I’ve been meaning to read Malachi Martin’s Hostage to the Devil for some time, but too many other books interrupted. Then, earlier this week, when I was at the radio studio recording my own Praying the Rosary for Spiritual Warfare it seemed apposite to borrow Martin’s book when I saw it on the bookshelf.
A good number of the books on the ministry of exorcism are either shallow or sensationalist or both. Martin’s book is neither. While he recounts the well researched stories of five exorcisms, he also spends a good amount of time telling us about both the exorcist and the possessed. He not only listened to the recordings of the exorcisms, but interviewed the people involved wherever possible.
What he brings out is fascinating, because he explores not only the horrible physical and psychic manifestations of demonic possession, but he also delves into the process whereby each person became possessed and how it began, not with extraordinary wickedness or even involvement in the occult (although occult involvement and extraordinary wickedness certainly played a part) Instead the two case histories I have read so far have involved a gradual drift away from orthodox Christian belief and practice, a kind of innate narcissism and low level selfishness.
From there it drifted into blatant self centeredness, and eventually debauchery and an acceptance of the evil forces.
Martin’s first case of “Father Jonathan” was most interesting. A seminarian, then a priest, Fr Jonathan drifted through sentimentality and narcissistic behaviors into a false New Age understanding of his Catholic faith. Infected with the thought of de Chardin, he began to be seduced by a religion that seemed to be more relevant and up to date. Martin shows how the exorcist in each case, was also drawn into similar situations or had complementary problems and difficulties, and why the exorcism was an eye opener for the exorcist as well as deliverance for the possessed.
What is most disturbing, however, is something I suspected for some time. Malachi Martin talks about those who are “perfectly possessed.” In other words the demonic possession is complete. These people no longer exhibit the preternatural signs and beastly manifestations and revulsion at the crucifix, a priest or the Eucharist. They are able to outwardly practice their Catholic religion, but inwardly they have given themselves completely to Satan.
These individuals may be functioning (on the outward level) perfectly adequately as Catholics–even priests, bishops and religious–but they are Sons of Satan. These are the ones who subvert the faith and turn the faithful to the darkness while appearing, on the outside, as angels of light. The writers of the New Testament were well aware of these false teachers. St Paul warns about them. St John calls them beasts and the anti-Christ.
Finally, there are three interesting points that Martin brings out about the technique of the exorcist. While most of us will not witness a real exorcism and most priests, God be thanked, will not have to perform one, the technique against the demon is still educational.
After binding the demon, the exorcist demands to know the demon’s name. This is a reminder that the demons are always liars. They always use a disguise. They always shield their real presence and hide behind some other alias, some other identity and some other, more attractive guise. The lesson is, to fight evil it must first be identified.
Secondly, the exorcist must never allow the conversation to become personal. It is always about Jesus–never about the exorcist. One exorcist in the book fell into the trap when the demon said the exorcist would be made to suffer. When the exorcist said, “I am willing to suffer…” he made it about himself and was doomed. The lesson is, to fight evil it is always Jesus–never us. We cannot fight this in our own power.
Thirdly, the exorcist is told to never engage the demon in any kind of seemingly logical debate or conversation because the demon will always win. He is smarter and a smooth liar. Besides, he does not use logic as a way to discover truth, but as a way to distort truth and promote a lie. The lesson being, when confronted with a false teacher it is usually a waste of time to debate and discuss. The apostles simply condemned them and were done.
This is why, down through history, the most powerful teachers in the church did not debate false teachers who were obstinate in their lies. They pronounced against them and left them to the judgement of God.
With this in mind, what do we do with all the false teachers in our world today? Ross Douthat’s book Bad Religion-How We Became a Nation of Heretics. I am of the opinion that most of them are beyond discussion, and my reasons are outlined here.
Therefore we remain true to the timeless gospel of Jesus Christ revealed in the person of Christ and witnessed to in the Sacred Scriptures. We remain true to the timeless teachings of the Catholic Church and to the teachings of her saints. We maintain true and reverent devotion to the sacraments of the church, try to live out the precepts of the church and engage in the works of mercy and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith.