Last week, Pope Francis let himself be heard that hell does not truly exist. The bad souls simply vanish and do not return. This, perhaps in coincidence with the death of Stephen Hawkins, the world’s greatest cosmic thinker of our generation. If prof. Hawkins couldn’t find a hell in any black hole, or in any other part of the universe for that matter, then hell in all likelihood doesn’t exist, at least the fire and brimstone version, anyway.
So what is the upshot for the devil, now that he’s homeless?
Well, he’s still alive and well.
Just when it seemed that the Catholic Church might be extracting itself from its medieval mind-set, the Vatican announced that it has begun actively recruiting priests for its course in exorcism. It seems that the number of people who are possessed by the devil is reaching huge proportions (now that hell has vanished, the devil is probably house-shopping), so it’s time to ramp up admissions to the Vatican’s academy. According to the Vatican, exorcism can’t be performed by just anyone, but by priests “trained in the process.”
From the point of view of established medical psychology, a person who truly believes that they have been taken over by the devil is a person who is, at the very least, exhibiting profound psychological decompensation, and at the worst, a grave psychiatric disorder. In such instances, it is the duty of the visiting priest to guide that person to appropriate medical evaluation, and not to acknowledge, never mind engage in, the Hollywoodesque choreography of medieval expulsions. But tell that to the Vatican…
So what will change the Vatican’s stance? The one thing that influences everyone: losing money. With the rising amount of devil- possessed people running around in the world and the rising amount of priest exorcists chasing after them, its’s only a matter of time until that greatest modern weapon of all – the lawsuit – rears its ugly head. Sooner or later, an exorcism will “fail,” with the dire consequence of self-injury or suicide. At which point, the victim’s family will sue the Church and seek compensation. Not for a failed exorcism, but for the fact that a Catholic priest continued to knowingly engage in a charade that cost a person their life, instead of contacting the family and guiding that person to medical authorities in a timely manner.
After which, the Vatican will have to find another home for the devil. Or perhaps find another cosmic physicist to prove he too can’t be found.
Martin Jan Stránský
Publisher, Přítomnost and The New Presence
Practicing physician specializing in the field of neurology
published: 3. 4. 2018