Challenge Grant: Our Boosters will match donations up to $45,000. We have $38,705 to go. Please donate!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

An exorcism? No, a blessing. You'd think reporters would know the difference.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 21, 2013

As you watch, a priest places his hands on a man’s head and prays silently for a few seconds. What did you just witness?

A blessing, right? That wasn’t a tough question. Pretty basic, for anyone with even a passing knowledge of Catholic practices.

But that’s not how reporters interpreted a gesture by Pope Francis on Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Father blessed a man in a wheelchair (to be fair, I should add that the man reacted dramatically) and suddenly reporters began saying that the Pope had performed an exorcism.

You might think that reporters covering the Vatican would recognize a simple blessing when they saw one. But then of course a papal blessing is not a headline story, and a papal exorcism is.

An AP report amps up the sensational aspect of the story by mentioning that Pope Francis is “obsessed” with the devil. OK, let’s explore that idea:

You’re listening to a Christian preacher. He mentions the devil. Are you surprised? He mentions the devil again. Would you say that qualifies as an obsession?

It’s true that Pope Francis mentions the devil often enough to show that he’s quite aware of Satan’s existence. But again, if you have even a passing familiarity with Catholic thought, you shouldn’t find that surprising.

Sometimes one has the impression that secular reporters, when they cover Catholic affairs, fancy themselves as expert guides, introducing their readers to the arcane practices of an obscure cult. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that what they view as extraordinary gestures and statements—blessings, admonitions about the devil’s lures—many millions of people see as everyday routines.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($126,198 to go):
$150,000.00 $23,801.70
84% 16%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: virgy5944 - Jul. 12, 2013 6:39 PM ET USA

    I would say that the news reporters are obsessed with finding sensation in all the wrong places.

  • Posted by: bedfordts9416 - May. 21, 2013 8:58 PM ET USA

    It is relevant that Fr Amorth, the exorcist, had already dealt with this man earlier in the week and said demons were present in the man at the time. Unless Fr. Lombardi from the press office knows exactly what the Pope said or intended, no one knows because he couldn't be heard by those standing near.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 21, 2013 4:58 PM ET USA

    Here is a novel idea: How about giving the job of covering the Vatican to a Catholic, a real one? It isn't so unusual to find ex-players commenting on different sports, the thinking being that they just may know a bit more about the sport than the average Joe, so why not apply that kind of common sense to religion? Oh, of course, I should have thought of that! What real Catholic would be able to tell the world about the pope's obsessions? He might not even notice them. Horrors!

  • Posted by: Defender - May. 21, 2013 10:33 AM ET USA

    Maybe the reporters were just confused by the "spirit of Vatican II"? After all, with the exception of the pope, the devil is mentioned by priests only rarely or perhaps they thought they were seeing a Protestant healing service that they may have seen on television?

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

The Synod: It's a Wrap! 10 hours ago
A chaotic synod? Not in its results 11 hours ago
Cardinal Kasper's unsubtle threat 16 hours ago
When Catholics are less Catholic than non-Catholics October 20
Cardinal Kasper's nose is growing again October 18

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Key synod report calls for 'gradualism' in Church response to irregular family situations CWN - October 13
As synod concludes, bishops issue message, approve document; Pope weighs in CWN - October 20
Cardinal Parolin: UN must protect innocents from Islamic State CWN - September 30
Synod of Bishops opens with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica CWN - October 6