I saw what has been called the Holy Father's exorcism on Sunday and didn't take much note of it at the time, though inquiring minds would like to know what was in that folder. Since then, though, it's been coming back to mind. Maybe it's the strange progression of the story in the Italian media, though I have to admit that the grammar of Italian public discourse is somewhat opaque to me even at baseline.
Was it an exorcism? Spokescleric Fr. Lombardi says no. Apparently some experienced exorcists who watched said it certainly was. Another I heard speaking in private said no. In any case, as far as I'm concerned, it's none of my business. If the Holy Father knew by some means, natural or supernatural, that an exorcism was indicated and he did it, well, good for him.
What I do feel like saying, however--and this goes for both the more religious and less religious sorts of people--is that often when we get to talking about such things we don't take seriously enough that the devil is happy for us to do so, so long as our discussion, whether it be fearful or dismissive, bemused or pious, can be made to serve his purposes. The devil is happy to have us discuss things like demons, possession, exorcism, etc., so long as such conversations serve to make us dismiss religion or spiritual danger on the one hand, or to focus less on the love of God and the victory of Christ on the other. In other words, if the result of such talk is that we end up more dismissive of God and true religion on the one hand or more afraid and timid on the other, the devil wins.
In my opinion, we would do well to take Fr. Merrin's advice and be wary of demonic tactics that could be at work even in our conversations about such things:
"He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us."
But we should also remember that the devil knows well our tendency to collect shiny things even when their edges cut us, and always tries to make us think that his primary efforts are the sorts of sensational things that make for tabloid sales and 'viral' videos. The comment of Jeffrey Burton Russell comes to mind:
"The Devil no doubt has some interest in cultural despair, Satan chic, and demonic rock groups, but he must be much more enthusiastic about nuclear armament, gulags, and exploitive imperialism . . ."
(Mephistopheles, 257, quoted from Arthur Lyons, Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America)