Hey dude. When you get to hell, tell ‘em Neo sent ya!

February 18, 2008

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It’s amazing what gets reported as news:

THE Catholic Church has revealed how growing interest in satanism and the occult has led to a rise in exorcisms across Queensland.

Well, for starters this statement is a little misleading. To be clear, what is actually on the rise is the rate of exorcism ceremonies being carried out. There is no evidence to suggest that any of these anecdotally reported cases involves anything that could be construed as supernatural demonic possession.

One priest, who asked not to be named for fear of “reprisals”, said he was carrying out at least one exorcism a fortnight.

Reprisals from who pray tell? Satan? Demons? The police? Other, saner priests?

“Being possessed by a demon is terrifying in one’s mental and emotional life,” he said. “Some of these manifestations are extremely powerful, causing people to be plagued by disturbances. They hear voices and see hideous creatures in their sleep.

It’s really quite amazing how demons are so sneaky and clever that they manage to make the symptoms of their possession look almost exactly like indicators of mental illness. Tricky little beggars. And isn’t it great that people suffering from this don’t need any of that tricky and emotionally difficult therapy, pharmacological treatment or to accept any responsibility for their actions! Satan did it! Just read the bible at them and sprinkle some holy water around and their paranoid schizophrenia possession will clear right up.

“There has been a recruitment of pagan practices, and it’s sheer poison.

Argh. That’s not even a sentence – I can only guess that he means “recurrence” or “resurgence” or something like that. And what’s so bad about “pagan practices” anyway? I could lob my iPod from where I’m sitting and probably hit half a dozen people who would consider a lot of the dogma of the Catholic church to be “sheer poison” too – and with actual demonstrable examples to back it up, not just vague mumblings about those naughty, new agey pagans. Ooh. Look out, she’s got a crystal!

The Catholic Church has vowed to “fight the devil head-on” by training hundreds of priests as exorcists. Bishop Brian Finnigan, acting head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, said it was important for the church to carry out exorcisms.

Yeah, but then the Catholic church also thinks that it is important to prevent the use of birth control and condoms in areas of the world stricken by over population and disease. They think that people who have sex with people of the same gender should not have the same rights as heterosexuals. The Catholic church thinks that a lot of things are important. That doesn’t necessarily make them good things.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 82, the Pope’s Exorcist-in-Chief, announced the initiative recently amid church concerns about an increase in people dabbling in the occult. Under plans being considered, each bishop would have a group of priests in his diocese who were specially trained in exorcism.

Father Amorth said: “Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the devil. You have to hunt high and low for a proper, trained exorcist.”

Proper? Trained? Is there a diploma or something? Are there dodgy non-union exorcists out there that are ruining the reputation of the good exorcists?

Queensland Catholic priests can carry out exorcisms only if they have been authorised by an archbishop.

Because it’s a good thing that people who want to have a serious place at the table in debating the great social and moral issues of our time, believe in demons. Does anyone see a potential conflict here?

The priest source, who is based in Brisbane, is the only one permitted to do exorcisms in the state. He said he had travelled to Rockhampton, Cairns, Townsville and Toowoomba to save people.

“We are not very plentiful and certainly need more of us to cope with the big occult following that is emerging today,” he said.

“It’s frightening what can happen when you invite entities into your life which are not meant to be part of God’s world.”

He said one woman he had met had been plagued by demonic manifestations since taking part in a playground witch game as a child.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc – just because something happens after something chronologically doesn’t mean that it was the cause. The “occult” is an easy target because it is such a nebulous description that there is no coherently accused party to defend. And just what constitutes a “demonic” manifestation anyway? Gah! (Sometimes you so caught up smacking your forehead against the logical fallacies in a piece like this that it’s easy to forget the stupidity of the basic premise.)

I know that at first blush this just sounds like just another silly fluff piece, but there are deeper issues here. Exorcism is not a game, and it’s not harmless. If you don’t believe in demonic possession, exorcisms are at best a waste of time, or at worst a pernicious superstitious ritual that prevents people from seeking real psychological help for real psychological conditions. Mix it with a bit of religious zealotry and it can result in profound psychological trauma and even death.

But those are dodgy back alley exorcists! I hear someone cry. Not properly trained and Pope accredited professionals!

Meh. It’s kind of like trying to distinguish between a good Magical Fairy Godmother and a bad Magical Fairy Godmother. When you can’t even demonstrate that Magical Fairy Godmothery is a real phenomenon in the first place (a) how do you tell the difference, and (b) does the alleged difference really matter?

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One Response to “Hey dude. When you get to hell, tell ‘em Neo sent ya!”

  1. william o brien Says:

    will,

    that’s quite a disdainful attitude you have towards the Church and the possibility of the existence of spiritual evil.


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