I realize the title of this article might lead you to believe that you’re preparing to read a satirical piece, but that’s not the case. During the months-long spate of riots and unrest, we saw many statues and monuments toppled, including several religious icons. This was all supposedly done in the name of canceling slave owners, white supremacists, colonial masters, the patriarchy, or whatever else. The onset of colder weather as we approach winter has slowed down some of that activity, but it hasn’t ended entirely. In a couple of locations, however, including Portland and San Francisco, some of the faithful are seeing signs of something more than just political unrest and activism. They suspect that the hand of the devil may be behind some of it. With that in mind, they’ve brought in some very specialized priests to perform exorcisms and rid the areas of demonic influences. (Associated Press)
In popular culture, exorcism often serves as a plot device in chilling films about demonic possession. This month, two Roman Catholic archbishops showed a different face of exorcism – performing the rite at well-attended outdoor ceremonies to drive out any evil spirits lingering after acrimonious protests.
The events’ distinctive character gave a hint of how exorcism — with roots in ancient times — has evolved in some ways as it becomes more commonplace in many parts of the world.
In Portland, Oregon, Archbishop Alexander Sample led a procession of more than 200 people to a city park on Oct. 17, offered a prayer, then conducted a Latin exorcism rite intended to purge the community of evil. The event followed more than four months of racial justice protests in Portland, mostly peaceful but sometimes fueling violence and riots.
On the same day that the exorcism in Portland was taking place, a large crowd gathered in San Francisco at that site where rioters previously toppled the statue of Father Junipero Serra. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone performed the rites of exorcism to banish evil from the community.
“We pray that God might purify this place of evil spirits, that he might purify the hearts of those who perpetrated this blasphemy,” Cordileone said.
Has anyone informed the BLM and Antifa leaders of this news? How bad is your reputation in the eyes of decent members of the public when they have to bring in an exorcist to clean up your mess and try to save your souls?
Personally, when it comes to violent rioters defacing and tearing down public property, I’m more inclined to ascribe their actions to ignorance and personality disorders before I start invoking Satan. But hey… your mileage may vary. Anything that gives the communities of faith a chance to get together and do something positive can’t be entirely a bad thing. And if you’re inclined to be a believer, who knows? It could work.
I can’t entirely discount the possibility that the Associated Press chose to run this story yesterday because it was Halloween. There were mentions of cases of demonic possession and exorcism on several of the podcasts I usually listen to over the weekend. Tis’ the season, I suppose.
But as noted in the linked article, the practice of exorcism does seem to be on the rise again, though perhaps not as much in the traditional fashion of driving spirits out of an individual who is possessed. They note that in 2015, some of the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in Mexico performed these rites in an attempt to drive out evil from the entire country. They were seeking to expel the evils of gang violence, abortion, and the activities of the drug cartels. It remains unclear what, if any effect that had on Mexico’s woes.
They also point out that Brazil has seen a significant resurgence in exorcisms in recent years. The practice has become common enough that some of the churches down there televise their exorcisms on an almost weekly basis. Similar trends are being observed in other parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, including the Philippines. Europe seems to be more resistant to the idea. That may be because of the exorcism of Anna Elisabeth Michel, who died after a lengthy series of rituals that stretched on for weeks. Two priests were convicted of murder after it was over, though they didn’t wind up spending any serious time in prison.
So what do you think? Should the church be sending delegations around to all of the riots and trying to exorcise Satan from the mobs? Hey… what do we have to lose, right?