Faculty

McAlister in The Conversation: For Some Catholics, It Is Demons That Taunt Priests with Sexual Desire

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, writes about a lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse of children uncovered in the Catholic Church: In some strands of Catholic thought, priests who abuse children have succumbed to temptation by demons. McAlister is also chair and professor of African American studies, director of the Center for African American Studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, professor of Latin American studies.

For some Catholics, it is demons that taunt priests with sexual desire

A Pennsylvania grand jury recently released a report on the systematic ways Catholic priests aided and abetted one another to sexually abuse children for 70 years.

It reveals once again how the strict patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church gives rise to conspiracies of silence and allows for routine cover-up of crimes. Cover-ups are also encouraged by clericalism – the belief that ordained priests are inherently superior and closer to God than the laity. This much has been demonstrated by countless observers.

But there is another, lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse, that I want to point out as a scholar of spiritual warfare in some forms of Christianity. This factor lies in the realm of belief: In some strands of Catholic thought, when priests abuse children, it is because they have been tempted by demons, and succumbed.

History of demon beliefs

The Catholic Church invites priests to view sexuality as a battle in the war between good and evil. Spiritual warfare is one name for this view of the world and it has a long history in Catholic teachings.

The idea of demons has been around since antiquity – in the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and elsewhere. In Christianity, preoccupation with demons reached its peak in the Middle Ages. Demons were explicitly defined by the church in 1215 under Pope Innocent III.

Theologians worked to identify classes and ranks of demons who operated under the authority of the devil himself. Demons were seen as fallen angels who disobeyed God and worked to subvert God and goodness.

Demons are malevolent beings who lord over specific domains of sin. Christians are called to battle evil, including evil that comes by way of the demonic. The more pious one is, the more intense will be the attacks from the demons.

After the Second Vatican Council of 1964, demons faded out of focus and exorcisms were rare. But my research shows that the spiritual warfare world view is on the rise in the Catholic Church. This is despite the fact that demons and exorcisms are largely viewed by most American Catholics as remnants of a medieval past.

The return of demons and exorcisms

In 1999, Pope John Paul II brought back a focus on the formal rites of exorcism – the official ritual that priests use to rid a person from demonic affliction or possession. The pope later recommended that every diocese in the Catholic world appoint and train an exorcist.

The Catholic Church in the United States took up the call and in 2012 founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in Illinois to support “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” To this day it serves as a “school for exorcism and deliverance” of the laity from demons.

The institute offers workshops for clergy such as “Angels and Demons, Natures and Attributes.”

Under this belief system, in the battle for souls, demons can establish relationships with people who open the door to them through sin and disobedience to God. If someone masturbates, for example, which is a mortal sin, they are opening the door wider to demons of more serious sexual perversion.

Such demons include figures mentioned in the Bible such as Baal, the ancient Phoenician sun God, and his consort Ashtoreth, now viewed as a force of sexual immorality and perversion. Jezebel, the ninth-century B.C. Phoenician princess, lives into the modern era as a demonic personality who encourages illicit sexual acts, violence and rape.

Devil and role-play in one church

Writing for Commonweal, an American Catholic journal, one ex-seminarian described a formation, or training, workshop sponsored by his seminary. He described how participants were given nametags with the names of demons on them and asked to play the role of demons to tempt one another. He explained how they would choose one person and “hiss and curse” to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.”

The point, of course, was to train the participants how to choose chastity and to stand strong against sexual desire.

To be clear, this is only one documented instance. However, I would argue that it points to the Church’s current preoccupation with evil spirits and the need for priests to ritually remove that evil.

It is sobering that one seminary should choose to offer those training for a life of service and celibacy, a role-play of hissing demon impersonators, as a way to govern their conduct.

Medieval practices in today’s church?

Ascribing sexual desire to demonic temptation takes away the blame from the perpetrators. It puts the cause, the consequences, and questions of accountability into an invisible world populated by angels and demons, sin and repentance.

Suggesting that the offending priests were afflicted by demons is a version of “the devil made me do it.”

There is a second heartbreak. Many of the abused report feeling guilty, as if they had sinned themselves. I have heard from my own research participants that because sinning opens the door to more demons and more sin, then some abuse survivors think of themselves as being in relationships with personal demons and more vulnerable to demonic attack.

As investigations continue into the institutional factors allowing for this horrific abuse, it may also be pertinent to look into some of the intellectual and theological elements at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

For some branches of the Church, this includes the medieval world of demons.

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, Wesleyan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shasha Seminar 2018: Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words

Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jennifer D’Andrea PhD are codirectors of this year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, Sept. 14–15.

This year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, “Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words,” will be held Sept. 14–15. It will begin with opening remarks by Leslie Shasha ’82, PhD, in Memorial Chapel at 4 p.m., followed by the keynote address by author and suicide loss survivor Eric Marcus on “Resilience in the Aftermath of Suicide.”

The Shasha Seminar, an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends, explores issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. Last year’s seminar for example focused on Guns in American Society.

Karl Scheibe

This year’s codirector, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe, spoke with the Connection about the preparation, the program, and his hopes for what this might bring to the campus.

Q: How did you come to be codirector of the Shasha Seminar this year?

A: It came to me as an invitation. It’s like a lot of things; it grows out of your history. Having been at Wesleyan a long time, I taught a lot of students, and many of them have gone on in psychology. Occasionally, one of those former students will have an assignment for me that, as a teacher, makes sense. Leslie Shasha ’82 is a psychologist, and she wanted to have a Shasha program focus on suicide: suicide awareness, suicide prevention, treatment for people who are suffering from loss, and a whole host of related problems.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: Defending Conservatism, and Seeking Converts

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism, which he writes provides an “enlightening” background on a variety of important conservative thinkers, but stoops to scapegoating Muslims to “rally the troops.”

2. Hartford Courant: First Group of Students Graduates from Wesleyan’s Prison Education Program

The first-ever Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Program graduation ceremonies, held in partnership with Middlesex Community College at York and Cheshire correctional institutions on July 24 and Aug. 1, respectively, was also featured in The Washington PostABC News, Fox News, among other publications.

Kilby Remembered for His Dedication to the College of Social Studies

Peter Kilby

Peter Kilby, professor of economics, emeritus, died Aug. 2, 2018, at the age of 83.

Kilby received his BA from Harvard University, his MA from Johns Hopkins University, and his DPhil from the University of Oxford. He worked with USAID as an Industrial Economist in Nigeria for two years before arriving at Wesleyan in 1965.

He was an economist whose work focused on economic development, particularly in Africa. Over his career, Kilby held appointments as a Fulbright Fellow, a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He was a Senior Advisor of the ILO World Employment Programme in Geneva, a member of the Ciskei Commission in South Africa, and served as a consultant for the governments of Malaysia and Tanzania, the World Bank in Kenya and Nigeria, USAID, the U.S. State Department, and the Food & Agricultural Organization, among others.

“Peter Kilby was a respected scholar and beloved teacher with a wide range of friends at Wesleyan not only among those of us in the Social Sciences but throughout Wesleyan’s three divisions. He was one of the stars of CSS,” recalled Mike Lovell, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Sciences, Emeritus.

“Much of the success of the CSS is the result of Peter Kilby’s astonishing dedication to the CSS as an institution and to his CSS students,” said Cecilia Miller, professor of history, co-chair of the College of Social Studies, professor of medieval studies.

Kilby is survived by his wife, Marianne Kilby, his three children, Damian, Christopher, and Karen, and his six grandchildren.

The funeral service will be held at St. Lawrence Church in Killingworth, Conn. at 10 a.m., Aug. 21. A memorial service will be held on campus later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made in Peter’s name to the College of Social Studies Endowment Fund, which supports many things that Peter loved including the CSS Newsletter, to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.

Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.

It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.

And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.

Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?

The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.

Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.

Robinson in The Conversation: How Gambling Distorts Reality and Hooks Your Brain

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, writes that brain science explains how gambling games hook players, including casual ones. Robinson also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences.

Designed to deceive: How gambling distorts reality and hooks your brain

To call gambling a “game of chance” evokes fun, random luck, and a sense of collective engagement. These playful connotations may be part of why almost 80 percent of American adults gamble at some point in their lifetime. When I ask my psychology students why they think people gamble, the most frequent suggestions are for pleasure, money, or the thrill.

While these might be reasons why people gamble initially, psychologists don’t definitely know why, for some, gambling stops being an enjoyable diversion and becomes compulsive. What keeps people playing even when it stops being fun? Why stick with games people know are designed for them to lose? Are some people just more unlucky than the rest of us, or simply worse at calculating the odds?

As an addiction researcher for the past 15 years, I look to the brain to understand the hooks that make gambling so compelling. I’ve found that many are intentionally hidden in how the games are designed. And these hooks work on casual casino-goers just as well as they do on problem gamblers.

Fowler Uses Facebook Data to Analyze Role of Social Media in Elections

Erika Franklin Fowler is examining different sponsors of political advertising and the messaging strategy and targeting differences between Facebook and television. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, we speak to Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government. Fowler is an expert in political communication, particularly local media and campaign advertising.

Q: With the midterm elections around the corner, what’s caught your interest this election cycle?

A: The Trump era has brought many challenges for political communication broadly and journalism specifically to the forefront of public attention, so there are too many things to discuss, but I’ll mention two in particular. First, the politicization of news media is problematic as it erodes common understanding among the public, which makes for very interesting conversations in my Media and Politics class, but is certainly concerning for democracy. Second, with respect to elections, I am very interested to see the strategic choices of how campaigns communicate on the big policy developments in health care and tax reform in particular.

Q: You were recently invited to serve on an independent research commission, Social Science One, which will use Facebook data to analyze the role of social media in elections and democracy. Why is this a unique opportunity?

A: Unlike the comprehensive data we have for television, data on Facebook advertising has not been previously available to outside researchers. Social Science One sets up a new model for industry partnership with academics to increase responsible data access and foster research on some of the most pressing questions regarding the effect of social media on democracy and elections.

Cho Named U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar

Joan Cho is one of 11 U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholars in the country.

As a 2018-19 U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar, Joan Cho, assistant professor of East Asian studies, will develop public policy skills and learn how to provide commentary and expertise on issues related to Korea.

The U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholars Program is a unique two-year non-resident program that provides opportunities for mid-career Korea specialists to discuss issues of importance to U.S.-Korea relations with policymakers, government officials, and opinion leaders in Korea and the United States, learn how to effectively engage with the media, participate in the policymaking process, gain experience as public intellectuals helping to bridge the scholarly and policy communities, and address issues of importance to the U.S.-Korea relationship.

“As a Korean-American scholar of contemporary Korean politics, it is my goal to better inform Koreans and Americans that the U.S.-Korea relationship is not limited to foreign relations on a national level,” Cho said. “The NextGen Scholar program will provide me with the opportunity to engage with key policymakers in Washington and Seoul. I’ll also be able to network with like-minded scholars from diverse backgrounds, and collaborate on various research/policy-relevant projects while learning to become a public intellectual.”

Personick Honored with Young Investigator Program Award from Army Research Office

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, is the recipient of a three-year, $339,000 Young Investigator Program grant funded by the U.S. Army Research Office. Personick will use the funds to support her nanoparticle research, which ultimately may protect military soldiers from hazardous chemicals and materials.

The Army’s Young Investigator Program is designed to identify and support talented scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for doing creative research, in order to encourage their teaching and research careers. The program is open to U.S. citizens, Nationals, and resident aliens holding tenure-track positions at U.S. universities and colleges, who have held their graduate degrees for fewer than five years at the time of application.

Rutland in The Conversation: One Likely Winner of the World Cup? Putin.

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes about the FIFA World Cup being hosted by Russia. Though Russia’s team is not expected to perform very well, he writes, leader Vladimir Putin understands the power of sports to “foment feelings of national pride” and boost his own popularity among the Russian people. Rutland is also professor of government; professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies; tutor in the College of Social Studies; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

One likely winner of the World Cup? Putin

Half a million soccer fans will head to Russia to watch their national teams compete in the FIFA World Cup. Billions more around the world will watch on television. Brazil and Germany are favorites to win the trophy.

But we already know one person who will emerge as a winner: Vladimir Putin.

No one is expecting the Russian team to do very well in the tournament. FIFA’s official rankings place Russia 70th in the world – the team’s worst ever rating, and a precipitous fall from the 24th place it enjoyed as recently as 2015. Soccer is nevertheless a popular spectator sport in Russia, where sport and nationalism are closely intertwined.

As editor of Nationalities Papers, the journal of the Association for Study of Nationalities, I find that our most-read articles are often those involving soccer, a sport that can serve as a focal point for nationalist mobilization.

Putin seems to understand the ability of sport to foment feelings of national pride – and, in turn, has repeatedly used sporting events to enhance his popular standing at home.

Putin’s pet project

In 2010 Moscow won its bid to host the 2018 Cup, a successful pitch that was very much Putin’s personal project. He even traveled to Zurich and gave an emotional speech thanking FIFA for the honor. A few years later, corruption scandals brought down most of the FIFA board that had made this decision.

But by then, the decision had been finalized: Putin was set to be the first autocrat to host the World Cup since Argentina’s military junta in 1978.

Of course, this was before Putin’s controversial return to the presidency in 2012, and before the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Now, as the World Cup begins, Russia’s standing in the world is at an all-time low.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Washington Post: “Our Graduates Should Answer Cynicism and Insults with Inquiry and Reflection”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth ’78 expresses his hope that this year’s graduates will feel empowered, and their capacity for inquiry, compromise, and reflection will be enhanced by their college educations.

2. The New York Times: “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Love Life, as Fodder for Fiction”

“[Amy] Bloom’s [’75] lyrical novel, laced with her characteristic wit and wisdom, celebrates love in its fiery and also embered phases,” according to this positive review of Bloom’s newest book, White Houses. Bloom is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan.

3. Be the Change Venture: “Makaela Trains Leaders to Change the World. This is How.”

Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, is interviewed about her career path, her goals for the future, and lessons she’s learned along the way.

4. Yahoo! News: “Generation Z Opens Up about the Refugee Crisis”

Ahmed Badr ’20 is interviewed about his experience as a young refugee from Iraq living in the United States. Badr has traveled the world telling his story and runs a project promoting youth storytelling as a means of self-empowerment.

5. American Museum of Natural History Podcast: “Visualizing Planets with Radio Telescopes with Meredith Hughes”

Meredith Hughes talks about how we understand planet formation, and how the relatively new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is “revolutionizing our view” of planet formation.

6. The New York Times: “Do You Know What Lightning Really Looks Like?”

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker discusses the history of artists and scientists “pitting their fields against one another,” dating back to the emergence of meteorology as a scientific discipline in the 19th century. Tucker is also chair and associate professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; associate professor of science in society; and associate professor of environmental studies.

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Wrap: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s [’02] ‘In The Heights’ Set for Summer 2020 Release

    “Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that it will release the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In The Heights” on June 26, 2020.” This is the musical Miranda began writing as a Wesleyan undergrad.

2. Berkeley Lab: Steve Kevan [’76] Named Next Director of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source

“After an international search, Stephen D. ‘Steve’ Kevan has been named the new director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The ALS produces extremely bright X-ray, infrared, and extreme ultraviolet light for more than 2,000 visiting scientists each year.”

3. Boston GlobeBoston Will Be the Hub of the Biotech Universe Starting Monday; quotes Amy Schulman ’82, P’11 and mentions Agios (David Schenkein ’79, P’08 is CEO)

The article, anticipating the annual early June Biotechnology Innovation Organization convention in Boston, included a quote from Amy Schulman, a partner in the venture capital firm Polaris Partners and CEO of the Watertown-based start-up Lyndra Inc. She spoke to the need for greater diversity in the biotech industry: “Study after study shows that when you have diverse people—people with different perspectives, styles, genders, ethnicities, and orientations—then you have better conversations that translate into better outcomes,” she said. “It’s really important.”

4. NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: “Not My Job: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper [’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10] Gets Quizzed on 2020”

In this NPR show, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is asked introductory questions (“So we researched this—you are the first brewer to be elected to office, elected to be governor, since Sam Adams. You know that?”) that also flirt with his potential interest in running for president in the 2020 election. He is then invited to play a three-question quiz to win a prize for a listener.

5. AdLibbing: Badass Working Moms to Inspire You This Mother’s Day; includes Bozoma Saint John ’99

Profiled as one of “five mothers who are changing the world,” Bozoma Saint John was noted for “her illustrious career, in addition to raising her now 8-year-old daughter, Lael.”

 

 

Cassidy, Veteran Posse Students View Newest Film by Junger ’84

On May 22, 2018, aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid (now a National Historic Landmark), Retired Officer Teaching Fellow Robert Cassidy (third from left, blue jacket) and several members of the Wesleyan Veteran Posse, along with two students from Cassidy’s class, enjoyed a screening of Going to War. This documentary film, for which Sebastian Junger ’84 served as co-executive producer, explores the experience of serving in the military during war through interviews with veterans. Junger (third from right; back row, suit jacket) took questions from the audience—including the Posse group—and met with the Wesleyan contingent separately, posing for this photo. “Michael Freiburger ’21, one of our Posse veteran students asked Junger, ‘How do we find better ways to communicate who we are and what we feel about having been at war?’” recalls Cassidy. “I think there was a mutual respect between the veterans and Junger, who spent almost a year in the Korengal Valley, a very rough place in Afghanistan.” Some of the Posse veterans who attended hope to plan more events next year to explore this question further, in order to cultivate a shared understanding among traditional Wesleyan students and Wesleyan’s veteran students. (Photo courtesy Robert Cassidy)