Monday, February 11, 2008

When Religion Collides with Reason

Yes, this is true:

POCZERNIN, Poland - This wind-swept village is bracing for an invasion of demons, thanks to a priest who believes he can defeat Satan.

The Rev. Andrzej Trojanowski, a soft-spoken Pole, plans to build a "spiritual oasis" that will serve as Europe's only center dedicated to performing exorcisms. With the blessing of the local Catholic archbishop and theological support from the Vatican, the center will aid a growing number of Poles possessed by evil forces or the devil himself, he said.

"This is my task, this is my purpose -- I want to help these people," said Trojanowski, who has worked as an exorcist for four years. "There is a group of people who cannot get relief through any other practices and who need peace."

About 70 priests serve as trained exorcists in Poland, about double the number of five years ago. An estimated 300 exorcists are active in Italy. Foremost among them: the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, 82, who performs exorcisms daily in Rome and is dean of Europe's corps of demon-battling priests.

"People don't pray anymore, they don't go to church, they don't go to confession. The devil has an easy time of it," Amorth said in an interview. "There's a lot more devil worship, people interested in satanic things and seances, and less in Jesus."

Amorth and other priests said the resurgence in exorcisms has been encouraged by the Vatican, which in 1999 formally revised and upheld the rite for the first time in almost 400 years.

Although a Vatican official denied reports in December of a campaign to train more exorcists, supporters said informal efforts began under Pope John Paul II -- himself an occasional demon chaser -- and have accelerated under Pope Benedict XVI. A Catholic university in Rome began offering courses in exorcism in 2005 and has drawn students from around the globe.

One of the recruits is the Rev. Wieslaw Jankowski, a priest with the Institute for Studies on the Family, a counseling center outside Warsaw. He said priests at the institute realized they needed an exorcist on staff after encountering an increase in people plagued by evil.

Typical cases, he said, include people who turn away from the church and embrace New Age therapies, alternative religions or the occult. Internet addicts and yoga devotees are also at risk, he said.

"This is a service which is sorely needed," said Jankowski, who holds a doctorate in spiritual theology. "The number of people who need help is intensifying right now."

Honestly, it's hard to figure out where the Catholicism stops and the Scientology starts when you read things like this. Essentially, there is now no difference between one wacky cult and the other wacky cult, since they're both exempt from taxes and have millions of followers. How can you sneer at one when the other sneers back at you? But if you're going to tolerate religion, you have to tolerate what goes along with it. I don't pretend to be smart enough to understand it, I just help out when I can and pass along my own experiences with...the Devil.

To date, I have none.

Has anyone considered that, perhaps--just perhaps--the Devil has better things to do?

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