Category Archives: Theology

Training Exorcists

Make no joke about it: the devil exists, people do evil things. Of course, the existence of the devil is not at all the same as we seen in the movies. We know this is a fact from our personal experience and from the Gospels: the devil works on believers to get them away from adhering to Jesus Christ. We don’t fool around with the devil and his temptations, nor his ability to possess a person. So, ridicule would not be the correct approach to understanding the nature of the devil and demonic possession. While believers say that evil is real, it is our unqualified belief that evil and the devil are powerless to the power of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. It is Jesus who expels the devil, not the priest. Evil is terminated only through prayer, fasting, the sacraments; when it is discerned by competent authority, the praying of the Rite of Exorcism may be done. The Rite is performed only by a validly ordained Catholic priest who is deputed by the bishop of the diocese in which the priest lives, and who is known to live a life of virtue and sanctity.

Rite of Exorcism.jpgThe Church protects the exercise of the Rite of Exorcism in the Code of Canon Law (1983) by saying, “No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a prebyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence and intergrity of life (1172).

The awareness of evil in the world is increasing with the desire of the Church to find competent priests and bishops –not every priest and bishop have the qualifications to do an exorcism– i.e., some are incapable of doing the Rite of Exorcism.

“Anyone who does not believe in the Devil does not believe in the Gospel,” Pope John Paul II.  Catholics hold that the Lord gave the power to cast out demons to the Church (cf. Mark 16:17).

A recent story dealing with the training of exorcists today. The Catholic bishop of Sprinfiield in Illinois and canonist, Bishop Thomas Paprocki organized a meeting of priests and bishops to orient them with the 1999 revision De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam (On Exorcism and Certain Supplications). The purpose is to gain the proper skills to correctly discern the need to use the Rite of Exorcism. Its use is infrequent but sometimes necessary.

Some critics suggest this type of meeting is playing into a “reversion” to prior times, playing on the fears of the weak. What Bishop Paprocki did is to provide some members of the clergy the tools, theology and expertise, training and insight into knowing more about matters transcendent.

I have heard from priest friends that the old rites of baptism and exorcism are stronger in getting rid of the devil than the newer ones. You may want to read this article, “The New Rite of Exorcism, The Influence of the Evil One.”

The cross reveals God’s face of love giving us a sure hope of eternal life

The Pope celebrated Mass for the bishops and cardinals who died in the past year on Wednesday. In his homily he addressed what I believe –and the Church has consistently taught– are central themes of our Catholic faith which are too often misunderstood or not understood enough. The last line of this post is THE most important thought for us to contemplate on today. From the Vatican’s Press Office we read:

Thumbnail image for Salvador-Dali-Christ.jpg

The Pope remind his congregation that “eternal life” designates
the divine gift granted to humankind; i.e., communion with God in this
world and its fullness in the next
. Eternal life was opened to us by Christ’s
Paschal Mystery and faith is the way to attain it”. Referring then to
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, as recounted in today’s Gospel, the Pope
explained how in this exchange Jesus “reveals the most profound meaning of
the event of salvation: … The Son of man must be raised on the wood of the
cross so that those who believe in Him might have life. … The cross,
paradoxically, from being a sign of condemnation, death and failure, becomes a
sign of redemption, life and victory in which, with the eyes of faith, we can
see the fruits of salvation.”

The salvific significance of the cross
“consists in the immense love of God and in the gift of His only-begotten
Son. … The verbs ‘to love’ and ‘to give’ indicate a decisive and definitive
action expressing the radical way in which God approached man in love, even
unto the total giving of self, … lowering Himself into the abyss of our utter
abandonment, and crossing the portal of death
. The object and beneficiary of
divine Love is the world, in other words humanity
. This completely cancels the
idea of a distant God divorced from man’s journey, and reveals His true
face.” God “loves without measure. He does not show His omnipotence
in punishment, but in mercy and forgiveness

Subjected to the spirit, the body will be sexual in eternal life, according to Aquinas

The liturgical year of the Church brings to the front burner of the spiritual life a number of things at this time of year: questions about salvation, death, hell, heaven, purgatory, Christ’s kingship, conversion, and the like. In fact, a central piece of our spiritual work in the School of Community (of Communion and Liberation) right now is understanding what it means to convert, to live in spirit of conversion, to live as though we REALLY believe in Christ, turning away from sin, and turning toward the Lord. Father Julian Carron is hitting members of Communion and Liberation pretty hard with the call to conversion. However, if truth be told, Father Carron is taking his cue from Pope Benedict. Nevertheless, on the human level, for finite beings we have to be concerned with such things because we don’t live forever, just in case you didn’t know this fact; we are rightly concerned now because once we’re dead, there is no way of making a conversion (sorry, there is no reincarnation).

A professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Theology of Shkodër (Albania), Jesuit Father Mario Imperatori, wrote an essay that caught my eye, “Eschatology and Resurrection of the Body in St. Thomas Aquinas,” published in the current issue of La Civiltà Cattolica (issue # 3849; pp. 257-268). As you know, this periodical is reviewed by the Secretary of State of the Holy See prior to publication.

In the article, Father Imperatori argues, “St. Thomas’s doctrine regarding glorified bodies
is based on the resurrection of the flesh, interpreted in an
anti-spiritualistic manner. For him, in fact, the intellectual soul is the
unique and subsisting shape of the human being; after the resurrection carried
out by God, the body too will share with the soul the same incorruptibility and
bliss; it will be a spiritual body not because it becomes spirit, but because
everything will be subjected to the spirit. Aquinas adds that the human body,
because of its wholeness, will continue to be sexual, despite the absence of
procreation. The Eschatology of St. Thomas has proven controversial, but it has
the merit of asserting the bodily-spiritual reality of man as the ultimate
purpose of creation.”

So, the human body will relate as a sexual being in the eternal life. Interesting. Thanks for letting me know. What joy that will be, don’t you think? I wonder what relating sexually means for a glorified body.

Is the doctrine of Original Sin relevant today?

Good question. I am not always confident that the baptized ask this question enough in the lives as Christians. From what I can tell, there seems to be an easy dismissal of anything that requires assent and personal responsibility for our actions, words and thinking. Why? Do we admit there is a sin, that it’s part of the human condition, that it’s handed down from generation to generation? Are we no longer need of redemption? Is humanity’s need for salvation a thing of the past, quaint?  Does the fear of God no longer have currency for a relationship with the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, creator of heaven and earth?

Jesuit Father Donath Hercsik, a professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome), raises the question of relevance and Original Sin for those who are interested in a life with the Triune God from a some important points of interest. Father Hercsik’s essay, “Original Sin, as a Doctrine, Is It Still Relevant Today?” should be of interest to all people of faith.

Hercsik asks the question: “Is there a need for a doctrine on original sin? This
doctrine, interpreted according to the Catholic faith, offers an answer to at
least four questions that are important to both believers and non-believers:
anthropological, philosophical, liturgical, and dogmatic. The article goes on
to examine the role of the Sacred Scripture, the position of Saint Augustine,
of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the outcomes of the Council of Trent. In
contemporary theology, there exist various tendencies on this theme: original
sin as sin of the world, original sin as psychological and/or social phenomena,
and original sin and the supremacy of the grace of Christ. 

If you are interested in reading the entire essay, it can be can be read in the Vatican-vetted journal La Civiltà
2010 IV, pp. 119-132; issue 3848, 
© copyright.

The Angels: An Essential Guide

A new work has been published, albeit in Italian, on angels. Monsignor Marcello Stazione recently published The Angels: An Essential Guide. Rome Reports has a news video on the project.

…ask the angels for help…

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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