First off, happy Halloween guys.
Yes, I know it's not a real holiday. Yes, I know it's a commercial US import.
Yes, I know it's just another excuse to party, drink and be merry.
And, guess what, I'm perfectly fine with that. If we can comfortably use a cagillion other imported feasts to do same (Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, anyone?), I don't see why we should get all self-righteous over Halloween.
What I do have a problem with, however, is when people who hold a certain sway over the community try to manipulate the more easily-influenced into a blind panic in order to push their agenda.
Like Fr Franco Fenech, who blithely informed the press that the demons are taking over and that the work of exorcists increases "by an alarming rate" after Halloween, with people getting in touch with the anti-demon brigade "after things they have seen". Read here.
Excuse me - exowhat?! I thought the church had given up bandying such terms about thoughtlessly for quite some time, now.
Incidentally, Fr Franco comes out with something along these lines pretty much every Halloween on the dot. Every October 31 he promises apocalypse, now. We are still waiting patiently.
Why Fr Franco should have an anti-Halloween crusade on his agenda honestly beats me. It can't be just a question of religion - after all, I don't see many priests slamming the shag-fest that is Valentine's Day. But a problem, he clearly has. Anyone who favours 21st century thinking over the ignorance of the dark ages will immediately see why I have a problem with Fr Franco's claims. A church spokesman should have a much stronger sense of responsibility than to spout such claims that instil panic in the more impressionable.
It gets worse. In this year's interview, to back up his statement he uses as example the case of a girl who attended a Halloween party in a shelter (oh, spooky!) and "dabbled in the occult", whatever that might mean. The priest conveniently foregoes from clarifying the aftermath of this "incident", which also included "communicating with spirits". Or so he'd have us believe, anyway.
The mind boggles. What, exactly, is Fr Franco trying to tell us? Is he implying that the girl was, in fact, possessed by a demon after downing one too many shots and mistaking her parents' Ludo for a Ouija board? If this is what Fr Franco is implying, I think we deserve more details and some proof.
How can the priest so confidently state that there was "communication with spirits", particularly given that he himself was unlikely to be present? Was there an update on Facebook or something, that I missed?
"Beelzebub has just checked in to Malta Shelter. Let's party, yo, bring forth the virgins. Oh, wait..."
Yes, I'm a doubting Thomas when faced by wild, sensationalist statements the sole purpose of which seems to be that of getting people to toe the official line, no questions asked.
No, I'm not buying it Fr Franco. And it is time that people are called out on this sort of thing. Maybe one day this country somehow manages to drag itself out of the mire of superstitious rubbish it thrives on.
But maybe Fr Franco didn't use the word "exorcists" literally and what he meant was that the girl in question wound up being emotionally affected by this supposed "occult" experience. Some people are more impressionable than others, it happens. If this is the case, however, it only makes it worse. What this girl would have been in need of would definitely not be an exorcist, but a qualified counsellor.
Fr Franco's descriptions of actual exorcisms carried out by him do nothing to reassure me - he talks of people uncharacteristically spouting obscenities, sex addiction, troubled marriages... we are told that all this behaviour ceased after the offending demon was "cast out".
I really hope these poor people were at least referred to a non-church related, qualified counsellor after these so-called exorcisms were carried out. But Fr Franco makes no mention of that.
So, really, whichever way I look at it I'm finding it pretty impossible to justify Fr Franco's comments to the press. And, if the Church wants to be taken seriously, I expect some sort of official clarification about this interview. As well as reassurance that troubled believers who approach the church are referred to qualified professionals who can offer real help. Mental illness/troubles should never be demonized. That it should be the Church that makes this mistake, when it should be working to remove such stigma, is unforgivable.
Happy Halloween, people. Don't overdose on pumpkin pie. Or do, the demons won't come a-knocking.