Tuesday 11th December 2018

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January 5, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I know that the Devil has a lot of influence in the world today, and that he is capable of leading persons into sin, but can he read a person’s thoughts? — K.R., via e-mail.
A. No, says the late Fr. Gabriel Amorth, chief exorcist in Rome for many years and author of several books based on his experiences combatting the Devil and his disciples. In his last book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic, Fr. Amorth answered this question by saying, “Absolutely not.” He said that “only God — who is omniscient, who intimately possesses the secrets of created reality, that of men and angels, and that of uncreated reality, which is His own essence — knows in depth the thoughts of each man. Although a spiritual creature, the demon does not understand what is in our mind and in our heart; he can only surmise it through observing our behavior.”
This is “not a complicated operation for him, having extremely fine intelligence,” Amorth explained. “If a young person smokes marijuana, for example, [the demon] can deduce that in the future he will also use stronger drugs. In a word, from what we read, see, say, and experience, and from all the companions we choose, even from our glances — from all this he can discern where he will tempt us and at which particular moment. And that is what he does” (p. 20).
Quoting from St. Peter’s warning about the Devil in 1 Peter 5:8-9, Fr. Amorth said that “my interpretation of this passage, on which various biblicists are agreed, sounds like this: ‘Brothers and sisters, be vigilant. The devil wanders around each one of you, searching where to devour.’ That word where is important: the devil looks in each person precisely for his weak point and ‘works’ on it, creating his next sinful occasions, those that he has commissioned for him. It will be the targeted person himself, who in his liberty will commit the sin, after having been well ‘cooked’ by Satan’s temptation” (p. 21).
“The most frequent weak points in man,” said the former exorcist, “are, from time to time, always the same: pride, money, and lust. And, let us note well, there are no age limits for sinning. When I hear Confessions, I often say to my penitents, somewhat jokingly, that their temptations will end only five minutes after they have exhaled their last breath. Therefore, we must not presume or hope that at an advanced age we shall be exempt from sin. A vice that is cultivated in youth will not lessen in old age without some work and intervention. Let us consider lust: when I hear Confessions, it’s not uncommon for the elderly to confess to looking at pornography more often than the youth. The will to struggle against sin must be cultivated even to the end of our days” (p. 21).

Q. How can a faithful Catholic who is aware of current events not be alarmed at the state of our Church? It seems Church leadership, the USCCB, and even the Vatican now see the Church’s primary mission as one of political leadership, addressing current political issues, such as climate change, national sovereignty, along with much of the liberal political agenda. That is tragic because we know the Church is always under attack from Satan through the secular world and, when leadership makes secular politics a Church matter, it is divisive and in essence it places the Church under attack from within because it then loses sight of its primary spiritual mission — feeding, winning, and saving souls for Christ.
I also believe this failure of the Church to fulfill its spiritual mission has given rise to misconceptions of authentic Catholic teaching on such important issues as contraception, same-sex attraction, and the Real Presence.
Although we know that the Church will always prevail, we also know that the faithful are subject to trials and tribulations. Given current Church leadership at the Vatican and in our own country, I see the probability of a continued decline of our Church in the foreseeable future, but with the positive result that there will then be a strong, faithful remnant. Are my concerns correct and justified? — D.M., Virginia.
A. Unfortunately, they are, and you are not the first to express such concerns. Back in December 1969, a theology professor named Fr. Joseph Ratzinger gave a talk entitled, “What Will the Future Church Look Like?” Among other things, the future Pope Benedict XVI said:
“From the crisis of today a new Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so she will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision….But in all [this]…the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.”
This quotation, from Fr. Ratzinger’s book Faith and the Future, was included in an article (“Catacomb Time?”) written by George Weigel in the August 26, 2015 issue of First Things. While the future Pope was describing what he could see coming in his native Germany, said Weigel, “this same judgment — Catholicism by osmosis is dead — and this same prescription — the Church must reclaim its missionary nature — are at the root of every living sector of the Catholic Church in the United States: parish, diocese, seminary, religious order, lay renewal movement, new Catholic association. And while it is true that the Church in these United States is going to have to fight hard, both internally and externally, to maintain the Catholic integrity and identity of what Ratzinger called those ‘edifices…built in prosperity,’ there is no reason to think that that fight is already lost and that it’s time to head for the catacombs.”
Weigel said that “the further truth to be taken from Ratzinger’s vision of the Church’s future is that 21st century Catholicism ‘will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.’ Lukewarm, pick-and-choose Catholicism will not survive the cultural and political tsunami that’s coming. All-in Catholicism can do more than survive; it can convert.”
In a similar vein, the late Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the archbishop of Chicago, while speaking to a group of priests some years ago, said that he was “trying to express in overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization of our society could bring” when he made the following statement:
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church had done so often in human history.”
Cardinal George also said that “God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. Catholics, along with many others, believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, Savior of the world and head of His body, the Church. Those who gather at His Cross and by His empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history.
“Those who lie about Him and persecute or harass His followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up bringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression. There is nothing ‘progressive’ about sin, even when it is promoted as ‘enlightened.’ The world divorced from God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters.”
We don’t know what the future holds for the Catholic Church in this country, except that she will surely survive whatever trials and tribulations come along, but our concern is how many of her putative members will survive. What we can do is become the best Catholics we can be and remain faithful to the Lord, saying as often as we can the words on the Divine Mercy image: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

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Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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