It was such an odd accusation, and so far from any semblance of reality (St Ignatius proposed just this sort of thing to himself as an extreme case*), I didn't know how to respond. What were Catholics being accused of, if not a form of relativism? The very scenario presumes that there is an objective truth that cannot reasonably be overturned, not even by the highest possible authority. Not even the Pope can redefine "white" to mean "black." It's almost diabolical to suggest otherwise.
|St Michael; fresco from the Church of St. Francis, Arezzo, Italy|
So in the state capitol today, one very brave bishop is going head to head against the devil who has convinced a great many people that not just colors, but pivotal human realities can be redefined. It looks like overkill, I know. Many people will think that Bishop Paprocki is just being mean-spirited.
But what if there's something else going on? Something that most of us just don't have access to?
For years now, Sister Helena has been going around the country teaching the Theology of the Body, the spirituality behind the Church's teaching that being created "in the image of God, male and female" is a fundamental supernatural reality. In our human bodies, Pope John Paul said, we manifest the Trinity within material creation itself. Not even the angels image God by their nature, just these lowly creatures made of the dust of the earth. Well, every time that Sister Helena went to Springfield to offer her workshops and retreats on this topic, she came back with...stories. Weird things went wrong, one after the other. Usually the people who invited her were pretty blithe about it. "Oh, we get this spiritual warfare stuff all the time here," they would tell her. "Sorry we forgot to tell you ahead of time."
This being Illinois, today's redefinition of marriage is only one little bitty part of the spiritual warfare picture. The Father of Lies has a very comfortable seat here. Four of the state's last seven governors have been convicted and imprisoned for offenses related to corruption. The rights of same-sex couples even trumped the welfare of children a few years ago.
Bishop Paprocki is basing this afternoon's exorcism service on the words of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in 2010, when his nation was signing off on the same sort of legislation we're getting in Illinois today:
At stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts. ... Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.Frankly, given Sister Helena's creepy experiences in Springfield, I rather suspect that the Bishop, in citing the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is only telling us half of the story. I have a pretty strong feeling that ever since he was installed as the Bishop of the state capitol (on the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher!), the lawyer-bishop Thomas has had personal experience of supernatural malice. I have no doubt that he has prepared himself for today's battle, probably through fasting and a vigil of prayer. I am joining my prayer to his--and in a special way, praying for his protection from bodily and spiritual harm.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6: 11-17).
*For Ignatius, the point was that in really extreme matters, where our personal viewpoint or judgment differs from the supreme authority of the Church, we should defer to the magisterium rather than put so much trust in our personal, subjective conviction!