produce children. Her dignity as an individual was overshadowed by Eve’s sin and the punishment due to that sin. As indicated, man in his fallen human nature exploited this to the max. Especially before the coming of Christ, Margaret Sanger’s antipathy toward men would have been understandable. No doubt, the female sex did not fare well. But no amount of protesting could have stopped the centuries of this exploitation. The remedy had to come from God himself. “For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands give healing.” (Job 5:18)

Eve was immaculately created. The name given to her before she offered the forbidden fruit to Adam was “Woman.” Adam said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." (Genesis 2:23) That’s right. Eve was originally given the name of “Woman.” At this point equality with Adam was hers. Indeed, she stood on equal footing with Adam. And as his companion, she was called to make up for his limitations by leading him closer to God. But this was not to be. Instead, she became an occasion of sin for him; thus leading him away from God and closer to the Serpent.

God often punishes us with the very things by which we sin. To make a long story short, the Serpent offered the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This, of course, was forbidden by God. The Woman consumed the fruit and then offered to Adam. As such, she became a mediator (or mediatrix) between the Evil One and mankind. Instead of building up and perfecting her husband she became a source of sin and untold evil. As for Adam, he had plenty to account for. But as a consequence of her role in introducing sin into the world the Woman was renamed. New names given by God, Adam or Jesus himself always carry with it a new status. The Woman was then renamed “Eve” by Adam. “The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20) With this, it was a man Eve enticed to sin and it was a man that was God’s instrument in punishing her.

3. He Shall Be Your Master:

After the Sin, God lined up Adam, Eve and the Serpent in order to mete out their respective punishments. Adam received his punishment as well as the Serpent. “To the woman he said: ‘I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.’” (Genesis 3:16) Eve was the first causality of her own sin; this, among a very long lineage of females. What began as a spiritual and moral tragedy in the Garden of Eden developed into a social and political burden for women all over the world. The Old Testament world (here, I mean world history before Christ) was a man’s world. As Cardinal Gibbons suggested, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, and instrument under man’s dominion. In virtually every and nation in every era women were second class citizens. To a large degree, her worth was dependent upon his choosing and whim.

4. The Curse of Motherhood:

The curse of motherhood? I thought being a mother is a blessing in the eyes of God! It certain is! However, being defined exclusively by what we do or by the role we play can be a curse. Eve was first given the name of “Woman,” the stress being on her individuality and one who was on equal footing with Adam. The name of “Eve,” on the other hand, stresses her maternal vocation. Now, being identified as a mother is a blessing if it is one of many characteristics she possesses i.e. daughter of God, individual, spouse, worker etc. However, to emphasize one characteristic or role at the expense of all the rest is a curse. In the Old Testament, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit, there was an imbalance and a disproportionate emphasis on a woman's duty to produce children.

Do you remember what Jesus said? He taught that in heaven we are not going to be spouses and parents so much as we are brothers and sisters. In eternity, many of our roles will cease to exist. And as for our earthly existence, the maternal of role of mother is indeed active while her children are young. But this function eventually takes a back seat to other roles for her as they get old and move out of the house. When she becomes an empty-nester, her individuality comes to the fore and other roles can be more easily expressed.

With that said, the name “Eve” suggests that her main identity was that of a mother. Indeed, the relationship that defined her was that with her children and not with her husband. To emphasize once again, no longer was her name “Woman,” the wife of Adam but rather “Eve” the mother of Cain, Abel, Seth as well as the rest of her children. Imagine if a man always introduced his wife as the mother of his children and not his wife or “other half.” No doubt, she would feel chagrined. Although her love for her children may not be questioned there would still be a rebellion aroused in her soul at the suggestion that she is a mother first and a wife second. Or imagine if women were primarily valued as mothers and their importance was determined by the number of children she had. Such a value system does not fare well for barren women, widows or even little girls (girls would only have the potential of worth).

Widows in the ancient world were quite often abandoned, barren women disgraced and female infants aborted or killed through infanticide. A letter written by Hilarion to his pregnant to his wife Alis in the year 1 B.C. included this admonition: “If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it!”

“He shall be your master” are words that marked that left deep wounds upon the female gender. This was the world before Christ.

In brief, we cannot forget childbearing pains. “The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.’" (Genesis 4:1) But for every new life that comes into this world the mother will have to suffer. The words, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing” have echoed throughout time. Sex would come at a higher price for women than for men. Perhaps, this is why for women sex is more personal and more integrated with life than for a man. Men can afford to compartmentalize sex. But women cannot.

However, men got theirs (i.e. pay back) when God required Abraham and every male of the Old Covenant to be circumcised. Mind you, for grown men this was a painful procedure which resulted in a flu-like sickness for two or three days. The Lord has his way of evening the score.

5. Plight of Women Symbolized

The Law of Moses required parents to present their new born child with an animal sacrifice to God forty days after his or her birth. But the prescribed ritual was different for female infants than for male infants. He said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period. On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy's foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled. If she gives birth to a girl, for fourteen days she shall be as unclean as at her menstruation, after which she shall spend sixty-six days in becoming purified of her blood." (Leviticus 12:1-5) The mother was to be unclean and was to purify herself twice as long for a female infant than for a male infant. Now, does this suggest that God loves female infants any less than male infants? Certainly not! It was to symbolize the plight of females before the New Covenant.

Sarah, wife of Abraham, Rachael, wife of Jacob, Hannah, mother of Samuel and so many women lamented to the Lord about the disgrace of being barren. Indeed, they cried out to heaven. Even St. Elizabeth, after she conceived St. John the Baptist, expressed her relief. She said, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others." (Luke 1:25) Where did this disgrace come from? We can trace it back to Eve.

The answer to the four thousand year suppression of women would not come from political or social measures. The protest of angry women, much like Margaret Sanger’s feminist movement, would prove quite insufficient. Before the Light of Christ would shine the Morning Star, as St. Louis de Montfort called her, would shimmer in the darkness. Centuries before Christmas night, the following passage from the book of Wisdom pointed to a new beginning: “Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.” (Wisdom 3:13)

Please scroll down for part II: Mary as the new beginning for women and how the Church elevated the status of women

Out of Eve's Shadow II

“If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it!”

-Letter from Hilarion to his to his wife Alis. 1 B.C.

“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

-Margaret Sanger

Part II: What Mary Meant for Women

1. Mary: The New Beginning

At the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, there is a long lineage of our Lord’s ancestors. Among all of the fathers and sons listed, the names of five women appear: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba) and Mary. The four women that precede Mary all have been marked by some imperfection. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes, Ruth was a Gentile and Bathsheba was an adulteress. Out of the five women, only the Blessed Virgin Mary was found to be “full of grace,” that is, without any mark of imperfection. Implied in Matthew’s Gospel genealogy is that with Mary there would be a new beginning; not just for humanity at large but for women in particular.

As God, Jesus Christ would have the opportunity to create his own mother. Taken on her flesh and dwelling within her womb, it is Catholic teaching that he created immaculately as he did Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Scripture, there are allusions to this effect. When God pronounced his sentence upon the Serpent, he included this promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman refers to Mary and God had put enmity between her and Satan. Enmity, of course, means having nothing to do with; a total separation. Hence, a chasm would exist between the Blessed Virgin and all contagion of evil.. Indeed, she would be the first person, the first woman conceived outside of Eve’s shadow. In her Immaculate Conception it was if God had taken the womb of St. Anne, Mary’s mother, outside of Eve’s shadow so as to create Mary, the Mother of God, in the brightest of lights. Perhaps, this is why the angel Gabriel declared her to be “full of grace.” Perhaps, this is why St. John, author of the book of Revelation, saw her as being “clothed with the sun.”

The Son of God would use this special creation of his to not only save souls but to restore dignity and status of women. Immediately after having conceived Jesus, Mary went in haste to assist her relative St. Elizabeth in her last three months of pregnancy. Through her greeting, the first graces of the New Covenant given and inspired by the Holy Spirit “Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” (Luke 1:42) Isn’t it interesting that St. Elizabeth did not say, “Blessed are you among all people?” This would have been a true statement. But she said “blessed are you among women.” This is as if to say, “Blessed are you among Eve and all of her descendants. Yes, among all women who toiled under Eve’s shadow.”

Isn’t it also interesting that St. Elizabeth added, “…and blessed is the fruit of your womb. She could have said, “…and blessed is baby Jesus” or “…and blessed be the child in your womb.” But no, she referred to the unborn Messiah as the “fruit” of her womb. Kind of an odd thing to say! As far as I know, it is not a common expression of among the ancient Jews. The term “fruit,” however, hearkens back to the fruit Eve gave Adam. With the Incarnation, it is Mary who offers the fruit to the Son of God in that she gave him her flesh. She also offers it to the world. The flesh and blood of Christ would be like grapes crushed in the wine-press of suffering. The fruit of the vine, namely wine, would then be consecrated into the blood of Christ at every altar throughout the world.

Jesus referred to his Mother as Woman. This was not out of any disrespect at all. After all, he fulfilled the fourth commandment perfectly. But his mother Mary was to fulfill what Eve lost and that is the dignity and status of being a daughter of God the Father as well as his exclusive possession. Mary was not only the daughter of God but she was a Mother and Virgin at the same time. In Genesis 3: 15, when God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers,” there are some translations which render “offspring” as seed. This was a common translation up until recently. As you know, women do not have seeds. Men do. The seed of Mary seems to prefigure the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. She would be fruitful without the intervention of a man. A kind of independence from man is communicated here. Whereas before men bestowed dignity and social worth to women in the Old Testament. With the Blessed Virgin, it is God taking that initiative. Indeed, what seems so theological and dogmatic, at times unrelated to the real world, had social and political implications for women.

In his public ministry, Jesus had women disciples. His healing and defense of women, both the infirmed and sinners alike, was but an expression and continuation of Mary’s conception outside of Eve’s shadow. It was becoming more evident that the chains had been broken.

2. Women’s New Status:

In the Christian era, women were no longer deemed worthy only through their maternity and dependence on men. Keep in mind that even within Judaism women could be divorced on whim, widows were often left to fend for themselves and women not allowed to those inner precincts of the Jewish Temple. Even up to the time of Christ’s birth, as we have seen, social disgrace was associated with being barren; but not so for a man.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church in those early years inspired vocations for consecrated virgins; now better known as Sisters and Nuns. In fact, St. Paul encouraged women to belong fully to God outside of marriage. He said, “Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do… An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit…She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is…”

St. Paul mentions Christian women, spouses of Christ, who made “their first pledge.” (I Timothy 5:3) This was a pledge of total dedication to the Lord. And as for widows, they were to be given special honor. Both St. James and St. Paul exhort the early Christians to take care of widows. This was the mark of “true religion.” “Honor widows who are truly widows,” said St. Paul, “…Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once…”

And as for married women, husbands were to look upon them as Christ did for his Church. Married men were to love their wives as his own flesh. The two, in Christ’s covenant, would become one. Such a union could not be dispensed with on whim. To be sure, the indissolubility of marriage would serve as a benefactor for women for centuries to come. Leaving his wife out in the cold, as was common place in the pagan world, the husband would to have to answer for it: first to the Church and then to God. As a Christian man it was his sacred obligation to protect, cherish and even die for his wife if need be.

As for motherhood, St. Paul taught that what once was a curse, namely, labor pangs and being valued exclusively as a mother would be an instrument of her sanctification, perfection and salvation. As the Apostle wrote to St. Timothy: “She will be saved through motherhood…” (I Timothy 2:15) All of this was made possible by Christ through the instrumentation of Mary.

3. The Real Benefactor of Women:

So there you have it! Eve, the mother of the living, had cast a long shadow over women for centuries to come. The creation of Mary, the Mother of God, was God’s way of binding up and healing the wounds of womanhood.

As for today, modern day feminism claims to be for women. But it is not. It is for liberal or secular women if only they are politically useful. As for the woman or female as such, the feminist ideology has little to offer and its followers have proven to be quite selective as to who they help. More often than not, feminism champions the liberal politician or celebrity. But females in the womb and women who do not subscribe to the feminist ideology have to fend for themselves. No doubt, the campaign for women’s equality had yield good results in the last century. For instance, a woman getting the same pay as a man for the same work has been a worthy goal. The playing field is still not as equitable as it can be.

Nevertheless, what Margaret Sanger’s feminism did was to promise women political and social liberation at the expense of her marriage, her family and her faith. “Against the State,” she exclaimed, “against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.” She declared war on those “dead” institutions that elevated her station in society and protected her against the lustful and political whims of men. The women of today, like those under Eve’s shadow, bear a heavy burden. Being a stay-at-home mother is frowned upon. Fidelity to husbands and persevering through difficult marriages is both undermined in our entertainment, in our education and in our courtrooms. But relationships make up for a good part of a woman’s life. If this is not saved, nothing is saved for her.

Who is the real benefactor of women in our world? The fact is that the Catholic Church celebrates saintly women throughout the liturgical calendar. Catholics celebrate and remember female heroine in their worship, readings and imitation. What other religion, ideology or institution does this? Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is among the greatest devotions of the Church. Second to God, second to Christ, she is given honor. And it is through her maternal love that women are conformed into the image of Christ.

Margaret Sanger’s feminism has given women the illusion of power but has left her female followers destitute. This ideology has led them right back into Eve’s shadow, which still exists. With that said, Mary, also known as our Lady of Fatima, said that her Immaculate Heart will triumph. Eve’s shadow will be forever dispelled and with Christ, Mary will win.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Intolerance: The Foundation of all Stability

"Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”

-Fulton Sheen, 1931

"Intolerance: The Foundation of all Stability" is a revised and appended version of an earlier post from April of 2011. With all of the protests that are transpiring around the world, even in our country, the truths addressed by Jacques Maritain and Fulton Sheen decades ago are quite relevant today.


Intolerance of evil is the best preventative measure for the intolerance of good. Riots, narcissism and dictatorships arise from decades of tolerating too much evil. But the problem in our society is that we do not know what to tolerate and what not to tolerate.

It is a sad reality of fallen human nature to have an “either-or” approach to life; that is, to embrace something at the expense of something else. We forget that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to juggle opposites; to keep love and hate in their proper tension without totally doing away with one or the other. This is one of the benefits of being Christian and one of the advantages of a Christian society.

Jacques Maritain, a convert from Atheism to the Catholic Faith, had an interesting insight to how people love and hate wrongly.

Take for instance the bigot. Maritain said that the bigot gets off to a good start by hating the sin. So far so good! However, the bigot errs by taking his hatred for the sin and then transfers it to the sinner. He thus ends up hating both. This is not good because it is a sin not to love our neighbor!

The liberal, he continued to say, has the opposite problem. The liberal gets off to a good start by loving the sinner. So far so good! However, he takes his love for the sinner and ends up embracing or loving the sin. As such, he ends up loving both. This is not good because loving the sin (or accepting it in the name of compassion) is contrary to the love our neighbor. After all, sin enslaves and completely undermines our neighbor’s happiness. In the former case, people suffer from the wrong kind of intolerance; in the latter, the wrong kind of tolerance.

The world is riddled with these two problems. But Christ teaches us a different way: We are to love the sinner and hate the sin. In our culture, we forget that the genuineness and intensity of love is dependent upon our willingness to hate sin. A parent who is overly tolerant of his or her child’s unruly or dangerous behavior is lacking in the fundamental duty of parental and Christian love. In society, this can be expressed in “accepting people for who they are.” What this often translates into is tolerating sinful behaviors and lifestyles.

Homosexuality, for instance, began to be tolerated in society in 1973 with the DSM-R III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association). At that time it was removed from the DSM-R III and no longer diagnosed as a disorder. Nearly forty years later, however, to publicly disapprove of homosexuality or same-sex marriage is to run the risk of being censured by the media or likelihood of paying a price corporately by losing one's job. To be sure, many political powers that be are on the threshold of legislating that criticism of homosexuality is a hate crime.

This kind of tolerance is nothing less than confusing license (the freedom to do what we want to do) with liberty (the freedom to do what we ought to do). As Pope Leo XIII said over a century ago, what license gains, liberty loses; that is, to the degree immoral acts are tolerated, we lose the liberty to pursue justice and goodness. But why is that? Because license is an indiscriminate or imprudent form of tolerance. In accepting immoral values, it ceases to acknowledge proper standards and boundaries.

However, this can work the other way too. The flipside of acceptance is rejection. And if license goes too far in accepting that which is evil, it will go too far in rejecting the good. The violation of human rights, private property rights and religious liberty proceeds from the spirit of license. Indeed, a liberal tolerance of any value or lifestyle is but the groundwork for a dictatorial intolerance.

Pope Benedict XVI called this kind of intolerance "The Dictatorship of Relativism." It is a kind of dictatorship that masquerades as being principled. But nothing could be further from the truth! It's coercive and repressive measures are subjective in that they are based on likes, dislikes and expediency. Vladimir Solovyov, an 18th century Russian philosopher and convert to the Catholic Faith, reminded his fellow countrymen (before the Russian Revolution of 1917) that when government is inspired by the instinct of "I want..." or “Mine!” then there are no limits to political power. All boundaries are erased. Unfortunately, the Russian people learned the hard way during much of the twentieth century. And it may be that Americans will have to learn from experience in the twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, in 1931 Fulton Sheen raised his prophetic voice and warned Americans, including Catholics, of the sin of tolerance:

“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance - it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded…

Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil ... a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons ... never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error...

Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”

Recovering this balance between loving the sinner and hating the sin is, in part, the task that the New Evangelization will have to undergo if it is to effectively reverse the tide of Secularism. Either we passionately love souls by becoming unapologetically intolerant of sin, error and the prejudices of our century, or Secular minded people will become intolerant of us. The latter has already manifested itself and as for the former, it is never too late to try. Christ did it! The Apostles did it! The Fathers, Doctors and Martyrs of the Church did it! And the Saints did it! Therefore, we should do it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Excerpts: The Priest and the New Age

Excertps is a feature of Sky View which posts excerpts from old and forgotten books. There is so much penetrating insight that writers from the nineteenth and early twentieth century offer to our day and age. Below is an excerpt from "The Doctrinal Mission and Apostolate of St. Therese of Lisieux" by Benedict Williamson. Published in 1932.

"Before very long we priests of the older generation must give place to those of the new, to the young priests who are raised to the altar in these days to fill the place in the battle-line which we leave vacant...

The world which they must encounter differs in the most fundamental manner from that which we have faced: we have seen the beginning of the revolt, they must face it in all its fury. Hitherto when men sinned they recognized it as sin, and never for a moment pretended it was virtue. There have been great sinners in the past but they never posed as great saints. A man highly placed and powerful sinned desperately, defied God and his Church, violated every law human and divine, sinned to the last extremity and gloried in it and in his contempt for every virtue, but he never pretended it was anything but sin. At times such a one after a life of indescribable wickedness would repent as thoroughly as he had sinned, and embrace a life of penitential austerity not less frightening than his sin. But the neo-Pagan of today indulges lust and sensual passion to the full and calls it virtue. The whole difference between the old and the new lies here."

God's Two Different Moods: Old and New Testament

God's Two Different Moods: Old and New Testament

Why God behaves different before and after the coming of his Son

Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.

He began to teach them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

-Matthew 5: 1-12, 17-18


Have you ever wondered why the moral law in the Old Testament differs from the moral law in the New Testament? The Sermon on the Mount, that is, Christ’s teaching on the Beatitudes, is different in its delivery and its emphasis. Many Christians over the years have been quite perplexed over God’s severe actions towards his people and sinners alike as opposed to the clemency he exhibits in the New Testament. Marcion, a second century heretic, even taught that the God of the Old Testament was different than the God of the New Testament.

To Fulfill Not Abolish:

To begin with, Jesus made it clear that the Old and the New Law are not opposed to each other. In fact, the former is fulfilled by the latter. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Jesus fulfilled the law because he lived out his life in the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the Spirit of God dwelling within him, inspired every one of his thoughts, words and deeds. Our Lord perfectly conformed to the will of his Father by means of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah foretold this when he said, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” However, prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the human race, as a rule, was devoid of these divine gifts.. Indeed, man was at the mercy of his own human frailty.

The Spirit Withdrawals: Everything Changes

Before God flooded the earth- even after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit -his Spirit had abided with mankind. But the descendants of Seth (God's faithful) had relations with women who belonged to the tribe of Cain (the unfaithful), known as the “Daughters of Men,” (Gen. 6:4). It was this act of infidelity on the part of Seth's tribe that moved the Lord to punish humanity and baptize the world, as it were, with forty days and forty nights of rain. As the story goes, God’s favor fell upon Noah and his family; and the rest is history. But even more important than the flood itself was the withdrawal of his Spirit. He said, “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh.” Upon the departure of his Spirit, knowledge of God, the spiritual gifts, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and that mark of civility which characterized Christian civilization centuries later would be scarce in the Old Testament world.

After exiting the ark, the Lord established a covenant with Noah. But the world would not be the same as when the Lord had walked side by side with Enoch. No. The new rules that were to govern mankind resembled what Charles Darwin coined as “the survival of the fittest.” Indeed, God inaugurated an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” policy; murder would be met with the death penalty; instead of living on plants alone, man would eat animal flesh; and in the post-flood world animals would become ill-disposed towards humans through fear.

The main point to keep in mind is that from the flood onward, the standard of morality lowered considerably. For instance, God never approved but nevertheless condoned polygamy and concubinage among his servants such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David. Warfare was brutal, capital punishment merciless, and divine punishment was severe and even dramatic at times. Human beings without God's Spirit were like little children who did not understand a well-reasoned argument as to why certain things were morally good or evil. Like a spoiled and unruly child, they were only able to appreciate the impact of God's heavy hand against their backside.

New Religion: Harsh and Exact

The Hebrew religion with all the prescribed rituals would have to appeal to the senses, that is, it was physical in nature and its observances had to be exact. All this was to symbolize man's lot in relation to God. To be sure, the Lord had not abandoned mankind completely but his fellowship with him was strained. In many ways, God assumed the role of a master instead of a Father. All this because the Sons of God (Seth's descendants) chose to marry the Daughters of Men (Cain's descendants); in so doing they signaled that their faith was secondary thereby taking a fateful step away from their Creator and Friend.

If, after reading the Old Testament, God seems severe and even caustic at times, it was because man had created this relationship. But God, who is a loving Father, did not let man wander too far off the path.

Some time had passed when the descendants of Noah and his three sons wanted to make a name for themselves by building the famous tower of Babel. This enterprise, however, was displeasing to the Lord. He subsequently intervened and divided humanity along ethnic lines into seventy-two nations. Confusing their language, God has prevented this enterprise from going forward.

It wasn't until Pentecost that the Holy Spirit once again descended upon humanity to restore both its moral power and fraternal unity. This would be realized only through Jesus' relationship with the Father; and this divine relationship would not only be revealed by the Spirit who binds them together but men, women and children alike would be invited to partake of this relationship.

Raising the Moral Standard:

With this backdrop in mind, the significance of the Sermon on the Mount can be better understood. Jesus fulfilled his Father's will with perfection; and he did this in the Spirit. Knowing that his followers would possess the same Holy Spirit he possessed, he would then elevate the demands of the moral law. In other words, he raised the bar and demanded more than what was previously demanded by God in the Old Testament. For instance, he said, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.'” Our Lord continued: “You have heard it said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

As opposed to the Mosaic Law, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, puts the emphasis first and foremost on a person's interior; that is, on his thoughts and desires. As the saying goes: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” But in the absence of God's presence in the soul, the Mosaic Law was powerless to restore morality. It was an exterior system of rituals which had more symbolic value than anything else. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new spiritual order would be forthcoming.

Beyond Mere Obedience and Imitation:

The prophet Ezekiel prophesied the following: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” Jesus came to fulfill this passage from the prophet Ezekiel through his public ministry, his death, his resurrection and the sending of his Spirit from heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, he raises the moral aim of his followers. With the impending infusion of the Holy Spirit into willing souls, Christians would be given a new moral power; as such, the demands of the moral law would be elevated.

It is important to understand that the new family of God- the New Israel -would not only be given a new law but would also have a divine model in which to imitate. Nevertheless, the observance of the moral law and the imitation of our Lord's example would prove to be insufficient. In the New Covenant, the people of God would be called to live the very life of Christ. The interior life of God- which is none other than the Holy Spirit -is communicated through the Sacraments. From this union with God, we can think with Christ and live as he did.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Into Thy Hands: The Making of Great Men

“It is not enough that the Bishop know nothing of evil of the ordained, but he must have positive evidence of his uprightness.”

-St. Alphonsus de Liguori

"If it should ever be impossible to maintain the present number, it is better to have a few good priests than a multitude of bad ones."

-The Lateran Council


Into Thy Hands: The Making of Great Men was Sky View's first series of posts in 2010. Due to its length I have divided it up into two sections. This piece was inspired by Fr. Antonio Rosmini's book entitled, Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church. It was published in 1832.

Certain messages need to be repeated. As such, I like to repost Rosmini's insights at least twice a year. He unearths pastoral priorities and practices of the Catholic Church in the first millennium which led to a robust evangelization and widespread conversions. Going into the second millennium, these biblically and patristic (i.e. Church Fathers) based pastoral standards resulted in a flourishing of cultural activity and innovation. Unfortunately, during the latter half of the twentieth century, the Church departed from these effective pastoral priorities and practices. Nevertheless, it is evident that a renewal is slowly underway in the Catholic Church. Indeed, there are sparks of hope.

Section I:

Millennial Imbalance of Canonized Popes:

Only great men can make great men. Great systems, great programs and great schools do not make great men.

Out of 265 popes, the majority of them have been good men and good leaders. Some prove to be great and only a handful turned out to be a real disappointment.

However, if one takes a look at the list of these 265 popes, one cannot help but notice something. If you were to divide the list of popes into two equal parts, you will see that the first half of this list is front-loaded with Saints; the second half contains just a few Saints.

For instance, in the first millennium of Christianity there were 74 canonized popes; popes who reached sainthood. In the second millennium, however, there were only 5 canonized popes. Out of all the popes of the first thousand years, about 54% of them were Saints (74 out of 139). In the second thousand years, however, there was a precipitous drop of saintly popes; a little over 4% of all the popes reached Sainthood (5 out of 119).

You might be asking: So what? The reasons behind the huge gap between the first and the second millennium popes will go a long way in explaining why the Catholic Church does not have the influence on civilization it once had.

Benedict's Question:

As a matter of fact, Pope Benedict XV in 1917 asked a very important question in his encyclical, On Preaching the Word. Indeed, many Catholics are asking this same question today: Why is it that the Church in the twentieth-century does not enjoy the same success as the Church in the first three or four centuries?

Great Men Led To Rapid Growth:

After all, Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D. with Christians only making up about 10% of the total population of the ancient world. Just 50-60 years later, Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. In just over 300 years, beginning with the Apostles, the Gospel spread like wildfire. The most powerful empire ever to exist went from suppressing Christianity and executing Christians to worshipping Christ and honoring the Saints. Soon thereafter a Christian civilization was born.

Pope Benedict XV goes on to remind us that Catholic Church in modern times possesses the same Sacraments, the same Gospel, and the same Holy Spirit as did the early Church. So, why do we have different results? Why is it that Christianity seems to be losing ground while Secularism appears to be making great strides?

The answer to this last question has a great deal to do with why the first thousand years of Christianity enjoyed so many popes who were Saints; popes who were truly great men!

Whatever can be said about the Popes of the last two millennia can be said of the Bishops and Priests as well. Like the father of a family, the Pontiff, the supreme head of the Catholic Church, quite often sets the tone for the rest of its members.

To ask the same question another way: What was it about the Popes of the second thousand years of Christianity that differed from their predecessors of the first thousand years?

Rosmini's 1832 Book:

A book published in 1832 titled, Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church,
points us in the right direction. It was written by a Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Antonio Rosmini. In his book, he unearths common pastoral practices of the early Church Fathers that had literally been forgotten. So novel (but yet so traditional) were his ideas that his book was censored by the Vatican. A year before his death, however, Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church was vindicated and no longer censored. Like most men ahead of their times, his ideas were treated with suspicion. With that said- and despite the opposition he merited from his book -he managed to win the favor of Pope Pius VIII, Gregory XVI and Pius XI.

The Original Seminary: Bishop's House

Arguably one of Fr. Rosmini’s most important points is this: “In the early ages of the Church, the Bishop’s house was the seminary of his priests and deacons.” He goes on to say the following:

• “It is to this system that we owe the eminent Pastors for whom the first six centuries of the Church were so remarkable. By means of this full and perfect system the sacred deposit of Divine and Apostolic doctrine was faithfully transmitted from one to another through informal and oral communication.”

• "They believed that the words of the Pastor, appointed by Christ to rule and teach the Church, derived a special and unique efficacy from the Divine Founder. This belief imparted supernatural life and energy to the doctrines taught, so that they made and indelible impression on men’s minds. As a result, there was a constant supply of great men…the Bishop of old diffused and reproduced himself in the young clergy, being to them teacher, pastor, and father; adding dignity to the compact body of the priesthood, and securing a healthy influence over the people."

Christ personally formed his Apostles not only by preaching and giving instruction but through informal conversations and spending time with them. During his three year public ministry Jesus did not rely on formal and systematic education. He did not send his disciples off to school. He took the responsibility upon himself to make them into his own image.

So that his Apostles and their successors could do the same, Christ conferred on them a special power. This power is none other than the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The fullness of this sacrament resided in the Apostles but was then transmitted to the Bishops. With this power, the Bishop not only to educated in the first several centuries, but he personally inspired, formed and guided his seminarians and priests. Truly, his house was the seminary!

Unfortunately, this responsibility of the Bishop ended up being delegated to other priests and professors towards the end of the first millennium. Seminaries and universities eventually took over what the Bishop used to do. Hence, the Bishop, who is endowed to form hearts and minds with the full force of Holy Orders, became less of a factor in this process of raising the next generation of priests. “The constant supply of great men” began to wane.

Section II

Holiness: Not Optional but Required

The second compelling point worth noting from Fr. Antonio Rosmini’s book, Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church, was that the standard for choosing priests and Bishops was one of knowledge and holiness; the emphasis being on holiness. This was the criteria used in the first centuries of the Church. “It may be truly said,” Rosmini writes, “that knowledge sprang from holiness, since the former was sought solely out of love to the latter; knowledge was sought after so far as it was essential to holiness, and no other knowledge was desired.” That’s right! Knowledge was to be sought for the sake of holiness. And holiness, in return, was a source of knowing God and his will.

In a letter to St. Timothy, who himself was a young Bishop, St. Paul reminds him to aim high in choosing Bishops. He writes, “A Bishop must be irreproachable.” That is, he must be blameless or faultless. This is a high standard. And only a holy Bishop can measure up to it. Such Bishops would be responsible for reproducing great men.

After the Apostles died, saintly Bishops known as the Fathers of the Church carried on the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. They were consumed with the desire to glorify God and to proclaim Christ-crucified to as many people as possible. In discerning the right men for the priesthood, the high standard of holiness continued to be the overriding requirement for new candidates. The Fathers of the Church understood that furthering the kingdom of God depended on it! Perhaps this can explain why, out of the first 50 popes, 48 of them were Saints.

Laying on of Hands: A Serious Matter

Centuries later St. Thomas Aquinas confirmed the standard of the early Fathers: “Holiness must come before Holy Orders.” Holiness is not just an absence of evil, it is something positive. Indeed, there are specific virtues, orthodox beliefs, and sound temperament to look for in a candidate. As St. Alphonsus de Liguori said, “It is not enough that the Bishop know nothing of evil of the ordained, but he must have positive evidence of his uprightness.”

So serious was this obligation of selecting the right candidate for the priesthood (and episcopate) that not a few Church Fathers claimed that the one who did the ordaining would have to answer for the sins of the ordained. In other words, choosing an unworthy priest or Bishop could not be chalked up to an administrative error, but it is something that would have spiritual consequences for the ordainer.

For instance, the fifth-century pope, St. Leo the Great, wrote the following to his bishops: “To impose hands lightly is to confer the sacerdotal dignity on persons not sufficiently approved: before maturity in age, before merit of obedience, before a time of testing, before trail of knowledge, is to be a partaker of other men’s sins and for the ordainer to become as unworthy as the unworthy man whom he ordains.” St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Father of the Church himself, reinforces this standard in the same century: “You who have conferred the dignity upon him must take the responsibility of both his past and his future sins.”

Off and on, over the centuries, this standard of holiness was relaxed for various reasons; but at a great cost. It took courageous reforming popes like St. Gregory the Great, St. Gregory VII and St, Pius V to insist that holiness be the most important criterion in determining Bishops and priests.

The Crisis: Evidence of a Departure

We are at a time in our Church’s history which calls for the renewed emphasis on holiness for seminarians, priests and Bishops. In the last 40-50 years, the Catholic population has nearly doubled but the number of priests has decreased considerably. In an article, State of the US Catholic Church at the Beginning of 2006, Fr. John McCloskey provides statistics to this effect:

- In 1965, at the end of the Council, there were 58,000 priests. Now there are 41,000

- In 1965, 1,575 new priests were ordained. In 2005, the number was 454, a decrease of more than two-thirds — and remember that the Catholic population in the US increased during these years from 45.6 million in 1965 to the 64.8 million of 2005, a rise of almost 50%.

- Between 1965 and 2005, the number of seminarians fell from 50,000 (some 42,000 of which were high school and college seminarians, while another 8000 or so were graduate seminarians) to today's approximate 5000, a decline of 90%.

The low number of seminarians and priests in the West is not the only indicator which calls for a new way of doing things at our seminaries and dioceses. Sadly, the priestly scandals, which were such a major source of shame for the U.S. Catholic Church in 2002, reared their ugly head in Europe just a few years ago. If there is any evidence that holiness has not been the highest priority in forming seminarians and in choosing priests, it is the scandalous misuse of the office of the priesthood and the toleration of that misuse. But like no other institution, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, especially in America, has begun the process of correcting past mistakes over the last decade; although much has yet to be done.

From this same crisis another challenge to the priesthood is making itself felt in a big way: And that is the increased responsibility of the parish priest. Young priests, not too long after being ordained, are becoming pastors of parishes in short order. A rector of a seminary informed me that the crisis of priestly vocations will peak in about ten years (around the year 2020). It will not be at all uncommon for your average priest to pastor two parishes. Even now, numerous are the reports from newly ordained priests of their overwhelming work load.

The Resilience of the Church:

If I can proffer some good news it is this: The Catholic Church, unlike other institutions, has the ability to renew itself. On the other hand, every single nation and every single institution has a mortality rate. Each one will pass away. But the Catholic Church is immortal; her very nature defies death; as such, she will endure until the end of time. Quite often throughout history, the Church looked mortally wounded. Indeed, her enemies were too quick to write her obituary. But new life was infused into her.

With all the discouraging news and setbacks we have experienced, I believe, nevertheless, that God is doing a new thing: He is awakening the Catholic Church; most notably, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. However, it is only when holiness comes before Holy Orders, as St. Thomas Aquinas said it must, that great men will multiply within the Church. When that happens, the Catholic Church will be that shining city on the hill, giving light to all the nations.

I would like to leave you with a memorable quote from Pope St. Pius X. He wrote this passage when boasting of Christ and his Church was not frowned upon. Just ten years before Europe would be ravished by World War I and just as the secular age was making itself felt, he said,

"Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here to-day radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross. Men powerful in the world have risen up against her. They have disappeared, and she remains."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phil Lawler: Spare us from Vatican economic analysts

Sky View Forward:

In the article Spare us from Vatican economic analysts, Phil Lawler does a fine job of illustrating the difference between Catholic clergy's competence in teaching on moral and faith-related principles and their prudential judgment on economic policies. The former is a charism infused by the Holy Spirit, while the latter relies on the expertise of economists. Recently, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released a statement prescribing very specific economic policies which reaches far beyond religious principle. To my disappointment, the advocacy by the Council appears to recommend an "international agency empowered to regulate financial markets." It seems to me that the Council's emphasis on State-regulations in the economic sphere is but a recycling of the same policies which is now plaguing the European Union.

In any case, Lawler makes an important contribution to Catholic social thought by arguing that economic analysis and advocating policy does not flow from the bishops prophetic anointinig to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, with the habit of the Catholic clergy overreaching into the realm of prudential judgment and policy, there is a danger that in the eyes of the public, bishops may lose their credibility where it counts most; that is, in matters of faith and morals.

Spare us from Vatican economic analysts
By Phil Lawler | October 25, 2011 8:28 AM

Courtesy of

The Catholic Church does not claim teaching authority on matters of economics and finance. When the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issues a statement on the world’s financial markets, faithful Catholics are not bound to accept the economic analysis it contains.

However, it would be rash and wrong to say that the Church should remain silent about economic questions. Economic decisions have their moral dimensions, on which the Church does have expertise and teaching authority. There are many lessons that financiers could learn from Church teaching: that neither majority votes nor marketplace decisions can settle moral questions; that utilitarian standards are inadequate to define the common good; that private property carries a “social mortgage”—those who own goods have a moral obligation to use them wisely; that the affluent have a duty to care for their brothers in need. Good points, all. Yes, the Church really does have lessons to teach the financial world. That’s why Catholic social teaching is important.

However, while economists are learning from the Vatican, perhaps the Vatican might learn a few lessons from economic analysts. Just for instance: that government does not create anything, and therefore does not have funds unless it obtains those funds from ordinary people: taxpayers; that the world’s financial system is currently endangered because of the soaring level of government debt; that regulatory agencies have an abysmal record of failure in protecting the public from market fluctuations, speculative bubbles, and even outright fraud—and it is only reasonable to expect that a worldwide authority would reproduce those failures on a global scale; that government interventions in the markets invariably produce unintended consequences, many of them deleterious; that government regulation invariably furnishes opportunities for powerful corporations to manipulate the market for their own purposes, to the detriment of the general welfare.

Those are the economic lessons. There are some political realities that the Vatican might eventually recognize, too. Say:that the UN, the World Bank, the European Union, and other international organizations are not friends of the Catholic Church, and probably never will be; that any international agency empowered to regulate financial markets will—following a pattern that is now well established—be exploited by social engineers to promote contraception, legal abortion, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage; that liberal politicians will gladly accept and exploit the Vatican’s statements on economic affairs, while continuing to work assiduously to promote the culture of death;

Oh, yes, and most important of all:

When an obscure Vatican agency issues a statement that contains 50% solid Catholic social teaching, and 50% flaky leftist theory, the world’s media will ignore the distinctively Catholic content—what the Church should say, what the world should learn—and concentrate exclusively on the leftist theory. So for the great mass of ordinary readers, who will never read the full document, but only scan the headlines, the important message will be lost. What will register, instead, is that the Vatican has not learned its lessons about economic affairs and political realities.

When people reach the conclusion that the Vatican is talking nonsense, they do not ordinarily distinguish between the sound fundamental principles of Church teaching and the questionable economic analysis that follows. Nor do they make fine distinctions on the different levels of Church teaching authority. They conclude simply that the Vatican talks nonsense. So by reaching beyond their field of expertise, Vatican officials undermine their own teaching authority.

Does anyone seriously believe that when the leaders of the G-20 economic powers gather next week in Cannes, whey will spend their time examining the Vatican’s plans for the recapitalization of troubled banks? Of course not. The world’s leaders have plenty of their own expert economists; they need not rely on analysis from Vatican dicasteries. If they think that the new Vatican document is just one more call for international economic regulation—along the lines of many other proposals they have already seen—they are likely to ignore the statement entirely, and thus miss the important messages that a terse Vatican document might have conveyed.

The moral of the story: If you want to promote Catholic social teaching, don’t wander beyond your expertise. Stick to moral principles, and leave economic analysis to the economists.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Unseen Seed

Inspired by the Scripture readings of October 25th

“Jesus said, ‘What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.’” (Luke 13: 18-19)

The parable of the mustard seed is normally taken to signify how the Church will have its humble beginning only to grow and sprout out throughout the earth. The foundation of the Church and the refuge it would serve for souls in search of God was a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy: “I saw a tree of great height at the center of the earth. It was large and strong, with its top touching the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth.” (4:7-8)

Yet, at the same time, the parable of the mustard seed as told by our Lord has a great deal of significance for the individual, especially the Saint, who has first died to himself in order to become something greater than himself. The Christian life of faith, love and virtue ends up becoming a place of refuge and rest for other souls just as a tree provides a place of rest for birds. Indeed, it is not he that attracts so many people to himself but rather it is Christ who lives within him that attracts. But in order for the Saint or Christian to be that living tabernacle, he or she must first die to self and be buried just as the mustard seed had to sink beneath the surface of the soil.

St. Ambrose, a Father and Doctor of the Church, said, “We should have a daily familiarity with death, a daily desire for death…It was by the death of one man that the world was redeemed. Christ did not need to die if he did not want to, but he did not look on death as something to be despised, something to be avoided, and he could have found no better means to save us than by dying. Thus his death is life for all.” In dying to self and giving up what we are, we get something better in return: We get Himself, that is, Christ. St. Paul said it best, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) It is no exaggeration to say that we barter with God: We get his Spirit and he gets our soul.

In this exchange, it is not only in acts of self-denial, spiritual sacrifices for souls and voluntary penances which death to self is brought about. It also the furnace of trials and the daily monotony of our duties- and the lack of fulfillment which follows –that is used by our Lord to prune and to purify. To willingly accept, out of love for God, anything ranging from a great loss to the petty but disagreeable circumstances which daily beset us is an occasion for great grace. And to be sure, every single Saint, at some point in their lives, felt completely abandoned by God and the promise of life. Whether it be death robbing us of a loved one, a lost job, marital stress or a deep depression, the irony of Divine Providence quite often uses the appearance of death to bring forth a renewed but higher form of life.

St. Clement, fourth bishop of Rome, uses the analogy of nature to bring this point home: “Day and night show us a resurrection; the night lies in sleep, day rises again; the day departs, night takes its place. Let us think about the harvest; how does the sowing take place, and in what manner? The sower goes out and casts each seed onto the ground. Dry and bare, they fall into the earth and decay. Then the greatness of the Lord’s providence raises them up again from decay, and out of one many are produced and yield fruit.”

How true! Whether it is a hopeless situation, a seed buried beneath the soil or a lifeless body of a loved one, the Almighty has a way of defying what we see or don’t see with our own eyes. Just as a seed in the ground is covered by soil and just as the barrenness of the surface gives no indication of new vegetation, the human condition is much the same way. Indeed, there are many layers to life. And frequently we glance at the top layer of life and we conclude that what we see is what we get. However, sometimes we don’t make the connection between content of our religious belief and the disappointments of life. For instance, most Christians regularly recite the following passage from the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” “All that is seen and unseen” is a passage that is so important! Why? Because it is from the unseen world- like a seed hidden beneath the surface –where the death-defying surge of life comes. It is the content of hope for any occasion which seems hopeless.

This couldn’t be any more applicable than in the case of death. The deceased body, of course, has the appearance of death. It is so convincing and so final that it understandably is the cause of many tears and grief. To be sure, death is emblematic of all the things that have gone wrong and could go wrong in life. It seems to have the last word as does misfortune itself. It seems so definite and irrefutable. But like that one little mustard seed there is a potency of life that escapes the senses. The human soul is one such potency.

“The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster, their leaving us, like annihilation, but they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3)

Not even the death of the human body can repress the soul. The just soul, as the book of Wisdom so beautifully states, defies in death itself by escaping into eternal happiness. If that be true, then no adversity should repress the hope that the Lord will resurrect something new and promising even from what appears to be a hopeless situation. And going even further, Jesus Christ will use your suffering and loss as an instrument of new life for others. As our Lord said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." (John 12:24)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What an Exorcist Can Teach an Evangelist

The Devil may, of course, win the battles, even important battles, but he will never win the war.

-Father Gabriel Amorth, Vatican's chief excorcist

Knowing the Truth:

Evangelization and exorcisms are two kindred missions of the Church. After all, Church-approved exorcisms are but a dramatic expression of the titanic but often unperceived struggle between grace and sin in every individual. But good triumphing over evil depends on first knowing the truth about this conflict.

Take for instance, The Rite, The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. These are movies that were inspired by true stories. Nevertheless, all three films were riddled with half-truths. In my opinion, none of them conveyed the clear sense that Christ won the battle. There lingered a kind of dreary overcast and a shadow at the end of each of these movies. From my vantage point, the victory of good over evil was neither decisive nor satisfying. The one rare exception to the rule is The Haunting in Connecticut; a well-done documentary by the Discovery Channel on a demon infested house that oppressed a family. These evil spirits were cast out by an Exorcism and a Mass in a convincing fashion. When the rite of exorcism was complete, it was as if light, peace and warmth permeated the house. Evil had been defeated. Christ had won just as he had in the Gospels so many times. And as for the family that had been oppressed for so many weeks, they had been finally liberated.

The Conflict of Exorcisms:

The Discovery documentary on the exorcism in Connecticut, as with any exorcism, is instructive for Catholic evangelists and teachers. Exorcism is a microcosm of how Christ restores what belongs to him in the Church’s day to day mission. Ushering in the kingdom of heaven quite often presupposes a conflict that involves causalities. After all, purging evil is offensive to both demons and men. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they are the aroma of Christ for those who are being saved but the odor of death for those who are perishing.

The exorcist, as well as the evangelist, must see through the hazards of the battle. To be sure, the reason is that with the eradication of evil there is opposition and resistance. But the failure to pull up evil from the roots is to endanger the seed of God from being firmly planted in the soil. Our Lord himself said to the Pharisees, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house…” Indeed, every rite of exorcism performed in his name is an act of plundering, tying up the strong man and casting him out. This must take place before the return of God’s peace and his grace either to a soul or to a house.

I Smell God:

This decisive victory in Connecticut reminds me of a story in what used to be my hometown. A young gentleman had attended a high school party where the Ouija Board was being played by a number of kids. It just so happened that this Ouija Board was pretty active that night. In fact, it was alleged that there was a spirit, if I remember correctly, by the name of "Sue" that they had supposedly contacted. This spirit said that she had died at age eight and began to reveal some other features of “her life on earth.” This is where the young gentlemen who told my family the story comes in. He had walked into the house and realized what was transpiring. Being well formed in the Catholic Faith he got a little concerned about the paranormal activity. He then went back into his car and retrieved his scapular (a necklace-like cloth piece which carries with it, our Lady's protection and our Lord's blessing) and put it on underneath his shirt. This, he did without telling anyone. He then proceeded back into the house. Lo and behold, the activity with the Ouija board abruptly stopped. Baffled over the abrupt silence, the teenagers petitioned the spirit why it had ceases to interact with them. The last words that were spelled out, supposedly from the once friendly spirit of “Sue,” was the following: “I smell God!” The Ouija board participants heard no more from Sue.

Prudence and the Criteria:

With every report of diabolic phenomenon, prudence must always accompany the discernment of its authenticity. It has been said that 80-90% of all cases that come before the Church have a natural explanation such as a psychological or physical disorder. But for those approved exorcisms, one or more of follow criteria must be met: bodily levitation, extraordinary strength, speaking foreign language or unfamiliar tongue or knowing things beyond the person’s natural capability, and demonstrating an aversion to sacramentals or to the name of Jesus and Mary. When a diabolic presence has been determined, an exorcist must approach the victim with a spirit of sacrifice and confidence. When the world’s leading Vatican exorcist, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, was asked if he was afraid of the devil, his response was: “Afraid of that beast? He’s the one who should be afraid of me because I work in the name of the Lord of the world. He is only an ape of God.”

The Attitude of an Exorcist:

In fact, 1952 rite of exorcism gives the following instructions: “Let the priest pronounce the exorcism in a commanding and authoritative voice, and at the same time with great confidence, humility, and fervor…with his intention fixed on God, whom he should entreat with firm faith and in all humility. And if he is all the more grievously tormented, he ought to bear this patiently, never doubting the divine assistance.” Every exorcist knows that the demons or the evil spirits will not willingly vacate. That is why the rite prescribes the following: “He [the priest] will pay attention as to what words in particular cause the evil spirits to tremble, repeating them the more frequently.” A real battle is anticipated. As such, the priest who engages in spiritual warfare of this nature cannot flinch if the victim soul is to be liberated.

Spiritual Pacifism:

But many Catholic clergy and laity are flinching. In some cases are not fighting the war all together. For instance, Fr. Gabriel Amorth lamented that “casting out demons” and “tying up the strong man” is simply not being done in many European countries. In a 2006 interview he said, “Before this new Rite came out, the German Episcopate wrote in a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger that there was no point in a new Rite in that exorcisms should no longer be performed.” The he goes on to report the following: “We have countries completely devoid of exorcists, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. This is a shameful shortfall.”

Exorcisms and Evangelization: Two Kindred Missions

What does the evangelist take away from the exorcist? The fact that exorcisms and evangelization are kindred missions is not to suggest that evangelists and teachers should go around issuing commands or put on an air of militancy. But there is a general lesson to take away from exorcisms. And the lesson is that preaching the Gospel is a kind of exorcism in that evil is purged as God’s goodness is ushered in. In practical terms, it could mean the Church calling people to repentance before admitting them to the Sacraments; or it could mean issuing a public reprimand or warning to politicians and other celebrities who publicly oppose Catholic principles; or it could mean for dioceses and parishes to get the right people on the bus (Catholics who embrace the fullness of Christ’s teachings) and getting the wrong people off of the bus (nominal Catholics). Keep in mind, the unity of minds, the uniformity of action and speaking with one voice depends on it!

With that said, many twenty-first century Catholics refuse to drive away demons and tie up the strong man both in their personal spiritual warfare and in their ministries. However, there are two problems with this: First, it is diametrically opposed to the Gospel. Second, it doesn’t work! It obviously doesn’t work with exorcisms. And it does not work with the Church’s pastoral practices and her mission to evangelize! In terms of the last five decades, the Church’s diminished influence on culture, of lower church attendance and of a fewer priestly and religious vocations seem to suggest this.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cardinal Merry del Val and His Litany of Humility

"Some are displeased with the physician who cures them by reproof, and are not angry with the man who wounds them by flattery." -St. Bernard

The Scripture is prevaded with the theme of humility. Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val composed a prayer he would recite after every Mass he celebrated called Litany of Humility. It is an irony of Divine Providence that he was chosen as Secretary of State by our last canonized pope- St. Pius X. Every day he would pray, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.” Yet the Lord rewarded him with a position of being the right hand man of a saintly pope. No one can outdo the Lord in generosity.

Cardinal Merry de Val, being of stature at the Vatican, did not think it beneath him to teach the Catholic Faith in the slums of Rome; for that is what he did. Like Pope St. Pius X, he was very generous to those in need. He would often slip money underneath the doors of poor households. For him, the State dignitary deserved no more of his attention than the street sweeper.

In dealing with opponents of the Church from without or modernist theologians from within, he did not flinch from confrontation or conflict. He saw himself as a “Watchman” of the Church; jealous for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.” (Ez 33:7)

Upon his death in 1930, he was found wearing a hair shirt. His penitential spirituality and the Litany of Humility he composed for himself, bore him abundant fruit. He was a man of God who was unmoved by honor and at peace with humiliations.

Following the death of St. Pius X, the Cardinal wrote a book called, The Memoirs of Pope Pius X. In it, he recounts that the adulation and deference that came with being a pope was a burden to St. Pius X. Indeed, for a Saint, such special treatment is a cross to be carried. Like the Lord, they avoid human praise so that they can merit the approbation of God.

Yet, many a youth today long to become famous; and when their dreams are realized, they become disillusioned with that fame. Yesterday people looked up to heroes, today they admire celebrities. For the first time in history, surveys of young people reveal that they prefer being famous more than being rich.

As for us, when we do not get the recognition we think we deserve, we get discouraged or saddened. Or when people find fault with us, we become indignant and lose our peace. As St. Gregory the Great said, "We have known many who, when no one accuses them, confess themselves sinners; but when they have been corrected for a fault, they endeavor with all their might to defend themselves, and to remove the imputation of guilt." Indeed, being silent when criticized is worth more to God than ten days of fasting. What is more paradoxical is that this same virtue which gives strength for keeping silent when criticized, is the same virtue which gives strength for speaking the truth when no one else will.

When the grace of God's humility is given the chance work within the soul, then true joy and happiness takes root and the foretaste of heaven begins. Honors and human applause lose their value; in place of that, the desire to please God grows stronger. There is something to be said for holy obscurity and exclusion; it leads to purification, and ironically, it brings true and lasting joy to the soul. Our Lord said as much in the Beatitudes.

Pray the Litany of Humility. You will find it to be repugnant to your pride, but if you should taste the deliverance for which you pray, you will enjoy a kind of freedom few people enjoy. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (II Cor. 3:17) And where freedom is, there is humility!

Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...

From the fear of being humiliated ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Humility is the foundation on which discipleship rests. Like Cardinal Merry de Val, St. John Baptist knew humility. Just as the public ministry of Jesus was beginning, St. John's mission was coming to an end. As our Lord was walking towards the horizon, St. John said, “He must increase while I must decrease.” This is the vocation of every follower of Christ. To the extent that we decrease, Jesus increases in us so as to give glory to God. But first we have to be pruned. That is, we must “put to death the parts of us that are earthly." (Colossians 3:5). And if we fail to do just that, God will compensate by sending us trials. There is no getting around the fact that liberation of spirit requires a kind of death to self.

The Litany of Humility, frequently prayed and meditated on, not only hastens a death to self but it gives greater expression to the life of Christ that dwells within us. Indeed, every Saint has been infused with the attitude, the virtue and the spirit which this litany invokes. It inspires a holy striving which is diametrically opposed to the worst instincts in our fallen human nature! And thanks to Cardinal Merry de Val, we have a spiritual aid known as the Litany of Humility.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vatican exorcist Amorth speaks on Satan's smoke

In preparing for an upcoming radio program, I came across an intervew with the world's leading expert on exorcism, Father Gabriel Amorth. He is Vatican's chief excorcist. A common theme that runs through many Sky View posts is the need among the followers of Christ to be "wise as serpents." This suggests that we are called to not only affirm and build upon the good, but also be vigilant against evil itself; and even denounce it when we see it.

Teachers of the Faith as well as evangelists have much to learn from exorcists. In fact, since the 1960's the Catholic Church from the highest levels down to the lowest levels have been influenced, at least in part, by the secular mentality which breeds a skepticism about Satan and hell. With this skepticism came a relaxing of our defenses against evil. You will learn by reading this interview by Stefano Maria Paci with Fr. Gabriel Amorth that exorcists were, at times, an endangered species. But lately they have made a come-back because the demand for exorcisms has increased.

Spero News publishes "The Smoke of Satan in the House of the Lord...and deliver us from the evil one," an interview with the Vatican's chief excorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth.

By Stefano Maria Paci

Twenty-nine years have passed since that day, June 29 1972. It was the Feast of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles. It was the Feast of Saint Paul who brought the Gospel of Christ to the extreme corners of the West. On that day, June 29, Feast of the Patron Saints of Rome, Peter’s successor who had taken the name of Paul issued a dramatic warning. Paul VI spoke of God’s enemy supreme, that enemy of man called Satan, enemy of the Church. “The smoke of Satan”, warned Paul VI, “has found its way into the Church through the fissures”. It was an anguished warning that caused great shock and scandal, even within the Catholic world.

And what of today, 29 years later? Has that smoke been dispersed or has it continued to drift? 30DAYS went to see the man who has to do with Satan and his cunning every day. It’s his job, almost. He is the world’s most famous exorcist – Father Gabriele Amorth, founder and honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists.

We also went to him because a few weeks ago, on May 15, the Italian Episcopal Conference approved the Italian translation of the new Rite of Exorcism. All it needs now for it to be used is the placet of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Is this a new weapon in the Church’s battle with the Enemy? Will it dispel, if it still hasn’t been dispelled, that smoke which has drifted into the temple of the Lord? Nothing of the kind, according to Father Amorth. He will tell us that the war being waged for millennia rages on more angrily than ever. That the battlefront has now moved inside the house of the Lord. That the smoke … the smoke has drifted in the most unsuspected directions. At long last, the

PACI: Italian translation of the new Rite of Exorcism is ready …

GABRIELE AMORTH: Yes, it is. Last year, the Italian Episcopal Conference could not approve it because there were errors in the translation from the Latin. We exorcists who would have to use it took advantage of this to point out yet again that we were not in agreement with the new Rite on many points. The original Latin text is unchanged in this translation. A Rite so long-awaited has turned out to be a joke, an incredible cord that is tying us in knots in our work against the Devil.

PACI: That’s a serious allegation. What, exactly, are you referring to?

AMORTH: I can give you two examples, two blatant examples. At Point 15, it talks of evil in the sense of the ‘evil eye’ and how we should conduct ourselves. The ‘evil eye’ is an evil directed at a person through the Devil. This can be done in various ways, in the form of spells, curses, by voodoo and macumba. The Roman Rite explained how this had to be addressed. The new Rite, by contrast, categorically states that it is prohibited to perform exorcisms in these cases. That is just absurd. This evildoing is by far the most frequent cause of demonic possession and other evils procured by the Devil – no fewer than 90 per cent. It’s like telling exorcists to retire. Then, Point 16 solemnly states that exorcisms must not be carried out unless the presence of the Devil is ascertained. This is a masterpiece of incompetence because we can only ascertain if the Devil is possessing a person by performing an exorcism. Moreover, the editors did not realize that, on both points, they were contradicting the Catechism of the Catholic Church which advises exorcism both in the case of demonic possession and of evils caused by the Devil. It also says this should be done in regard both to people and things. The Devil is never present in things, just his influence. The statements contained in the new Rite are very grave indeed and very harmful. They are the fruit of ignorance and inexperience.

PACI: But wasn’t it compiled by experts?

AMORTH: By no means, no. In these past ten years, two commissions have worked on the Rite – the Commission of Cardinals who edited the Prenotanda, or the initial dispositions, and the Commission in charge of the prayers. I can say with certainty that no member of either commission has ever performed an exorcism or witnessed one. No member has even the faintest idea of what an exorcism is. There lies the error, the original sin of this Rite. No one who assisted with it was an expert on exorcism.

PACI: How can that be?

AMORTH: Don’t ask me. During the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, every commission was assisted by a group of experts who worked alongside the bishops. This custom continued even after the Council every time parts of the Rite were reworked. But not in this case. And if ever there was an area where experts were needed it was this one.

PACI: So what happened then?

AMORTH: What happened was that we exorcists were never consulted. Furthermore, the suggestions we gave were received with a certain irritation on the part of the commissions. The whole thing really was paradoxical. Would you like me to tell you about it?

PACI: Certainly …

AMORTH: As the various parts of the Roman Rite were gradually being reviewed in keeping with the requests of the Second Vatican Council, we exorcists waited for Title XII to come up, the Rite of Exorcism. But it was evidently not considered a thing of relevance because years passed and nothing happened. Then suddenly, on June 4 1990, the ad interim Rite appeared to be tried out. It was a real surprise to us that we had not been consulted beforehand even though we had our requests all prepared well in advance of the revision of the Rite. We asked, for example, that the prayers be reviewed to include invocations to Our Lady that were completely lacking, and we asked for more specific prayers for exorcism. But we had been completely cut out. We were given no possibility of making any kind of contribution.

But we were not discouraged. After all, the text had been produced for us. And we got down to work; this also considering that in his letter of presentation the then Pre- fect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, asked Episcopal Conferences to let him have, within two years, their ‘advice and suggestions from the priests who will be using the Rite’. I convened 18 exorcists from among the world’s most expert. We scrupulously examined the text and used it. We immediately praised the first part reassuming the Gospel foundations for exorcism. That was the biblicaltheological area certainly not lacking in experts.

It was a new addition to the 1614 Rite, which had been composed under Pope Paul V. At that time, after all, it was not necessary to remind people of these principles. Everyone was familiar with them and accepted them. Today, this addition is vital. But when we got to the practical part in our scrutiny, the part that requires specific expertise, it was blatantly obvious that the editors had no experience at all. We made copious observations, article by article, and we submitted them to all parties concerned – the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Episcopal Conferences, A copy was also delivered directly into the hands of the Pope.

PACI: How were your observations received?

AMORTH: The reception was very cool indeed, and their effect null. We had drawn our inspiration from the Lumen gentium, which describes the Church as ‘People of God’. At Number 28, it speaks of the collaboration between priests and bishops and, at Number 37, it explicitly says – in relation to the laity, moreover – that ‘by reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have, the laity are empowered – indeed sometimes obliged – to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church’. That was our case exactly. But we had been ingenuously laboring under the illusion that the dispositions of Vatican II had reached the Roman Congregations. Instead, we found ourselves in front of a brick wall of rejection and scorn.

The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship said in a report to the Commission of Cardinal s that their only interlocutors had been bishops, not priests or exorcists. And he added in reference to our humble attempt to help as experts expressing their opinion: ‘We had to take account of the phenomenon of a group of exorcists and so-called demonologists who subsequently formed an international association and who orchestrated a campaign against the Rite’. This was an indecent accusation. We have never orchestrated any campaign. The Rite was designed for us and yet no competent person had been invited to join the commissions. Surely it was logical that we would have had a contribution to make.

PACI: Are you saying that the new Rite is useless in the struggle against the Devil ?

AMORTH: Yes. Their intention was to arm us with a blunt sword. Some effective prayers were cancelled, prayers with 12 centuries of history. New ineffective prayers were written in. But, luckily at the last minute, they threw us a lifeline.

PACI: What was that?

AMORTH: Cardinal Jorge Medina, the new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, accompanied the Rite with a Notification. It states that exorcists are obliged to use this Rite but may still use the old one if they wish, on lodging a prior request with the bishop. Bishops must then ask the Congregation for authorization, which the Congregation will ‘gladly provide’, the Cardinal writes.

PACI: Gladly provide? That’s a rather strange concession …

AMORTH: Want to know how that came about? From an attempt by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and again by Cardinal Medina to introduce an article to the Rite – Number 38 at the time – authorizing exorcists to use the previous Rite. This was an undoubted maneuver in extremis to insure us against the great errors contained in this definitive Rite. But this attempt by the two cardinals was thrown out. At that point Cardinal Medina, who had grasped what was at stake, decided to give us this lifeline in any event in the form of a separate notification.

PACI: What consideration does the Church have of you exorcists?

AMORTH: We are very badly treated. Our fellow priests who are given this highly problematical task are seen as crazed fanatics. In general, they are only just tolerated by the very bishops who appointed them.

PACI: What has been the most blatant manifestation of this hostility?

AMORTH: We held an international convention of exorcists near Rome and we asked to be received by the Pope. In order not to add yet another audience to his already long list, we asked if we might simply be received in the public audience on the Wednesday in Saint Peter’s Square. We did not even ask to be mentioned in his special greetings. We made our request in the regular way, as Monsignor Paolo De Nicolò of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household will well remember. He welcomed our request with open arms. But the day before the audience, the same Mon- signor De Nicolò told us – and I have to say with such embarrassment that it was obviously not his decision – that we could not go, that we had not been admitted. It was incredibile.

Here were 150 exorcists from the five continents, all priests appointed by their bishops in conformity with the norms of Canon Law which state that these priests must be prayerful, knowledgeable and of good reputation, the cream of the clergy, in short … here they were asking to take part in a public Papal Audience and being thrown out. Monsignor De Nicolò told me that he would ‘of course’ explain the reasons in a letter to me. That was five years ago and I’m still waiting for the letter. It was certainly not John Paul II who excluded us. But, that 150 priests are barred from taking part in a public Papal Audience in Saint Peter’s Square says much of how the exorcists of their Church are obstructed in their ministry, how much they are frowned upon by so many of the ecclesiastical authorities.

PACI: You are locked in daily battle with the Devil . What do you see as Satan’s greatest success?

AMORTH: The fact that he has managed to convince people that he does not exist. He has almost managed it, even within the Church. We have a clergy and an Episcopate who no longer believe in the Devil , in exorcism, in the exceptional evil the Devil can instill, or even in the power that Jesus bestowed to cast out demons. For three centuries the Latin Church – in contrast to the Orthodox Church and the various Protestant professions – has almost totally abandoned the ministry of exorcism. So because they no longer perform exorcisms, or study them, and never having seen them, the clergy no longer believe in them. And they no longer believe in the Devil . We have entire Episcopates trying to counter exorcism. We have countries completely devoid of exorcists, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. This is a shameful shortfall.

PACI: You haven’t mentioned France so is the situation there any different?

AMORTH: The most famous French exorcist, Isidore Froc, wrote a book entitled ‘Exorcists. Who they are and what they do’. It was translated into Italian by the Piemme publishing house and had been commissioned by the French Episcopal Conference. This book never once says that exorcisms are performed in certain cases and the author has said on French television on several occasions that he has never performed an exorcism and never will. Out of about 100 French exorcists, only five of them believe in the Devil and perform exorcisms. All the others send people who come to them to psychiatrists. The bishops are the first victims of this situation in the Catholic Church, whose belief that the Devil exists is fading. Before this new Rite came out, the German Episcopate wrote in a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger that there was no point in a new Rite in that exorcisms should no longer be performed.

PACI: So, it’s up to bishops to appoint exorcists?

AMORTH: Yes, when a priest is named a bishop, he finds that an article of the Code of Canon Law gives him authority absolute in the appointment of exorcists. The minimum one can ask of any bishop is that he at least witness an exorcism, given that he has to make such an important decision. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. But if a bishop finds himself having to address a serious request for exorcism – one, that is, that does not involve a mental case – and he does not provide for it, he is committing a mortal sin. And he is responsible for all the terrible suffering that the person endures, suffering that sometimes lasts for years or all his or her life and which the bishop could have prevented.

PACI: Are you saying that most of the bishops of the Catholic Church are in a state of mortal sin?

AMORTH: When I was a child, my old parish priest taught me that there were eight Sacraments, the eighth being ignorance. And the eighth sacrament saves more people than the other seven put together. To commit mortal sin implies grave matter but also full and deliberate consent. This failure by many bishops to help is grave matter. However, the bishops are ignorant of this so there is no full and deliberate consent.

PACI: But is a person’s faith still intact, which is to say, is a person’s faith still Catholic even if he or she does not believe that the Devil exists?

AMORTH: No. Let me tell you a story. The first time I met Father Pellegrino Ernetti, a famous exorcist who served for 40 years in Venice, I said to him: ‘If I could meet the Pope, I would tell him that I encounter too many bishops who do not believe in the Devil ’. The next afternoon, Father Ernetti came back to me to tell me that, that morning, he had been received by John Paul II. ‘Your Holiness’, he said, ‘there is an exorcist here in Rome, Father Amorth, who would tell you if he met you that he knows too many bishops who do not believe in the Devil ’. The Pope replied bluntly: ‘Anyone who does not believe in the Devil does not believe in the Gospel’. That was what the Pope said and I say it again.

PACI: Again, are you saying that many bishops and priests are not, consequently, Catholic?

AMORTH: Let us just say that they do not believe a Gospel truth. So, if anything, I would stop them propagating a heresy. But, to be clear about this, a person is officially a heretic if he or she is accused of something and persists in the error. No one today, given the situation in the Church, is accusing a bishop of not believing in the Devil , or in demonic possession or of failing to appoint exorcists because he does not believe. And yet I could give you the names of so many bishops and cardinals who, on their appointment to a diocese, stripped exorcists of their faculty to perform the rite. Or there are bishops who openly say they don’t believe, that these are things of the past. Why is that? Unfortunately, we have had the insidious influence of certain biblists and I could mention some illustrious names. We who are in daily physical contact with the ‘other world’ know that this influence is evident in numerous liturgical reforms.

PACI: For example?

AMORTH: The Second Vatican Council asked that some texts be revised. Disobeying this command, they set about re-writing them completely with no thought for the danger of making things worse instead of better. So many rites came off badly from this mania to throw out the old and start from scratch, as if the Church to date had always conned us and as if only now the time had at last come of the great geniuses, the supertheologians, the super-biblists and the super-liturgists who know what the right thing is for the Church. This is a lie: the last Council simply asked that the texts be revised, not destroyed.

The Rite of Exorcism, for example, should have been corrected, not re-written. It contained prayers born of 12 centuries of experience. Before cancelling prayers which are so old and which proved for centuries to be so effective, we should think long and hard. But they did not. All of us exorcists in trying out the prayers of the new ad interim Rite have proved that they are totally ineffective. But then again, the Rite of Baptism of children came off worse, too. It was totally re-worked so that exorcism against Satan has been all but eliminated. Yet, this always had such great importance for the Church that it was called the exorcism minor.
Paul VI also publicly protested against this new Rite. The new Rite of Benediction is not as good now. I read every line of it, all of its 1,200 pages and every reference has been removed to the fact that the Lord must protect us from Satan and the angels must protect us from attack by the Devil . They removed all the prayers for the benediction of homes and schools. Everything used to be blessed and protected but, today, we have no further protection from the Devil . We no longer have any defenses or even prayers against him. Jesus himself taught us a prayer of deliverance in the Our Father: ‘Deliver us from the Evil One’, ‘Deliver us from Satan’. This has been erroneously translated so that we pray: ‘Deliver us from evil’. The inference is generic evil whose origin we know nothing about. Yet, the evil we were taught how to fight by Our Lord Jesus Christ is a real person – Satan.

PACI: You speak from a vantage point. Do you feel that Satanism is on the rise?

AMORTH: Yes, very much so. When faith falls away, superstition increases. To use biblical language, I would say that one abandons God and turns to idolatry. In modern terms I would say that one abandons God and turns to the occult. The fearsome decline of the faith throughout Catholic Europe implies that the people turn to occultists and clairvoyants and, meanwhile, the Satanic sects prosper. The cult of the Devil is proclaimed to entire peoples through the Satanic rock music of individuals like Marilyn Manson. Even children are not immune from this assault – their comics teach them magic and Satanism.

Seances are very common, in which the dead are summoned in search of answers. Today, people can hold seances by computer, telephone, television and recorders. Spiritist writing is popular. They don’t even need mediums any more. This is ‘do-it-yourself’ spiritism. Surveys have found that 37 per cent of students have played with a ouija board at least once. This is a seance proper. At a school where I was invited to speak, the pupils told me that they even did this during their religious instruction period with the teacher’s encouragement.

PACI: Do these things work?

AMORTH: There is no distinction between white and black magic. When magic works, it is al- ways the work of the Devil . All the forms of occultism, such as mass recourse to Eastern religious with all their esoteric connotations, are an open door for the Devil . And so he comes in. Immediately. I had no hesitation in saying that there was direct intervention by the Devil in the case of the nun murdered in Chiavenna (for which three teenage girls have been charged) and in the case of Erika and Omar, the teenagers of Novi Ligure, North Italy (Erika, 16, is currently being held in a Milan detention center on suspicion of murdering her mother and 10-year-old brother, with the complicity of her boyfriend, Omar, 17). Those kids were devoted to Satanism. Police in their enquiries found that, in both these cases, these youngsters were followers of Satan. They had Satanic books.

PACI: How does the Devil go about seducing men and women?

AMORTH: His strategy is monotonous. I have told him so and he admits it … He convinces people that there is no hell, that there is no sin, just one more experience to live. Lust, success and power are the three great passions on which the Devil insists.

PACI: How many cases of demonic possession have you come across?

AMORTH: After the first hundred, I stopped counting them.

PACI: A hundred? But that’s a lot. In your books you say that cases of possession are rare …

AMORTH: And they are. Many exorcists have come across cases of diabolical evil only. I, however, inherited the ‘clientele’ of the famous exorcist, Father Candido, the cases he had not yet resolved. Moreover, the other exorcists send the most resistant cases to me.

PACI: And the most difficult case you have come across?

AMORTH: I’m dealing with it now and have been for two years. It is the case of that girl who was blessed – though it was not a proper exorcism – by the Pope last October in the Vatican and which made headlines. She is under attack around-the-clock. Her torments are indescribable. Doctors and psychiatrists are baffled by this case. The girl herself is completely lucid and very intelligent. It is a very difficult case.

PACI: How does one fall victim to the Devil ?

AMORTH: We can fall foul of the exceptional evils sent by the Devil for four reasons: if it works to the good of the person (in the case of many saints); persisting irreversibly in sin; because of a curse via the Devil ; or by practising occultism.

PACI: What kind of phenomena are manifest during exorcisms?

AMORTH: I remember one illiterate farmer who spoke to me only in English. I had to have an interpreter. Some manifest superhuman strength. Some elevate so that even several people cannot hold them down on a chair. But we refer to demonic presence only in certain contexts.

PACI: Has the Devil ever hurt you?

AMORTH: When Cardinal Poletti asked me to become an exorcist I prayed to Our Lady: ‘Wrap me in your mantel and I will be safe’. I have had numerous threats from the Devil but he has never done me any harm.

PACI: Are you ever afraid of the Devil ?

AMORTH: Afraid of that beast? He’s the one who should be afraid of me because I work in the name of the Lord of the world. He is only an ape of God.

PACI: Satanism is spreading more and more. The new Rite makes it difficult to perform an exorcism. Exorcists are prohibited from participating in a Papal Audience in Saint Peter’s Square. What exactly is happening here?

AMORTH: The smoke of Satan gets in everywhere, everywhere. Perhaps we were kept out of the Papal audience because they were afraid that all those exorcists might have cast out the legions of demons that have installed themselves in the Vatican.

PACI: You’re joking, aren’t you?

AMORTH: It might sound like it but I don’t think it is a joke. I have no doubt whatever that the Devil is tempting the upper levels of the Church, above all, just as he tempts every upper level – political and industrial.

PACI: Are you saying that here, too, as in every war, Satan’s aim is to capture the enemy leaders?

AMORTH: That’s the best strategy. It has always been so and especially when the defences of the enemy are down. Satan tries to apply this, too. But thank heaven the Church is upheld by the Holy Spirit: ‘The gates of hell will not stand’; this, despite the defections and despite the betrayals which should come as no surprise to us. The first traitor was one of the apostles closest to Jesus – Judas Iscariot. In spite of it all, the Church presses along its path. It is upheld by the Holy Spirit and so all of the battles Satan wages can only bring partial results. The Devil may, of course, win the battles, even important battles, but he will never win the war.