I Saw Satan Fall
by Benedict Heron OSB
Chapter 2: Demonic Attacks
We have seen what the New Testament has to say about angels and demons. Let us now try to understand
what all this means in practice in the lives of each one of us. How does being involved in spiritual warfare manifest
itself in my life, in your life, in the lives of people around us, in the lives of the inhabitants of England at
the end of the twentieth century, and at the global world level?
As an individual, I am the object of God's infinite love, of Jesus' saving grace, of the prayers of Our Lady and
the saints, of the protecting presence of the angels, and of the attacks of demonic forces, of the "flaming
darts of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16).
These demonic attacks vary greatly in intensity and frequency. As John Richards has said, they can be compared
to a long thin wedge. At the thick end of the wedge there are things like demonic possession, Satanism, and specially
powerful attacks of the devil. At the thin end of the wedge there are the small daily temptations in which our
own sinfulness is often worked on by demonic darts. And there is the whole range of gradually increasing demonic
attacks in between the two extremes.
Perhaps an analogy can help us here. We can say that someone is troubled by sickness. This can
vary in seriousness from the beginnings of a cold to terminal cancer. So if we say that someone is sick we want
to know where it is on the long thin wedge of sickness, so to speak. Similarly, if we say that someone is being
attacked by the devil - we all are - we need to know how serious is the attack, how far down the wedge it is. Theologians
sometimes distinguish between the ordinary attacks of the devil and the extraordinary attacks. Certainly one can
say that many temptations are just ordinary attacks, and that cases of possession are extraordinary ones. But there
is an in-between area where it can be difficult to distinguish between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Sometimes a person will say to me that he thinks he or someone else is being attacked by the
devil. I frequently reply that he certainly is, because we all are. Then I ask him to tell me more about it, so
that we can seek to understand how seriously and in what way the devil may be attacking him. Perhaps the particular
thing which is troubling him is mainly a matter of imagination or a psychological problem, but the devil can also
be involved in these.
Is every temptation the result of direct demonic attack? I am not prepared to say so. Doubtless
many temptations are just due to our weakness and sinfulness. How do we know whether or not there is an element
of direct demonic attack in a temptation? I tend to say that when a temptation is unduly strong and tenacious,
unduly difficult to get rid of, then we can think that the weakness and sinfulness of our nature is not the only
thing involved, but that the flaming darts of the evil one are there, playing on our weakness and sinfulness.
Thus, if someone is experiencing strong temptations or trials of, for example, anger, pride,
lust, fear, discouragement, or alcoholism, especially when there is no apparent cause for the strength of the temptation
or trial, then I would think that some degree of direct demonic attack is involved. I would add that I do not think
the devil normally wastes flaming darts on areas of our lives where we have no problems and are strong. Thus if
someone has no inclination towards sexual promiscuity or alcoholism, and is strong in these areas, then doubtless
the devil will normally find it more profitable to send his flaming darts on other areas where that person is weaker
and where there is an opening.
Furthermore, the devil does not only trouble people with flaming darts. He can have a grip on
one or more areas of our lives, where we are in a state of lesser or greater demonic bondage. Where someone has
a serious drink or drug problem, when someone has a really uncontrollable temper, or is seriously involved in adulterous
activity or pornography, when someone is worshipping money or is always hypercritical, when someone is strongly
tempted to suicide, or suffers from serious spiritual pride, when someone is really involved in the occult, then
there is normally an element of demonic bondage present. That does not mean that the person is not in a state of
grace or is possessed by the devil - someone can be crippled in one area of their life but be airight in others.
We have all met people with, say, a drink or a sexual problem who were truly generous and kind to others. It is
good to remember that "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
The demonic bondage mentioned above is often called demonic oppression or obsession or infestation.
The devil has partial control of the person, leaving other areas of their lives free from his control. This is
something different from full demonic possession, where the devil has complete control of the human personality
which is, thank God, much rarer than demonic oppression. One very experienced and~ gifted exorcist says that in
his experience full possession only seems to take place when a person hands over his or her will completely to
the power and authority of the devil. However, the boundary between a very serious oppression and possession may
not in practice be always easy to distinguish - one can more or less drift into the other. The seriousness of demonic
oppression can vary greatly.
The Family and Smaller Groups
The devil attacks not only individuals, but also families and other smaller groups. When in a
family or small group everything starts going wrong and~ misunderstandings arise; when people start getting on
each other nerves; when normally calm people begin to explode with anger; when people become deeply suspicious
of each other: then we can surely think that the family or group is under special demonic attack.
In my opinion the devil normally plays an important part in the break up of marriages. The seemingly
endless misunderstandings, suspicions, tensions, bickerings, and strife in some marriages between people who are
not basically evil and who are trying, up to a point, to be loyal and loving, is surely not something which can
be fully understood if we leave out of account the flaming darts of the devil. Then of course there are the marriages
where there is serious evil on one side or the other, or both, and there the work of the devil is more obvious.
All these troubles in marriages and families can be complicated by things like emotional, mental,
or physical illness, and by the loss of jobs, and by accidents of one kind or another. People can experience a
run of 'bad luck'. Demons can play their part
in all this, indeed they normally do. The devil seeks to prevent people from doing the work for the Kingdom which
God wants them to do. One can have the impression that an evil unseen force is orchestrating the attack on an individual
marriage, a family, a group, and that the consideration of the human factors mentioned above is not sufficient
to understand what is happening.
The same applies to other groups like schools, businesses, and health service units. It also applies to Christian
groups such as parishes, prayer groups, and religious communities. Anyone who has lived for long in a monastery
will know that sometimes the community seems to run into a difficult period without there being any obvious explanation
for it. Similarly, a prayer group which has been going along happily will suddenly find tensions and personality
clashes rearing their heads. These things cannot, in my opinion, be fully understood if one leaves out of account
the attacks of the devil.
The Nation and the World
The ills of our country and of the world are obvious to anyone who reads a newspaper or looks
at the news on television. Wars, violence, crime, injustice, oppression and exploitation of the weak, abortions,
sexual immorality, child abuse, racism, the breakdown of marriages, alcoholism and drug abuse, irreligion, needless
cruelty to animals, abuse of the environment, lack of freedom - the list could be continued - are obvious signs
of real trouble in society. If the devil exists, which he does, if he has some power, which he has within the limits
that God permits, obviously he will play his part in the many problems and crises of our country and our world.
Just imagine for a moment that you were Satan! Obviously you would do everything you could to cause destruction,
hate, disunity, violence, despair, immorality, false religion, and the spreading of lies at every level. And Satan
does just that!
He is normally at work when decisions are taken which lead to wars, when politicians or generals needlessly escalate
the violence, when criminals murder the innocent, when people commit suicide, when the hungry are left to starve,
when a blind eye is turned towards the homeless, when young girls are lured into prostitution, when drug pushers
ensnare the young, when a father sexually abuses his child, when greedy people rape the environment for money,
when there is atheist propaganda in schools, when people torture animals for fun, when women are socially oppressed,
when the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer within a country or between countries, and when people really
blaspheme against God. Again, the list could be extended.
Some people will object that in this chapter I am bringing the devil into situations and ills which can be sufficiently
explained by naftiral causes. Thus, it will be said, a woman committed suicide because she was depressed after
the death of her husband; that someone sexually abused his child because he himself was sexually abused by his
father; that two countries went to war because of a clash of economic interests; that men oppress women because
in their culture they were brought up to do so. Certainly natural explanations can have a validity at their own
level. It is not, however, a matter of asking whether this or that ill was caused by natural and human causes or
by the devil. Obviously, the devil works largely through natural causes. But whether certain natural and human
causes lead to a disaster or whether the disaster is avoided can depend on the spiritual battle going on in the
background. The reason why one depressed spouse commits suicide and another does not can be because one knows how,
with God's grace, to resist the attacks of the devil and the other does not.
The Christian Community
Finally, one area where particularly sadly the devil is at work is within the Christian community. An obvious example
of this is Christian dis-unity and hostility among Christians. Another area is worldliness among Christians. Yet
another is false doctrine - we can all agree that this is so, even though we do not agree as to what is false doctrine!
Perhaps the devil is particularly concerned to attack the Christian community, because by doing so he places obstacles
in the way of the Christian message to the world, for the world itself can only be saved by the gospel of Jesus.
it is not difficult now to recognise that the devil was at work when Catholics were killing Protestants for being
Protestants, and vice versa; when Christians were violently persecuting Jews; when Christians were defending the
institution of slavery. What we in the Christian community have to do now is to ask ourselves, humbly and prayerfully,
where today the devil is having his way with us; where today he is especially attacking us. We may not concentrate
all our efforts on combating the work of the devil in the world and neglect his actions among the Christian community.
Indeed, we need to pay special attention to his influence on the followers of Jesus.
Part of the difficulty of resisting demonic attacks is that most of them are not recognised as such even by many
Christians. Someone feels a compulsion to go out and get drunk or to gamble; someone bursts into an angry rage
and shouts at their children or hits them; someone steals at the supermarket; someone buys a pornographic magazine:
all of this usually without the thought of the devil ever crossing their mind. And the same applies to politicians
who make unjust decisions and pursue unjust policies. Doubtless the devil prefers it that way. Doubtless he is
normally happier not be recognised but to work in a hidden and secret way - there is less danger of stirring up
opposition if he is unrecognised.
However, there are times when the devil's presence and activity is recognised as such. This may be partly a question
of sensitivity but it seems to happen especially to two groups of people. The first group is composed of people
who are trying very seriously to serve God. They will be very especially attacked by the devil, since they are
particularly dangerous for his kingdom. In Appendix Two we will see examples of holy people being dramatically
attacked by the devil and Chapter Five of this book seeks to help Christians to combat the attacks of the devil.
The second group is mainly composed of people who have got seriously involved in the occult. They can then begin
to experience in one way or another the presence of demonic forces. This may well be very frightening for them,
and some of them will come to a priest seeking deliverance. I think of a Catholic woman who came to me seeking
help after getting deeply involved in the attempt to develop psychic powers through non-Christian meditation. This
had led to a period in a psychiatric hospital, where they could not understand the cause of her trouble. Very strange
things were happening in her flat, including the feeling of extreme coldness. She ended up by seeing the diocesan
exorcist. It is now time to consider the whole question of the occult at greater length.
Chapter 3: The Occult, Witchcraft, and
"When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you,
you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. No one shall be found among you who makes
a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur. or a sorcerer,
or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does
these things is abhorrent to the Lord." (Deuteronomy
Human beings are not just animals. There is a spiritual side to our being. When people turn away from true religion,
they tend to get involved in false spiritual ways.- and this is happening on a large scale in our country and in
some others also, as people have moved away from their Christian roots.
There is an exciting side to a vital Christianity as people have a living relationship with Jesus; as they experience
answers to prayer; as they become aware that the Holy Spirit is guiding them. All this does not, as some may think,
do away with the Cross, rather it helps us to bear the Cross fruitfully. For example, St. Paul was wonderfully
blessed with visions and special divine illuminations, and gifts of healing, which were of vital importance to
the fruitfulness of his ministry, yet of course he suffered much.
I think that in our times God seems to be being especially generous with spiritual gifts, experiences, and illuminations,
perhaps particularly but not only in the context of the Charismatic Renewal. However, many people today are not
open to receiving their spiritual support and uplift from Christian sources, so they seek them elsewhere, and increasingly
often from occult sources.
So people get involved with astrology, often to the point of consulting the stars before making
all significant decisions. Or they will go to a spiritualist medium, or palmist, or a clairvoyant to seek guidance.
Or they will seek healing from witches. Or they will ask a magician to curse someone for them. Or they will dedicate
their life to Satan to obtain such things as perverted sexual pleasure, money, and power over others.
Of course, reading your horoscope in the newspaper or reading tea leaves is vastly different from being involved
in satanism - just as pinching an apple from a shop is very different from being involved in raiding banks. However,
all involvement in the occult is wrong, just as all stealing is wrong. Small scale stealing can eventually lead
to serious crime, and a slight flirting with the occult can drift into serious involvement.
The occult can exercise a growing fascination on people, especially people who have no serious religious commitment.
It opens people up to a mysterious new world, which can appear to promise exciting rewards. I remember reading
an occult advertisement in a magazine which promised to teach people to make members of the opposite sex fall in
love with them, to make their business prosper, to bring healing, and to enable them to get rid of an unwanted
I think one can get deeply involved in the occult without being an evil person. I knew a woman who became a spiritualist
medium and often engaged in astral travel. She owned and directed a small nursery school, but as a result of her
occult involvement she soon could not cope with running the school and she was cracking up. She was never in my
opinion an evil person, but she had got really entangled with evil spirits. Two of us prayed with her for healing
over a period of a few months and evil spirits came out of her. She became a serious Christian, gave up all involvement
with the occult, and was able happily to run her school again.
I remember another woman who had joined a white witches group. She said that she had joined them to help fight
black witchcraft and to help heal people. After some years she realised that she had got caught up with demonic
forces. After a few months' healing ministry, which also involved casting out evil spirits, she was freed. When
she first came to us she was a lapsed Catholic, and now she is a very fervent one, doing work of national importance
as a social worker. When she first came she had a glazed look in her eyes; now her eyes sparkle with the light
which comes from Jesus. She again, in my opinion, was never an evil person - she would never have wanted to harm
anyone. But as she herself realised, she certainly had got seriously entangled with evil spirits.
I do not wish to suggest that everyone who has had their palm read at a fair, or visited a clairvoyant, has as
a result picked up an evil spirit. But I do think that all serious involvement with the occult results in some
degree of demonic bondage, and even a one-off occult experience can sometimes result in serious demonic problems.
A teenage boy from Yorkshire savagely killed a nine year old girl after seeing the film, The Exorcist. He said:
"It was not really me that did it, you know: there was something
inside me. I want to see a priest. It is ever since I saw that film, The Exorcist. I felt something take possession
of me. It has been in me ever since."
As a teenager, before I became a Catholic, I like many other people and out of curiosity flirted
with the occult. Two people cast my horoscope, a clairvoyant crystal gazer had a picture of me which later came
to pass, a few people read my palm, and I disgraced myself by getting a fit of the giggles in a spiritualist church
service. When I became a Catholic and made my first general confession, I did not confess these occult activities
- no one ever suggested that there might be such a need. Years later as a priest involved in Charismatic Renewal
I confessed this occult involvement and received cleansing prayer. However, I do not think that my occult involvement
had actually resulted in demonic trouble - perhaps my guardian angel was protecting me. But it was right to confess
it and receive cleansing prayer. There may be some readers of this book who would also be wise to confess past
activities of this kind and receive cleansing prayer, even if their involvement in the occult had only been slight.
They should not be anxious about a slight past involvement in the occult, but it would be better to get it dealt
with. (A cleansing prayer may be one which simply asks Jesus to cleanse us from any evil influence coming from
past involvement with the occult. However, serious involvement with the occult may require a stronger prayer confronting
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church has an excellent passage on the subject of the occult, which, it is to
be hoped, will put an end to doubts which some Catholics may have had on this subject:
Divination and Magic
2115 "God can reveal the future to his prophets
or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of
Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however,
can constitute a lack of responsibility."
2116 "All forms of divination are to be rejected:
recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead, or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future.
Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance,
and recourse to mediums, all conceal a desire for power over time, history and, in the last analysis, other human
beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect, and loving fear that
we owe to God alone."
2117 "All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to
tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this
were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are
even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the
intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices;
the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify
either the invocation of evil powers, or the exploitation of another's credulity."
Witchcraft became legal in our country in 1951 and since then it has gown rapidly, so
that it is calculated that there are now more than 250,000 witches in Britain. Witches very often regard witchcraft
as a religion, the name which they usually give it being Paganism.
I was once asked at short notice to participate in a three hour television programme on witchcraft. I declined,
rightly I think, but I stayed up late into the night to watch it. One young white witch was trying to present witchcraft
as a respectable alternative religion, and she complained bitterly of discrimination against witches, as when one
of her friends lost her job because her employer discovered she was a witch. The TV. witch insisted that witches
harmed no one.
However, her concentration must have slipped as the night went on, for she suggested later that a leading male
English witch who had just died, may have died as a result of being cursed by the Scottish witches. who were angry
with him for having revealed secrets of witchcraft in a book he had written. So these innocent witches may have
killed a fellow witch by cursing him!
All witches believe in the power of charms and spells - indeed witchcraft is largely about exercising this power.
What are we to think of this claim to spiritual power through charms, spells, and curses? From my experience and
from consulting people from this and other countries, I have not the slightest doubt that spells and curses do
have power, can really affect people, including people who do not know that they have been the object of spells
and curses. I am even more certain however that Jesus can protect his followers from any and every spell and curse,
even though they may sometimes have to pass through a difficult time.
Last year I spoke with an English Catholic doctor who had been working in the Pacific islands. Quite a number of
times people who had been cursed would be brought to the hospital. There was nothing wrong with them physically,
but they simply and rapidly faded away and died. He said to me how frustrating it was. He would tell them with
vigour that there was no medical reason for them to die - but they did die! A missionary from Nigeria told me of
a similar case, in which a healthy young man at the university after being cursed by a witch simply declined and
died within two weeks. A member of our monastic community who comes from Ghana assures me that witch doctors' curses
and spells in that country can have real power to harm, including harming people who do not know that they have
been cursed. (A Dutch medical anthropologist working in Ghana confirmed this.) A Catholic doctor in this country
consulted me about the case of a woman here who had been cursed by another woman at work - and the health of the
first woman collapsed and remained collapsed in a way which was medically inexplicable.
A Catholic man from the third world came to us one evening seeking help. He had been a university lecturer and
indeed a government minister in his country. His wife, from whom he has separated, was very deeply involved in
witchcraft and she had got him cursed by 'experts'. His life was now in a state of total disarray and he could
not concentrate to read a book or write letters - and there were other very difficult problems. In the name of
Jesus we prayed against all curses and demonic attacks. He was immediately much better, and after a few more sessions
he was able to work normally again. He then got a responsible job in an organisation helping the third world.
In nearly all third world countries the people living there seem to believe in the power of curses and spells.
Indeed, their lives may become an existence of fear and misery, unless they have a truly living faith in Jesus.
Increasingly also in our own country and the rest of the first world, people are coming up against the power of
the occult and witchcraft. How sad it is to find Catholics, including some priests, who do not believe in the existence
of demons and who therefore are not able fully to help so many needy people.
Doubtless quite a proportion of the people who come for this sort of help are just imagining things. But there
are certainly many others who are not just imagining. On a number of occasions I have thought it was all imagination
and psychological sickness, only to find out later that I was wrong. (A lonely widow from the third world came
to us for help on account of the voices she was hearing. We prayed. the voices continued and I thought she was
simply suffering from schizophrenia. However a very gifted and experienced Anglican exorcist prayed with her, delivered
her from one or more evil spirits, and the voices ceased.)
White witchcraft is certainly much less evil than black witchcraft, but all witchcraft is evil and can open people
up to the demonic. I remember reading about the altar of a famous white witch. The contents on the altar included
a whip. There is often dancing around in the nude at witches ceremonies and self-flagellation or flagellation by
others can play a part in this, especially it seems at initiation ceremonies.
On the television programme mentioned earlier the white witch was repeatedly asked if there had been sex at her
initiation ceremony, but she simply refused to reply. However an ex-witch, now a serious Catholic, on the same
programme said that she had been raped at her initiation ceremony. There were also questions about the ritual sexual
abuse of children at witches' gatherings, the white witch replying that if such things happened it was only in
very fringe groups who were not really witches.
White witches may talk about harming no one, but it is clearly all too easy for the white to become grey, and increasingly
darker shades of grey, until it becomes black. When white witchcraft is no longer giving much of a kick, then people
can easily seek something darker and stronger.
Satanists tend to despise white witches, rather as a whisky drinker might despise those who stick to larger; or
a heroine addict might look down on someone who went no further than cannabis. So let us look at the 'real thing'.
There are Christians who seem to doubt the existence of satanists, which is very strange, since some satanist groups
make no secret of their existence, though they are very secretive about much of their activity. Anton LaVey, who
founded The Church of Satan in the U.S.A. in 1966 and who is the author of the Satanic Bible, is a public figure
in the USA. The Church of Satan is officially registered there as a religion, and they have branches in other countries,
including this country - we also have our own satanist groups in Britain. LaVey has written: "Satan represents all of the so-called sins as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional
gratification!" Satanist Black Masses, performed on the body of a nude woman, can
start with a prayer calling upon Satan, for example: "In nomine Dei nostri Satanas Luciferi excelsi."
(In the name of our God Satan Lucifer glorious). Satanists are very fully and very explicitly anti-Christian, so
the Black Mass is deliberately a parody of the Catholic Mass. Sex and blood seem to play important parts in their
Satanists are accused of sexual orgies and rape, of ritual and sexual abuse of children, of torturing their victims,
and of human sacrifices, including the procuring and eating of foetuses.
A senior C.I.D. police officer informed me that these things certainly do happen, but doubtless not as widely as
some people claim. It cannot be affirmed that every satanist group is involved in the above activities. Obviously
it is very difficult to obtain the sort of proof that would be required in a law court. A therapist can be quite
right in judging that a particular child has been the object of ritual sexual abuse, while the police rightly decide
that there is not enough evidence to procure a condemnation in a law court.
A priest told me of a case with which he was involved. A woman came to him for help in leaving a satanic coven
to which she belonged - those who leave can be threatened with death. He did his best to help her. Some time later
he received a letter from the satanist coven written in the woman's blood, threatening to kill him if he continued
to help her. The coven had blackmailed her into returning by threatening to harm her son. The priest had not felt
able to inform the police because the woman herself when a satanist had been involved in criminal acts, It can
often be very difficult legally to do anything about such cases. Apparently in this one the woman was eventually
allowed to leave the coven after being tortured. (Since writing the above paragraph, I have heard of a priest exorcist
in the U.S.A. who has received death threats, so he now keeps his telephone number a secret.)
Satanism, like white witchcraft, is certainly spreading in our country and elsewhere, and it touches all levels
of society. Some satanist groups try, it is said, to recruit especially among more educated and influential people.
A report in the Guardian of February 8th 1994 mentions a court case in which a male witch had killed a satanist,
Chris Rogers, with whom he was sharing a bed. The witch said that Rogers was really evil and had killed other people.
The satanist, Chris Rogers, was at the time of his death deputy chairman of Manchester City Council's education
committee. No comment needed! Satanists have certainly infiltrated into influential positions.
An area where there unquestionably has been much Satanist infiltration is the world of heavy metal rock groups.
LaVey deliberately sought to enter the pop world, as a way of spreading satanism more quickly than could be achieved
by the multiplication of satanist covens alone. Subliminal satanic messages have been included in rock records.
Satanic messages can also be heard sometimes if the music is played backwards. At large pop gatherings the devotees
are sometimes encouraged to close their fists, but straighten the index and little finger. The fist is then continually
raised up and down in the air as a Salute to Satan, the two straightened fingers representing Satan's horns. The
satanist orientation of Some of the songs is entirely open. So also are the Occult and satanist symbol on the sleeves
of records and elsewhere, for example the inverted cross, the five point star (the pentagram), the number of the
beast '666', the goat's head and horns. Christians will find especially offensive the blasphemous songs and scenes,
such as mock crucifixions.
When one remembers the large numbers of young people involved in the heavy metal rock scene, then surely we Christians
should be deeply concerned. I spoke with one young woman who had before her conversion been involved for a number
of years with this sort of music. She told me that evil spirits had certainly got a hold on her at that time. How
many other young people are suffering from some form of demonic oppression as a result of heavy metal rock? And
how well prepared is the Catholic Church for helping them?
A very challenging book has recently been published in England, Treating Survivors
of Satanist Abuse, edited by Valerie Sinason (Routledge), in which a considerable
number of psychiatrists and psychotherapists discuss their experiences and give advice. The authors have, usually
very reluctantly, come to the conclusion that satanic ritual abuse of children and others is unquestionably taking
place - they give case histories. They also point out that most people seem to be frightened of facing up to this
The Guardian (6th September 1992) published an article
reporting that in Soweto small boys were being kidnapped, having their testicles and thumbs cut off, and being
left to die, so that witchdoctors could use these parts of their bodies to make magic potions. The thought that
such a thing takes place in South Africa is bad enough, but to face the fact that things not much less terrible
could be happening in England is too much for many people.
I think that fear prevents large numbers of people from seeing things objectively in the whole realm of the satanic
- fear operating in so many ways. Fear of facing up to the existence of pure evil; fear of being regarded as superstitious
or crazy by other people; fear of being the object of demonic curses; fear of getting involved with something one
cannot cope with. A social worker, a school teacher, a doctor, a policeman, or a lawyer, could all fear that, for
example, recognising the existence of satanic abuse in a particular case could involve them in an immense amount
of work, criticism, and jeapardise their careers. It might also cause them to fear for their personal safety and
that of their families. They may well think that if satanic curses perhaps do have some power, then it would be
better not to be on the receiving end of them.
A priest can also have to face the problem of his own fears when confronting some demonic problems, as I know very
well from my own personal experience. One priest exorcist whom I know was protected only by spiritual power when
someone held a knife to his throat. Another priest exorcist turned round just in time when a woman was approaching
him from behind with scissors. An Anglican priest exorcist friend of mine was knocked over by a woman he was seeking
to liberate from evil spirits.
Fear, however, normally operates in much more subtle ways. Fear of being ridiculed and regarded as a relic from
the Middle Ages; fear of being blamed if something goes wrong; fear of anything getting into the press; fear of
getting involved with cases which will take up much time and energy; fear of one's health being affected. I personally
have experienced several of the above fears.
So there are very often strong human pressures in favour of deciding it cannot be satanic - it must be the imagination
or inventions of unbalanced people. And in any case it would be very imprudent to get personally involved in this
matter, especially since one is already very busy with other things. The result of all this is that desperately
needy people may not be helped and that more people may continue to become victims of incredible cruelty.
Is there no danger of some people going over the top and seeing devils where there are none; of thinking that people
have suffered from satanic ritual abuse when they have not? Yes, such dangers certainly exist. And one may not
forget that in past centuries some innocent people in our country were burned to death for being witches when they
However, I think that in our times much the bigger danger is the non-recognition of the satanic. Some evangelical
Christians have doubtless exaggerated. But I think that on the whole we need to be grateful to the evangelicals
for reminding us that the devil exists, that he is still active in our times, and that Jesus gave to his church
a ministry of casting out devils. Perhaps some of us who have just wanted to play safe need to repent. I personally
have to repent of sometimes having taken a safety first or safety at any price approach in the past.
Copyright © 1997 Benedict M. Heron OSB
Version: 24th October 2001