Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Twenty years ago, the Kolbe Center helped to organize the first international Catholic symposium in Rome, very much under the leadership of Guy Berthault and his colleagues Peter Wilders and Dominique Tassot. It represented one of the first times in recent history that Catholic theologians, philosophers and natural scientists gathered in Rome to defend the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation from the perspective of theology, philosophy and natural science and to expose the fatal flaws in the evolutionary account of the origins of man and the universe, in its theistic and atheistic forms.
God Created an Hierarchical Universe
One of the most memorable presentations at the symposium was a lecture by Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner in which he argued that a fundamental difference between the traditional doctrine of creation and theistic evolution was that according to the traditional apostolic teaching, God created a hierarchical universe, whereas in the theistic evolutionist system, the hierarchical element is deeply distorted if not totally destroyed. I will always be grateful to Fr. Fehlner for illuminating the importance of this element of the traditional doctrine of creation, because, on reflection, it is not difficult to see that atheistic and theistic evolution represent an assault on the hierarchical nature of God’s Creation at every level.
In God’s Revelation, God creates man at the center of an ordered hierarchy of beings, from inanimate material beings at one end of the hierarchy to the highest ranks of angelic beings at the other. And, according to the Franciscan doctrine of the Primacy of Christ, at the center of the center of this ordered hierarchy stands the Incarnate Word, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Immaculate Conception, the Queen of Angels and Men, the Queen of the Universe. In the evolutionary system, there is no hierarchy from the beginning of Creation. Some matter comes alive and develops over vast ages of time into all of the different kinds of living things, through a struggle for survival, in which all kinds of organisms come into and go out of existence, never existing together in harmony, with man and for man, at the beginning of time.
According to God’s Revelation, human society, too, received a hierarchical character from the beginning. Adam was created first, as the head of his wife and of the whole human family, while Eve was created from his side, as his equal in dignity, but subject to his authority. In this original order of things, children would have been equal to their parents in dignity but also subject to their authority. In the framework of theistic evolution, however, the hierarchical character of the family is no longer viewed as an integral part of the work of creation. Man’s and woman’s bodies evolve over hundreds of millions of years from a one-celled organism and any kind of hierarchical relationship between them is an evolutionary adaptation rather than a direct divine creation.
In this evolutionary framework, the male-only hierarchical priesthood is no longer seen as having been established by God from the beginning with the creation of Adam but rather as something that evolved, and thus, at least partially, the result of human rather than purely divine institution. As Fr. Fehlner helped us to see, the denial of the original, complete, harmonious, and hierarchical nature of the first created world and its replacement with an evolutionary account of the origins of man and the universe inevitably reduced the hierarchical structure of the Church, of the family and of human society to human conventions instead of sacred, divinely-established institutions. Worse still, the evolutionary illusion seems to justify the idea that human beings have the right to forcibly change the traditional hierarchical structure of family, Church and society, in favor of some new, more egalitarian, order that is more to their liking.
The Exorcism of Nicola Aubrey
One of the most remarkable demonstrations of the hierarchical character of the spiritual world was recently documented on the Sensus Fidelium website in the form of a recording of an account of one of the most famous public exorcisms in the history of the Catholic Church, “The Exorcism of Nicola Aubrey.” Nicola Aubrey was a young French wife and mother in the second half of the sixteenth century who was possessed by a number of demons and ultimately exorcised by the Bishop of Laon before more than a hundred thousand witnesses. As recounted by Fr. Michael Muller, the story of her possession and deliverance from the demons illustrates over and over again the hierarchical nature of the spiritual world, and the folly of attempting to act outside of or against the hierarchy established by God in His Church.
In the first place, Nicola is left open to possession because when she is a girl in her mother’s home her mother curses her and says, “The devil take you.” Such is a mother’s authority over her children! Nicola then gives the demons an opening to possess her when she consults a fortune-teller in violation of the First Commandment. The high-ranking demon Beelzebub then takes possession of Nicola with a cadre of lower-ranking demons and proceeds to appear to Nicola in the form of her grandfather, asking her to have members of her family fulfill his vows, left unfulfilled at his death, by going on several pious pilgrimages. For a time, these false apparitions deceive the parish priest into thinking that they are genuine apparitions of Nicola’s grandfather, permitted by God to obtain his release from Purgatory. But a more experienced priest is called in, and the demon is exposed, thus revealing that the devil is quite capable of disguising himself as an angel of light and deceiving anyone who operates outside of the authority of the Catholic Church. God does not destroy the order that He established in the beginning but works within that order to achieve His divine purposes. Beelzebub is allowed to retain his great intelligence and spiritual powers, although he is never permitted to use them beyond the limits established by God.
Beelzebub and “My Calvinists”
The exorcism of Nicola Aubrey took place between November 1565 and February 1566 at the height of the Protestant Revolution, when Calvinism had gained many adherents in formerly-Catholic areas of France and Switzerland. When the Bishop of Laon began to preside and conduct Nicola’s exorcism publicly in a church, many Calvinists came to witness the great event, while openly showing their contempt for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and for the Blessed Sacrament. During the course of the exorcism, Beelzebub demonstrated again and again that he had nothing but contempt for what he called “my Calvinists,” since they had rebelled against the Church established by God, embraced the spirit of rebellion enkindled by Lucifer, and abandoned the protection offered by the Church’s authority. According to Fr. Michael Muller:
...[Nicola’s] parents took her to Father de Motta, a pious priest of Vervins, in order that he might expel the demon by exorcisms of the Church. Father de Motta tried several times to expel the evil spirit by applying the sacred relics of the holy cross, but he could not succeed; Satan would not depart. At last, inspired by the Holy Ghost, he resolved to expel the devil by means of the sacrament of Our Lord's Body and Blood. Whilst Nicola was lying in a state of unnatural lethargy, Father de Motta placed the Blessed Sacrament upon her lips, and instantly the infernal spell was broken; Nicola was restored to consciousness and received Holy Communion with every mark of devotion. As soon as Nicola had received the sacred Body of Our Lord, her face became bright and beautiful as the face of an angel, and all who saw her were filled with joy and wonder, and they blessed God from their inmost hearts. With the permission of God, Satan returned and again took possession of Nicola.
As the strange circumstances of Nicola's possession became known everywhere, several Calvinist preachers came with their followers, to "expose this popish cheat," as they said. On their entrance, the devil saluted them mockingly, called them by name, and told them that they had come in obedience to him. One of the preachers took his Protestant prayer book, and began to read it with a very solemn face. The devil laughed at him, and putting on a most comical look, he said: "Ho! Ho! My good friend; do you intend to expel me with your prayers and hymns? Do you think that they will cause me any pain? Don't you know that they are mine? I helped to compose them!"
"I will expel thee in the name of God," said the preacher, solemnly.
"You!" said the devil mockingly. "You will not expel me either in the name of God, or in the name of the devil. Did you ever hear of one devil driving out another?"
"I am not a devil," said the preacher, angrily, "I am a servant of Christ."
"A servant of Christ, indeed!" said Satan, with a sneer. "What! I tell you, you are worse than I am. I believe, and you do not want to believe. Do you suppose that you can expel me from the body of this miserable wretch? Ha! Go first and expel all the devils that are in your own heart!"
The preacher took his leave, somewhat discomfited. On going away, he said, turning up the whites of his eyes, "O Lord, I pray thee, assist this poor creature!"
"And I pray Lucifer," cried the evil spirit, "that he may never leave you, but may always keep you firmly in his power, as he does now. Go about your business, now. You are all mine, and I am your master."
On the arrival of the priest, several of the Protestants went away – they had seen and heard more than they wanted. Others, however, remained; and great was their terror when they saw how the devil writhed and howled in agony, as soon as the Blessed Sacrament was brought near him. At last the evil spirit departed, leaving Nicola in a state of unnatural trance. While she was in this state, several of the preachers tried to open her eyes, but they found it impossible to do so. The priest then placed the Blessed Sacrament on Nicola's lips, and instantly she was restored to consciousness. Rev. Father de Motta then turned to the astonished preachers, and said: "Go now, ye preachers of the new Gospel; go and relate everywhere what you have seen and heard. Do not deny any longer that Our Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Go now, and let not human respect hinder you from confessing the truth."
The Hierarchy of God vs. The Hierarchy of Satan
As the exorcism proceeded, it became obvious that the Protestants had no power over the demons because they were not subject to the authority of God’s Church. It also became apparent that the Bishop had supreme authority over the demons in his diocese, not because he was heroically virtuous, but by the grace of his office. Those who give or withdraw obedience to Church leaders based on their apparent degree of virtue err grievously—although prayers for Church leaders are always urgently needed, so that they will excel in holiness and, so, make the best possible use of the grace of their office. Indeed, the Bishop of Laon’s ability to cast out the demons was weakened when he gave in to self-indulgence by refusing to fast or when he gave in to human respect by cancelling public processions out of fear of Calvinist reprisals.
The importance of public processions in asserting the rights of God over the power of the devil highlights another truth of the Catholic Faith that modernism has plunged into obscurity—namely the folly of separating the Church from the state and the absolute necessity of reestablishing the union of Church and state under the authority of the Catholic Church in everything that concerns faith or morals. As Fr. Muller relates:
During the exorcism which took place on the seventh day of February, the bishop said to Satan:
"Tell me. Why hast thou taken possession of this honest and virtuous Catholic woman?"
"I have done so by permission of God. I have taken possession of her on account of the sins of the people. I have done it to show my Calvinists that there are devils who can take possession of man whenever God permits it. I know they do not want to believe this, but I will show them that I am the devil. I have taken possession of this creature in order to convert them, or to harden them in their sins; and, by the Sacred Blood, I will perform my task."
This answer filled all who heard it with horror. "Yes," answered the bishop, solemnly, "God desires to unite all men in the only holy faith. As there is but one God, so there can be but one true religion. A religion like that which the Protestants have invented, is but a hollow mockery. It must fall. The religion established by Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only true one; it alone shall last forever. It is destined to unite all men within its sacred embrace, so that there shall be but one sheepfold and one shepherd. This divine Shepherd is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the invisible head of the holy Roman Catholic Church, whose visible head is our holy Father the Pope, successor of St. Peter."
Beelzebub’s unwilling confession also highlights the folly of attempting to separate one’s private life from the life of the larger society. Every sin gives the devil more power to impede the progress of the Kingdom of God, and every good and grace-filled action helps to advance the social reign of Christ Our King. To the extent that the authority established by God is obeyed and respected by all people, to that extent the power of God over demons is strengthened. For example, Beelzebub’s departure from Nicola is hastened when the Protestant bystanders, to whom he always refers as “my Calvinists,” finally remove their hats in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
The eighth of February, the day appointed by God on which Satan was to leave Nicola forever, arrived at last. After the solemn procession, the bishop began the last exorcism.
"I shall not ask thee any longer," said the bishop to Satan, "when thou intendest to leave, I will expel thee instantly by the power of the living God, and by the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, here present in the Sacrament of the Altar."
"Ha, yes!" shrieked the demon. "I confess that the Son of God is here really and truly present. He is my Lord and Master. It tortures me to confess it, but I am forced to do so." Then he repeated several times, with a wild, unearthly howl: "Yes, it is true. I must confess it. I am forced to leave, by the power of God's Body here present. I must – I must depart. It torments me that I must go so soon, and that I must confess this truth. But this truth is not from me; it comes from my Lord and Master, who has sent me hither, and who commands and compels me to confess the truth publicly."
The bishop then took the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, and, holding it on high, he said, with a solemn voice: "O thou wicked, unclean spirit, Beelzebub! Thou arch-enemy of the eternal God! Behold, here present, the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Lord and Master! I adjure thee, in the name and by the power of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who is here present; I command thee to depart instantly and forever from this creature of God. Depart to the deepest depth of hell, there to be tormented forever. Go forth, unclean spirit, go forth – behold here thy Lord and Master!"
At these solemn words, and at the sight of our sacramental Lord, the poor possessed woman writhed fearfully. Her limbs cracked as if every bone in her body were breaking. The fifteen strong men who held her, could scarcely keep her back. They staggered from side to side; they were covered with perspiration. Satan tried to escape from the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The mouth of Nicola was wide open, her tongue hung down below her chin, her face was shockingly swollen and distorted. Her color changed from yellow to green, and became even gray and blue, so that she no longer looked like a human being; it was rather the face of a hideous, incarnate demon. All present trembled with terror, especially when they heard the wild cry of the demon, which sounded like the loud roar of a wild bull. They fell on their knees, and with tears in their eyes, began to cry out: "Jesus, have mercy!"
The bishop continued to urge Satan. At last the evil spirit departed, and Nicola fell back senseless into the arms of her keepers. She still, however, remained shockingly distorted. In this state she was shown to the judges, and to all the people present; she was rolled up like a ball. The bishop now fell on his knees, in order to give her the Blessed Sacrament as usual. But see! Suddenly the demon returns, wild with rage, endeavors to seize the hand of the bishop, and even tries to grasp the Blessed Sacrament itself. The bishop starts back; Nicola is carried into the air and the bishop rises from his knees, trembling with terror and pale as death.
The good bishop takes courage again; he pursues the demon, holding the Blessed Sacrament in his hand, till at length the demon, overcome by the power of Our Lord's sacred body, goes forth amidst smoke, and lightning, and thunder. Thus was the demon at length expelled forever, on Friday afternoon, at three o'clock, the same day and hour on which Our Lord triumphed over hell by His ever-blessed death.
Nicola was now completely cured; she could move her left arm with the greatest ease. She fell on her knees and thanked God, as well as the good bishop, for all he had done for her. The people wept for joy and sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving in honor of our dear Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. On all sides were heard the exclamations: "Oh, what a great miracle! Oh, thank God that I witnessed it! Who is there now that can doubt of the real presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar!" Many a Protestant also said: "I believe now in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; I have seen with my eyes! I will remain a Calvinist no longer. Accursed be those who have hitherto kept me in error! Oh, now I can understand what a good thing is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!"
A solemn Te Deum was intoned; the organ pealed forth and the bells rung forth a merry chime. The whole city was filled with joy.
This great triumph of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament over Satan occurred in the presence of more than 150,000 people, in the presence of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of the city, of Protestants and Catholics alike.
Restoring All Things in Christ
The Exorcism of Nicola Aubrey demonstrates that every baptized Catholic in the state of grace can help to restore all things in Christ with every thought, word, and action, provided that we offer them through the Immaculate Heart of Mary with Our Lord Jesus Christ to our Heavenly Father for their holy intentions. The false charity of ecumenism and Americanism is false because it denies the hierarchy established by God from the beginning, and so gives unwonted power to the satanic forces and limits the power of goodness to hold evil in check. We can help to “restore all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth,” by always knowing our place in the hierarchical order of the Church, and by keeping our place, come what may.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. We have decided to hold our 2022 annual leadership retreat at the headquarters of the Apostolate for Family Consecration in Bloomingdale, Ohio, again this year, from Sunday, August 28, until Saturday, September 3. For more information or to obtain a registration form, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.