The Cardinal Instructs the Priest on

Fighting the Devil

 The Catholic hierarchy of America condemned the film Martin Luther.  The mere fact that millions of people could see the true story of indulgences and the part they Played in the greatest revolt in Christendom was embarrassing enough.  Much more embarrassing was the scene of the German prince displaying an ornate little chest which he claimed contained various relics sufficient to guarantee Mm the cancellation of more than a million years of purgatory.  The disconcerting part of the scene was found not only in its historical accuracy, in that this was true of the sixteenth century, but more so because it is true of the twentieth century.

Relics are particles of the bodies of saints, or things that have touched their bodies or the body of Christ or Mary.  Normally, indulgences are "attached" to the relics and can be gained by anyone possessing them, venerating them or kissing them.

 The traffic in fraudulent relics in Luther's day was notorious.  The frauds included feathers from the wings of the angels, dirt left over from the manufacture of Adam, milk from the Virgin Mary and several alleged shrouds from the grave of Jesus.

But all this was insignificant compared with the discovery-officially endorsed by the Church-of the foreskin or prepuce of Jesus in Antwerp , almost fourteen centuries after his death!

 The church of Antwerp acquired the prepuce of Christ, and a confraternity was formed for its adoration.  When, in 1427, the Archbishop of Besariqon gave to its members forty days' indulgence for visiting it on two feasts of the year, and when, in 1428, the Bishop of Cambrai confirmed this and added eleven feast days, it was rather to aid the church than the confraternity, for the grant was conditioned on stretching forth a helping hand.  In 1446 Eugenius IV made a greater concession in favor of the brotherhood, but this was only a Plenary at death, and to earn it the members had to fast on Fridays for a year, while it was declared void in case of their sinning in confidence of obtaining it.,-

 The sacrilegious legend goes that, after the circumcision of Jesus, Mary treasured Ms foreskin and before her death entrusted it to St. John .  It apparently multiplied like the Holy Shroud for it appeared at Aix-la-Chapelle, Coulombs, Rome, Paris, Bruges, Bologna, Besancon, Nancy and many other places including a convent of St. Corneille in Compiegne which also had the instrument with which the ceremony was originally performed .2 Since there were not enough relics to convey indulgences to all the faithful, other pious objects were and still are used.

Some of these were even revealed by Christ, Mary or the saints.  Thus Mary taught St. Dominic how to say the rosary and St. Simon Stock how to use the scapular, two Pieces of cloth thrown over the shoulders (scapulae).  Since the original revelations, there have been numerous imitations given to holy people by competing saints.

In recent generations the accent in indulgenced articles has been on medals.  The two most popular have been the scapular and the miraculous medals.  They replace the clumsy cloth scapulars which would be disconcerting when worn with a low-cut sexy evening gown but as a medal can be carried unobtrusively in a purse or billfold and still give a beautiful girl an indulgence from the sin she is committing by tempting a willing young swain to evil thoughts.

Holy water is one of the oldest and most widely used blessed objects.  Its use not only conveys indulgences when entering church, but it keeps lightning out of the house and drives away devils.  An ancient proverb depicts aversion: "Like the devil loves holy water."

A list of these superstitious objects and their blessings could fill a book, and indeed it has-the Rituale Romanum recently endorsed by the Vatican and by Cardinal Spellman in New York .  The blessings of almost everything conceivable-from fire engines, breweries, wineries, bells, railroads and stables to people, candles, relics and sacred utensils cover 273 pages.  "Voluntary" offerings to the priest are expected when most blessings are performed.

AU these blessed things become channels of God's grace, and when indulgenced join the vast panoply of animate and inanimate objects conscripted to substitute for personal spiritual effort in the avoidance of or atonement for crime and sin.  

The foundations of superstition are laid in the Roman Catholic classroom.  Little children are taught not only about God, the Trinity, Mary and the saints.  Their childish imaginations revel in a whole fairyland of spirits as fantastic in their deeds and worlds as the land of Oz or the Arabian Nights or the kingdoms of Hans Christian Andersen.  There are angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, thrones and dominations.

Children learn of the crisis in paradise before the beginning of the world when the great angelic leader, Michael, squared off against the most brilliant creature below the throne of God Himself, Lucifer, and in the titanic struggle that rocked the universe, swept Lucifer and his proud minions into the depths of bell.  The nuns keep repeating to their believing pupils that those fallen angels are the devils who roam the earth unseen while whispering in unwary little ears constant temptations to sin.

The enemy of the devil is the guardian angel, assigned to "love us, pray for us, encourage us to good and protect us from harm in soul and body."

A common portrait framed on parochial classroom walls shows a beautiful child about to wander off a cliff restrained by the hand of a colorful angel.  In lieu of the Protestant child's prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep,"' the Catholic youngster learns to recite at nighttime:

 Angel of God, my guardian dear,

To whom His love commits me here,

Ever this day be at my side,

To light and guard, to rule and guide.

 AU the persuasiveness of the spirit world is part of the emotional indoctrination that is inculcated daily throughout the elementary and secondary years of parochial education.  Stories of visions of angels, visitations of saints, and apparitions of the Virgin Mary are extremely frequent in Catholic devotional magazines.  When these hit the public press, such as a vision of Mary in a Brooklyn cemetery or on the wall of a firehouse in Manhattan, non-Catholic observers become astounded at the number of Catholics who break through police lines to hang rosaries on tree branches, scoop earth from a grave or touch medals to the site of the vision.  People who have been taught this since childhood are happy to be part of a real-life apparition.

The satirical circus-like scene of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to the devilish little children in "La Dolce Vita" was to me the most delightful gem in the film, because the superstitious reaction of the faithful, including priests, was so typical and so historically true.

In spite of Catholic verbal denial of superstition, its own official over-preoccupation with spirits, good and bad, fosters superstition in its less discerning members.  They are only too prone to blame the devil's temptations for their lapses and condone their own moral weaknesses.  They are inclined also to expect the guardian angel and the magical power of St. Christopher to protect them on highways without constant reliance on human precautions.

During wars Catholic servicemen are encouraged to wear blessed medals over their hearts to ward off deadly bullets.  Water from the Shrine of Lourdes becomes a better cure for a varicose ulcer than a saphenous vein ligation.  Viewers of television sports events can see Catholic boxers and wrestlers making the sign of the cross before attempting mayhem, and Catholic football squads slipping to their knees in huddles asking God to favor them over any heretical-or opposing Catholic adversaries.

 The multiplicity of spirits and officially accepted apparitions around the world nourishes credulity in the trainees of the parochial school, even in those who are supposedly the "vintage crop" and have been accepted for the priesthood.  I am sure that Franciscan seminaries are no more steeped in "ghost" stories than others, so the following "incidents" have their counterparts among the Jesuits, the Paulists and the Dominicans.

 Carrnel-by-the-Sea, some one hundred miles south of San Francisco , is one of nature's most beautiful triumphs.  The erosion of wind and water has carved the jutting peninsula of Monterey into a succession of cliffs and coves, and the green thumb of God has jammed a wind twisted cress into every bit of earth big enough to nourish it.

In the most sheltered spot of all, Padre Junipero Serra, the founder of the California Mission chain, built his favorite church.  It was dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  It became his chosen retreat, and here the saintly colonizer died and is buried.

When the Mexicans chased out the Spaniards, and the Americans under Colonel Fremont conquered the California Mexicans, all the missions came upon evil days.  Some were gradually returned to Catholic use, but the original Franciscans had died, and Carmel was given to the "secular" clergy.  For many years its pastor was a handsome Irish priest who, legend has it, while he kept one eye on his eternal goal was prone to let the other wander toward the pretty maids and the groaning tables of wealthy artists who even then were making Carmelby-the-Sea a Shangri-La.

The priest lived out his years in a semblance of sanctity with a full measure of comfort, and was gathered to his fathers.

The faithful of the area began to see strange things.  As they walked through the mission garden of an evening after the recitation of the rosary, they heard spectral wails in a key different from that of the winds that whipped through the beaten cypress.  They saw a wraith of a figure in the black robes of a secular priest with a long beard concealing any possibility of recognition.  A bold soul approached him one night and asked why he trod the earth in restless anguish.  He replied that many years before he bad taken money, given him for holy Masses, and had spent it for his own pleasure and had not recited the Masses for the intention of the giver.  His punishment was to walk the hills and beaches of Carmel till the crack of doom.

The faithful could not identify the spectral priest.  Their late pastor had been clean-shaven.  But an aged Indian, whose life had bridged the realms of the Spanish, the Mexicans and the Americans, produced a faded picture of the Irish priest as a younger man adorned with a full beard.  The kindly people gathered a substantial sum and gave it to the pastor of Carmel Mission with the stipulation that Masses be recited to pay off the spiritual debt of his predecessor.  The ghost of the bearded priest was never seen again.

That story was told us at Santa Barbara Mission to emphasize the consequences of neglect or malice in handling of Mass offerings.  We believed it! Not as a symbolic myth, but as literal truth, as fact!

The Archbishop of San Francisco is a very powerful man.  His jurisdiction covers several hundred thousand Catholics, and his authority over his hundreds of priests is absolute.

The story goes that one of his priests in the city of San Francisco had succumbed to the bright lights and the lusts of the flesh.  He was banished into exile in one of the towns "across the bay." There he died.

The diocesan officials ordered his body brought back to San Francisco and, after a solemn requiem Mass, he was buried in the city's Holy Cross Cemetery .

In his former parish church, strange things began to happen.  At midnight lights would go on, invisible hands would light the altar candles, a casket would float up the aisle toward the altar while the organ pealed out the "dies irae, dies illa" (O that day, that day of wrath).  Neighboring parishioners noticed the church lights and informed the pastor.  He hid in one of the confessionals and saw the eerie ceremony.  Controlling his own fear he stepped out, approached the floating coffin and recognized the spectral body of the exiled parish priest.  The next day he learned that the dead priest had stipulated in his will that he should be buried from that particular church.

The pastor called his two assistant parish priests, his organist and his choir director.  He swore them to secrecy and told them the story.  That night when the corpse arrived they stood in full funeral vestments and chanted the solemn requiem Mass.   The casket floated out and was never seen again.

The Archbishop of San Francisco heard of the incident, rumor had it, and called in all the principals.  If e swore everybody to secrecy.  Even the priests of the area were forbidden to discuss the apparition.  As usual, censorship failed.  We heard the story in Santa Barbara and believed it to the letter.

Parochial school children are constantly reminded of the Church's missionary work.  As seminarians we were encouraged to volunteer for service in the two pagan fields assigned to our Province of the Franciscan Order.  One was a section of China .  The other was Arizona .

In catechism classes children are taught that God permits the devil to "possess" souls, to take possession of their faculties.  We were told also that possession was more frequent in those pagan areas not yet thoroughly Christianized.

One devout missionary priest was making laudable progress among the devil worshippers in the Apache tribe on the White river Reservation in Arizona .  White river is surrounded by wild, heavily timbered pine forests and almost impassable mountains of northern-central Arizona .  Of old it was one of the strongholds of Geronimo and his Apache warriors.  Away from the main highways many roads are still steep mountain trails offering a driver little more than a ledge between the cliffs and the canyons below.

One evening, after the sun had set, the padre drove his car around a mountain curve, and his eye caught the figure of a black stallion poised on a ledge some forty feet above the road.  When he was directly below the spot the horse jumped.  It landed a straddle the engine hood, the face looking at him through the windshield.  The eyes glowed with the satanic fire of a possessing devil, and the mouth was twisted into a hellish leer.  As the frightened priest jammed on the brakes, the horse leaped into the canyon on the other side of the road, and echoes of demoniac laughter warned the man of God that Lucifer would not give up his Apache kingdom without a struggle.

When Protestants bring fantastic tales of this nature to the attention of the Roman Catholic clergy, they are told that such stories represent the mental aberrations of the small Roman Catholic illiterate fringe.  But St. Michael's Church in Brooklyn distributes this message:

 The Devil is the oldest, the most vicious and efficient enemy of man.  Through his serpentine tactics, he destroyed Paradise , our original home.  We are still in retreat, pursued by Satan and all his evil forces.  Daily be courts thousands of victims; wrecked homes, diseased bodies, broken minds, damned souls.  We must stop him!  St. Michael and his countless forces of Good Angels beat him once.  They can do it again.  The instant we call upon them they will help us. it is up to you!

 The bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota placed his imprimatur on Begone Satan' which the Theotokia Press of New Haven advertises in these words: "A soul-stirring account of diabolical possession in Iowa-woman cursed by her own father, possessed from fourteenth year till her fortieth year-devils appearing: Beelzebub, Lucifer, Judas, Jacob and Mina-after twenty-three days' battle in Sept. 1928, devil was forced to leave."

 We were taught in our adult seminary days (we were all over twenty-one) that the devil follows every priest who recites the Divine Office (a compilation of Latin prayers, poems and Bible excerpts), picking up words that the priest skips or mispronounces.  These he files in purgatory for future punishment.

The Catholic Church teaches that every unbaptized baby is possessed by the devil.  In the baptismal ceremony before the water is poured, the priest must drive out that devil:

 I adjure you, unclean spirit, in the name of God the Father, omnipotent, and in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and judge, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, that you relinquish this creature of God, which our Lord has deigned to choose as his holy temple, that it may become the temple of the living God and that the Holy Spirit may dwell in it.5

 Of much greater importance in demonstrating the Catholic fear of the devil is the official liturgy prescribed for driving evil spirits out of possessed persons.  This is certainly the most formal recognition of superstition by the hierarchy itself.

In the latest official Roman Ritual (Rituale Ronwnum) embellished with the coat of arms and an introductory letter of Francis Cardinal Spellman, January 6, 1947 , twenty pages are dedicated to the 21 instructions and prayers for driving the devil or devils out of possessed persons.  The following are a few highlights:

 Instruction 3: In the first place lest one be too easily inclined to believe a person to be possessed by the devil the signs should be watched which will distinguish the sufferer from one suffering from black bile or some other disease.  Signs of a possessing devil are: the ability to speak many words of an unknown language and to understand them; the ability to reveal distant or hidden things; a manifestation of strength beyond one's age or natural condition....

Instruction 5: Be cautious of the arts and deceptions that the devils use to disconcert the exorcist (the priest); they usually lie, and make things so difficult that the priest gets tired, or the patient appears not to be possessed at all.

Instruction 9: Sometimes the devil will leave the patient and permit him to receive the Holy Eucharist.  There are innumerable tricks and frauds that the devil will use to deceive.  The priest-exorcist must be cautious.

Instruction 13: Let the priest-exorcist keep the crucifix in his band or at least in sight.  Relies of the saints, if available, should be carefully touched to the head and breast of the possessed but let him beware lest these sacred objects be abused or in any way damaged by the devil.

Instruction 19: When exorcising a woman let the priest always have responsible people, preferably relatives, to bold down the woman while the devil is agitating her and let him be careful not to say or do anything that might provoke obscene thoughts either in himself or in others.

Instruction 20: The priest should ask the devil if be was forced into the body of the possessed person by some trick or magic (ob aliquam, operam magicam) or an evil spell, or potion, which if the possessed has taken by mouth he should be made to vomit up.  The devil must be forced to reveal any such physical evil things (potions, charms, fetishes, etc.) still outside the body, and these must be burned.'

 The prayers of the ritual begin with the admonition that if there be any physical danger the possessed must be bound as he is brought before the priest.  After pages of litanies, psalms, scriptural readings and preliminary prayers, the exorcism proper continues:

 I exorcise you, most vile spirit, the very incarnation of our adversary, the specter, the enemy, in the name of Jesus Christ, to get out and flee from this creature of God.  He himself commands you who ordered you thrown from the heights of heaven to the depths of the earth.  He commands you, who rules the sea, the minds and the tempests.  Hear, therefore, and shudder, 0 Satan, you enemy of the Faith, enemy of the human race, cause of death, thief of life, destroyer of justice, source of evils, root of vice, seducer of men, betrayer of nations, source of jealousy, origin of avarice, cause of discord, procurer of sorrows-why do you remain and resist when you know that Jesus Christ blocks your plans?  Fear him who in Isaac was immolated, who was sold in Joseph, who was killed in the lamb, who was crucified in man and then 'became the conqueror of hell.

Most vile dragon, in the name of the Immaculate Lamb, who trod upon the asp and the basilisk, who conquered the lion and the dragon, I command you to get out of this man, to get out of the Church of God .  Tremble and flee at that name which Hell fears; that name to which the Virtues of Heaven, the Powers and the Dominations are subject, which the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with untiring voices, chanting, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.7

 An ex-priest confined my own thoughts that superstition and ignorance are the foundation of the Churches system of control over people who will not think for themselves:

 Dear Mr. McLoughlin:

I have been perusing with deep interest your volume People's Padre.  It brings back a flood of poignant memories.  I am now an old man, just past eighty.  I joined the Dominicans as a mere boy of seventeen back in the nineties.  I entered the novitiate at Poitier , France , and was sent to the house of study established at Hawthorne , New York .

Every detail of your life story struck a sympathetic chord and made me live again those experiences which have left an unhealed heart wound.  Across the miles that separate us, I extend to you the hand of spiritual fellowship.  There is a bond between such as we are, though we do stand isolated and alone.  We have left many behind, still hiding under the shadow of an imposing organization, who envy us in the decision we have made.  They fear to leave the protecting walls of the cloister to go forth as single individuals pitted against a powerful institution.  If the defenses of the Church are ever destined to fall, you will behold an exodus from the fold, not merely individually, but en masse. /1' There are many half-hearted priests with little conviction of their own; they hardly dare to breathe their doubts except by way of innuendo.  They have social and financial security assured them and lack the courage to face the big outside world on their own.

The claims of the Church are becoming more preposterous every day.  She has used her hypnotism over those born in the fold.  She keeps captive the minds of her faithful and would even imprison Christ in her tabernacles.

Her claim to monopolize God is as pretentious as a monopoly of sunshine and fresh air.  She continues to dominate by threats and fear and has deprived God of his sanctions.

Her whole system is a fabric of magic formula and taboos.  Her sacraments are rites of magic and incantation.  Her devotions seem to ignore God Himself and leave Him enveloped in the shadow of the saints.  Divinity goes begging while relies are made objects of veneration.

It may seem strange, but ever since I left the Church, nearly fifty years ago, I have never felt the faintest qualm or experienced the slightest desire for reconciliation.  I went forth deeply disillusioned and thoroughly at odds with the Church's claims and this frame of mind has only strengthened with the passing years.

It is shocking when you consider how little genuine thinking is done by the Catholic laity and even by the priesthood.  Very few Catholics ever realize that they have never enjoyed the privilege of choosing their own religion; from the cradle on, religion is imposed upon everyone born in the Church.  Any Catholic who feels a misgiving and entertains a questioning mind commits a mortal sin.  He is told to make the sign of the cross against even the shadow of a doubt.

I have been astounded at the utter ignorance of priests with regard to early Church history and their absolute indifference to exegetical study of the scriptures.  The old stereotyped proofs of the faith taught in the theological curriculum are as obsolete as medieval breastplates in modern warfare.  Complacency in satisfied ignorance is the bane of the Church today.  She is still fighting Luther and the presbyter of the sixteenth century, and fails to realize that they are but windmills and phantoms.

Science has not made a dent in her beliefs because she blandly ignores science and calls it "pride of intellect." She closes her eyes and stops her ears against persuasion and refuses to own that there is anything wrong with herself.

 You might gather from what I have written that agnosticism is my only dogma.  Quite the contrary, God never seemed so great or meant so much to me.  I believe firmly in that Great 9

 Overshadowing Power and it has become a deep reality in my life.  I have indeed answered the call of a great poet, who


'Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,

And cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith."