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Night of the Demon

If anyone thought the 2016 revolt against the institutions was transient recent events may force a reconsideration. Instead of dying down open political war now permanently grips Washington. Abroad, time has healed no wounds; immigration issues have not dissipated in Europe, on the contrary riots are rocking Germany  The British are still rushing bald-headed toward Brexit with all the incalculable consequences that entails.  What can't be happening is.

According to sources quoted by the NYT "ideological agendas" have spread to the Catholic Church. After the Vatican's ex-ambassador to Washington Archbishop Carlo Vigano claimed a gay and left wing mafia had been protecting sex abusers within the Church and naming Pope Francis as the Left's man an issue was reliably anti-clerical suddenly turned into conspiracy story.   Jason Horowitz in the NYT  concluded that politics must be behind Vigano's allegations.

The letter, a bombshell written by Carlo Maria Viganò, the former top Vatican diplomat in the United States and a staunch critic of the pope’s, seemed timed to do more than simply derail Francis’ uphill efforts to win back the Irish faithful, who have turned away from the church in large numbers.

Its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks amounted to an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis’ papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment, intended to unseat a pope whose predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.

Politics, as Ross Douthat notes, explains "why certain organs and apostles of liberal Catholicism are running interference for [alleged abuser] McCarrick’s protectors — because Francis is their pope, the liberalizer they yearned for all through the John Paul and Benedict years." But can "politics" or even "ideological agendas" explain why the culture wars raging raging across the world look so similar.

Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles Robert Barron has a theory.  He suggests that the Church -- and perhaps the world at large -- is struggling not just against a few disorganized human beings but something more powerful: an evolving, self-programming, viral "demonic element" that is almost impossible to destroy.  When Barron says the devil he means just that:

When I was going through school, the devil was presented to us as a myth, a literary device, a symbolic manner of signaling the presence of evil in the world. I will admit to internalizing this view and largely losing my sense of the devil as a real spiritual person. What shook my agnosticism in regard to the evil one was the clerical sex abuse scandal of the nineties and the early aughts. I say this because that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice.

Demons? Devils?

Lest one think Barron a metaphysical nut,  his notion of the devil closely resembles the social media concept of the 'meme', a word coined by Richard Dawkins' in the 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It is "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication ... [like] melodies, fashions and learned skills [that] generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior."