Pope Enlists St. Michael in Reform of Curia

I am wondering if a little noticed—certainly little commented upon—event, which took place Friday, July 5, in the gardens of Vatican City, establishes a connection between two apparently quite different subjects about which I have written recently: the first is the frequency with which Pope Francis refers to the devil; the second is the question of what is necessary for him to achieve the long desperately needed reform of the the Roman curia.

Last Friday, in what was surely a very striking and dramatic papal act, Pope Francis blessed a dramatic sculpture depicting St Michael the Archangel battling with the devil; but he did a lot more than that: he placed the Vatican City state and all who live and work there under the archangel’s protection. This is what he said:

In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just a celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael—which means ‘Who is like God’—is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all from the enemy par excellence, the devil.

And St. Michael wins because in him, it is God who acts. This sculpture reminds us, then, that evil is overcome, the enemy is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer…. their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him.

Pope Francis’s focus on the devil has aroused comment in the secular press, of course, and not without reason. The secular mind thinks it shows either that he is some kind of religious maniac, or at the very least that he is quaintly old-fashioned in his language. What it actually shows is his knowledge that we are all, in our lives, in a continual battle against evil. This is a constant focus of the Holy Father’s thinking and teaching. As Sandro Magister wrote recently, Francis “refers to [the devil] continually. He combats him without respite. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person, the most insidious enemy of the Church.” And now he has invoked the protection of the Holy Archangel over Vatican City itself, and has prayed that he will banish the evil one from its purlieus. He sees that there is, unfolding in that place, a struggle between good and evil. I recently quoted those telling words of his: “… it is difficult. In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do….”

“We need to see what we can do.” The Holy Father clearly does see the banishment of the evil one from his little kingdom as a major priority. That reminds us that one of the eight Cardinals the Pope has chosen to help him in the reformation of the Roman Curia, the only one actually resident in Rome, is Cardinal Guiseppe Bertello, governor of the Vatican City State; and it should remind us, too, that the reform of the Roman curia isn’t just a matter of cleaning up its functional disorganization: it’s a matter of driving out actual evil, the “stream of corruption” which in the end overwhelmed the pontificate of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis also prayed on Friday that St Michael would intercede to help “make us victorious over the temptations of power, riches and sensuality” and keep Vatican employees strong in “the good fight of the faith.”

In my blogpost on the subject I suggested that one thing the Pope needed was what I termed a godly hit man, to identify the corrupt and drive them out. For if one thing is certain, it is that the devil is always most active where he is most threatened: and the demonic undermining of those who lead the Church at all levels has been through the ages an obvious Satanic tactic, often—and certainly today—appallingly successful within the Roman Curia itself. I am quite sure that this pope sees the corruption that has overtaken his administration as inspired by the evil one: and now, in consecrating the Vatican to the Archangel’s protection and in asking him “to defend us from the evil one and banish him,” he has invoked, on the entire process of curial reform, the archangel’s active and by no means necessarily peaceable help. I asked for a “Godly hit man”; when appointed, he will have a powerful supernatural patronage over his work.

“We need to see what we can do”: It is clear that one of the most powerful actions the Pope has already taken to turn back the “stream of corruption” within the Roman Curia is to place the Vatican and all those who work there under the protection and influence of the Holy Archangel Michael. All Catholics need to pray that in that battle he will prevail.

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared July 10, 2013 in the Catholic Herald of London and is reprinted with permission. The photo above depicts Pope Francis and Pope Benedict emeritus at a ceremony in the Vatican gardens where they blessed a new statue of St. Michael the Archangel. (Photo credit: CNS/Reuters/L’Osservatore Romano)

Dr. William Oddie


Dr. William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

  • reets46

    As a kid in the fifties and early sixties every Mass finished with the prayer to St. Michael. We should reinstate that practice today.
    Are kids even taught about the devil anymore? Given the widespread practice of many Catholic parents to place their teenage daughters on birth control at younger and younger ages, I doubt the devil has been mentioned for decades.
    My youngest daughter recently referred to the 50s as an “uptight” era. Oh for such uptightness to appear on the scene today. Out of a graduating class of 160 kids in 1963 only one student was from a divorced family. My daughter admitted that today’s statistics are almost reversed.
    St. Michael pray for us.

    • Rock St. Elvis

      ” Given the widespread practice of many Catholic parents to place their
      teenage daughters on birth control at younger and younger ages, I doubt
      the devil has been mentioned for decades”

      Oh, he’s been mentioned, just not by name. And he’s been portrayed as a friend rather than as an enemy.

      • Reets46

        Amen… Skyrocketing cases of STDs, sexual abuse of minors by older men, the objectification of “women”…(in quotes as they are often just children). Abortion as the backup to failed contraception. Now who could have been behind such mayhem? The plausible liar?

        A face book exchange between a brother and his sister. He told her he loved her like a leopard loves his spots. She told him, “I love you like a person with herpes loves his Valtrex ;)” Doesn’t that say it all??

    • Alecto

      Concluding the mass with the prayer to St. Michael is common in our local parishes of Virginia. Not all Catholics are going gently into that evil.

  • GaudeteMan

    As a simple lay man fighting on the front lines in the US, it is my fervent prayer that the Holy Father speak out against the predominance of evil in our nation such as so-called homosexual marriage, violation of religious freedom by our government, abortion and artificial contraception. It sends mixed messages that he is seems to be focused on the lesser issues of immigration and poverty in light of our suffocating moral darkness. Local bishops and priests have done precious little to lead us in battle and one hopes that our Pontiff takes a lead role sooner than later! St. Michael pray for us!

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Poverty leads to abortion and artificial contraception, in any culture where human beings are valued less than wealth. Those aren’t different topics, they are the same topic.

      • Alecto

        Poverty doesn’t give rise to immorality. Weak character and a lack of proper inculcation of the Catholic faith leads to confusion and sin.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Then why is Latin America so immoral? Supposedly they’re all >80% Catholic cultures- but just look at the fashions on the beach in Brazil. Look at the whole concept of Machismo where a man’s worth is tied to how many women he can sleep with.

          Poverty plays a very large role in these decisions. Involuntary poverty can lead to short-sighted habits that last a lifetime.

          And some of those habits are sinful (says the guy who grew up never quite getting enough to eat, who is now relatively wealthy and on strict diet due to gluttony and weighing in at 311 this spring).

          • msmischief

            As opposed to the angelical behavior of wealthier nations?

            • TheodoreSeeber

              As opposed to the teachings of the Magisterium.

              Wealthier nations have other problems- the principal one being that if you have a need for an educated workforce, that will result in natural contraception kicking in (too many people waiting too many decades before that first child). Which of course leads to valuing careers over family.

              Not to mention my own experience with the mortal sin of gluttony- which may yet kill me, I am experiencing some minor health problems including an inability to walk more than 200 feet without clearing my lungs.

              I understand the concept that poverty can cause broken families, and that if denied the dignity of work a man will find his dignity in other ways. The church’s way is better, and if we can find a way to solve poverty with work rather than with the UN method of attempting to drastically reduce the population of the poor, we should do so.

              • Adam__Baum

                If you attempt to “solve” poverty, by which most people mean eradicate it-you are on a fool’s errand, especially if you think that you can empower the state to do so. Centralization does not produce expertise, let alone omniscience, governance is necessarily impersonal, so what little benevolence there is in government degrades with it’s growth, and the opportunities for corruption ranging from “rent-seeking” to outright theft increase.
                If you attended Mass yesterday, you heard the story of the Good Samaritan-where I note the individual attended to the needs of his neighbor, he didn’t refer him to the state. Too many people think building a golden calf in Washington will alleviate poverty. We’ve had decades of that approach. It doesn’t work, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  And where did I suggest THAT approach?

                  My prefered approach- the rich give to the poor, and are given tax free status for doing so.

          • Alecto

            You have horse-carted the argument. Short-sighted habits lead to involuntary poverty which lasts a lifetime. Drug use, promiscuity, lack of discipline, lack of values, etc… all lead to bad outcomes. I think the culture there is a holdover from native and ethnic Spanish mores, not Catholic values.

            I am very sorry to read you are experiencing health problems. Have you ever thought about riding a bicycle? It is a fun, fast, non-impact way to exercise that won’t destroy your joints, burns alot of calories and affords an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. I know more people who have lost weight this way than on any “diet”. I don’t know where you live, but I guarantee there’s probably a bike path or a bike club in the vicinity.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              “ethnic Spanish mores”

              Which, of course, are Catholic.

              Plenty of bikes where I live, one of my mistakes a few years ago was going the electric scooter route. Thinking about a hybrid now (human/electric) to handle the hills better.

              • Alecto

                Spanish doesn’t equal Catholic. That machismo thing is a Mediterranean cultural phenomenon which was exported to S. America.

                There’s only one way to train for hills: ride them. I used to have to ride up an 3 mile, 1100 ft hill on my way out of town. At first, I had walk the steeper sections, then I rode, then I started racing them. You must get used to the cadence, the rhythm of the hill and you can only achieve this if you ride the hill yourself, feeling the power of your muscles on that crankarm. If you start with modest goals, you will improve quickly and have visible results. Good luck!

          • John

            If poverty led to immorality, the U.S. would be among the most moral places on the face of the earth. It isn’t. We, who are wealthy, are just as immoral as anyone else. You mention the code of machismo. Similar codes exist in all societies and in all economic levels. To many wealthy men and women, worth is based on how much money and things and power they can amass. It can become like a game. Rampant poverty often exists because of human evil, not the other way around. There are poor people who are among the most saintly in our midst. With all due respect, Theodore, I would reverse the causes and effects that you are describing..

            • Adam__Baum

              Don’t confuse material or monetary plentitude with wealth. They are not the same. I finally figured this out about a decade ago when I read the story of an unexpected bequest in the amount of tens of millions provided to a New York University (Yeshiva, I think). The decedent was an elderly woman who was a former IRS attorney, whose brother lost her savings in the market, who she apparently never forgave, but “got even” by investing on her own.

              Prior to her death, she hadn’t had an incoming phone call in years. Got it?

              Wow, time flies: It’s more like two decades.


          • Adam__Baum

            Maybe this sentence is reversed:

            “Involuntary poverty can lead to short-sighted habits that last a lifetime.”

            Should it be:

            Short-sighted habits can lead to involuntary poverty that lasts a lifetime.

            Having once been employed in the fiscal apparatus of the government poverty vortex, I can tell you if I could compel every living person to do just a few things- procreate only in marriage and avoid recreational fornication, develop habits of industry and thrift, avoid chronic intoxication, poverty would be reduced to the point where it would be the result only of mental or physical incapacitation or extraordinary circumstance.

            Time after time, I saw recipients documentation exhibit any or all of the above as a prelude or accompaniment to becoming a ward of the state.

          • Rock St. Elvis

            You confuse correlation with causation. Sinful habits and behavior tend to feed poverty. No one wants to open a business in a crime-ridden neighborhood, for obvious reasons. The sin drives away opportunities for prosperity.

  • hombre111

    Make an eight day Ignatian retreat, and you will have a vivid sense of the devil.

    • Adam__Baum

      I read some of your screeds for that effect.

  • Alecto

    These are confusing times. Up is down, bad is good, right is wrong. It is also evident that one of the tactics of Satan is to divide the people of God, so it is important to pray for unity. It seems the last, best defense is that humble, simple prayer.

  • Hendo

    The mainstream media’s attitude toward the Holy Father’s stance on the devil and evil — snippily characterized by one AP reporter in an allegedly hard-news story as an “obsession with Satan” — has given me one more reason (as if I needed any) to dismiss the mainstream media.

  • Richard Hassing

    I have no doubt Satan was present during the incident that brought about the well covered trial concluded on Saturday in Florida. To me that incident was an example of stupidity and evil meshing. St Michael please protect the USA.

  • John

    The prayer to St. Michael quoted near the end of this piece was one we used to pray at the end of Mass in pre-Vatican 2 days. I try to pray it nearly everyday, asking St. Michael to banish, through the power of God, all evil influence in the lives of my family. I had gotten a bit lax praying it lately. This article is inspiration for me to start praying it more faithfully again.

  • Francesco

    Pope Francis: Contact me asap. I will get rid of the Roman Curia for you. They call me The Wolf of Gubbio. St.Francis and I are very good friends. We will help you with this Unholy Trinity of a Roman Curio. St. Michael save us not from the scourge of the Vikings anymore but rather, save us from the Scourge of the Roman Curia! Make the Catholic Church a omen true, universal, catholic church once again, NOT a Roman Church. Contact me and I will come riding on a Pale Horse as a Pale Rider from the West and I will be their Scourge and Minister. The time is out of joint/And cursed be that I was born to set it right! Contact me, Vicar of Christ, at this email and I will come: vladstick@yahoo.com. My name is Francesco and I will come to serve you.
    Ciao, Francesco

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  • markkrite

    There’s simple answers to why things seem to be falling apart before our very eyes, kind of like a freefall societally, where “the :best lack all moral conviction” and the worst have a kind of “ferocious intensity to foist evil notions upon the rest of us,” and that is the ‘age of Obama’ has occurred in all it’s deviousness and covert amorality. Think gay marriage, characterized by Bill Donohue as the most “insane idea” ever to come down the pike from our delusional elites here in the U.S. But certainly the’age of Obama’ happened in the midst of 1) massive contraception practiced by statistically MOST Catholic married women today, the evil of which might be unimaginable in it’s consequences if not stopped by the constant preaching against it by most Catholic pastors, but not yet happening, 2) Cafeteria Catholicism, “pick and choose” style, you know, the practice of “the Catholic Church reports to us what the doctrine by which we are saved is, but YOU the laypeople decide which of it’s tenets will be believed in and practiced; THESE to me are the simple answers alluded to in the first sentence above. And Obama and his handlers are the great facilitators of things that are Constantly “falling apart.” He and his ilk need to GO and GO NOW, either through his resignation OR his impeachment. Once again, YOU decide. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

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  • edwin rodrigues

    Thank you, Dr William Oddie for sharing all of this precious information. God bless you and may St Michael The Archangel defend Jesus’ Church… In +JMJ.. Edwin Rodrigues…India

  • Servant14

    We need to be praying Pope Leo XIII Prayer to St. Michael.

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