I really thought we were living in the 21st century.
I know that there is still a huge pay gap between men and women and I know that men are still more likely to be promoted than women in many spheres but still it’s the 21st century so things should be getting better. Sometimes things get a bit confused. There was the case of the police male voice choir that was criticised, and I think eventually closed down, because it did not meet equality standards. I think the clue lies in the name. Maybe they just need to organise a female voice choir to even things up. Otherwise it’s rather a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
However, things like that are 21st century problems, an attempt to redress the balance.
Definitely not a backwards step to older and stranger ideas.
So, yes, I thought we were living in the 21st century.
And then I read about witches.
Yes, witches, and not some kind of New Age witchcraft thing either.
In the last decade United Nations officials have reported a rise in women killed for witchcraft across the globe. In India the problem is particularly well-documented, with older women targeted as scapegoats or as a pretext for seizing their lands and good. in Saudi Arabia, women have been convicted of witchcraft in the courts, and in Ghana they have been exiled to so-called “witch camps”, an injustice portrayed in an award winning film, “I am not a witch”.
Okay, you might say, that’s India and Saudi Arabia and Ghana. Faraway places with different ideas about things, different belief systems.
And then you discover that in the United States, a Gallup pole found that 21% of people believed in witches.
Well, I said to myself, that’s the United States, where there are still a lot of fervent believers who take the bible as, well, gospel truth! But surely things are different in the UK. And then I remembered Victoria Climbié and I found this: “The first ever Government statistics on the issue showed that witchcraft and possession were linked to almost 1,500 potential abuse cases across the UK in a single year but the figure is thought to be an underestimate.”
Which brings me to exorcism.
Apparently there have been increased requests for exorcism to be carried out in Italy, and also in France. So the Vatican is doing something about it. “The church is particularly alarmed over the uneven skills of some of its current exorcists and worried about priests who are no longer willing to learn the techniques.”
If I were a young priest in training, I think I might not want to learn how to do exorcism either. Even staunch believers accept that antibiotics, unknown when the Gospels were written, work better than prayer alone.
There are some voices of reason:
“People are in need of a prayer, a blessing, liberation, healing, and, fortunately, not necessarily exorcism. The fact is that people sometimes feel bad and there is no place where they can go to be heard out. There are fewer priests, so there is less time to talk with people. The health care reform has led doctors to adhere to time limits during patient appointments, and they also do not have time to listen to people. We are responsible for what happens to us. But how much easier it is to find an external reason — the devil is to blame for everything. This removes our own responsibility.”
But I was disturbed to read that the Vatican formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists in 2014. Surely that gives exorcism 21st century credibility.
Apparently a week-long course on exorcism will be held in April at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic educational institute in Rome.
It is to be hoped that they discuss the likelihood of people being possessed (!!!!), the whole idea of a need for exorcism and don’t just talk about refining techniques to ensure it’s done properly!