Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Archdiocese’ Category

Here is the HHS Compromise, be attentive because it gets complicated: “With respect to self-insured group health plans, the eligible organization would notify the third party administrator, which in turn would automatically work with a health insurance issuer to provide separate, individual health insurance policies at no cost for participants. The costs of both the health insurance issuer and third party administrator would be offset by adjustments in Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees that insurers pay.”

136009898198238

Since the Archdiocese is self-insured, this would in effect mean that some of our employees would have to be insured by an outside organization, either in whole or in part. Look at all the actors in this play: (1) the Church; (2) the third party administrator; (3) an outside health insurance issuer; (4) the federal government; (5) the supplier of services; and (6) the insured person. The user fees are essentially a tax to insure that contraceptives are free and to pay the third party administrator. What happens to the viability of the self-insurance program if people opt out for the third party insurer?

In any case, I still think people are going to pay more for heart and blood-pressure medicine to make up the cost for free contraceptives. What insurance company will cover just contraception, sterilization and abortifacients without funds to shift from other medical coverage? I doubt federal fees with be sufficient. It will be exploited. Is the Church still morally culpable if we collaborate with other agents in such a scheme? Are we culpable for money given to the government to pay the insurance companies to supply people with contraceptive services?

Given the intransigence of the administration with insisting that health care include free contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization; I cannot say that I trust the latest offer of exemption to the Church and associated religious entities. It seems to me that religious liberty is still very much threatened. Remember, this is the same administration which sought jurisdiction over ministerial assignments; no doubt supposing that if they lost one ridiculous or outrageous battle, it would make churchmen more passive about what was viewed as a lesser campaign. I think they were genuinely surprised by men like Cardinal Dolan. Suddenly Catholic bishops had teeth and could bite back.

I suspect this newest offer is to convince the bishops of a need to see the dentist. The administration still insists that the agenda of Planned Parenthood will become the official policy of government. No matter how you spin it, that means a confrontation with the Church and the Gospel of Life.

I was amazed that some critics and churchmen quickly rejoiced and sang Hallelujah when the revised policy was announced. We must not return to a posture of passivity and ineffective opposition to Big Brother and modernity. More level-headed religious leaders argue that we need to look at this offer closely. It may be a trick. It seems to me, upon closer examination, that there is no miracle break-through or adequate accommodation. The shell-game continues.

The question proposed is this: can such a policy be mandated against Church institutions with religious and moral reservations? The response of the administration seems to be that some institutions have more of a claim upon religious liberty than others. If the previous offer only preserved such liberty within the walls of the churches, this new policy will only add the porch or parking lot. Churches, individually or corporately, are protected, as are religious orders, but the rest is still up for grabs. Again, this administration has a very narrow notion of what constitutes “church.” Ministries in the area of community service are understood entirely within the matrix of secular humanism. President Obama’s religious vision is wholly a horizontal one (earth-bound) with little or nothing of the vertical or transcendent. In other words, God made us— great; but WE make the rules.”

We still have a fight on our hands because of the indiscriminate outreach of our religious charities, hospitals and schools. This element of the policy has not really changed. Okay, even if self-insured, we would not be required to pay “directly” for the contraceptive coverage; however, we still have to find other insurers to dirty their hands for us. The cooperation with evil becomes more remote but they will still be our agents.

Throughout it has saddened me that we have stressed the religious liberty of the Church as an institution but not the same rights of individual believers and citizens. There is no exemption for them and their businesses. It is bad enough that pro-life groups, EWTN, the Knights of Columbus and others might be forced to comply; however, what about the good Catholic entrepreneur who bakes donuts or fixes cars or cuts the grass. There are no exemptions at all for them. I know, some will say that they could fight and pay out hard-earned money to litigate for themselves. But this is America, our rights are supposed to be guaranteed, not entitlements for which we have to fight and beg.

I bet if it had not been for the courts, we would not have seen even these concessions. No doubt the administration wants to promote a particular public perception: a liberal government wanting to dialogue about national healthcare and a backward-thinking Church wanting to deprive couples of pills and condoms. President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius know full well that many if not most American Catholics are out of sync with Church leadership and moral teachings. As in Maryland with the proposition for same-sex marriages, they hope to exploit this advantage and show that they are the true magisterium, not the ecclesial shepherds largely abandoned by their flocks. As much as the USCCB has sought to frame this debate under the banner of religious liberty and the First Amendment, the administration has been highly effective in convincing many people that it is about reproductive choices and health. God help us!

Read Full Post »

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.

http://bloggerpriest.com/category/awalt-papers/

Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

Read Full Post »

Given the importance of this matter, and how it is a special teaching moment, here is an article from the archdiocesan newspaper . . .

Incident at St. John Neumann spurs reflection on significance of Holy Communion

Special to the Standard

Recent news accounts have reported an incident at St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg, where a woman was initially denied Communion at her mother’s funeral Mass (she did, however, receive Communion from a Eucharistic minister) and the celebrant did not attend the burial. (Another priest did preside at the graveside service.) In response, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement (below) and Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, vicar general, personally contacted members of the family.

This is the statement issued by the archdiocese on February 27:

“In matters of faith and morals, the Church has the responsibility of teaching and of bringing the light of the Gospel message to the circumstances of our day. When questions arise about whether or not individuals should present themselves for Communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person. Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive Communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.

“The archdiocese is looking into the incident at a funeral Mass that was celebrated by Father Marcel Guarnizo and will handle this as a personnel issue.”

This situation provides an opportunity to refresh our understanding of the Eucharist, its importance and the guidelines on how it is to be administered and received.

For Catholics, the Eucharist is the most important of the seven sacraments because we believe that through this mystery, we literally receive the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not just a symbol. Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is an intimate encounter with Christ, in which we sacramentally receive Christ into our bodies, and become more completely assimilated into his.

Therefore, because the Eucharist is Christ himself, who is the center of all Christian life, the Church teaches that Catholics must be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist worthily. Catholics should examine their conscience and make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation if they have committed grave sin before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

The following guidelines, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, clarify how Catholics should prepare prior to receiving the Eucharist:

“As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental Confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for Confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the sacrament of penance is encouraged for all.”

The priest has an obligation to make sure that the sacraments are respected. Since it is difficult to know what is in a person’s heart, it is also important that when doubt arises regarding whether a person is properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, it is handled in a pastoral and compassionate manner, privately between the priest and the communicant.

The reception of the Eucharist is a blessing and a grace. We should receive Jesus with the intention of becoming more like him. No one is entitled to the Eucharist. It is a free gift that should be received with humility and reverence. It is also a sign of unity with the Church’s teaching on faith and morals.

CLICK for Guidelines for the Communion Line

CLICK HERE to see MORE COMMENTS AT BLOGGER PRIEST

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

“LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD!” When a friend of mine first saw the title of this initiative on a bus billboard, she humorously said, “Hum, longing for something? Maybe it’s… CHOCOLATE!” She did not mean to be profane; I guess she was just hungry. Her response does offer us something important to reflect upon. Many people are searching for ultimate meaning, but often they settle for something proximate and which gives a quick fix. Some turn to drugs and replace otherworldly communication (prayer) and meditation with drug induced euphoria. Others have substituted sexual union, and the accompanying thrills, for a genuine communion with God and the spiritual rapture that knows no bounds. I suppose some try to find God in a bottle, and yet excessive alcohol always fails to deliver what it promises and forces a heavy toll upon us as well. Even physical food, which we need to survive, cannot come close to the promise of the Eucharist as our spiritual food and encounter with the living God. Every one of us is like a puzzle where our lives consist of putting the pieces together in the right places. Without God, an important piece remains missing and the perfection or wholeness is ruined. We were made for God. There is no need to wander aimlessly through this world. The Church safeguards the answers to the ultimate questions; Christ, himself, is the source of this meaning. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. The old children’s catechism did not hesitate to share the answer to the great existential question. Why did God make you and me? He made us TO KNOW HIM and TO LOVE HIM and TO SERVE HIM in this world and TO BE HAPPY AND GIVE HIM GLORY forever in the world to come. That is the long and short of it.

Read Full Post »

ADW_Longing_BusBack.qxd

The Archdiocese of Washington has started a blog for the Lenten initiative, “LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD.” My dear friend and priest-colleague Father Charles Pope writes most of the posts. He is well known for his offering of the Tridentine Mass and for running a bible study in the White House during the last Bush Administration. It can be found at:

http://blog.adw.org/.

Read Full Post »

Maybe you’ve drifted away from church. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl invites Catholics back to Mass.

Read Full Post »

SK George L. Chapman, Jr., PFN passed away peacefully at his home in Laurel, MD, on Friday, January 9, 2009. With his passing I feel free to tell you an incredible story that many did not know about George. Back in the late 1940’s there was another boy, only thirteen years old, who had been introduced to the occult and who suffered a spiritual invasion through his aunt’s Ouija board. Seemingly on their own, objects moved around, furniture fell over, and “his desk at school moved about on the floor similar to the plate on an Ouija board.” This latter evidence of telekinesis forced the boy to quit school because of embarrassment. Things got even worse at home. Not yet Catholics, they called their Lutheran minister but he found the situation uncontrollable. Any chair in which they placed the boy tipped over. Resting him on a floor rug, it moved on the wood floor entirely on its own.

Having a relative married to a Catholic, the boy’s mother described the situation to him. His response was “If what you say is true, then you should consult a priest.” The family called the nearby parish, St. James Catholic Church. The boy’s father made an appointment to talk to one of the priests. The clergyman gave him various sacramentals: holy water, blessed candles, and some recommended prayers. “Once when the mother had sprinkled the holy water around the room, she placed the bottle on a dresser and it was picked up by the spirit and smashed. When one of the candles was lighted, the flame shot up to the ceiling, and the candle was extinguished for fear that the house might be set on fire.” The suggested prayers seemed to make the phenomena worse. Deciding to call back the priest, the clergyman heard a great crashing sound. The mother of the boy told him that the telephone table she was using had broken into a hundred pieces.

This anxious situation refused to end and matters grew tenser. The priest, Fr. E. Albert Hughes, went to the chancellor of the archdiocese. He was warned to move slowly and not to leap to rash judgments. The young priest explained that he had done as much. After a meeting with the archbishop, Most Reverend Patrick A. O’Boyle, he was authorized to initiate the exorcisms. Fr. Hughes resisted, hoping that an older and more experienced man might be chosen instead. He “understood that this should be done by a very holy man because the devil is wont to expose the sins of the priest; so the Father went to Baltimore and made a general confession. But the devil is the father of lies, and there is a theological opinion that he is unable to reveal sins that have been forgiven.”

The archbishop insisted. The young priest had to offer the ritual. It would prove a terrible miscalculation. Between February 27 and March 4, 1949, the boy was moved to Georgetown University Hospital. A young man and altar server (George L. Chapman, Jr.) who was known for his abilities in high school football was drafted by the priest to assist him. Side-by-side with his priest, George would look straight into the devil’s face! He told me that he had a terrible struggle to hold the possessed boy down; that he could spit across the room with deadly accuracy. Indeed, the spittle would fly around the book and still hit the priest in the face. The ritual book dissolved somewhat from the fluids expelled. At one point George lost his patience and even slugged the other boy to keep him under control. He saw himself as the popular priest’s body guard. The priest made him go to confession and pledged him not to tell his mother and friends at that time the details of the encounters. They tied the hands and feet of the boy to the bedposts. He reacted violently to the ritual. Loose items in the room crashed to the floor. The bed shook uncontrollably. Strenuously the large server sought to hold the bed down. The victim was a small boy and yet he possessed incredible strength. The priest warned his young assistant not to enter into dialogue with the boy, only to give the required responses to the ritual words of the priest. Strange words came forth from the restrained boy, supposedly Aramaic, a form of ancient Hebrew. Previously the boy had taunted the priest in Latin. Objects were thrown around the room. The boy growled like an inhuman animal. Then it happened. Somehow the boy had gotten a hand free of the restraints. He secretly tore through the heavy mattress and ripped out a metal spring. The server responded to the words uttered by Fr. Hughes in the ritual. At the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, the possessed boy attacked the priest and tore a gash into the cleric’s arm from his shoulder to his wrist. Blood exploded over everything! The ritual prayer book was caked in the priest’s blood! He screamed out! George tried to restrain the demoniac and was hit hard in the eye. The exorcism had ended in failure. The priest’s life was saved by the efforts of his server and the quick actions by the doctors; his arm ended up with a long track of a hundred plus stitches. He would have lingering problems with the arm and it would visibly drag at the consecration during Masses.

As an interesting aside, the young server in this episode having been struck in the eye by the afflicted boy, would develop a black eye and it was joked that maybe the priest had socked him. When the priest mysteriously left the parish, only he knew the true reason. The good priest would need to recuperate from his terrible encounter and injury. After this event, colleagues of the priest said that Fr. Hughes was never quite the same. He became quieter. He was intensely reserved about what had happened. One remarked that it was as if he was a haunted man. He died in 1980. Now his faithful server has joined him in eternity. Other exorcists would finish the exorcisms in St. Louis and the demoniac would eventually be freed of his infirmity.

A few days ago an obituary matter-of-factly announced the death of SK George L. Chapman, Jr., PFN. Many of our members are new Knights and would not know him. His death notice noted that he was “a devoted father of Brian (Karen) Chapman and Michael Chapman and is also survived by two grandchildren, Cody and Corine; brothers, Francis and Paul; sisters, Geraldine Daily, Eileen Issing, Regina Shouse, and Claire Rollins; and numerous nieces and nephews.” Yes, he was a good family man and like all the rest of us mortal. But, he was also a faithful Catholic who trusted the promises of Jesus his Savior. Working to the very end, he was serving as Lecturer this fraternal year for P.G. Council 2809.

I felt his passing very personally and lamented that I could not make his funeral. We lost a great Knight of Columbus, a Catholic gentleman who epitomized everything a Knight should be. George played a part in the degrees that first brought me into the Knights of Columbus over 20 years ago. I can recall his strong and dramatic voice and the way he moved in his ceremonial robes. The candidates were mesmerized by every word he spoke, not just memorized, but words that had melded as part of him. Over the years, I would repeatedly run into him at the various functions of our order. Always busy, he even acted as a host for informational video presentations sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. You may have seen some of them on cable. A few of them are available on YouTube. Just as his dear priest friend once used the words of the ritual against Satan, George never forgot the power of words and used his gifted voice to inspire faith and service in other Catholic men, particularly his beloved Knights of Columbus.

Rest in Peace!

Read Full Post »

frjoeprolife

Here is a picture of me and the Knights of Columbus who set up 721 crosses that represent the children lost to abortion in one hour of one work day.  This MEMORIAL OF THE INNOCENTS will remain up at Holy Family Church in Mitchellville until January 17, when it will be transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, MD.  Together, we wanted to also make it a preparation for the annual march for Life in Washington, DC.  We have received a lot of support although there have been a few complaints.  One lady argued against putting such a thing up at Christmas time.  I explained that Advent and Christmas was the perfect time.  During Advent we recall the Christ-child in the womb and on Christmas he is born.  We are reminded that every child is a reflection of the Christ-child.  Another person argued that it was insensitive as she was a pro-choice Catholic.  I told her that she was deceived.  There is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christian, abortion attacks the central mystery of the Incarnation.  Abortion is murder and as such it is a repudiation of Christ’s Gospel of Life. 

Goodness, I am humbled that someone nominated my Blog for recognition as a PRO-LIFE Blog. I think there are some far better ones, but I am glad that the message here is clearly on the side of human life and the dignity of persons!  Follow this link to see what I mean:

2009nominee

http://prolifeblogawards.com/

The contest is sponsored by the American Life League, one of the best pro-life organizations around.  They will not compromise the Catholic faith or the pro-life cause for anyone.  God bless them!

One of my favorite memories is working with A.L.L. back in 2005 and the CRUSADERS FOR LIFE.  Here is an abbreviated copy of the post on this Blog:

A.L.L. Crusaders Come to Washington

A dozen young people from colleges across the country walked from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC in “Defense of the Catholic Church” and to spread the message that you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion. Nevertheless, while many have applauded young people for taking up the “right to life” cause, this group of remarkable crusaders were banned from speaking in churches by several dioceses like Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Myself, Dr. Grier & a Crusader

The American Life League ran a series of stinging ads challenging the American bishops to enforce canon law and to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege when pro-abortion politicians and others (who have made such “public” stands) take it upon themselves to receive holy communion. The young people have shown no spite or anger, only sadness that the nation’s shepherds have largely chosen to remain on the sidelines. One priest remarked that the ads in protest were so severe that the American Life League owed the leaders of the Church an apology. However, others thought that these good men should at least have shown the same respect and hospitality to the young marchers for life as they have in the past to the high profile anti-life politicians.While they were able to find lodging in the city, Holy Spirit Church had offered them a place to stay if needed, thanks to the generosity of parishioners. They attended 9:00 AM Mass on Friday, July 30 and were invited to say a few words afterwards– an invitation that no other Washington pastor made. (It must be stated, to his credit, that despite the tension with the A.L.L., Cardinal McCarrick did not formally forbid the young people to speak in his churches. Throughout, nothing the young people said violated the archdiocese’s rules against participation in partisan politics– they did not name politicians by name, did not tell people for whom they should vote, and spoke with respect in regard to the Church’s shepherds.) Following the celebration, a reception was held in the Parish House were the young people had a hearty breakfast and got to meet parishioners. Also in attendance was Reginald Grier, a parishioner, a Knight of Columbus at Fletcher Council and volunteer member of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. John Stakem, a Knight of Columbus from St. Pius X Council, and past parishioner was present, too. John Stakem and Joseph Markauskas are long-time pro-life volunteers and are involved with the local pregnancy center. Joe and Betty Markauskas had even offered to give the young people housing while in town. We were very pleased that the director for the Forestville Pregnancy Center was present, Chyllene McLaughlin, along with her assistant. We wanted to communicate to these young people that they are not alone. Holy Spirit Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Pregnancy Center in the larger pro-life community, was very much behind them.

ALL Crusaders at Holy Spirit Parish

May God bless them for their sacrifices and may their witness bear fruit.

Here are some past links to PRO-LIFE posts on my site during the past year or so:

CEMETERY OF THE INNOCENTS

PRO-LIFE RESOURCES IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF WASHINGTON

PLANNED PARENTHOOD: XMAS GIFTCARDS & BARREN WOMBS

BUSH SQUEEZES OUT PRO-LIFE MEASURE, OBAMA UPSET!

WHAT IS COMING NOW THAT OBAMA HAS WON?

ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT ON KMIEC & OBAMA

A PRIEST SAYS NO COMMUNION FOR OBAMA VOTERS

SK CARL ANDERSON, SENATOR BIDEN & KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA

VP JOE BIDEN:  NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE MY VIEW?

OBAMA & ABORTION:  ARE AMERICANS PRO-LIFE?

AN OBAMA HALLOWEEN

PLANNED PARENTHOOD HIDING CHILD RAPE

OBAMA TRANSITION: BUSH REVERSAL, ABORTION FOR EVERYONE!

STOP THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE ACT!

CAN A CATHOLIC VOTE IN SUPPORT OF ABORTION?

BISHOP HOLLEY:  BLACK COMMUNITY MUST OVERCOME ABORTION

OBAMA & McCAIN DEBATE ABORTION

SENATOR OBAMA ON ABORTION

USING LANGUAGE TO DECEIVE & MISDIRECT

VOTING AS FAITHFUL CITIZENS

BIDEN FALLS INTO PELOSI’S ABORTION HOLE!

HOLOCAUSTS & CULPABILITY:  WHERE DO WE STAND?

USCCB DENOUNCES PELOSI’S WORDS ON ABORTION

DENVER BISHOPS ON CHURCH’S STANCE AGAINST ABORTION

ARCHBISHOP WUERL ON THE CHURCH & ABORTION

CARDINAL EGAN’S ON THE UNBORN

FACE THE TRUTH TOUR PARTICIPANTS ARRESTED!

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  FRAUD, MINORS & BIG BUCKS!

ABORTIFACIENT BIRTH CONTROL PILLS

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & RACISM #1

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & RACISM #2

BORN ALIVE INFANTS PROTECTION ACT

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SELLS SEX

ABORTION & BLACK GENOCIDE

ARGUMENT WITH A PAID BABY KILLER

BABIES, ADOPTION, PURCHASE, ABORTION

BABY WITH TUMOR BORN TWICE

FIRST PREGNANT MAN REALLY A WOMAN!

UBI CARITAS – CHURCH TEACHING ON ABORTION

Read Full Post »

I tweaked and offered a few minor corrections to this text. It is posted under my SCARY STORIES. Happy Halloween!

A Catholic Ghost Story from Southern Maryland

The priest was happy to have a fire burning. It was a cold winter night and it felt good to be settled in for the evening. His small parish in Charles County, Maryland, was a good one with simple but hardworking and faithful people. True, the area was a bit remote from the power center of the Archdiocese, but that had a positive side as well. However, such sentiments were best left unexplored and never expressed. The wind howled outside like a woman’s cry, and it was ever so dark. Peaceful— that was nature of this assignment; it was like a perpetual retreat. Counting himself fortunate, the Catholic cleric opened his breviary to say his prayers; hopefully he would finish them before falling asleep. He had barely begun when there was a knock at the door. Perhaps it was just the branch of a tree? Knock, knock!— no, there it was again— who could it be at this late hour of the night?

Throwing on his cassock he went to the door and opened it. “Yes, can I help you?” said the pastor, somewhat irritated at the interruption.

“Father, you have to come quickly, my daddy is dying!” cried a young teenage boy. “You have to come as fast as you can; he needs the last sacraments!”

The priest became immediately alert. He grabbed his coat and sick kit and ran out the door with the boy. Journeying to the house, he noted that the boy was only dressed in a flimsy shirt and shorts. He was even barefoot. No doubt the boy had run out to get him at a moment’s notice, thinking only of his father. He put his coat over the pale cold skin of the child. “Goodness, boy, if you’re not careful you’ll catch pneumonia yourself!”

“I’ll be okay, Father. The main thing is that you take care of my old man. He meant to contact you before this, but, well, he never thought his health would go down so quickly. We don’t have a phone so I ran to get you.”

“You’re telling me that you ran all this way to get me? You’re quite some boy. But rest and warm yourself now,” replied the concerned priest. The boy pointed the way and the priest made good time driving to their home.

Upon arriving, the priest jumped out and ran into the house. If the fellow was as bad as the boy made out, there was no time to lose. Sure enough, there he was, lying in bed and quite sick. The priest heard his Confession, anointed him, and gave him Holy Communion— it would be his last.

Sitting alongside the old man, for that was assuredly what he was, the priest began to chat with him. “Ah, I see you have a picture here of your son,” said the priest picking up a photograph near the man’s bedside.

“Oh yes, Father, that’s my boy,” returned the old man.

The priest added, “You must be proud to have a son like that, running all the way from here to the rectory for the priest on a night like this.”

“What Father? What do you mean?” he asked.

“Your boy,” explained the priest, “rushing half-naked to get me to insure you would receive the Last Rites— that was quite a selfless feat of love.”

“But Father,” stammered the old man pointing to the picture, “my boy has been dead these eighteen years, it was summer and he drowned.”

This story was told and retold to me many times by my father. It is a wonderful testimony of the value of the sacraments and the bond of love which transcends the grave.

Read Full Post »

Archdiocesan Calendar

  • Oct. 19-22 / Chastity Day Events for Teens and Parents
  • Oct. 26 / Surveys on Catholic Education
  • Oct. 26 / Marine Corps Marathon Run for Vocations
  • Oct. 28 / Theology on Tap
  • Nov. 4 / Election Day
  • Nov. 11 / Theology on Tap
  • Nov. 12 / Social Ministry Volunteer Gathering (Charles Co.)
  • Nov. 13 / Christ in the City
  • Nov. 13 / Social Ministry Volunteer Gathering (Montgomery Co.)
  • Nov. 15 / Social Ministry Volunteer Gathering (DC)
  • Nov. 18 / Social Ministry Volunteer Gathering (Prince George’s Co.)
  • Nov. 18 / Theology on Tap
  • Nov. 23 / Men’s Discernment Dinner with Archbishop Wuerl
  • Nov. 30 / Mass with/for Persons with Disabilities
  • Dec. 11 / Christ in the City
  • Jan 8 / Christ in the City

Update on Canonical Services/Tribunal Staff

The new Office of Canonical Services, along with the Tribunal, has moved to new offices in the Pastoral Center – on the same floor, but just down the hall from its previous location adjacent to the 1st floor elevator. Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, Episcopal Vicar for Canonical Services, directs the office and is assisted by Brenda Spence. The Tribunal continues to be supervised by Msgr. Joseph Sadusky, Judicial Vicar, assisted by Fr. Brian Sanderfoot, Adjutant Judicial Vicar, and Patricia Perkinson.

Please note the contact information:

Chastity Events for Teens and Parents

All teenagers from 7th-12th grade and their parents are invited to attend Chastity Day: Real Freedom, True Love. Jason Angelette, a dynamic chastity speaker, is the featured speaker for teens. New this year will be a session with parents. Sponsored by the Archdiocesan Department of Life Issues.

  • Sunday, October 19, 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help Panorama Room, Wash., DC
  • Sunday, October 19, 6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m., Jesus the Good Shepherd Church, Owings, MD
  • Monday, October 20, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., St. Mark the Evangelist Church, Hyattsville, MD
  • Tuesday, October 21, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., St. John Church, Hollywood, MD
  • Wednesday, October 22, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., St. Patrick Church, Rockville, MD

100,000 Letters for Life: November Initiative

During the 2009 session of the Maryland General Assembly it is expected a bill that attempts to discredit and ultimately shut down pregnancy resource centers, will be introduced. The legislation is part of a national campaign waged by the abortion industry.

In November, the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) and the Maryland State Council of the Knights of Columbus will collaborate once again in an effort to generate “100,000 Letters for Life.”

This year’s effort will focus on sending electronic letters to elected officials by encouraging people to sign up after Mass to become a member of the MCC’s legislative action center. This online system makes it simple to send letters to legislators because the software automatically determines the legislative district, and name of the senator and delegate(s).

Please consider participating. Knights of Columbus members, assisted by other volunteers, are prepared to conduct the sign-up in your parish on the November weekend of your choice. Additional details will be provided by the MCC. If you have questions, please call Dr. Nancy Paltell, MCC associate director for respect-for-life activities, 301-261-1979.

Theology on Tap is Back!

Theology on Tap, a ministry of the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult Ministry, offers the opportunity for young adults age 21+ to reflect on how the Catholic faith relates to your life in contemporary society. The evening begins with a “happy half-hour” at 7:00 p.m. where you have the chance to meet other young adults from across the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The talk begins at 7:30 and is followed by a Q&A session with the featured speaker. Come join us at Ireland’s Four Fields, 3412 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC (1 block south of the Cleveland Park Metro). For more information, contact Laura Ferstl at 301-853-4559 or yam@adw.org.

Upcoming Talks: Being Catholic 24/7

  • Oct. 28: Saturday Night to Sunday Morning: Smooth Transition?: Fr. Bill Byrne 
  • Nov. 11: Repeat Offender: Is Confession Getting Me Anywhere?: Msgr. Charles Pope 
  • Nov. 18: Your Faith: Claim It and Proclaim It: Msgr. Raymond East

All Souls Day Visits to Catholic Cemeteries

All Souls Day, November 2, is the day the Church has set aside to commemorate deceased family members and loved ones who await their purification in Purgatory. The Church teaches that some sins can be forgiven even after death (CCC 1031). While these departed souls can pray for us, they can no longer pray for themselves. That spiritual work of mercy is up to us. Parishioners are encouraged to make a special visit to the sacred ground of the Archdiocese’s Catholic Cemeteries on Sunday, November 2 to pray for their departed loved ones and all souls who await the resurrection of their bodies in Christ. Please note that the annual All Souls Day Mass at Catholic cemeteries will not be held this year, so parishioners can gather with their parish communities. For further information about Catholic cemeteries, please contact 301-871-1300, or visit the website at ccaw.org.

Know Someone Worried about Losing a Home?

A Home Retention Workshop is being offered for any Maryland resident having trouble paying the mortgage on Sunday, November 9, 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., at Ascension Catholic Church, 12700 Lanham-Severn Road, Bowie, MD 20720. Presentations will be held at 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Call 301-883-HOME or 301-567-3330 for more information or to RSVP. Presented by Housing Options & Planning Enterprises, Inc. (H.O.P.E.) and Civil Justice, Prince George’s DHCD Home Ownership Center and the Pro Bono Resources Center of Maryland.

Discernment Weekend: Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

The Daughters of Charity are offering a “Come and See” retreat weekend November 7-9 in Emmitsburg, MD. Single women ages 18-35 interested in a vocation as a Sister are invited to attend. If interested please contact Sr. Denise LaRock, DC at 410-646-2074 or dcvoc@doc.org. Learn more about our community at www.thedaughtersofcharity.org.

Men’s Discernment Dinner with Archbishop Wuerl

Have you ever felt called to the priesthood? If so, you should consider attending the annual Mass and dinner with Archbishop Wuerl for adult men who are open to the priesthood on Sunday, November 23, 4:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church in Washington, DC. The evening will include Mass, a presentation, dinner and an opportunity to meet other Catholic men who are considering the call. If you are looking for a sign, this is it. Come and see why the priesthood is such a gift.

To register and for more information contact Msgr. Rob Panke, Director of Priest Vocations at vocations@adw.org or 301-853-4580. Participants should be single men in their 20’s – 40’s who are practicing Catholics.

Gathering for Volunteers in Parish Social Ministry

Leaders and volunteers in parish social ministry to the poor and needy, in justice ministries and in programs that promote the life and dignity of the human person are invited to our quarterly gathering. This is a time to get to know each other, learn from each other and support one another as we seek to reflect Christ our Hope to the poor and vulnerable. Sponsored by the Archdiocesan Department for Social Concerns. For further information, contact Tony Bosnick at 301-853-5340 or DSC@adw.org.

  • Charles County parishes: Wednesday, Nov. 12, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., St. Joseph’s Catechetical Center, 4590 St. Joseph Way, Pomfret, MD 20675
  • Montgomery County parishes: Thursday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., St. Jane de Chantal Church, Caulfield Hall (lower level of church), 9701 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814
  • District of Columbia parishes: Saturday, Nov. 15, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Church (rectory basement meeting room), 1357 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
  • Prince George’s County parishes: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 7:30 pm.-9:00 p.m., St. Francis Center for Deaf Ministries, 7202 Buchanan St. Landover Hills, MD 20784

Christ in the City (for Young Adults)

Christ in the City is a ministry of the Office of Young Adult Ministry that specifically focuses on spiritual growth and provides an opportunity to establish a relationship with Christ truly present in the Eucharist. On the second Thursday of each month, young adults from across the city congregate at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 10th and G Streets, NW, Washington, DC to pray and worship. Stop in for a few minutes or join us for the entire service. Either way, your prayer life will be enriched by the experience.

The evening starts with a 7:00 p.m. Rosary. From 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., there will be Eucharistic Adoration, Praise and Worship, Confession available and Reflection. St. Patrick’s is Metro accessible via Metro Center’s 11th Street exit or Chinatown’s 9th Street exit. Free parking at the garage on Tenth Street between G and H. Bring your ticket to the sacristy for validation. Upcoming dates: Nov. 13, Dec. 11 and Jan. 8.

Archdiocesan Mass for/with Persons with Disabilities

Archbishop Donald Wuerl will celebrate a Mass with and for persons who have disabilities on Sunday, November 30, 2:00 p.m. at St. Mary of the Mills Church, 114 St. Mary’s Place, Laurel, MD 20707. The liturgy will honor the 30th anniversary of the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, which created a blueprint for a welcoming and inclusive Church. A reception and awards ceremony will follow. For more information, contact the Archdiocesan Office of Ministry for Persons with Disabilities at 301-853-4560. Sign language interpreted. St. Mary of the Mills is a fully accessible parish.

Fall is the Time to Apply to a Catholic High School!

Families of 8th graders: Fall is the time to apply to a Catholic high school. Catholic high schools emphasize strong academics, faith, values and service and offer a wealth of enriching activities such as athletics, art, music and cultural events. Visit www.CatholicSchoolsWork.org for a schedule of open houses, links to high schools’ websites and other information.

“Moral Life: Living with Hope within Us”

Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi continues his series of lectures on “Moral Life: Living the Hope Within Us” on Thursday, November 6, 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Church of the Little Flower, 5607 Massachusetts, Bethesda. The third of a nine-part series, this lecture is entitled “The Third Commandment: A Day Set Aside for Love of God.” The morning lecture (with breakfast) will be in the Rectory Meeting Room and the evening lecture in the Music Room of Little Flower School. Admission is free. For information, call 301-320-4538.

“St. Paul: His Theology and Ministry in Art”

Dr. Jem Sullivan, adjunct professor at the Dominican House of Studies, is giving a three-part lecture series, “St. Paul: His Theology and Ministry in Art,” on Wednesday evenings in November, Church of the Little Flower School Music Room, 5607 Massachusetts Avenue, Bethesda, MD. Admission is free. Questions: 301-320-4538.

  • St. Paul: Apostle of Faith – Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
  • St. Paul: Minister of Hope – Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
  • St. Paul: Witness to Love – Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.

Traveling at Thanksgiving?

It’s easy to find a Mass at your destination. Just visit www.masstimes.org.

TV Christmas Special with St. Matthew’s Cathedral

Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is part of a special program on Washington at Christmas, which will premiere on WETA public television this Thanksgiving, November 27, 8:00 p.m. Check your local listings for details. To learn more about our archdiocesan cathedral, visit www.stmatthewscathedral.org.

Read Full Post »

Artist’s Conception of Devil as the Beast

Given that so few people look at the pages attached to this Blog, and because it is the month for Halloween; I will celebrate the secular season with some of my “already posted” scary stories. I have taken the liberty of making a few corrections to the text.

Sources

Before I begin my comments, it is necessary that I make some clarifications. Unless otherwise noted, the pagination to Thomas Allen’s work regards his article in Washingtonian Magazine. When his book, Possession became available, this was also read and compared to his previous statements. It is interesting that the backbone of his book was so easily condensed to a periodical format. As for my own principal sources, I had the testimony of an old priest friend of Fr. Hughes (both of whom are now deceased), course notes on demonology from Fr. Edmund J. Fortmann, S.J., and extracts from the exorcist’s diary.

Popular Exploitation: Where Do We Really Find Evil?

After reading the sensational article “Possessed,” by Thomas B. Allen in June 1993’s edition of Washingtonian Magazine, many people were eager to buy the book of the same title released in July. Having read the book, it must be admitted that there are elements to the tale that seem to validate Christian faith in God and in his mercy; however, at the same time I fear that it’s telling will surrender true religion to mockery and to superstition. No suggestion is made in the article and none in the book until the very end, that there might still be more to the story than the supernatural. However, even if it should be the case, books and films tend to give more emphasis to the demonic than to the divine. Producers and writers work ever harder to shock their patrons, an audience made increasingly insensitive to violence and to “things that go bump in the night.” We want to be entertained and producers of horror films and writers know all too well how to excite the masses with fear and gross happenings. Even the 1973 film, The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty’s book, opted to highlight vulgar language, Eucharistic desecration, obscene gestures, fanciful special effects, and finally the death and failure of the two priests. I would suspect that the battle between good and evil is more frequently invisible to the movie camera and ignored by novelists seeking to sell books. Indeed, just as the so-called Mount Ranier case (despite the location disparity) began as one of demonic obsession and only later became possession when the exorcisms were attempted; might a heightened concentration upon this issue similarly endanger people? While it is true that the devil should not become a scapegoat for all human ills, it is almost impossible to believe that he is not involved with the atrocities at home and abroad. In language, popular music, drug experiences, new cult religions, escalating crime, immoral lifestyles, wars and genocide, abortion, euthanasia, etc., Satan is exerting a subtle obsessive influence, numbing consciences and helping to distort values. If people want to be frightened, then here is the real thing of which to be afraid. Most of us, probably all of us after the age of reason, are no longer bystanders to the devil’s malice, but in every sin, large and small, accomplices. God’s grace can turn this around, if we really want Satan exorcised from our society and world.

The Documents: A Number of Contradictions

Adding to the confusion, there is a lack of collaboration between various documents of the case. Even the timetable is unreliable. Did the first exorcism begin on March 16 or on February 16? Some press reports said it lasted one month, others two, and still another, three-and-a-half months. Although the records state that the devil departed at 11:00 PM on April 18, 1949, Fr. Nicola told the Evening Star that it was “at precisely 2:15 in the afternoon.” Although Allen’s article records that the boy’s mother picked up a holy water bottle and candles from Fr. Hughes, there is a document that states that it was the father who picked them up. Allen writes that the bottle was “smashed,” however, the exorcist’s diary in Jesuit hands stated: “The mother took the bottle of holy water home, sprinkled all the rooms, and when she placed the bottle on a shelf, the bottle flew across the room and did not break.” Which is it? The diary further says that the word LOUIS appeared on the child’s ribs. However, the Lutheran minister testified that they said GO TO ST. LOUIS, and written upside down. As for the incident in the chair, the Lutheran minister said that while the boy was sitting, it tilted. However, the Jesuits were given this version of the story: “The minister brought him downstairs and tied him in a chair. The chair and boy began to whirl around the room.” Which account do we believe the primary or secondary source? It should be obvious. The Evening Star’s staff reporter, Jeremiah O’Leary, mentioned many years after the episode and his breaking story (see pages 197 and 198 of the book), that the boy spoke an unknown language, and that only later did a priest or rabbi recognize words sounding like Modern Hebrew. However, he had originally written: “A professor of Oriental languages from Catholic University was called in and he was shocked to discover the words coming from the boy’s mouth were in Aramaic, the language spoken in Palestine in Jesus’ day.” Which versions are we suppose to believe? All accounts state that the boy was 14 years old; however, the diary puts his birth on June 1, 1935, which would have made him only 13. Allen collaborates the younger age in his book. All this is simply to show that a reliability of the facts in this case cannot be maintained and that nothing approaching a consistent scientific investigation is exhibited.

The Root Cause: Hysteria?

Repeated fits and seizures, marks on the boy’s skin, wild utterances and obscenities, all these things can have a basis in psychology and medicine. Neurosis can cause many kinds of strange manifestations. Hysteria can be a root cause for such disturbances and has been documented, especially as a conversion reaction, not only in cases of people who thought they were possessed but even among visionaries who claimed to see the Virgin Mary and/or Jesus. Not being an expert in this field, I will leave it to the interested reader to explore the wealth of material in this regard.

The Exorcists: Were They Really Objective?

Thomas B. Allen narrates the story as if there cannot be the slightest doubt that the version given us by media accounts and the journal are authentic. However, without giving offense, one could hardly argue that the testimony of a Jesuit priest would be entirely objective. For instance, the diary takes for granted the occurrences in Washington before the move to Saint Louis, although he never witnessed them, himself. There is no evidence whatsoever to verify flying fruit, the knocking noises from Aunt Tillie, his desk moving around at school, etc. No proof has come down to us from reliable, independent witnesses. (Official records have never been released and so we can only speculate about a long list of witnesses from Christian believers.) The Washington priest only heard the crashing of the telephone table and the assertion of its destruction from the boy’s mother. As for the boy’s visions at the end, only he saw them. Can we really take for granted the testimony of a boy, who no doubt, like all boys, had a hefty imagination? I think not. The Lutheran minister, as I said before, thought the chest writing was self-inflicted. A cross on the boy’s left arm remained for about 45 minutes; however, clinical psychologists tell us of many cases wherein hysteria makes the skin overly sensitive. Many assumptions were made with little support. For example, although the boy and his aunt had played with an Ouija board, there is no obvious cause-and-effect relationship between it and the demonic infestation. Although a superstition that violates the Decalogue, thousands of children buy such boards as toys with seemingly no ill-effect. The numbers on the boy’s chest were later interpreted as possibly the days when evil spirits left the child, if there were more than one. However, this was merely ungrounded speculation.

Conspiracy of Silence?

The author, Thomas B. Allen, states: “I now can tell the story because the secret diary of the exorcism came into my hands from the oblivion to which it had been consigned” (p. 45). At the end of the book, he admits that this diary was incomplete and to receiving a complete copy of the document from other sources. Was he really the first critic to read it? No, I suspect that the suspense was hype. Rev. Edmund J. Fortman, S.J. in a 1973 course on Demonology at the Jesuit School of Theology located in Chicago, Illinois, wrote: “Many years later, Blatty managed to obtain the diary written by the exorcist and set about researching his bestselling novel” (p. 8). Indeed, Rev. Fortman, in preparing his course, noted: “In fact, much of our information on the ‘real-life exorcism’ is drawn from the exorcist’s journal and several shorter documents by two Jesuit priests who got their material from a lecture by a priest who assisted the exorcist himself” (p. 8). It was not that the facts were unavailable, but rather, it was thought imprudent to release them. Respecting this, William Peter Blatty chose to author a fiction loosely based on exorcism accounts. In contrast, probably much in the same vein as the semi-documentaries on television, Allen has decided to give us the purportedly authentic version.

It should be highlighted that Allen’s style in sticking to the log lends his book an authenticity usually lacking in such works. To some extent this is also a bit of a drawback. While the Washingtonian Magazine article was fast paced; the book is almost tedious with its repetitious narration of possession and exorcism episodes. The boy urinates, breaks wind, spits, hits and grabs, and then the process happens again and again. Having vicariously accompanied the fatigued exorcist, in the last pages the reader is also spent.

Revelations: God’s Will or the Evil One’s?

I would hope that Allen offered the diary to ecclesiastical authorities or at least had asked for some form of approbation before chronicling the 1949 story. The fact that he interviewed and became friends with the scholastic who held the boy down is not sufficient. Why? First, it is because simple name-changing does not eradicate old newspaper reports or property records. Aging neighbors craving the spotlight might violate these people’s privacy for a few seconds on the tube. If the book becomes a sensation, the investigative reporters will besiege the matter until its figures come to light. If the subject of the exorcism and his family had wanted the story to be widely told, I am sure that they would have done so themselves. Some things are best forgotten. If the formerly possessed boy, now a man, could not recall what had happened, I pray that a copy of the book does not fall into his hands. Before his death, at about the time the Blatty film was released, the seventy year old Jesuit who had performed the exorcism remarked that he lived in dread of reporters. He was worried that the excitement over the incident could not help but ruin some fine lives. Keeping in touch with them, he asserted, “The boy in the case has grown into a fine man with a lovely wife and children.” Second, if the Church was God’s vehicle in freeing the boy from evil and in later sealing the records at hand, then in whose commission is the author employed? If he really believes the narrative, then I should think this would cause him no little anxiety. Although I hate being cynical, I cannot help but think that the author is not so much interested in playing the prophet as he is in reaping a profit. Allen admits in his book to being, not a believer, but a doubter and a lapsed Catholic; indeed, despite his pride in having had a Jesuit education, he credits them with his agnosticism. This is like a groom saying that he is in love with a gorgeous bridal gown, but cares nothing for the girl in it. Further, if this is true, then what is his motivation in telling the story? The only thing that comes to mind is that as Blatty discovered, there can be substantial financial rewards for horror stories.

Officials, no doubt, purposely misidentified the location of the boy’s home to preserve his anonymity. While Allan accepted the Mount Ranier address on Bunker Hill, the case was actually attributed to Mount Rainier because of the location of St. James Church. This was not uncommon in the past. Catholics identified themselves by their parish. It is unfortunate that some old timers have leaked the true location as a home on 40th Avenue in Cottage City. The investigation should stop here, but I suspect that it will not.

I am certain that New Age enthusiasts will eat it up, not for its faith content, but rather for its concern over devilish spiritual forces and communication with the dead. Coincidentally, Christians, Catholic or not, are traditionally urged against preoccupation with matters like possession and the devil, for fear that such an interest might itself attract demonic interference. Allen accurately informs the reader of this in his book. Further, I can testify as a parish priest, the publicity given such stories draws to our rectory doors an assortment of mentally imbalanced people who think the devil has control over them. After a cheap movie on this topic a few years ago, I recall one bizarre case wherein a man claimed he was possessed by a homosexual demon who lived in his rectum. I prayed over him and suggested that he go home and take a laxative.

Witnesses: Skeptics Close to the Case

As for the Mount Ranier story, the author admits that the psychiatrist (from Georgetown University Hospital) disbelieved in the reported phenomena (reporting that the boy was normal); however, his article, unlike the book, did not offer that the Lutheran minister they consulted was also skeptical and remained so afterwards. Jim Adams of Associated Press interviewed him and noted: “The minister said that he was suspicious of the chest message. It was written upside down on the chest as it would be if the boy wrote it himself.” Supposedly, the words “LOUIS” had appeared on his chest. His Aunt Tillie, (a name released to the public, not Harriet as in the POSSESSION book), the one who had introduced him to the Ouija board, had passed away in St. Louis eleven days before the mysterious scratching sounds in the house. (Allen notes that she died eleven days after the scratching began.) Allen writes further about the minister, he “believed that he had been in the presence of some colossal force. It did not matter whether that force was a hallucination, an outburst of supernatural powers, evidence of parapsychological activity, or an eruption from some psychological fissure deep within Robbie” (Allen, p. 104). Admittedly a bed and a chair moving, seemingly by their own power is unusual to say the least; however, the minister did see some importance in steering clear of a supernatural interpretation. He speculated that it might have been the result of a type of static electricity or that he might have been hypnotized in some manner. Later he discounted these theories, but resolutely insisted upon a natural explanation, perhaps involving latent and invisible human powers.

Signs: Demonic Activity, Latent Human Powers, or Illness?

In more recent years, various researches have looked into poltergeist activity that included such phenomena as strange sounds and moving objects. Almost always they were connected to the presence of children, especially ones with some emotional upset. As the children got older, the activity most often ceased. Might human beings have latent powers to move objects? I do not know. Some claim to have limited abilities in peering into the minds of others. Certainly, these possibilities, no matter how unlikely, have made the issue of demonic possession much more complicated. Epileptics, who were once thought possessed, even in the bible, are today understood as suffering from a physiological ailment. Psychology is acknowledging that mental deviations like various neurosis and hysteria can cause abrupt behavioral and bodily changes. Before concluding that one is being controlled or manipulated by demons, must we not objectively eliminate any of these other possibilities? Yes, I believe so.

Because of a growing skepticism regarding this issue, the ritual for exorcism was revised as early as 1952. The signs of possession, listed on pages 27 and 28 of his book, which once were considered to make a case certain, were now only “probable.” What are these signs?

  1. To speak fluently an unknown language;
  2. To reveal distant and occult things; and
  3. To manifest powers beyond the nature of one’s age or condition.

In the Mount Ranier case, there is no certain manifestation of the last two signs. As for the first, he may have overheard the Latin word, “Dominus,” and there is no confirmation that he spoke Aramaic. In the complement to the diary, it is remarked: “The boy would greet the priests with filthy, foul obscenities, fluently answer the exorcist’s questions in Latin, a language he had never studied.” However, if this is true, it began after the exorcisms had started; it was not an element in the prior deliberation.

Clarifications: What Really Happened?

In Saint Louis, Allen wrote: “Bowdern received permission from Robbie’s parents to convert their son to Catholicism” (Allen, p. 107). It is of interest to also know that the boy himself had asked to be baptized. His father had been baptized as a Catholic and some of his local cousins were Catholics as well. Allen narrates that the boy on the way to the church grabbed the steering wheel. “His father and uncle wrestled him away as the car swerved up on the curb and came to a stop against a lamppost. Robbie spun around and seized his mother by the throat” (Allen , p. 107). He further informs us that the boy was pinned down and baptized. The actual record reads:

On the appointed morning he rose, took a shower, ate his usual breakfast and set out for the church in a car driven by his uncle. Just before reaching the church the boy grabbed his uncle by the neck and said: “You s.o.b., you think I am going to be baptized, but you are going to be fooled.” The uncle was just able to seize the emergency brake and avert a collision by an inch. It was realized that to baptize the boy in the church would create a scene, so he was taken to the third floor of the rectory, which stands in back of the church but faces Lindell Boulevard. Every time he was asked: “Do you renounce Satan and all his works?” he would go into a rage. Only after several hours of repetition was the boy able to reply: “I do renounce Satan and all his works.” Then it required several more hours to get water poured on the boy’s head.”

Truncating the story somewhat, Allen omits in the article that the family afterwards returned with the boy to Washington, DC. The book corrects this omission. Father Hughes tried to place the boy in a sanitarium or hospital in the Washington-Baltimore area, but none would accept him. Consequently, he was returned to Saint Louis and entered a sanitarium there. It was here that on April 2nd, the first Saturday of the month, a day dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, the priests finally succeeded in giving the boy holy communion.
Allen noted that numbers appeared on the boy’s body in reference to the question to the demon about when it would depart: 4, 8, 10, and 16. A little fact that he did not share was that they were Roman numerals. Also, there is some confusion when he writes in reference to the question of the demon’s name: “The answer came etched in blood-flecked lines on Robbie’s chest: HELL and SPITE.” While admitting that his version seems well attested, there is another record that states, “…in answer to the question of his name, the words, “HELL, SPIRIT” appeared in red letters on the boy’s chest.” This latter version seems to make more sense in regard to the question of identity.

Allen’s depiction of the boy’s final liberation is faithful, but it might do well to reproduce the actual record:

Suddenly, at 11 p.m., a new voice was heard from the boy; a beautiful, rich, deep bass voice exclaimed: “Satan, Satan, go, NOW, NOW, NOW to the pit where you belong, in the name of the Dominus (the Lord).” That was the word and at that moment the boy felt a tearing sensation in his stomach, relaxed and lay perfectly quiet. He described what has happened. He saw a brilliant figure, visible from the waist up, clothed in a close-fitting white garment which had the appearance of scales; the hair was long and flowing in a wind; the right hand held something like a flaming sword or light pointing downward. It was Saint Michael the Archangel. When he spoke, the evil spirit rebelled against going on until the word “Dominus” was spoken and at this moment the boy felt the tearing sensation in his stomach. Then at some distance down he saw some evil spirits standing at the mouth of a cave from which flames issued. Then the spirits reluctantly withdrew into the cave, the opening closed and across it appeared the word: “Spite.” Thus the possession ended.

Summation: Was the Exorcism a Mistake?

In closing, I must admit that I remain a skeptic. After studying this case in depth, Rev. Edmund J. Fortman, S.J. had this to say: “. . . at the risk of being blunt, we have to assert that what began with obsession and poltergeist phenomena was transformed into possession because of the decision to exorcise.” Similarly, J. de Tonquedec (1886-1962), a psychologist and the official exorcist of the diocese of Paris for over 20 years, doubted that he ever found a real case. He wrote:

Exorcism is an impressive ceremony, capable of acting effectively on the unconscious of a sick person. The adjurations addressed to the demon, the sprinkling of holy water, the stole passed around the patient’s neck, the repeated signs of the cross and so forth, are very capable of creating a diabolical mythomania in word and deed in a psyche already weak. Call the devil and you will see him; or rather not him, but a portrait made of the sick person’s idea of him. It is for this reason that certain priests, due to their inconsiderate and imprudent practice of exorcising, create, confirm and encourage the very disorders that they want to suppress.

Is this not what happened in the Mount Ranier case? With the initiation of exorcism, obsession changed to possession. Toward the end, a document states, “Easter Monday, April 18, was the worst day and the exorcists were becoming thoroughly discouraged.” Why? The exorcisms are supposed to work, at least to some degree, through the sustained faith of the priest. Consequently, he must be fully aware of his power and authority. Nevertheless, on the most discouraging day, the exorcism succeeded. Rev. Fortman, S.J. notes, “Could it be that the boy noticed such discouragement and decided to end the entire affair which had only been created by his own mind and the minds of those who gave him so much attention?”

Materials Assembled and Retold by Father Joseph Jenkins

RECOMMENDED READING

Allen, Thomas B. POSSESSED. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers