Francesco Novelli - Amad. Gabrieli, “The Sacrament of Penance” (1800), via Wikimedia Commons
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion. If you push a large rock up a hill, it will exert an equal force back on you.
Is there a similar law for the supernatural world? Absolutely. Walk away from God and the devil will meet with no resistance when he comes at you. It is the reason that Fr. Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis, said in an interview for a previous article that if a person wants nothing to do with God, he cannot help, but if you go to Mass and receive the sacraments, the devil is already on the run. It is not an equal reaction, however. “The power of God is greater than the power of evil,” Father Lampert said.
That brings us to Ireland. During the last two decades, the Catholic influence has melted away in the land that St. Patrick converted from paganism. At the same time, demonic activity has increased. Coincidence? Of course not.
Secularism and consumerism have overtaken religiousness but also, scandals in the Church have shown once again that when the devil influences a cleric to abuse, there is always more than one victim. There is the physical victim and there is the Church, whose teachings get rejected based on the behavior of sinful men. Even in death, God-less funerals have risen dramatically in the post-Catholic culture.
Being Irish Catholic went from being a badge of honor to disdained. The truth and the power of the Church is no less, just less people are willing to listen. It is a logical spiritual reaction that demonic activity is now on the rise.
Signs of the Times
One sign is the growing pro-abortion mood in Ireland. This May, the traditionally pro-life country, will have a referendum for the repeal of the Irish Constitution’s Eight Amendment which recognizes unborn babies as human beings. Ireland’s prime minister has declared he will campaign to have it repealed. The devil makes war on God’s creation through the wombs of mothers by influencing people to push for abortion.
The devil is both hidden and influencing people and harassing some of them. In The Irish Catholic, Fr. Pat Collins, a renowned exorcist, said that in recent years, demonic activity has risen exponentially. He has called on Church leaders to appoint a team of exorcists to cope with what he sees as a rising tide of evil in the country.
Father Collins reported that he is “inundated almost daily with desperate people seeking his help to deal with what they believe to be demonic possession and other evil goings on.” People are claiming to have ghostly encounters, being pulled from their beds, and even full-blown possession.
The good news is that people are turning to the Church for help. The bad news is that the bishops have been slow to respond by training more priests to be exorcists. “The Church doesn’t know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped,” Father Collins said. He has written an open letter to the Church hierarchy. I hope that bishops will respond. I also hope that his plea will get people to rethink the Church.
It All Goes Back to Confession Lines
Msgr. John Esseff, a priest in the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, for 65 years and an exorcist for over 40 years, said that Ireland has now gone the way of other European countries that have walked away from the Catholic Church. As a result, fewer people are frequenting the sacrament of confession, which he said is worth more than 100 exorcisms; one imparts sacramental grace and the other is a blessing to move a person back to the sacraments. When confession lines grow short, demonic activity increases, according to him.
“Since Vatican II with the decline in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we’ve seen not just an increase in abortion but also in personal sin which is the primary work of the devil,” Msgr. Esseff said. “This has been true all over the world where the Church has declined.”
We need a personal awareness of sin because sin is the greatest evil, he explained. “Sin is a far greater evil than the devil,” Msgr. Esseff said. “The devil is outside of us. Even in a possession, he cannot possess the soul.” According to him, the work of Satan as we are told in the Our Father, is temptation. “Even though we’ve been redeemed with the union we have with Christ, sin robs us of the greatest gift that we have which is grace. We have a capacity to live like Jesus, who told us, ‘What I have done, you will do and even greater.’”
Through an awareness of who we are, Msgr. Esseff said we can participate in the life of Jesus and become united to him. He explained that we separate ourselves from Jesus through our sin which is why we confess at the beginning of every Mass through praying the Confiteor: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…”
“The more we make the sacrament of reconciliation, the less we will have demonic activity,” he said. “It takes away the scum and the dirt of sin that opens us up to the devil.”
The mercy and love of God is there for the sinner but acknowledging that we are sinners is being covered up, Msgr. Esseff explained. “We are almost proud of it and we display it in society, and it’s not just in Ireland. We need to recognize that the culprit is sin and realize it is the greatest evil.”