This week marks the beginning of the annual meetingÂ of the organization of Catholic exorcists at the Vatican. Â The group is known as the International Association of Exorcists, and was formally recognized by Pope Francis in June. Â It is not widely known outside of some Catholic circles, but the Church’s exorcists do this on a regular basis.
The body was formed in 1990 by two exorcists, one of whom is Father Gabriel Amorth, the man who is widely recognized as one of the world’s best at the Liturgy, and who trained the vast majority of the exorcists currently authorized to cast demons out of possessed individuals.
Upon greeting the body, the pope “said that exorcists needed to show ‘the love and welcome of the Church for those possessed by evil’. By treating people who were possessed, priests could demonstrate that ‘the Church welcomes those suffering from the Devil’s works,'” Â That includes regular sinners as well, but people who are honestly possessed are in need of special care.
For many today, exorcism is seen as the realm of entertainment as movies and popular reading material have made the practice the subject of sensational diversion, but it is considered to be essential within the Church as cases of demonic possession are on the rise:
“The struggle against evil and the Devil is becoming more and more of an emergency,” Walter Cascioli, a psychiatrist and the spokesman for the association, told Vatican Radio.
Dabbling in the occult “opens the way to extraordinary demonic activity,” said Dr Cascioli….
“Certainly, the number of people who are turning to these practices, which are damaging psychologically, spiritually and morally, is constantly growing. This worries us a great deal because we have seen an increase in extraordinary demonic activity, in particular diabolical possessions.”
Truthfully, this is really scary stuff. Â The 1973 movie “The Exorcist” was adapted from a book that was based on a real case of demonic possession in the 1940’s. Â The real individual was a young boy, not a girl, and the exorcisms took place at Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis in a wing that was eventually torn down due to strange things happening. Â The boy was housed in the rectory at Saint Louis University in a room that is supposedly a constant cold temperature year round. Â (That’s the rumor, anyway.)
Other tidbits about Catholic exorcism that are not widely known:
- By Canon Law, all dioceses are supposed to have at least one exorcist on staff. Â Their identities are a closely held secret.
- Exorcism is not considered an option until all psychiatric and psychological explanations of erratic behavior are exhausted.
- The men who perform exorcisms must be strong individuals – strong as men, in faith, mind and body. Â Exorcism is serious and difficult work.
- Frequently, a demonic infestation includes multiple demons and requires multiple exorcisms to rid the victim of possession.
- The Rite of Exorcism, which is a liturgy within the Catholic Church, was the last of the liturgies to be rewritten. Â The exorcists themselves claim the new one does not work and asked to go back to the old one. Â (Shouldn’t write out the Virgin Mary and soften the language.)
- Exorcisms are only done with permission from the bishop.
Exorcism is a serious business. Â By giving the International Association of Exorcists full Vatican recognition and greeting them openly and warmly, Pope Francis signals to the rest of us to take the battle of good verses evil to heart.