The New York Times.... is most eager to publish the latest results about search for other planets around other stars. And each time that daily puts, preposterously enough, the best spin on the findings. The most recent of these is presented in the June 14, 2005 issue of that daily leader in dishing out with great seriousness mental and moral slime. The slime this time was a write-up about a planet around the star Gliese 876, fifteen light years away in Aquarius. The report admits that the planet is so close to its sun that it has to turn always its same side toward it and that it completes its orbit in every 1.9 days. But because the planet is only seven times larger than our earth, it is described as the Earth's distant cousin and a real indication that life and intelligence exist outside the earth. The script might have been written by Screwtape whose tactic is to bedazzle man's mind with specious non-sequiturs. But the final inference in that script is not better than the logic of going to a doctor and telling him: I have a circulatory problem, but since many others whose blood circulates, have been cured, a cure must be on hand for my ailment. Surely, such a man deserves to be taken to a mental hospital.
If one then asks why such hapless reasoning can be crafted and presented in reputable publications, one has to go outside science, and back to good old theology, indeed to the Baltimore Catechism. There one can read about original sin, and its secondary consequences, as well as about the devil, whose mention in the title of this lecture must have been the chief reason for most of you to come here. In this age, when everything has become "positive" and cheerful in Catholic religion, original sin, and even more so the devil, are not to be mentioned in good company. We have matured "spiritually" so much during the last forty years that it would be beneath our adult dignity to waste a moment on original sin, let alone on the devil. This in part is due to the fact that neither that sin nor the devil figure prominently in the Documents of Vatican II.
Whether we like it or not our religion began with the devil, who surely put on a pleasant appearance in the Paradise Garden. Otherwise Eve would have thought twice before eating the forbidden fruit. Ever since mankind has suffered the consequences of that sin, of which there is little in the 800 pages of the New Catechism, where the devil is mentioned but passingly. And this pleases the devil more than anything else, For the devil's chief stratagem is not to show himself. He displays his true form only when in his ultimate despair he tries to sway the saint. Just read the life of Saint John Vianney and you will know what I mean. You will smell brimstone and hear hoofs clicking, in the measure in which you progress in spiritual life.
[SLJ "Christ, Extraterrestrials, and the Devil" in A Late Awakening and Other Essays 103-4]