I just got a note from an Australian reader wondering whether exorcism is always a good response for what seems to be a haunted house. My answer is “No, not always.” Let’s do some discernment. Let’s call to mind an anecdote.
Let’s say a fair dinkum Catholic marriage is broken up the wife, who, without any declaration of nullity for this marriage, runs off and civilly marries a young lad who “makes her feel young again.” As the years go by, she gets advanced stage four cancer, repents of her sin, and asks forgiveness of the bloke to whom she was, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, still bound by the sacrament of matrimony. When she had left him, he had told her, “Go to hell!” He had regretted this terribly, had never remarried, and, in fact, had kept a picture of her on a table in her old sewing room. When, towards the end of her life, she showed up in a car out front of his house (their house) with great difficulty so as to make her apology in person before returning to the ministrations of her home care nurse, he didn’t listen and again shouted out from his house to the car: “Go to hell!” That was the last he ever saw of her. In the alienation of affection, he himself had grown bitter.
After she died, he started to notice what seemed to be the acts of a poltergeist in his house, with her picture face down, or inexplicably standing up again, with the sewing table moved here and there. This scared him, and he called in an exorcist who thought that this might be herself in purgatory, asking for his prayers. But, no.
- The holy souls in purgatory are, in fact, holy souls, filled with sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. They are being purged of their earthly hesitation to get to know whence our Lord called them, so that they might have the great joy of thanking our Lord in heaven, knowing why they are thanking Him. We hesitate, but, by our prayers, those in purgatory are brought face to face with the truth of it all. They are grateful for our prayers which give them God-speed, as it were, to know the extent of the love of our Lord. These holy souls would never frighten us.
- So, could it be a damned soul, trying to make the survivor despair so as also to go to hell? No. The damned are utterly cut off from the earth or anyone on this earth. They are in hell forever. Check out the Angelic Doctor of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas on this one.
- So, could it be fallen angels, trying in this way to make the survivor despair so as also to go to hell? Yes. But, discernment is needed…
- Could it be the delusion of the survivor, who, in a kind of delirium mixture of bitterness and regret and love and scorned love, makes his way into the sewing room and gently places her picture face down, sobbing uncontrollably, leaning against the table, moving it, lurching then, out of the room to calm down, suppressing that trauma, only to go again later into the room, not want to admit to himself why the picture was face down, then putting it back up and rearranging the table, only to repeat this umpteen times? Sure, that’s also very possible. What’s needed is healing.
This anecdote underlines something for us that we need to consider in our assessment of Amoris laetitia and how we put that assessment into practice, that is, with the constant teaching of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the highest interventions of the Magisterium of the Church, such as the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent. That teaching underlines the sinful nature of adultery for a reason:
The spouse who is betrayed is, in fact, betrayed, cast into the darkest of existential peripheries, mocked, especially if they remain faithful to their marriage vows, despised in their faithfulness, perhaps especially by those who want them to celebrate the pseudo-marriage of their betrayer with that betrayer receiving Holy Communion. The aggressor is not the faithful person who was betrayed and hurt so very badly. There. I said it. Should that be obvious? Yes. Such a person, however appearing to be strong, is, of course, as weak and fragile as all the rest of us, and can be terribly tempted to bitterness and despair. Are we to help those who have sinned to be found by Jesus? Yes. But I also think that we are to take care of those who have been kicked in the face and betrayed.
Are there very many talking about comforting those who in the darkest of existential peripheries, who are upset about the mania surrounding helping out the Judas spouses even while they are shoved into the margins all the more? Not many.
Remember, Jesus married His Bride the Church with His wedding vows at His Wedding Feast, the Last Supper which was completed on Calvary: My body betrayed for you… My blood poured out for you in sacrifice… He’s deadly serious in His redemption of marriage. He’s deadly serious about being in solidarity with a spouse who is betrayed. He knows what it means to suffer. He will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.