Casting out demons

… and some inintentional humor from the Roman Catholic Church.

Exorcism is one of those ideas that embarrasses many sophisticated Christians; it’s not surprising that Andrew Sullivan should find Bobby Jindal’s account “creepy.” On the one hand, most of them don’t really believe in demons, or in demonic possession, other than as a metaphor. On the other hand, there it is, right in the Gospels and in Acts, along with faith-healing; it’s hard to dismiss demon-cleansing as some sort of later accretion.

Of course it’s wrong to make fun of other people’s beliefs. But also of course there’s nothing funnier than a highly dignified person or institution trying to shy away from an uncomfortable fact. So when Sullivan (a Catholic himself, remember) pointed to this account of the official Roman teaching on exorcism, I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I came to the following sentence in the instructions for a parish priest called on to act as an exorcist:

He should avoid in the course of the rite everything that savours of superstition.

Well, yes. And the chimney-sweep should avoid in the course of his labors anything that savors of getting dirty.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: