Did you know that Cardinal Íñiguez of Guadalajara just exorcised the entire country of Mexico? 

Fr. José Antonio Fortea, one of several exorcists and demonologists present at the ceremony, told CNA 

 “the exorcism performed in San Luís Potosí is the first ever carried out in Mexico in which the exorcists came from different parts of the country and gathered together to exorcise the powers of darkness, not from a person, but from the whole country.”

The Spanish exorcist warned that “to the extent there is more witchcraft and Satanism going on in a country, to that extent there will be more extraordinary manifestations of those powers of darkness.”

What was your reaction when you read those dramatic words?

I will admit that, while my intellectual belief in the powers of good and evil is constant, my skeptical attitude comes and goes. It's a little to easy to compartmentalize the way I see the world: spiritual things happen in Church, and when we're praying, and when there's an official holiday of some kind; but as soon as I read the daily news, my perception of what's happening int he world becomes "human, all too human."

Sometimes I read of news from a country like Mexico -- the intense brutality of the crimes perpetrated by drug lords who have overrun the country; the skyrocketing abortion rates; the blatant homage paid to a bizarre folk saint, Santa Muerte, who is openly invoked for protection of drug smuggling and human trafficking operations -- and I think, "The demons have taken over." It feels like all you need to do is squint and you'd see, with your own eyes, the swooping dance of leather-winged demons, straight out of a medieval play.

But at other times, I think, "Let's not get carried away. People have always been corrupt. Bad behavior ebbs and flows like the tide, and if you find the right sociological study, you can probably explain which societal pressures and which failures of government account for a nation tearing itself apart like this."

Well, the other day, Mark Shea warned us against being too savvy, too skeptical. He says,

I live in an age where making fun of the credulous is as easy as falling off a log, particularly when the credulity is directed at things having the savor of Christianity its Catholic expressions.

He was speaking about being too guarded against inexplicable wonders, being so sophisticated that we "miss Christmas."  But I think his warning is just as useful when we encounter inexplicable horrors. Just as we savvy, sophisticated, skeptical Catholics are in danger of insulating ourselves against the glorious works of God, we might also miss the blunt and obvious signs that the devil is also busy and active in the world. If the Mexican clerics believe an exorcism was necessary, then I believe them. 

"God shows Himself to the Faithful," says Shea, "whom the world routinely sneers at as the credulous, the foolish, and the suckers." I think that Satan does the same, and probably gets an extra delight when he struts his malice so openly, and we still refuse to recognize who is behind it.

All this is not to say, of course, that humankind are simply hapless pawns being tussled over by God and Satan. Measurable, quantifiable human factors like poverty, corruption, and disease most certainly do affect a country and its citizens, and you can understand a society and its ills very well even if you don't believe in Heaven or Hell. Even the exorcists themselves certainly don't think of their battle as a purely otherworldly one. An exorcism isn't going to instantly cleanse a country under the influence of demons, like rinsing mud off a soiled shirt until the water runs clean. It's not that simple. Fr. Fortea told CNA,

“It would be a big mistake to think that by performing a full scale exorcism of the country everything would automatically change right away"

[...]

Fr. Fortea emphasized that “when the exorcists of a country drive out its demons, it has to be done in faith. You’re not going to see anything, feel anything, there’s not going to be any extraordinary phenomenon. We have to have faith that God conferred on the apostles a power, and that we can use this power.”

In other words, when an exorcism drives out demons, it gives priests and holy layman some breathing space, and fortifies them so that they can wield the weapons and tools that God has already given them. At a certain point, it doesn't do us any good to wonder if an entire family was slaughtered because of Satan or because of cocaine. It's one and the same struggle, and God bless the Cardinal for fighting the fight on his spiritual home front.