Not long ago, the London Telegraph ran a brief piece about Pope Francis cautioning people not to talk to the devil.
The mere existence of a papal discussion on the matter presupposes that enough people are talking with the Serpent Below to cause the Vatican some thought. I just wish the reporter had done more with this absorbing topic.
The story begins with this:
The Devil is more intelligent than mere mortals and should never be argued with, Pope Francis has warned.
Satan is not a metaphor or a nebulous concept but a real person armed with dark powers, the Pope said in forthright remarks made during a television interview.
“He is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. I’m convinced that one must never converse with Satan - if you do that, you’ll be lost,” he told TV2000, a Catholic channel, gesticulating with his hands to emphasise his point.
“He’s more intelligent than us, and he’ll turn you upside down, he’ll make your head spin.
One hopes the pope was not referring to the famous head-spinning scene in The Exorcist.
Now, one needs to ask a basic question: What got Francis going on this topic? The Telegraph article doesn’t say, except to inform us that the pope has been on a defeat-Satan kick for some time.
"It's a Jesuit thing. He's a Jesuit who is deeply imbued with the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, which allow people to discern the movements of the good and bad spirit," said Austen Ivereigh, a Vatican analyst and the author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.
"For him, this is real, these are not metaphors. It may not be the way that people speak nowadays and some Catholics may be taken aback by it. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of evil being real, but anyone who knows the spirituality of the Jesuits will not be surprised."
In other words, this is a personal foible, if you will, of a Jesuit pope and not something that reasonable 21st century folks need to be concerned about. I would have liked to have heard from a few more folks about popular interest in the occult and whether the pope has a reason to be concerned.
After all, here’s what BBC said about its interview with one of Rome’s busiest exorcists and a New York Post piece that ran a year ago on ramped-up demonic activity and the scarcity of priests to combat it.
Three years ago the Argentinian pontiff told a convention of exorcists from around the world that they were doing sterling work in combating "the Devil's works".
He said that exorcists needed to show "the love and welcome of the Church for those possessed by evil".
Then there’s this fascinating Washington Post story from 2014 that talks about Francis being the most devil-obsessed pope in modern times.
So, the pope’s interest in Satan is hardly new. My associate George Conger even covered it for us here. But this bit about Satan being vastly more intelligent than us -- no big surprise considering this is an ages-old being whose existence pre-dates the Earth or maybe even time itself –- needs a bit of context. The bottom line: Readers needed a lot more information in the Telegraph piece.
Plus, Lucifer's intelligence has its limits. As Ezekiel 28:17, a mysterious passage that describes a creature who could only be Satan, says: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”
I'm not so much criticizing the Telegraph's reporting that was, as much as I'm complaining about what wasn't in the piece. Look at what CNN did two years ago with the same topic and how the columnist built in a lot of information into that piece.
Obviously the new info on the pope and Satan is related to the recent news about the “lead us not into temptation” sequence in translations of the Lord’s Prayer, but we all might be better served if we had something more in-depth about the threat the pope is referring to.
Are people dialoguing enough with the devil so as to be entrapped in his arguments?
That raises doubts with me but obviously the pope thinks so. This topic is incredibly interesting and those reporting on it need to come up with more journalistic heft for a topic that, you never know, may have eternal consequences.