Priests tell Chai Brady we deny the devil’s existence at our peril
The Pope’s call to pray to Archangel Michael to protect the Church from the devil this month is a sign that the “evil one is strong at work” according to Irish priests.
In a communiqué released by the Vatican at the end of September, Pope Francis called on the Faithful to pray both the Rosary and to St Michael the Archangel “to protect the Church from the devil, who always seeks to separate us from God and from each other”.
Meath-based priest Fr John Hogan said that this message is more relevant than ever for Ireland. Speaking to The Irish Catholic, he said that as many people move away from Faith “they turn to other things, and some of those things are not good and they leave us open to the work of the evil one”.
“I think we need to be careful when we live in a time when we like to undermine religious truth. I think one truth that we undermine at our peril is the existence of the evil one,” he said.
The Vatican release also called on Catholics to pray to the Holy Mother to make the Church more aware of the “abuses committed in the past and present”, which comes in the same month infamous Chilean abuser priest Fernando Karadima was dismissed from the priesthood and at a time when large-scale abuse scandals were recently revealed in the US and Germany.
Fr Hogan said that highlighting the devil’s works was not an attempt by the Pope to deflect responsibility of Church officials to continue to rectify any structural issues that allowed the systemic perpetration and cover-up of abuse, but to remind Catholics that evil is not just a philosophical concept.
“I think sometimes we hear pastors talking about, say for example, supernatural truths or preternatural truths and people say they’re distracting them from other things, but they’re not no, sometimes we need to emphasise some of these truths because they’re being forgotten,” Fr Hogan said.
“We live in a time when we hear people speaking about structures of sin and it’s the structures that are sinful and the structures need to be changed, when in reality it’s not the structures that need to be changed, it’s the people, it’s us.”
The devil is walking in our midst every day, he said, with the main contact being the temptations people face on a daily basis. “I think any good military strategist will tell you the one thing you must not do is underestimate the enemy,” Fr Hogan added.
Renowned Irish exorcist Fr Pat Collins said that Satan, translated from the Hebrew, means accuser “and what’s non-stop in the Church at the moment is accusation”.
His comments come as former US papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò continues to accuse high ranking prelates including cardinals and Pope Francis himself of covering up abuse. After he released an 11-page statement on August 26 accusing Francis of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Pontiff decided to answer the allegations with silence and prayer.
Tackling abuse and highlighting the devil’s desire to divide the Church is not an “either/or” issue Fr Collins said.
“I think as a good person he’s finding it very hard to face the filth that has been revealed. I think he is trying to face it head on,” Fr Collins said.
The prayer to Archangel Michael was instigated in the modern Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1884, at a time when political tensions in Italy led prelates to fear there was going to be an attack on the Vatican or the Pope.
Although people generally pray a shorter version, pointing to this turmoil an extract of the longer prayer reads… “they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered”.
Fr Collins said that the current Pope “obviously has a sense that the Church is under attack in a spiritual sense”.
“But he clearly thinks that with all the abuse and attacks on his own authority and division among the cardinals that the devil is strong at work and that we need to pray against his intrusions upon the Church.”
The prayer to Archangel Michael is also used in the Rite of Exorcism, a ministry that is sorely needed in Ireland according to Fr Hogan, and that those involved are finding themselves extremely busy.
Fr Hogan said: “There are not enough priests involved in this ministry because something is happening in Ireland, exorcism is a specialised ministry in the Church, it needs to be rarely used, but you find that there is more of a need for it now because the cases are going up.”
“Again, still it’s not widespread but there’s something happening, it’s growing and that’s something that we have to actually take note of.”
The Pontiff, in a September 11 homily in Santa Marta in which he cited the first chapter of the Book of Job, also said the prayer to the Holy Mother – Sub tuum praesidium – was the weapon against the Great Accuser.
The Russian mystics and the great saints of all the traditions advised the Faithful to say this prayer in moments of spiritual turbulence, the Pope said.
Fr Collins, who continues to work as an exorcist in Dublin, said that he feels there’s a “spiritual warfare going on”.
He said that the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution earlier this year, which has paved the way for legislators to introduce legal abortion in Ireland, is a “manifestation of that”.