Why do we rarely give the Devil his due?

Opinion: Pope Francis is aware of a sceptical element within the Church on the ousting of demons

Pope Francis  said, “Maybe some of you might say, ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century.’ But look out, because the Devil is present . . . even in the 21st century. We mustn’t be naive.” Photograph  Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis said, “Maybe some of you might say, ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century.’ But look out, because the Devil is present . . . even in the 21st century. We mustn’t be naive.” Photograph Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Thu, May 22, 2014, 12:00

‘Give the Devil his due,” we say. But we don’t. You rarely hear a good word said about the Devil. Whatever happened to balance?

The question of the Devil’s status and standing has come back into focus following Pope Francis’s pronouncement that the Devil is for real, not an abstraction or a class of a bogeyman used to terrify children into better behaviour, but an actual being, moving among us filled with mendacity, on permanent alert for vulnerable souls to drag to his netherworld lair.

Addressing the doubters directly on April 11th, the pope said: “Maybe some of you might say, ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century.’ But look out, because the Devil is present . . . even in the 21st century. We mustn’t be naive.”

This wasn’t the first time Francis has confronted the Devil since becoming pontiff. In October last year, preaching in the chapel of St Martha’s House – the building adjacent to St Peter’s which he has adopted as his living quarters – Francis took for his text a passage from Luke 31: “When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said, ‘By power of Beelzebub, prince of demons, he drives out the demons.’ But he knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘If Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? . . . If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your own people drive them out?”

Francis is aware there is a sceptical element even within the church when it comes to the ousting of demons. He went on to tell the St Martha’s congregation: “There are some priests who, when they read this passage, will say, ‘Jesus merely healed a person with a mental illness . . . It is true that at that time they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession. But it is also true that there was the Devil! We do not have the right to simplify the matter.’ ”

Here we can see that Francis has no time for modern-day Catholics, ordained or otherwise, who would seek to deny or minimise the fact of the Devil’s presence. In this he takes the same stance as, for example, the entirety of the Irish church in the years when the Devil stalked the dance halls of the land.

From inside the Plaza, we’d hear the alluring sound of the Lakewood Swingtette, while the church would hear a din of iniquity.

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