The “spirit of fierceness” pervades human history. Its form may change but it is always the same dynamic: one of opposition against “the other.” We see it first in the anger of Cain, when it drove him to kill his brother. And it continues to be unleashed in the fury of the dragon who, unable to kill the woman, a symbol of the Church, turns its anger against the “rest of her children” (cf. Gen 4:6; Rev 12:17). New forms of this spirit today include “bullying” and “media persecution.”
In a recent homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on the mystery of evil that is revealed in bullying, in the act of “attacking the weakest.” He noted that “psychologists might have other explanations for the strong abusing the weak … but even children can have this trace of original sin, the work of Satan.”
The fact that he refers to Satan tells us something about the spiritual character of this attitude, which, according to some words we use to name it – accanimento in Italian or encarnizamiento in Spanish – would lead us to think that it is something animalistic or carnal, but this is not entirely the case. Mixed and confused with this carnal dimension, there is a hidden addition of ferocity and of gratuitous cruelty which, when we see its effects, produces enormous discomfort and mental confusion. Consider, for example, the teenager driven to suicide because she cannot cope with the idea that a private image has been shared online and gone viral.