While I like to talk about some of the fringe protestant Christian groups that see us as the enemy, the Catholic Church has its own subculture of extremists obsessed with combating Paganism and the occult. This impulse within Catholicism most clearly manifests as a renewed interest in the rite of exorcism. I understand that Pope Benedict XVI has taken a dim view of some interfaith work done on the part of the Church, but listing adherence to an established religion as proof of demon possession may be further than even he would be willing to go in a public forum.
“Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons … Father Euteneuer told me possession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards. ”Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.”
Father Euteneuer, like all “occult experts” selling Satan, is peddling a book. In it, he goes so far as to suggest that merely hanging out with a Pagan could infect you with an “occult demon”.
“Occult demons are the most difficult to expel due to their mode of infestation. They generally come in through a person’s participation in or contact with occult things or people, even if the person thought that he was just playing a game. . . .”
Interestingly, while Father Euteneuer says that “Demons are basically handcuffed, and they know it”, he’s also quick to criticize DIY exorcisms by untrained non-Catholic “prayer warriors”.
“I am also concerned about real abuses that happen in spiritual warfare when people are trying to deal with evil without the protection of the Church. They may have a legitimate desire to be free from demonic forces but they can unwittingly get caught up in the very evil they are trying to quell.”
One has to wonder if this is a swipe at some of the spiritual warfare-happy protestant groups? After all, if any old Christian could cast out demons, why buy the book? Then again, he’s being interviewed by someone very much in favor of Catholic-Evangelical political alliances, so who’s to say?
Obviously not all Catholics are demon-haunted like Father Euteneuer, my father’s a staunch Catholic and I don’t think he believes I’m being controlled by various devils (right dad?), nor do most rank-and-file believers seem to be lining up for exorcisms because their teenager is reading “Twilight” or dabbling in Wicca. But this new zeal for exorcisms among certain priests and believers is troublesome, especially since Euteneur isn’t the first exorcist to list modern Paganism as a symptom of possession. Further, their zeal for occult battle is vindicated when prominent Bishops fear a looming “esoteric religiosity” due to the evils of secularism, and their Pope warns of “subjugation to occult powers” in his encyclical on love. When your religion isn’t merely criticized, or found to be in error, but actively demonized, seen as a pure evil to be cast out, there can be no real conversation or understanding. It sparks a dehumanizing process that can lead to violent outbursts against those who are “other”.
If this impulse towards demonization, willful misunderstanding, and distortions continue, what will happen when new efforts to “re-evangelize” the West gain steam? One can only hope that the Catholic Church realizes the implications of the rhetoric it allows from its clergy, and the problematic undercurrents of inter-faith warfare within the now-burgeoning exorcism movement. If not, how long before we have Catholics pursuing and branding “witches” in the West as certain unscrupulous Christian pastors now do in parts of Africa.