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There have been a number of recent events that have brought out into the open the demonic forces at work in western societies from the U.S.A. to Europe and the British Isles: the unveiling of a statue of Satan in Detroit, and the attendant immoral celebrations; the exposé of Planned Parenthood selling the body parts of babies murdered at its facilities; homosexual activists succeeding in persuading the ruling elites to use the power of the State, media and big business to successfully campaign for the legalisation of same-sex "marriage"; a government minister of Ireland, one of the most pro-life countries of the world, announcing with satisfaction the first "legal" killing of 26 babies in 2014 as a result of Kenny's abortion law, and a majority in the U.K. House of Commons that prides itself on promoting feminism, voting down a motion to protect baby girls from gendercide abortion.
No wonder there is a sense among faithful Catholics that moral life is spinning out of control in our countries. The question is: Does the accelerating abandonment of morality and the riotous celebration of immorality, coupled with increasing hostility towards Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, indicate the increased activity of supernatural evil in the U.S.A., Britain and Ireland? Clearly, the widespread approval of killing unborn babies by their mothers and fathers is a sign of the devil's work, as is the "normalization" of sexual perversions such as homosexual sex acts and bondage and sadomasochism. The most significant evidence that the devil is conspiring to bring these events about is the reversal of public morality, where good is now condemned as evil, and evil is celebrated as good. For example, during the referendum in Ireland good people who defended marriage between a man and woman for the procreation and upbringing of children were pilloried in the media and meetings as wicked bigots.
Pope St. John Paul II was clear that the evils that plague society are signs of the influence of the devil: "The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man's inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan's pervasive and dark action."
Faced with the activity of supernatural evil in our countries, what should be the response of faithful bishops, priests and laity?
The Forgotten Wisdom of Pope Leo XIII
The tragedy for the Church, and society, is that the wisdom of Pope Leo XIII concerning the real and present danger posed by Satan has been set aside and forgotten by the majority of bishops, priests and people over the past 50 years.
Pope Leo XIII's famous vision of demonic spirits attacking the Church led him to take a number of defensive measures to protect the universal Church, including the instruction to all bishops that the faithful recite his prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of every Mass. Pope Leo XIII also composed a Prayer of Exorcism against Satan and the Fallen Angels that was included in the Roman Ritual. The Holy Father hoped that bishops and priests would frequently and publicly recite his prayer of exorcism in their dioceses and parishes. Pope Leo XIII would recite his prayer of exorcism often throughout the day. (It is not licit or wise for lay people to use Pope Leo XIII's prayer of exorcism).
God in His providence gave the bishops the warning and the weapons to defend the Church from Satan's all-out attack. But just when the war broke out into the open in the 1960s, the bishops disarmed and abandoned these divine defences in a misguided move to be "open to the world." Of all the misjudgments and misguided actions made since the Second Vatican Council, the abandonment of Pope Leo XIII's defenses against Satan is one of the most catastrophic.
Pope Francis on the Reality of the Devil
Pope Francis clearly believes that it is imperative that the Church reclaims the wisdom of Pope Leo XIII by again taking seriously the reality of supernatural evil at work in our countries. The Holy Father has taught urgently and persistently about the reality of the devil and the necessity for Catholics, especially priests, to take the activity of the devil seriously. Pope Francis has talked about the modern difficulty in believing in the existence of the devil this way:
There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage (Lk 11:15–26), this and others, say: "But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness." It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: "All of these (people) were not possessed; they were mentally ill." No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil. We should not be naïve.
So, do our bishops and priests share Pope Francis' belief in the devil? Do they share his urgent pastoral concern to protect people from the activity of demons? A couple of years ago I was contacted by a friend who was attempting to help a family suffering demonic oppression in southern England. She asked me if could put her in contact with an exorcist because no one in her diocese, bishop or priest, would help this family. The common response from the clergy they approached was one of disdain and condescension: "The Church doesn't believe in the devil anymore!" I was able to help them get in touch with a priest willing to assist them. However, without the leadership of the bishops about supernatural evil there is the danger that some faithful Catholics will unduly focus on the presence and activity of the devil without emphasizing the primacy of Christ's love and victory.
In the second part of this article I will examine a holy response that bishops and priests in the USA, Europe and the British Isles could take in every diocese and parish that would defend the Church, and society, from the raging forces of evil.
Deacon Nick Donnelly is the author of Who Is the Devil? What Pope Francis Says, published by the Catholic Truth Society. This article draws on work originally published in Catholic Voice Ireland.