. . .The focus of Christian life is God, not the devil. Paying too much attention to the demonic is just as dangerous as denying its existence altogether. Nonetheless, Jesus clearly believed in the reality of Satan; so did every great saint; and so does the Church down to our own day.
For Catholics, the devil is not a legend or a metaphor or the imagining of pre-scientific minds. The devil and the corrupted spirits who joined him are real, personal beings—in Scripture, fallen angels—consumed by hatred of God and humanity; rebel creatures with limited power but immense ability.
That ability can result in demonic harassment, or in rare cases, even diabolic possession of human beings. The work of the priestly exorcist is to liberate persons suffering from this oppression. . . .
Most people don’t need an exorcist. They need a good doctor or counselor, and a better prayer life. It’s also an unhappy fact that every time a movie or book like “The Rite” appears, impressionable minds too easily see the hand of the devil in their own ailments and difficulties. This is why bishops almost always insist on a medical opinion and the judgment of a person’s pastor before involving an exorcist.
Having said this, it’s also true that profoundly disturbing cases of diabolic oppression and possession do occur—and not just in the Third World, but increasingly in modern developed states.
As Christianity has weakened in consumer societies, superstition, Wicca and dabbling in the occult have grown. Ouija boards and videogames swarming with demons may seem like harmless fun; but they’re not. They open the door, even if only so slightly, to a very real and unhealthy darkness.
Closing that dark door can only be done through personal confession and renouncing the occult in Jesus’ name. In fact, it’s worth reading Scripture about fortune-tellers and those who toy with the spirit world: The Bible is ferocious in rejecting anything that hints of the occult precisely because it violates the First Commandment and the sovereignty of God. There is no God but God; and every occult or spiritual alternative to the true God is the work of God’s (and humanity’s) Enemy.
We cling to God for good reason. The alternative leads down a very different path. Archbishop Charles Chaput, Denver
To read more from Archbishop Chaput, click here.