Friday, August 29, 2014

Living Between Dorothy Day and St. Michael: A Reflection on my First Year as Pastor of St. John Bosco, Chicago



 

August eighth marked my one year anniversary as pastor of St. John Bosco Parsh, Chicago. It passed without fanfare, and to be honest, without me remembering that it was the date of my arrival in 2013. Someone asked me the other day if I'd been here a year yet, thus making me do the math in my head. So, with one year under the belt, here's my perspective on life at Bosco.

To put it simply, I've seen two great realities converge in this year, realities that are usually seen as mutually exclusive, but I, increasingly, think not. One is that the material needs of the people are great. Many families are being squeezed by the present economic situation. The politicians can spin it any way they want; there are many unemployed or under employed people living from rent check to rent check, utility bill to utility bill not knowing how they'll pay them. The demands on our emergency family fund and food pantry is at an all time high, and this isn't an exaggeration.

The second is that more and more people are coming reporting problems of a preternatural nature: things moving in their house, seeing unexplainable shadows or themselves experiencing some form of demonic oppression or infestation. The common link is that these people, or someone close to them or someone living in their apartment building have dabbled or are involved in occult activities. Can some of these events be chalked up to mental illness or an overactive imagination? Sure. Just like not everyone who comes to the door looking for a handout is legit, not everyone claiming some demonic episode is on the level. And with a little experience one can learn to tell the difference, in both situations. But I just don't believe in mass hysteria, and really it's not hysteria at all. The people who come are generally very discreet, and are unsure of what's happening. In a strange way this is one sign that something probably is happening.

Like I implied at the start, issues of social justice and spiritual warfare are usually seem as preoccupations of two separate "camps" within Catholicism. People who read America or Commonweal and vote Democrat are perceived as usually being more concerned about the plight of the poor and economic justice. Those who read National Catholic Register or visit the Spirit Daily website regularly and vote Republican will wear St. Benedict metals and believe in demonic possession. But that has to change.

Pope Francis has spoken a great deal about economic issues, but has also about the reality of Satan. He has even linked the two things, implying that the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few is a product of both unjust systems and the machinations of the evil one (I read this a few months ago, and went back to try to find the article but couldn't. A reminder to me to bookmark more). 

Obviously when a family comes in need of rent assistance or food I'm not suggesting that we sprinkle holy water on them and send them on their way.  We as a parish need to do what we can to meet their immediate needs, while learning how to network more effectively with state and Church agencies to facilitate long range help. Also, we need to advocate for reforms that put people and families at the heart of our nation's economic and political life.

There is too this dark spiritual undercurrent. Secularists believe that reason replaces faith, but in truth  as traditional religion fades superstition increases, as Pope Benedict once said. We are hardwired for the transcendent, and if we don't seek it through the conventional avenues people will find others. Spiritualism and occult practices are on the rise, in part, because Catholicism demands surrender to God's will and the occult promises control over spiritual forces, and by extension the natural world. But these are uncontrollable forces and the ministers of the Church are left to deal with the ramifications of playing with unholy fire.

To wrap up, my conclusion is that as a Church we shouldn't choose between social justice and spiritual warfare; we're not either devoted to Dorothy Day or St. Michael. We don't need to be doing both at the same time, but we need to be doing both. And I admit, I can't articulate where the Holy Father is coming from when he connects the two realities; I'm pretty much taking his word for it. Not just because he's the Pope, but because I've seen it with my own two eyes, even if I don't have the words to explain the reality. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pius X: The Under Appreciated Pope Saint

One afternoon, when I was probably thirteen or 14 years old, I found myself hanging out around our parish school building, outside the cafeteria. This was unusual because I went to public school, and while I attended CCD classes there on Sunday mornings and, by this point, Wednesday afternoons for my entire childhood, I really didn't know the building that well. The cafeteria is in the basement, and I hardly ever went there, and had never previously exited through the outside doors. The reasons for me being in that location are lost to the fog of time, but there I was. The cafeteria, like I said, was in the basement, and this particular afternoon I decided to do some exploring, when I stumbled upon a statue of a saint that I'd never seen before. It seemed to be hidden near an outdoor staircase that lead up to street level. It was a plain, white stone statue of a bishop. The face was gentile, and the base was inscribed "Pope St. Pius X."

I was taken aback. "A pope can be a saint?", I thought. Even then I liked history, and I don't recall if the years of his reign were inscribed on the statue, or I found out later, but when I saw that he served between 1903 and 1914 I was even more astonished. I knew that the canonization process could take decades, and even centuries to work itself out, so I thought "a pope from this century, declared a saint, and we never hear about him? And why was this stature in the most inconspicuous spot on the parish property; are they trying to hide it?" I was flabbergasted. These were the days, long before the Internet, where you actually had to go to a library to get information on people, places and things. I can't say that I rushed out and began doing research, but over the years I did pick up things here and there about this saintly pope who lost favor became of changing theological fashions, and misunderstanding.

Pius X, born Giuseppe Sarto in 1835, was probably the first modern pope to have been born poor and had real pastoral experience before becoming the Successor of Peter. Most popes from roughly the Renaissance until the nineteen century came up through the aristocracy, becoming bishops at a young age due to their connections more than their sanctity. More recently, in the 20th century, many top churchmen went into the Church's diplomatic corps or curial bureaucracy soon after ordination, moving up the line because of their skills as administrators and diplomats. It doesn't mean that some of these men weren't very holy: Pope St. John XXIII, though of humble birth, went the diplomatic rout himself before becoming Patriarch of Venice and later pope. It's only to say that it wasn't uncommon to have a man ascend to the papacy without ever having served in a parish.

This cannot be said of Pius X, who went right into pastoral work after ordination, essentially serving in place of the regular pastor who was very ill. He oversaw the expansion of the parish's church building and of a hospital under his care. Don Giuseppe was a hands on priest who worked directly with cholera patients during an out break of the disease in his town. He was popular with the people, and "moved up," if you will, because of his hard work and dedication to his flock.

When he became pope in 1903 he had an understanding of how the faith was lived on the grass roots level, and set about reforms of the church bureaucracy to make things easier for both parish priests and the people they served. He reformed canon law, establishing an orderly, systematized code for the first time (this work would not be completed until after his death). He re-established Gregorian Chant as the normative musical style for the Sacred Liturgy; not just because it was traditional, but because it lent itself to congregational singing, and thus the active participation of the faithful better than the highly stylized orchestral music that had been in vogue in recent centuries. He simplified the breviary, the prayer book priests and religious use everyday, so that they could fulfill their obligation to pray for the Church more efficiently amid their busy pastoral responsibilities.

The reform that touched the people most directly was his lowering of the age for First Communion from 12 to 7. He also promoted frequent Communion, as well as confession, at a time when it was common practice to only receive Communion a few times a year. He believed firmly that the frequent reception of the Eucharist was the "shortest and safest way to Heaven."

As for the papacy itself, Pius X simplified papal ceremonies, always feeling uncomfortable with the trappings and pomp of the office. He also refused to use his office to benefit his family. His sisters continued to live in relative poverty and his nephew, a priest, remained in his small, simple parish.

Up to now, you might be wondering why Pius X fell out of favor for so long. In many ways he sounds like a lot like Pope Francis.

Pius fell out of favor with later generations because he fought modernism, a heresy, which in fairness is hard to define (the term is more of an accusation than than a name), but is connected with the integration of Enlightenment philosophy into Catholic thought, skepticism, relativism, and a rejection of the supernatural claims of Scripture. These were the early days of modern scripture study, and while some progressive scholars that fell under suspicion were later vindicated, others did deny the truth of Sacred Scripture, for instance denying the veracity of the miracle accounts, and even the divinity of Christ. Pius was ruthless, some would argue cruel, in rooting out scholars he felt were teaching doctrine contrary to the Faith. The criticism is that some wheat got pulled up with the weeds.

I can say that when I was in the minor seminary in New York many years ago Pius was not looked upon with great favor by my Church History professor, among others. His years were seen as repressive for Catholic intellectuals and scholars, and though it didn't take long for subsequent popes to step back from Pius' zealousness, it's felt that it took decades for the intellectual atmosphere in Catholic seminaries and universities to thaw.

In someways Vatican II is seen as the final triumph of the "anti-anti-modernists," where the Church finally adopted a post Enlightenment vocabulary and mindset. Pius X, the crusader for orthodoxy, who held the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas as his great weapon, just didn't fit into the narrative of updating and change that filled the post-conciliar air. I have to make it clear that those who take this point of view don't self  identify as modernists, and in fact don't believe that such a thing ever existed to begin with. While recognizing the extremes that some scholars at the turn of the 20th century engaged in, they would argue that there was no need for a systematic rooting out of dissenters. And so Pius X, saint of the Church though he is, was relegated to the back staircase near the dumpsters.

A scripture scholar I studied under at the same time put things in an interesting perspective for me. While he too did not believe that modernism was an organized heresy that needed fighting, he understood that things were moving fast in those days. There was legitimate inquiry going on, as well as those who were straying far from the faith. Pius wasn't a scholar, and had a hard time figuring out what was valid and what was heresy. So, he basically said, let's stop and give ourselves time to figure this out. Yes, some good men were hurt. Others were kept from active scholarship for a time before being permitted to go back to their work. While his methods may not have been ideal, that break is what the Church needed at that time to get whatever updating that was to happen right.

As we celebrate the Feast of Pius X today, which is also the 100th anniversary of his death, I think that we should remember a man who loved the flock he was sent to tend. He opened for them the riches of the Eucharist, knowing how powerful a means of grace the Sacrament of the Altar is. He understood what it meant to be a servant pope, much like Pope Francis today. He died as World War I was beginning, praying for peace and the reconciliation of the waring sides. He's a saint, which doesn't mean that the was perfect, but that he was faithful until the end. For this reason he should again be placed in a prominent place in our hearts, and in our churches. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

2014-08-12-RobinWilliamsrobinwilliams2318301420001330.jpg

I was away on retreat last week, which is a partial explanation for my lack of out put this summer. But rather than make excuses, I'll dig in and get going again.

Much of the news this week was dominated by the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams. And while I don't want to make this a critique of his career, I believe that putting the actor first is right. He was Juilliard trained, acted in plays by Shakespeare and Samuel Becket, as well as winning an Oscar for a dramatic roll, and I think he was such a great comic, at least in part because of his acting sensibilities. While I don't agree with his friend Carrie Fisher, that he ranks with Charlie Chaplin, his was a unique talent that contributed to his being a complete performer. He was the best all around comedian of of his generation, and much more than that.

But more to my point.

When anyone commits suicide the obvious question the people left behind ask is why.  In this case there was no note left, as far as I know, so we are left to guess. Unfortunately, in this 24 hour news cycle - incessant media gossip driven culture, there has been no shortage of armchair psychologists lining up to give their diagnosis. There's been a flurry of speculation over his faltering personal finances, the reputed poor state of which his business manager said was highly exaggerated. Someone, a "friend" who refused to be identified, said Williams dreaded having to do a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel, and more movies in general, because of the emotional strain getting into character was for him. Some claimed he was embarrassed about having to do television again, others said he actually preferred it. The latest theory is that his Parkinson's medication increased his depression, which possibly put him over the edge. But the one person who can tell us for sure, Williams himself, can't. That is the tragedy beyond telling.

All the speculation is understandable, even if some of the coverage has been crudely sensationalized.  That Robin Williams was a famous person, and thus receives so much attention at his death, can blind us to the fact that he was a person - a human being - first. If the manner of his death helps to draw attention to the problem of clinical depression and suicide, then indeed some good will come out of this. If all it is is more fodder for the gossip page, then we've missed an opportunity. Suicide is still somewhat of a taboo subject that the surviving relatives don't like to talk about, there is so much guilt and anguish surrounding it. I've done funerals for people that I know had taken their own lives, but the family never acknowledged the fact. And I proceeded as I wasn't in the know, so as not to make a bad situation worse.

But what about suicide? What should our attitude be? From judging the public response we as a society, thankfully, still see suicide as being negative; something to be prevented. I saw one person somewhere out on the web say that Mr. Williams had made a choice so we shouldn't think ill of it. But for the most part we understand that suicide is a literal dead end that leaves no possibility of a future. There are those who support some form of euthanasia, which I don't, of course, but it was clear that what ever his physical condition he was in had not reached a point where such an action would be justifiable, even by supporters of assisted suicide.

From the Catholic stand point, suicide has always been considered a mortal sin because it is a rejection of God's most precious gift to us, life, and because it tries to seize control over life and death from from the Almighty's hands. It is a selfish act that devastates the loved ones who are left to deal with the feelings of guilt and hurt. They live the rest of their lives often times asking themselves why it happened and was their anything they could have done to prevent it.

In light of this longstanding belief that suicide is grave matter, warranting the loss of one's soul, the assumption that Catholics labored under for many centuries was that suicide meant automatic damnation to hell. Funeral services were often denied to people who took their own lives, as well as burial in Catholic cemeteries. This only added to the shame and grief of the surviving family members.

While we can judge acts, we should avoid judging individuals. We know that people who take their own lives are not in the right frame of mind, and depression and other emotional disorders can cloud the judgment, effecting people's ability to make a truly free act. For a sin to be grave in the subjective reality of life there must be grave matter, proper reflection and full consent of the will. In other words the act in question is objectively sinful, we know it's sinful and we do it anyway without any coercion. Mental illness can effect one or all of these factors.

Even before the advent of modern psychology the Church understood that you can't make blanket judgements about people who've taken their own lives. A distraught widow once came to St. Jean Vianney crying that her husband, who had jumped off a bridge, was in hell. The saint told her that she did not know that since she has no idea what went through his mind in the interval between leaping from the bridge and hitting the water. Who knows if he had sincerely repented and asked God's forgiveness or not? Only God knows. So it's for us to pray for his soul, and I would suggest we do the same for Mr. Williams. This would be far more beneficial than asking unanswerable questions and engaging in idle gossip.

Eternal rest grant unto him of Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine: "Deliver Us From Evil" Movie Review

 

The exorcism movie, a sub genre of the supernatural thriller, which itself is a sub genre of horror films in general, is a tricky feat to pull off. The main problem is that the best of these motion pictures was the first of it's kind made, The Exorcist, back in 1973. Forty-one years on and no one has been able to top William Friedkin's adaptation of the William Peter Blatty novel. This is because, whether you believe that demonic possession is real or not, there are verifiable cases of people who have exhibited the symptoms of possession, and we have an actual rite of exorcism the Church uses to help these afflicted people. We're not dealing with a zombie apocalypse or a vampire coven, both of which no one has ever seen. There is no legend here that a writer or director can play with. We know what this looks like, and The Exorcist covered the topic almost ehaustively, even if it did go over the top in places. Since there isn't any new ground to cover, all a story teller can do is imitate the movie that started it all, or else pump up the gore and sensationalism to try and mask the lack of originality. The new entry into this sub-sub-genre of horror, Deliver Us From Evil, regrettably, does both.

Deliver us From Evil is based on the story of retired NYPD police sergeant Ralph Sarchie, who first encountered the demonic on the job as a police officer in The Bronx. I haven't read the book this movie is supposedly based on, but if it's anything like The Rite from a few years ago, another "based on true events" movie taken from a book, the two renderings of our hero's story are probably very different. The Rite, as a movie, was an improbable story of a faith challenged seminarian becoming an exorcist, where as that film's source material is the real story of a veteran priest going through a preparation program for exorcists in Rome. The truth is less sensational, but more frightening, and enlightening, than the Hollywood embellishment. This is precisely where Deliver Us From Evil breaks down: director Scott Derrickson is so busy trying to scare us in the conventional way horror movies usually do he misses the real terror, and the very angle that would have given a genuinely original spin to this otherwise pedestrian run through.

Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a police officer who's seen too much on the mean streets of the City. When he responds to a call at The Bronx Zoo, where a woman threw her baby into a safety mote outside the lions' den, he figures he's dealing with another crazy person. Back at the precinct house he encounters a mysteriously hip priest, Fr. Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez) who assures him that the mother is not insane, but possessed. There's skepticism on Sarchie's part, as one would expect, but when a connection with other bizarre cases he's dealing with emerges, he comes to believe that maybe the priest is right. Eventually Fr. Mendoza helps Sarchie to understand his own gifts, which go beyond simple intuition.

I won't continue describing the goings on, because the plot is so needlessly complicated, tying together threads in a way that seems forced. A prime example of this is including Sarchie's domestic life so prominently in the story.  It seems like it was done so we can get a frightened little girl being tormented by demons in the night, a la Linda Blair (Olivia Munn is waisted, as Sorchie's wife, though she does a good Bronx accent, which is to say she hints at it as opposed to trying to do a caricature). The Exorcist is also referenced by way of an Iraqi prologue that holds the key to understanding all the spooky happenings. But the whole thing is muddled, and what we're left with is an R rated horror movie that's not going to be gory enough for the hard core fans of the genre, and too gory for fans of psychological / supernatural thrillers, like me.

If the movie had stuck to one simple story, focusing in on Sarchie and the spiritual gifts he discovers that he has, this would have been a much clearer, subtler and truly terrifying film. Instead we get possessed people who act more like zombies and vampires, along with the needless gore that follows such a strategy.  To me, this isn't frightening, just nauseating.

The sad thing is that there was potential here for originality. Making the priest second fiddle and focusing in on the layman is not an insignificant twist to the plot. Exorcisms and prayers of liberation are not done normally by a solitary priest; there is usually a team involved. The priest has the power of his ordination working for him, but each member of the team also brings gifts, which for some involve being able to perceive spiritual realities. A key part of the exorcism process is getting the demon's name. Knowing its name gives the exorcist power over it, and it won't give that name over easily. Sometimes it is one of the "seers," for lack of a better term, that is able to get the name, along with other important information that will help the priest exorcist in his work. I compare it to forward observers who help an artillery crew direct its fire. These things are hinted at, but get drowned out by all the blood and guts.

There are other issues I had with the film as well. I think it's good the make our priest flawed and human, as they do here. But in an attempt to make Fr. Mendoza a priest with a past, they go to such an extreme that I'm not sure this guy would have ever been ordained, let alone maintain his faculties to minister publicly. I understand that it's a movie, and things need to be condensed for the sake of pacing, but exorcisms can take weeks, and often months, and here they whiz through it in an afternoon. An exorcism can't be performed without the express permission of the local bishop. Even an officially delegated exorcist needs to get permission each time he performs the rite. To make a snap decision to move from simple prayers of liberation, for which no permission is needed, to an actual ritual exorcism, as is shown here, simply wouldn't be done, at least not by a priest in good standing. Exorcisms are highly controlled events that take place in churches or some sacred space, not in the basement of a police station. It can be stressful, exhausting and, yes, terrifying, but it isn't chaotic if it's done properly. I would go on, but there's just too much wrong with this movie, and not enough time and space to cover it all. The bottom line is, if they had not tired to go to extremes they would have actually had a good movie that sheds light on an important, and misunderstood topic, instead of what we have here, which is just an unholy mess.

This isn't Derrickson's first foray into this genre, having previously directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I haven't seen, but plan to now). I've heard generally positive things about that film from people who saw it, but his current work gives me no sign that he knows how to handle this sensitive material with delicacy and, dare I say, grace. Forty-one years, and Heaven knows how many attempts; the champion of the supernatural thrillers remains The Exorcist.

As a coda of sorts, I was surprised at how extensively the music of The Doors was used throughout the film, including a reference to the relatively obscure piece Celebration of the Lizard: which only only hard core Doors fans, like myself, would probably pick up on. They use the master recordings, which means someone from the band's organization had to sign off on it. I only point this out, because the message seems to be that the Evil One is a big Doors fan, something I'm not sure that the surviving members of the band would want to promote.


Monday, June 9, 2014

A Few Thoughts on The Wisconsin Horror Story


The doctored image that started it all


Being a veteran of summer camps I'm accustomed to the "bonfire villain run a muck." In the case of the old Camp Don Bosco in Newton, NJ it was Farmer O'Leary; a mutant, inbred tiller of the soil who stalked the fields around the camp looking for wayward campers to drag back to his farmhouse to slice up. Total bunk of course, I'm sure invented way back when to scare kids so they wouldn't sneak out of their cabins at night.  Lets just say it worked too well sometimes. I had young kids in my cabin too frightened to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, at times with rather unsavory results. Here in Chicago its Nurse Norah, who supposedly haunts the old wing of the youth center. She was invented in the "new" CDB at Putnam Valley, NY; transplanted here by a former Salesian who will remain nameless. The story was officially banned (as were tales of Farmer O'Leary) because the younger kids were taking it too seriously. Nonetheless, in the case of the mythical Nurse Norah, the effects of this little yarn are felt almost a decade later, with kids still scared to go to the second floor unaccompanied. And this modern myth making isn't consigned to summer camp. When I worked in a Newark parochial school it was the Candy Man, a vaguely demonic figure conjured up by saying his name three times into a mirror, that the pre-teens feared. So, while I was as shocked as anybody last week that two 12 year olds in Wisconsin tried to kill their "friend" to get in good with a fictional bogey man known as Slender Man, who they thought was real, my mind was not completely blown. Even in this Internet savvy age, where the children know what's what in the virtual world more than the adults do, human nature doesn't change.

The fact is that many children of a certain age, let's say between 9 and 13, don't have the ready ability to know when their leg is being pulled. Even teens and adults can confuse fiction with truth at times: how many otherwise rational adults believe in Big Foot or the Moth Man? For that matter, go back to 1938 and Orson Welles' radio play adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Presented as a real time news report, without any disclaimer, thousands listening in the North East, and possibly the country, thought the Earth really was being invaded by Martians, causing a general panic. If adults can be convinced that legend is literal, how much more are children susceptible to this type of confusion?

I went to a few sites, and although the Slender Man character has a definitive origin with a particular author (who holds the copyright, no less), every page I saw presents the myth as fact, with "found" photos or videos, whose takers have been "missing" for decades; a strategy utilized by the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project. If any of these sites does post some sort of disclaimer, I missed it. The site these girls regularly visited did put up a post expressing their concern for the victim, proclaiming the content of their site fictional, while defending said content. I'm not sure if pre-teens were the original target audience for the type of horror contained on the site, but the young ones found it, and while most probably know that the content is fictitious, there will always be those impressionable minds who won't get the conceit. Thus the responsibility on the authors and web masters to make things plain.

I'm not saying that children shouldn't hear spooky ghost stories around a camp fire. I remember when I was in the fourth or fifth grade a classmate bringing in an LP of dramatized ghost stories into school and playing it for us. (If you don't know what an LP is, ask your parents). I knew it was bunk, but I still didn't sleep for a couple of nights afterward. And I don't think that I was any worse for the wear. I'm no psychologist, but there is something in us that likes getting scared, under controlled conditions, once in a while. I will admit, I never understood slasher movies, because they strike me as being disgusting as opposed to suspenseful or frightening, and these are two different realities. So without getting overly analytical about it all, there is a natural attraction to mystery and myth, and even a touch or horror, in our psyche, especially during the "tween" years (this is the age, remember, when girls are supposedly haunted by poltergeists). Handled properly the vast majority of young people navigate this phase unharmed and with a more vividly creative imagination.  

The difference I see in the old campfire stories or the old Hammer horror films I watched on local TV as a kid and these contemporary horror stories, is the level of darkness. In the midst of the ghosts and vampires of old was a degree of campiness that kept things from getting too heavy. On the modern horror sites I perused, and I admit I only visited a couple, there wasn't a hint of humor to leaven the proceeding. Realism seems to be the key, whether its the doctored photos or "found" videos. The line between myth and reality is always a fuzzy one, and you could argue that that's part of the fun. But in these contemporary presentations the line seems to be nonexistent, thus making it even more difficult for young minds to tell the difference. 

There is another aspect, which is the demonic. The site that these girls visited the most put up a disclaimer, as I mentioned, in which they said, among other things, that they were a "literary" site, not a satanic cult. I'll take that at face value, but one doesn't have to willfully be at the service of the the devil, or even believe in him, to help his cause. Under the proper supervision, and with a proper dose of camp, the mysterious and the spooky can help cultivate the young imagination. But unsupervised and presented in a self serious way it can lead to an attraction with darkness, with tragic results. I do believe that these sites are doorways for true evil to enter, so it is for any parents reading this out there to be aware of what your children are reading and watching, and if something strikes you as being too dark, don't be afraid to restrict it. I'm not saying that these girls were possessed, or even that the demonic was directly involved in the incident (though I personally lean in the direction of demonic influence). The responsible adults did Satan's work for him by fashioning the material in a particular way and then leaving the girls on their own to consume it and interpret it as their 12 year old minds were capable. All the Evil One had to do was sit back and reap the rewards.