One of the byproducts of our obtusely secularized culture is that it has redacted the devil from its collective lexicon. That results in dismissive comments from our cultural cognoscenti — those who support abortion on demand, deny the efficacy of abstinence programs, and support euthanasia — who are unthoughtfully convinced that the “devil” is merely a convenient construct intended to deflect responsibility for evil acts (“Pope: Pray to protect church from devil, step up fight against abuse,” Oct. 5 Herald).
Indeed, for the secular humanists, faith seems as foreign as atheism does to us. But the wisdom that faith — and its offspring, grace — provides, tells us the devil is evil incarnate and that our response must be daily, deep prayer and strict adherence to the Church’s teachings.
In that regard it’s heartening that we’re reciting the Prayer to St. Michael at the end of Mass because it helps to remind us that the devil is in our midst, and that the best response is a strong interior prayer life.
When we reflect on the evident pattern of sinfulness perpetrated by some priests, with inexcusable protection by certain Church leaders, it tears our hearts asunder. We simply can’t contemplate how such egregious behavior could happen, much less why it wasn’t summarily stopped and those responsible appropriately punished. But not unlike all of us who have sinned, the Church extends the cleansing sacrament of penance to one and all. And, while we surely condemn evil acts, judgment is in the hands of God.
Instead, let’s to turn to writers such as the late Georges Bernanos (d. 1948), who wrote the “Meditation of the Day” in Magnificat on Oct. 4 and addressed “the debauchery and simony of prelates” in St. Francis’s day. He suggested that “The only way of reforming the Church is to suffer for her. The only way of reforming the visible Church is to suffer for the invisible Church. The only way of reforming the vices of the Church is to lavish on her the example of one’s own most heroic virtues.”
Let’s pray that Church leadership worldwide uses this tragedy as an opportunity to reaffirm the sanctity of their vows, to scrupulously safeguard innocents everywhere, and to recognize that the devil is a real, sleepless menace “seeking the ruin of souls.”