Wisconsin-based priest Father John Zuhlsdorf is no stranger to the social media spotlight. A decade ago, his website — then known by the title “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” – was popular enough to be ranked by one outlet as one of the blogosphere’s top ten Christian blogs in 2011.
Today, it’s known simply as “Father Z’s Blog,” and by all accounts it remains relatively popular. He posts on it several times a day, blending theological musings, personal notes, links to his virtual Latin Mass livestreams, and an advice column of sorts called “Ask Father,” in which he opines on questions related to Catholic tradition and practice.
Drop by his YouTube channel, and you’ll find that he posts an hour-long video each day of himself saying Mass in Latin. (In spite of that, he has more than 3,000 subscribers.) These videos often include a post-Mass prayer and, every now and then, he includes an exorcism.
That’s what happened on January 5, when he spent a solid ten minutes at the end of his video justifying and performing the rite specifically aiming to prevent any demonic influence on the election certification process. (The relevant portion starts around 38:30 if you want to see it for yourself.)
Zuhlsdorf argues that demons are “very good with electronic equipment,” making the election results potentially untrustworthy (probably depending on whether or not the Right approves of them).
… The devil is a very good tempter and can prompt people to do things that are wrong, including lie. And we don’t want any lying having to do with the certification of the vote, because we need to have integrity at our elections so we can believe with confidence in the results of our elections.
… I think it’s amply clear, there’s enough evidence to demonstrate that there was fraud in some places, and people had to commit that fraud. It didn’t happen by itself. It seems to have been well-organized. I am deeply concerned that anybody who was involved in this has put their soul in terrible mortal peril.
He didn’t just invoke the non-existent evidence of fraud he and his ilk have imagined; he also baldly claimed the people who perpetrated it were likely demon-possessed. That’s dangerous rhetoric. It’s dehumanizing, painting political opponents as agents of evil that need to be contained by any means necessary. We don’t have time to prattle on about the niceties of democracy and diplomacy! This is spiritual warfare, a battle between absolutes!
Sure, he makes vague overtures to the idea that demon-oppressed people are still human. But the effort falls flat because he can’t quite stop himself from emphasizing the great seriousness of their evil works:
We have to be concerned about the people involved in this who might have lied, who might have committed fraud concerning the election, because this is not cheating to steal the election to [a] fifth-grade class president. This is something on a whole different scale. It’s quantitatively so vastly larger that it’s qualitatively a different kind of situation and sin. This isn’t like going over and stealing the newspaper off your neighbor’s porch.
Since Father Zuhlsdorf has so much to say on the subject of lying, it’s probably worth pointing out that Bishop Donald Hying says he never granted permission for any exorcisms focused on electoral politics. He did authorize Zuhlsdorf to perform exorcisms “for the intention of alleviation from the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic” — a demon-transmitted disease, apparently.
It’s not the first time he’s done it, either. His December 4 video, “Exorcism Against Satan and Fallen Angels for the Sake of Election Integrity,” was dedicated to a similar cause: “to drive off any influence of the devil that might be insinuating its way into the minds and hearts of the people dealing with the vote counting.”
With all his worries about the influence of demons causing people to lie and cheat and betray their solemn responsibilities to the governing structure, Zuhlsdorf might want to get his own glass house in order before he takes to casting stones from it.