Frank and the devil

Cool headline in the Telegraph –

Decline of religious belief means we need more exorcists, say Catholics

Well of course they do. Jobs for the boys, eh?

Then there’s the subhead –

Decline of religion in the West has created a rise in black magic, Satanism and the occult

Oh it’s our fault? I beg to differ. I think you can see it rather as a common taste for made-up spooky stuff, that can go either with religion or with black magic and the rest of the silly menu, or even, adventurously if not orthodoxly, both.

The decline of religious belief in the West and the growth of secularism has “opened the window” to black magic, Satanism and belief in the occult, the organisers of a conference on exorcism have said.

The six-day meeting in Rome aims to train about 200 Roman Catholic priests from more than 30 countries in how to cast out evil from people who believe themselves to be in thrall to the Devil.

To train them? It’s so technical that they need training?

The conference, “Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation”, has also attracted psychiatrists, sociologists, doctors and criminologists in what the Church called a “multi-disciplinary” approach to exorcisms.

Giuseppe Ferrari, from GRIS, a Catholic research group that organised the conference, said there was an ever growing need for priests to be trained to perform exorcisms because of the increasing number of lay people tempted to dabble in black magic, paganism and the occult.

“We live in a disenchanted society, a secularised world that thought it was being emancipated, but where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality,” said Mr Ferrari.

As opposed to the Catholic church and its “teachings,” which have nothing to do with superstition and irrationality. Hmmm.

In the popular imagination, exorcisms evoke images of black-clad priests holding aloft silver crucifixes while trying to rid frothing, wild-eyed victims of Satanic possession.

The Church tries to play down the more lurid associations but at the same time insists that the Devil exists and must be fought on a daily basis.

Which is to say, the church wants everything. It wants its dignity, so it tries to play down the more lurid stuff, but at the same time, it also wants its authority and power, which depend wholly on the gap between church “teachings” and observable reality, so it insists that the Devil exists. The result is risible in the extreme.

Pope Francis has frequently alluded to the Devil in his homilies and addresses since being elected to succeed Benedict XVI last March.

In a homily this week, he said that the Devil was behind the persecution of early Christian martyrs, who were murdered for their faith. The “struggle between God and the Devil” was constant and ongoing, he said.

Bollocks, Frank. It’s all bullshit, the Hollywood version and your version.




  1. Pen says

    Damn, better dust off those old arguments from way back in the witch hunts…

    “If I could turn you into a frog, you’d be hopping already!”
    “Of course I’ll drown if you hold me under water”
    “It’s just a mole”

  2. Gordon Willis says

    “…the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality”…

    …like exorcisms.

  3. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m afraid the inexorable trend toward urbanization, which intensified during the last 60-70 years, has Christianity’s demise writ large upon it. The world is no longer ruled by magic and mystery, and Frank & da boyz are really out of touch with the reality of modern life if they think they can revive this sort of ignorance and superstition in an urban environment.

    When people lived in rural small towns where the church was the center of public life, Christianity could still coerce people into belonging, by virtue of the smallness of the community and everyone’s interdependence. Plus, surrounded as they were by hollers in which lurked painters, foxfire, b’ars, and h’ants*, waiting to ensnare the unwary traveler or those who wandered too far from the village, it was easy to visualize a magical world peopled by strange supernatural forces and beings. Grimm’s Fairy Tales all take place in this world, one that people could apparently relate to back in the day. Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread house of a witch, deep in the forest; Snow White, fleeing to refuge with 7 dwarfs; Little Red Riding Hood in peril from a talking wolf; a shoemaker’s magical visitations by shoe-making elves; etc.

    The tale of Rip** Van Winkle, who happens upon a strange group of little people (or Henrick Hudson’s ghost crew***) and drinks their moonshine, falling into a deep sleep for 20years (or 100), is set in this now-mostly-gone environment. No one could imagine a modern-day Rip happening upon a team of hackysack-playing ghosts or magical dwarfs on an abandoned subway platform and waking up 20 or 100 years later! The urban environment is full of streets and cars and trains and clocks and offices and stores, not faeries and magic and mysterious unknowns.

    *”holler” – hollow, a low place surrounded by hills, as in Sleepy Hollow.
    “painters” – panthers
    “foxfire” – strange glowing that would lure the unwary traveler off the path to his doom, possibly bioluminescent fungi.
    “b’ars” – bears
    “h’ants” – origin from “haunt”, a backwoods term for ghost.

    **Rip is an archaic nickname like for a worthless person, often of dissolute/reprobate character – “Drunk” or “Rummy” or “Boozer” – it’ a pejorative, not a real name. Tellingly, Rip’s namesake son is likewise dissolute.

    *** Hendrick (or Henry) Hudson – early 17th Century British sea explorer navigator, set adrift in a boat along with 8 other men by the rest of his mutinous crew during a search for the fabled Northwest Passage. How their ghosts were supposed to have ended up bowling in the Catskill Mountains is an enduring mystery.

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