Saturday, November 9, 2013

Montini and Bergoglio


In 1972 Pope Paul VI, reflecting on the crisis facing the Church when he realized the implementation of Vatican II was not forthcoming as the Council fathers intended, opined on the reality of Satan:

“….So we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history. It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: "An enemy has done this." He is "a murderer from the beginning . . . and the father of lies,"[Jn 8:44] as Christ defines him. He undermines man's moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive aspirations. 
This matter of the Devil and of the influence he can exert on individuals as well as on communities, entire societies or events, is a very important chapter of Catholic doctrine which should be studied again, although it is given little attention today. Some think a sufficient compensation can be found in psychoanalytic and psychiatric studies or in spiritualistic experiences, which are unfortunately so widespread in some countries today.

People are …exposing their souls-their baptized souls, visited so often by the Eucharistic Presence and inhabited by the Holy Spirit!-to licentious sensual experiences and to harmful drugs, as well as to the ideological seductions of fashionable errors. These are cracks through which the evil one can easily penetrate and change the human mind.

This is not to say that every sin is directly due to diabolical action; but it is true that those who do not keep watch over themselves with a certain moral rigor are exposed to the influence of the ‘mystery of iniquity’ cited by St. Paul which raises serious questions about our salvation."



The Jesuit Pope Francis too has a a healthy understanding of Catholic teaching on "the world, the flesh, and the devil." The Holy Father is of a mind that Christians must always guard against the Father of Lies; that Christians cannot follow the victory of Jesus over evil “halfway”, nor confuse or relativize truth in the battle against the devil. 

His view of how Catholics, is reminiscent of Paul VI’s 1972 statement as well: “Jesus casts out demons,” the Pope has said,    “and then someone offers explanations ‘to diminish the power of the Lord.’” It seems there is the temptation “to want to diminish the figure of Jesus, as if he were ‘a healer at most’ and so … not to take him ‘so seriously’” as He did the Devil. It is an attitude, he has observed, that has remained to the present day:


“There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, [of Jesus’ exorcisms] this and others, say: ‘But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness’. They do not read this, no? 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.” 

Thus, he warned, “we should not be na├»ve”. The Pope, as did Pope Montini, observed that the Lord gave us certain criteria to “discern” the presence of evil and to follow “the Christian way when there are temptations”. One of the criteria is “not to follow the victory of Jesus” only “halfway” [lukewarmness}.

Pope Francis teaches us: “Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me.” Jesus, he added, came to destroy the devil, “to give us the freedom” from “the enslavement the devil has over us”. And, he cautioned, this is not “exaggerating”. 

“On this point,” he said, “there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation; eternal salvation” of us all. 

There are criteria for watchfulness. “We must always be on guard,” exhorted the Pope, “on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil” [recall the St. Michael prayer].

“And we can ask ourselves the question: Do I guard myself, my heart, my feelings, my thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I guard the presence of the Holy Spirit in me? Or do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well? But if you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come. But if someone stronger comes and overcomes, he takes away the weapons in which one trusted, and he shall divide the spoil. Vigilance! Three criteria! Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day.”

When the impure spirit leaves man, the Pope pointed out, “it wanders in deserted places, and seeking rest and finding none, says: ‘I will return to my house, from which I left’.” 

And when he finds it “swept clean and adorned”, then he goes, “takes another seven spirits worse than he, who come and make their homes”. And, this way, “the last state of man becomes worse than the first”.

“Vigilance,” he said, “because his strategy is this: ‘You became Christian. Advance in your faith. I will leave you. I will leave you tranquil. But then when you are used to not being so watchful and you feel secure, I will come back’. The Gospel today begins with the devil being cast out and ends with the devil coming back! St. Peter would say: ‘It is like a fierce lion that circles us’, seeking the ruin of souls. It is like that. ‘But, Father, you a little ancient. You are frightening us with these things…’ No, not me! It is the Gospel! And these are not lies: it is the Word of the Lord! 

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil! He seeks to return home, to take possession of us… Do not relativize; be vigilant! And always with Jesus!” [Amen]