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.