Saturday, August 29, 2015

Swallowed by ...

St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

I hate talking about devil stuff.

But I will try to say something real quick here.

Joseph Sciambra has a book "Swallowed By ..." you know who.  He writes candidly about his experiences in what I'd call the gay underworld.  The general reaction to his book and some of his blog posts are often negative - too much for gay people, who claim it is an exaggeration or an anti-gay conspiracy, and condemned by Right Wing Watch and the Southern Poverty watchdogs, as two comments on a recent Melinda Selmys post indicate:
I think there in lies the problem, Melinda is giving his story credibility. I feel sorry for him. He doesn't need pastoral care. He needs mental health care. His story has nothing to do with being gay and everything with a man who truly needs help a church cannot provide and shouldn't be. - manlambda
Oh my such bullshit in one post. Satan worship and participated in a snuff film? Really???? Come on. This is why we can't people like you seriously. This guy made up this crap to vilify gay people. Sad you would try to sell this. - manlambda

Mrs. Woodhouse wouldn't be as skeptical ...

I understand the sentiment.  I too thought Joe was a little nuts too.  Commenters to this blog have thought likewise.  It's a natural reaction to some pretty extreme claims.  The thing that helped convince me that Joe has a true story to tell and that it is serious enough for people to listen to and take notice is his humility.  He recently said that when he gives a talk about his experience, his conversion, he steps back and allows the priest to provide the correct teaching on the subject at hand.  In other words - he's not promoting himself as some sort of celebrity, nor is he trying to teach or preach.  I also admire how he ties in Catholic teaching, especially pertinent CDF documents into his blog posts on the subject - he's not only a faithful guy, he understands the teaching.

I've had other online friends tell me they too have read Sciambra's posts closely and agree his message, though dark, is important to take in.  As one friend told me in an email yesterday: "I have actually gone and read much of Joseph Sciambra's stuff. I think what he says is pretty spot-on, and I wish more Catholics would take it seriously."  Yeah, me too.

I think what turns people off is the devil stuff - that is, demons involved in the sex industry.  Why is that so hard to accept?  Because we don't really believe that the devil and hell exists.  Also because there are perfectly fine Beaver Cleaver style gay people and families who all they want to do is settle down and raise a family and retire like their parents did.  Seriously, there are more reasons for gay people to be in denial - reasons as varied as every gay person who has never cruised the underworld.

That said - though I haven't read everything of Sciambra's testimony, I know some of the details of the stories - which may sound a bit medieval, but nevertheless, as Judy Tenuta used to say, "It could happen."

And here is why.

Just my imagination.

When Joan of Arc was on trial one of her accusers (they thought she was a witch BTW) contended that her visions were 'just her imagination' and the Saint replied, 'but of course.'  That is because our imagination plays a role in visions and locutions - God accesses our faculties - intellectual visions are just that.  Without going into an area I'm not qualified to discuss in any depth, I'll get to the point of this post, relying on Garrigou-Lagrange teaching.

The persecutions of the devil comprise all that one may have to suffer from him: temptations, obsession, possession. On this subject we must recall, first of all, the theological principle which throws light on these problems: the action of the devil does not go beyond the sensible part of the soul and cannot be exercised im­mediately on the intellect or the will.
With the permission of God, however, the devil can attack us by acting on our imagination, our sensibility, on external objects, and on our body to incline us to evil. (3) He often limits himself to temptation by way of suggestion and more or less impetuous movements; but occasionally his action goes as far as obsession and in certain cases even to possession.
In these matters two excesses must be avoided: attribution to the devil of what proceeds from the triple concupiscence or from certain morbid states, or, on the contrary, unwillingness to admit his intervention in any case, in spite of what Scripture and tradition tell us about it.
Obsession is a series of temptations that are more violent and pro­longed than ordinary temptations. Rarely does the devil act only on the exterior senses; more frequently, through the imagination; he provokes lively impressions of the sensible appetites in order to trouble the soul. He may act on the sight by loathsome apparitions or, on the contrary, seductive apparitions; (4) on the hearing, by making a racket (5) or by making the person hear blasphemous or obscene words; (6) on the touch, by inflicting blows or by embraces of a nature to lead to evil.(7) There are cases in which these apparitions are not corporeal, but imaginary or produced, like hallucination, by nervous overexcitement.
The direct action of the devil on the imagination, memory, and passions, may produce obsessing images, which persist in spite of energetic efforts and which lead to anger, to very lively antipathies, or to dangerous affections, or again to discouragement accompanied by anguish. Those whom the enemy of good persecutes in this way feel at times that their imagination is as if bound by thick shadows, and that over their heart rests a weight which oppresses them. - Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol 2, Part 5, Chapter 58
There's so much we don't know.

I wanted to make this citation to emphasize, that if there is a lot about homosexuality that we don't know, there is even more about the mystical life and diabolical phenomena which we laity know even less.  Which is why I say Joe Sciambra cannot be dismissed and his testimony needs to be taken seriously.

In my experience I have run into similar people, places, and experiences which seem to be influenced by the powers of darkness.  I just don't talk about it.  Joe's experiences seem even worse - but incredible as they may be - I believe him.  The strangest stuff he tells may be 'symbolic' - effected by suggestion, imagination, even drugs - but that doesn't negate a diabolic influence, and I'm convinced he's not making it up.

Which is why I insist he cannot be dismissed as a crackpot.

Giving the devil his due.

Nevertheless, one may give the devil his due and inform themselves on matters relating to mystical theology and diabolic influences and exorcism which is so popular to do these days, but I prefer to 'go towards the light' - the light of Christ - which the darkness cannot grasp.  Don't forget, sacramental confession keeps the devil away.

I often recall St. Teresa of Avila's remark about exaggerated concerns over the devil, she said, "I don't understand these fears. 'The devil! The devil!' when we can say 'God! God!', and make the devil tremble...I fear those who have such great fear of the devil more than I do the devil himself, for he can't do anything to me. Whereas these others, especially if they are confessors, cause severe disturbance," Life 25; 22 And yes, I know, St. Teresa was talking about confessors who were worried she was being deceived in prayer, but it can just as well apply to anyone else with a morbid curiosity and suspicious and fearful mind, even some very good people who seem to think so many are possessed.

That's all.  Now take the rest of the day off.



  1. Amen. There's a lot we don't know about the spiritual side of things. One thing that is sure is that grace, angels and demons play a far greater role than we are aware. Another sure bet is that what is taken for wisdom is foolishness and vice versa, and the last shall be first and the first last.

    Lately I've had a nagging conviction that I've let guile and self-importance make a comfortable home in my soul. I think I've lost some of the child-like qualities that I had in the immediate years after my conversion. I was actually thinking about writing a blog post about it, mentioning Joseph Sciambra and John Carmichael as two people who remind me of what I've lost (for now anyway). John Carmichael wrote a recent e-book conversion story named "Drunks and Monks". It's a very raw, honest tale that is hard to put down. It's on for $6.

  2. It's odd that someone would think he's making up the fact that he participated in a snuff film. Obviously, snuff films exist so someone is participating in them!

  3. The easiest way to avoid admitting snuff films are real is to deny that someone could've participated in one.

  4. Just finished Drunks and Monks. Inspired by the comments at Amazon I got the e-book and found I could not put it down either. His experience is not foreign to me; what is most amazing is his stunning awareness of how far contemporary Catholics, especially clergy, have wandered from our treasures. And these treasures are most needed by a culture that is very lost and much in denial. Thank you, Terry, for this invaluable blog. Thank you, Scott, for your insight and the mention of Carmichael's Drunks and Monks. It really needs to be published.


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