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Peter Stanford on the Devil

In a recent article in The Independent (24 February 2011), Peter Stanford wrote about exorcism in the Catholic Church. Stanford is a Catholic but he doesn't believe in the Devil. The Church does still accept the reality of the Devil, but as a modern Catholic Stanford is "convinced that the Devil is just a face the church has traditionally put to the otherwise intangible presence of evil in the world"; the Devil is "someone I don't believe exists".

Stanford tells us about Father Gary Thomas, a priest from California whose experiences were the basis for the film The Rite. Thomas was sent to Rome by his bishop in 2005 to train as exorcist. He was reluctant to go, being unconvinced about the reality of possession, but he completed his training successfully and has subsequently exorcised five people who, he believes, were genuinely possessed. But this work has made him vulnerable. "My celibacy gets attacked a lot", he says. Some might prefer to attribute this to testosterone rather than to Satan.

I share Stanford's scepticism about the Devil but I can't helping wondering why he finds it impossible to believe in the existence of one invisible person while, presumably, accepting the reality of at least one (or three) others.


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