How did Satan present himself to God?
In the fight against Satan
The devil is among us, says the Catholic Church. The Pope relies on exorcising the devil like never before. He wants to send 3,000 exorcists into battle.
It is said that the devil's greatest lie is to fool the world into believing that he doesn't exist. The Catholic Church can not fool "the animal": Under the incumbent Pope Benedict XVI. an army of priests is trained as exorcists to go to holy war against the satanic power.
When Don Gabriele Amorth ends his daily Our Father with the request “And deliver us from evil”, then it is not simply said. Although the priest with the bulldozer face is already 86 years old, he still takes on the fight with Satan almost every day. The top exorcist of the Vatican claims to have successfully carried out a total of more than 70,000 exorcisms.
According to his stories, the sprightly warrior of God has seen the most diverse faces of Satan over the years: possessed who perform bizarre physical contortions, delicate women who develop such physical strength that they can no longer be tamed even by seasoned men. People who suddenly speak foreign languages that they never learned. Sometimes people even vomit pieces of metal. “I have more than two kilograms of metal parts that people have spat out, long nails, razor blades. These things materialize the moment they come out of the mouth, ”claims Amorth in an interview.
What at first glance reads like the script of a bad horror film is the actual doctrine of the Catholic Church. Although the devil is more of a grubby for most priests today, who is either ignored or dismissed as an allegory for evil, exorcism is booming, as if the Second Vatican Council (to modernize the church) had never happened.
While the Pope from Poland, John Paul II, had officially appointed 200 priests to cast out devils, his successor Benedict now wants to increase the number to 3,000. And there are reports that Benedict freed two men from demons during a general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Jesus is an example
When practicing their controversial rites, the exorcists can refer to a trend-setting example in Christian teaching: Jesus himself casts out the devil several times in the New Testament. He was so successful in this that he was soon accused by other fighters of Satan of being in league with evil forces himself. Jesus countered this allegation, however, by pointing out that it was impossible for one demon to cast out another demon.
According to the Catholic Catechism, Satan is in fact not a metaphor for evil, but an absolutely real, albeit spiritual, being. Once he was one of the thousands upon thousands of angels created by God with free will, the Lord is said to have loved him especially. At first Lucifer was also happy and good, but then he succumbed to temptation and rose with other angels against the rule of God. "The devils and the other demons were created by God by their nature to be good, but they themselves became evil," it says in the textbook.
After this sin, the rebellious angels were immediately withdrawn from divine grace. The former shining heavenly beings were transformed into ugly figures of darkness, who are tormented in their self-made hell for all eternity. Hate and torment rule. If they were to open themselves to the love of God, then they could even be saved, but the hateful creatures defy the invitation to reconciliation with anger and intransigence.
The fate of the rebellious angels might not really matter to people, if it weren't for one small, unpleasant detail: Since the demons are pure spirits without body and soul, they sometimes use human bodies to manifest themselves in the world.
Who is the victim?
But how does Satan choose the victims of his demonic powers? According to theologians like Amorth, there are no fundamental innate characteristics in humans that would make them particularly susceptible to obsession. Fortunately, it is also not contagious: So you can definitely continue to share the bed with your devil-occupied wife without becoming a Beelzebub yourself. As a rule, it is said, possessed people have either opened the door to the devil themselves through an occult ritual, or someone else has hounded Satan on your throat - for example by cursing you.
But not only “bad” people, but also very devout people, are haunted by Satan. For Catholic doctrine this is absolutely not a contradiction in terms, because especially spiritually particularly advanced people can be obsessed as the final test of God. For example, St. John Chrysostom writes: “People who are possessed can benefit from their suffering in two ways. First, they can become more holy and decent; secondly, they can now present themselves flawlessly before the Lord, since they have already paid the debts for their sins here on earth. "
Four forms of obsession
For those affected, the evil manifests itself in various forms. You can get away relatively well with an "infestatione". This is understood to mean the presence of a demon in a place or object. The most famous example of this is the haunted house. The phenomenon can manifest itself in many different ways: inexplicable noises, mysterious steps, loud laughter or screams, sudden drop in temperature, the disappearance and reappearance of objects in another place, the feeling of a presence of invisible ghosts ... Even doors and windows that Open and close automatically, as well as crockery floating around freely in the room. For an exorcist, such nonsense is trivia - a simple house blessing and mass on the property, and the problem should be solved.
It becomes more critical for the person concerned when he is confronted with a so-called harassment ("oppressio"). The victim is harassed by demons with mysterious blows. Some people also have strange characters or letters appearing on their foreheads, while others claim to have been pushed down the stairs by an invisible force. Saints in particular have been victims of such attacks in their lifetime. The shabby goal of the demons: People should be driven into isolation and despair so that they will turn away from God. In this case the exorcist advises diligent prayer.
If one is afflicted by an obsessio, then funny is slowly coming to an end. The “demonic temptation” usually results in an intense and sustained attack on the victim's spirit. Those affected suffer from uncontrollable, completely irrational obsessions. As a last resort, the demons whisper to them, only a pact with Satan can free them from their suffering. The advice of the professional expeller sounds a bit like that of the consumer advocate: Do not sign anything and seek help from the nearest exorcist.
The most well-known form of the phenomenon is also the most unpleasant: demonic possession (“possessio”). The devil temporarily takes control of a person and speaks and acts through him without his knowledge. The victim falls into a kind of trance and can no longer remember what happened when Satan took command. The symptoms of those affected are actually similar to those known from the film "The Exorcist": physical contortions, speaking in languages that one has never learned, and knowledge of the most secret private matters of those present. Sometimes Satan himself speaks in a deep, distorted voice full of hatred and anger from his victim. The only thing that helps here is an expulsion according to all the rules of the art.
During the expulsion, the satan fighters use their most powerful weapon, the "great exorcism". The formulas and prayers for this can be found in the "Rituale Romanum", which was first published in 1614. The currently valid version is the 1998 revised version “De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam”. On the one hand the help of God for the possessed is implored, on the other hand the exorcist orders the demon to leave his sacrifices in the name of Christ. It takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete the ritual. Some exorcists therefore choose the short form in less severe cases: "I drive you out, you ghost of forgery!"
"I saw terrible things"
The US journalist Matt Baglio asked participants in the exorcist training of the Vatican about their experiences for his report "The School of Exorcists". And the priests said horrific things: “I saw terrible, really terrible things. When the girl thrashed and screeched loudly at one point during the expulsion, her normally closed eyes jumped open and she turned and looked at me. I could then see this hatred in her eyes, such a pure hatred that it really hit me very hard. ”During the ritual, the priest and his fellow seminarian also felt inexplicable blows to her shins.
But that's not all: Towards the end of the exorcism, the girl began to vomit vast amounts of sperm, combined with a disgusting stench. “I was scared to death. I realized that demons really exist and that the devil is not that puppet with horns that we see and laugh about in comics. I had to fundamentally revise all of my theological ideas, which until then had been decidedly superficial. I only now realized that we are all threatened by an enemy. "
Death after exorcising the devil
Clearly, in the 21st century, the practice of casting out devils is extremely controversial. The case of “Anneliese Michel”, who died in 1976 at the age of 23 from the consequences of extreme malnutrition, contributed not least to this. In the months before her death, Catholic priests carried out the "great exorcism" on her several times.
Anneliese Michel came from a devout Catholic family in Franconia in Germany. The highly intelligent girl went to mass several times a week, attended a rosary prayer group, and slept on the floor once as atonement.
During a seizure, Anneliese was just 15 years old at the time, she suddenly bit her tongue. The doctors diagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy and prescribed the drug carbamazepine. Despite the treatment, her condition deteriorated dramatically. She inflicted severe wounds on herself, had Christ's marks on her body, and refused to eat. On tape recordings you can hear Anneliese Michel speaking in a deep, distorted voice and repeatedly uttering spontaneous screams and unsolky insults.
The deeply religious parents, convinced that their daughter was possessed, sought help from exorcists. The then Würzburg bishop Josef Stangl approved the expulsion of the devil, a few months later Anneliese was dead. At last she weighed only 31 kilos. In the course of legal proceedings, both the parents and the priest were convicted of "negligent homicide by omission".
Since then, psychiatrists of all denominations have been warning against church exorcists. Those affected are not obsessed, but mentally ill. In fact, ailments such as schizophrenia, hysteria, epilepsy, paranoia, Tourette's syndrome or multiple personalities can very quickly be interpreted as "demonic" if one lacks the appropriate medical equipment. School psychiatry has never racked its brains over flying plates and the like.
The exorcists naturally defend themselves against this criticism. In most cases, those affected would only seek their help if conventional medicine could not offer them any help. They also use a series of tricks to check whether there is actually an obsession. So the people are sprayed with normal instead of holy water or a Latin prose text is read out to them instead of a prayer from the “Rituale Romanum”. If those affected then react, it is clear that the demon possession was pure imagination. But one question arises painfully: How stupid do demons actually have to be if they can't see through this somewhat clumsy move?
An end to the exorcism trend is not in sight, which is at the same time not entirely impractical for the Catholic Church, since theologians like Amorth blame demons for the many cases of abuse themselves. All evil in the Vatican is ultimately due to satanic influences. That sounds like an absolutely brilliant excuse. And by the way, it shows that the church and the devil somehow need each other.
For further reading: Matt Baglio: “The school of the exorcists. A report"; Sankt Ulrich Verlag, 19.90 euros.
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