CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 July 2019

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The devil’s in the structured sin not 
in the Halloween party

HONG KONG (SE): “Tonight we will discuss Halloween, All Saints and All Souls,” the leader of a young people’s prayer group announced at a parish in Hong Kong in the early part of November.

He explained later that although he is aware that there is a lot of controversy as to whether Halloween should be referred to in the Catholic Church or not, he believes that for young people in Hong Kong, it is necessary to discuss it.

“It is in our face,” he said. “It happens at work, university and school. Our friends talk about it and have Halloween parties or functions. We can’t avoid it. We have to talk about it and take part in things as young Catholics, and where better to talk than in Church, whether it is a prayer meeting, party or whatever.”

He added, “It is there that we can ask questions, express our doubts and, if we have a spiritual director or someone present, learn more about a Catholic perspective of it.”

While some say Halloween should be off the parish menu as it has pagan origins, some scholars disagree. It first appeared in the English language in the 16th century and the Old English translates as Mass of All Saints.

However, it was also looked at as the end of autumn, a time of stocktaking, which had a sense that the physical and supernatural worlds were close together and magical things could happen.

However, by and large, young people today see it as a time of fun, dressing up in crazy costumes and playing practical jokes, hopefully harmless.

One person at the prayer meeting said that he finds some fiestas in the Chinese calendar more frightening, even though his Catholic faith tells him that these things are not true.

Nevertheless, everyone was aware that we do have to deal with evil in our world and we need to keep good perspectives in order to be able to do that.

At the same time there are people in society who do take the occult, witchcraft and voodoo seriously, so is possession by the devil possible?

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says yes and last year held an exorcists convention for priests in an effort to interest more of them to volunteer to act as exorcists in their dioceses to deal with devil possession.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and the Clergy held an Exorcism and Liberation course in Rome in March this year.

Susan Brinkmann, a journalist for Breaking News, says a new breed of video games puts the invitation out to players to make pacts with the devil.

She notes that there are games that kill archangels and others that involve Muslims killing Christians in war.

The Judeo-Christian God is portrayed as the prominent villain in the series.

Journalist, Carlo Climati, notes that “the interest of youngsters in the world of Satanism has filled newspapers pages in these last years.”

Father Gabriele Amorth, the official exorcist for the diocese of Rome, says yes too, but adds that it may not be manifest in the manner that Hollywood producers would like us to believe.

He also explains that it is not common and most cases that he is referred to turn out to be no more than a psychiatric disorder of some kind.

He claims devil possession has a history in Catholic mysticism and that the Spanish mystic, Sister Maria Jesus de Agreda, received revelations concerning the fall of the angels.

“They fought with their intelligence and wills. The cause of the conflict? God had announced to them that the second member of the holy Trinity would become man and they should adore him,” Father Amorth says in a video documentary, The Devil, distributed in the diocese by the Diocesan Audio Visual Centre last year.

He adds that in the Lord’s Prayer, we should pray, “… deliver us from the Malignant One, not evil.”

However, he explains that the representations that we make of the devil at Halloween parties and such things with horns, a tail and a pitchfork do not even come close to caricaturing the reality, so that is not an issue.

However, he points out that there were 18 sightings of the devil at Vatican II and Pope Paul VI warned, “Satan’s smoke has entered through some fissure into the Temple of God.”

The late pope later insisted, “One of the greatest needs of the Church is to defend itself from the evil we call the devil.”

Pope John Paul II extended the description in 1985, saying, “Satan’s tactics consist of not showing himself, so that evil develops through the acts of man himself and is transformed more and more into a structured sin that is perceived less and less as a personal sin.”

This is what Hong Kong priest, Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, was referring to in his remarks about the property development industry at a Halloween party in his parish of Mother of Good Counsel last year.

However, Father Amorth says, “The devil does take on… different manifestations… and the most terrible is possession.”

Father Amorth describes this as the person losing themselves for a while and being supplanted by the devil. “For it is the devil who speaks through their mouth… the person is not free…”

However, he adds that it takes a lot of discernment to verify this and the help of physicians and psychologists is necessary before reaching the decision to do an exorcism.

However, he adds that there is a contradiction, as the person is actually cooperating with the exorcist to get rid of that thing that is the cause of their suffering.

He says that is why exorcisms in his experience have never been hostile or violent. He has never been physically attacked by a possessed person at any stage of what is always a lengthy process of several sessions.

However, Father Amorth believes that such possession is rare, because no matter how subtle the devil may be, he organises actions of such immensity and radicalism that not even the most insane person would go along with them.

He says that personally, he sees occultism as a far greater curse in the world, as it promotes the theory that divine providence is replaced by mysterious physical forces, like the stars. “This can even become pathological,” he notes.

Father Amorth warns that the thing to really avoid is spiritualism, where a medium goes into a trance to call up the spirit of a deceased person.

“Almost all the devil’s actions are summed up through temptation. Through temptation, a demon approaches a person and suggests he or she do something bad through intelligible means. No words are heard, but one has the thought. Its similar to telepathy,” he explained.

He adds too that although true witchcraft is satanic, the caricatures we see of witches in festivals do not relate to the reality of mediaeval times, but if people get into white and then black magic, or even voodoo, they are treading on dangerous ground.

Father Amorth says that we have no need to fear the devil, as the devil is powerless against the force of good. So with healthy play and a commitment to doing good, a prayer a day will keep the devil away.

Nevertheless, he warns, temptation is the devil’s business, and we still have to deal with that.

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