Some people claim certain gifts which they ascribe to the Holy Spirit. If they are wise, they respect what Mother Church says about those claims, how we cannot attest to them with the certainty that comes with the theological virtue of Faith, that the most we can claim is a strong opinion. That said ...
I may very well possess the ability to identify a diabolical presence, in the form of another person. There are three such incidences of which I am reasonably certain:
• The first was the subject of an August 2002 piece entitled "My Charismatic Moment", of an incident at a high school retreat in 1972.
• The second happened while driving across western Ohio, with a man who claimed to be receiving messages from God to build a agrarian commune.
• The third incident was in 2000, involving a diocesan priest. Because it was a local incident, I cannot go into the particulars.
I'm not sure how to describe it. In some cases one is overcome by fear for one's safety, even though the subject may appear physically to be harmless. One thing I remember in the third case, is a depraved indifference to what they are doing at the expense of others. The subject was well aware of the suffering he was causing; he simply did not believe it mattered. Often when confronted by such people, there is no wish to challenge or engage them. One is aware of the true nature of forces at work, and the need to seek a way out.
That sensation came to mind as I read the transcript of a letter written by a priest, defending errors against the Faith, and which is part of a series of articles by Thomas Peters at American Papist:
Thank you for your opinion. Clearly, you are a sincere and Church-loving person with very definite views about homosexuality. I have to respectfully wonder, however, if you really know any homosexuals and have listened patiently and compassionately to their life experiences. While some do, still others do not see or understand their orientation quite as clearly as you so believe and judge that they should according to your selective and limited understanding of Church teaching ...
We will leave aside the priest's defense of unnatural sexual behavior, which can only result in the destruction of those whom he purports to serve. The first thing to notice, is his projection of the problem onto the other party, by ascribing ill motives or ignorance for which he has no evidence. This establishes for him the illusion of moral superiority over his correspondent. The conversation is no longer about having to defend one's actions, but instead becomes a projection of his dysfunction on to his adversary.
While no one can ascribe crimes of pederasty to the cleric, the methods to which he resorts to deflect suspicion are very similar to priests who do engage in such behavior. Those ultimately found guilty of sexual crimes are generally powerful, charismatic figures, who command popularity, respect, even awe among those whom they serve and with whom they work. It is also evidence of a pattern of passive-aggression, a behavior typical of church professionals, who must at least appear to be "nice" in the course of their work, even when they are not being very "nice" at all.
We dealt with a similar pattern of behavior in November 2008, in a piece entitled "The Warning":
Peck maintains that, while being fully cognizant of the evil within themselves, the subjects choose to avoid the necessary introspection to own up to that evil. They respond by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority, and projecting the responsibility onto others. The result is an extreme form of what he describes in The Road Less Traveled as a "character disorder." Whatever the diagnosis, Peck considers evil to be the result of free will, where a man eschews the path to God, for the path away from God.
The priest who wrote this letter is placing souls in grave danger, but if we are to ascribe the contents of the letter to him, the greatest threat may be to himself. Given the perverse nature of his response, he may be already be lost.
In this "Year of the Priest" it is one good reason to storm Heaven with prayers for them -- in some cases, while there is still time.