Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Do you do excorcisms?

So began a telephone conversation the other evening. It is not unusual to get such telephone calls here in Brighton. One of my predecessors was appointed our diocesan Exorcist. Five years into the job he claimed he had never done an exorcism. Indeed the requests I get are never, well hardly ever, from practicing Catholics, they are always from people who are on the margins of faith or spirituality. They tend to increase when a popular horror film has hit the large or small screen.

Brighton is full of shops selling tarot cards, pentangle jewelry, stuff with goats heads on it, the spirituality section of our bookshops have more on "Magic" or the occult than on Christianity. Often those involved in this type of thing use their "mystical powers" or at least talk of it to frighten their neighbours, or people who have been on the fringes of it grow in a fear that speaks to something visceral, or maybe more often childhood fears, sometimes abuse. There are covens, there are witches, both white and black around. Some people with psychiatric history and glazed eyes and dilated pupils, talk about babies being sacrificed. Someone suggested to me that the number of cats who disappear in the dead of night fall victim to these people, personally I put it down to urban foxes.

Catholics seem to be able to deal with these fears. They know that good is stronger than evil, God stronger than the Devil. The truth of the matter is that Catholics are in my experience more skeptical about the supernatural that many of Brighton's citizens.


Anonymous said...

How weird!

Anonymous said...


Have you ever read Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil"?

He researches and profiles 5 authentic Catholic exorcisms -- if I remember correctly, all 5 of the possessed people where non-practicing or fallen-away Catholics, with no Christian spiritual life.

Aside from the "victim-soul" (as portrayed in the movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), I'd venture to guess practicing Catholics do not generally get possessed.

One of Fr. Martin’s themes in the book is that possessed souls must somehow make a concession decision or act to invite the demonic inside.

To a practicing Catholic, the demonic is little more than an annoying fly. But to the unchurched or fallen-away, the demon is a roaring lion.

Anonymous said...

I can commend to you Father to read "An Exorcist Tells His Story" by Fr.Gabriele Amorth the Chief Exorcist for the City of Rome published by Ignatius Press.

The reality of demonic possession and oppression is all too real and the Church has recorded over the past 10 years a huge increase in demand for exorcisms. Only recently the Vatican reminded Bishops of the need to have an Exorcist appointed in each diocese and also recently issued a revised version of the Ritual (although the traditional form tends to be preferred so I understand). Whilst the vast majority of cases investigated are found not to be supernatural in origin, I would caution against being overly skeptical particularly if someone who comes to you has been involved actively in the occult. You are absolutely correct to point to the increase in the number of shops dealing in tarot cards, crystals and the like. The malign influence of these cannot be overstated and for many people this is the beginning of a slippery slope which can lead to involvement with Satanic cults leading to depression and frequently suicidal tendencies.

Adulio said...

I'd venture to guess practicing Catholics do not generally get possessed

That is not necessarily true. God can and has permitted practising Catholics to be possessed in order to manifest His power and reveal something.

There is a book called "Begone Satan" by Rev. Carl Vogl that tells of an exorcism in the 1920s in Iowa, USA - I think the woman possessed was a practising Catholic, if I am not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Blake I'm not overly skeptical that the devil exists and aims to influence us all away from God. Yet as Catholics who have the gifts of the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of Eucharist why be scared of the enemy? They already lost the war!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is more common for the devil to harass souls through Diabolical Obsession, which is something which is hardly mentioned compared to cases of full possession. "In obsession the devil attacks the man in an extraordinary manner from without by presenting e.g.: phantoms, to the senses; but does not inhabit the body or exert an abiding and immanent influence" (from Addis & Arnolds Catholic Dictionary).

I'm sure I've read of saints who suffered far more from this type of attack than from full possession. This topic is covered quite extensively in 'The Graces of Interior Prayer' by Poulain; he gives copious examples of obsession from which the saints have suffered. If you're interested Father Ray, I can send you scans of those pages.

Also see:

gemoftheocean said...

Interesting. I've always appreciated the fact that the church does maintain some skepticism re: people who claim to be possessed and I appreciate they do try and rule out other causes. But I can also appreciate that demonic possession, though rare does happen.

I'm sure many have seen the film the Exorcist, but not many know the real story behind the book and film that it was based on. There is a pretty good account of it here.
I did know a priest who was involved with that particular exorcism, Fr. Halloran, SJ. He had been retired "in residence" for a time at my own parish. One day in the early-to-mid 90s I was in the rectory office, gathering items for the weekly Sunday bulletin. Big as day on the secretary's desk (where I usually worked) was a large note: "Have Fr. Halloran call X re: exorcism in the 1940s." Or whatever it was. Shortly after that the pastor walked in and I said "well, uh, Fr. Alfie, I couldn't help noticing....." He mentioned that a film company was trying to arrange an interview with Fr. Halloran, he'd been involved in the real life case that "The Exorcist" had been based on. Within a few weeks I screwed up the courage to ask Fr. Halloran how he'd become involved. He'd not been ordained yet, still studying for the priesthood -- but he was tapped to drive the priest who'd been asked to do the exorcism, because that priest didn't drive, and Fr. Halloran did! He told me he wasn't even told on the way OVER there for the first time that it was to be an exorcism. But after they got out of there, and after hearing the prayers and seeing the phenomenon Fr. Halloran said "That was an exorcism, wasn't it?"

In his telling me that little bit, I was reluctant to press him much further on the subject, but his normally fairly jovial face was dead grim when he was talking about it. I later saw the interview that was done for a documentary. Our local San Diego Reader a number of years ago did an extensive article on an interview they had with him - but unfortunately it no longer seems to be on line.

BTW, the boy (it was a boy, not a girl) had been experimenting with a Ouija board before the possession had occurred. His aunt who was into tarot reading and occult had introduced him to it. The family were Lutherans. Later converts to Catholicism.

So while true demonic possessions are rare, they do happen. And the cultural milieu you describe in Brighton DOES leave perhaps more people than average conduits, wittingly or no for possession.

If I were you'd I'd look around for a reliable driver who doesn't scare easily. Because you seem exactly the sort of guy who might be tapped for the exorcist role. :-D Mature years, calm, unshakable faith etc.


Anonymous said...

I think it is perfectly sensible. It is perfectly biblical as well. However, people might not distinguish between diabolical possession and diabolical influence. Either way I think all priests should know about it and there is supposed to be an excorcist in every diocese is there not. Of course in the coming decades the excorcist will become increasingly busy as we will be moving away from Christianity with the next generation. Derek Prince does some wonderful books on it. No he's not Catholic but I have to say he made a lot of sense to me.
Amorths book is very good too.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear - anonymous....
How mistaken can you be? Think how much more of a prize a 'practicing soul' is to the devil. The others are already/practically lost so the devil hardly bothers or perhaps uses a simple demon or two just to keep them on track to hell.

The practicing soul (struggling every day with temptation and sin) on the other hand will have no less than the entire fury of hell thrown at it! Was it the Cure D'Ars (St John Vianney) who said that for every one demon sent to torment ordinary men and women the devil sends tens of demons to torment a Priest.

Do not be smug that you are a practicing Catholic, examine your conscience daily, go to regular Confession and Holy Communion and please pray for all our holy Priests.

Personally I have found the demonic anything but 'annoying flies' - watch out for that roaring lion!

Physiocrat said...

Chesterton is famously reputed to have said "if people do not believe in God, they believe in anything".

It is a paradox that while Brighton is supposed to be the most atheistic town in Britain, shops selling New Age junk are probably thicker on the ground than anywhere else.

Much of what was once regarded as demonic possession is nowadays, presumably, diagnosed as mental illness.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes do, Jason.

I think here, there is a great number of people who are obsessed with the devil, in the same way that some are obsessed with sex. They simply can't keep their minds away from the diabolic. Invariably, I agree, developing a real sense of sin, and a need for a good, well prepared confession is the answer.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Henry raises a most interesting point.

Chesterton's famous dictum was never more relevant.

I think I would describe the existence of a flourishing New Age "philosophy" as a consequence of atheism.

This new "religion" advances as the old religion recedes.

Faith is replaced by supersition, just as in the days of pagan Rome, superstition was replaced by Faith.

To me the paradox is that atheists, by definition, do not believe in the existence of God, but many of them do dabble in the occult, which presupposes some sort of belief in the supernatural forces of darkness.

But then an atheist is not the same thing as a satanist, although the one can lead to the other.

Perhaps it is only the secularists, or should I say the nihilists, who determinedly believe in neither.

I'm not sure I can always distinguish one "ism" from another.

Meanwhile, I daresay Satan is making the most of the situation, to the ruin of souls.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray; I have scanned the pages and put them together in a .pdf file which you can download from:

You'll have to wait 20 seconds and then a 'download file now' button will appear.

Fr. Poulain's book is also good for its sound teaching regarding Private Revelations and how to judge them; after all, you don't get the approbation of Pope St. Pius X for nothing! :c)

Fr Ray Blake said...

Jason, Many thanks, I'll read it later, it looks very interesting.

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Do you think it's true that mental illness would have often been thought of as mental illness in the past?
In the 16 or so years I worked in psychi I only remember one patient I was convinced was possessed in some way. He did not come across as ill at all-but he's difficult to describe the sense of evil you got from him. Even non-believing staff said he gave them the creeps.
He died- either by suicide or accident; the police weren't sure- but had he not fallen the way he did he would have killed others.
I pray I never have to meet or work with anyone like that again.

Bro. Jim Hayes said...

I agree with George. I have grown to take it as a good sign that spiritual attacks in my own life have become more frequent as I have got older... I must be doing some kind of good if the "other guy" is taking an interest! The testimony of people I know in relation to their own experiences seems to bear this out also.

For some time I have tried to understand the tragedy of sexual abuse in the Church in this context. Those whose vocation is perhaps the least solidly founded (those in the past who entered the priesthood/religious life through family pressure, desire for status, etc...) leave themselves open to spiritual attack that may blind them to the extreme harm they can do to others through abuse.

However, I remember reading somewhere the comment that it would be interesting to see what the proportion is of lawyers, lay teachers, police officers, etc... convicted of abuse in comparison to clergy + religious. Now that I think of it, figures were released in the US recently showing the high proportion of abuse amongst US lay teachers in their state ("public" school) system.

Anonymous said...

I believe it was St Padre Pio who said to a visitor who stated that he did not believe in the devil - 'You will when you meet him!!!

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

A timely comment by Brother James Hayes.

Some of the great saints of the Church have testified to their experience of spiritual attack by their adversary, Satan.

Their answer always seems to have been the same, to persevere in ascetism and prayer.

I can't help thinking a man who habitually falls prey to the temptations of the enemy is probably not leading a sufficiently ascetic and prayerful life.

Evidence suggests that most abuse occurs within families. It is a tiny minority of families. The incidence of abuse by clergy is an even tinier minority, though every case is totally unacceptable and incompatible with the life and ministry the man finds himself in.

Anonymous said...

Father, are there any prayers that one can say to self exorcise on a daily basis. Many people are tempted and tormented by spirits daily, but what should we do and say to protect ourselves?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Any prayer or mention of the Holy Name is an exorcism. Demons flee at the name of Jesus.
The prayer to St Michael the Archangel, which you will find elsewhere, is especially useful.

Anonymous said...

My name is Bobby. I am currently living in New Orleans Louisiana, USA. I have suffered Demonic Obsession for the better part of my life. I can see demons and have seen Angels. The demonic are far worse then any Hollywood movie could ever be. When you actually see one of those things in their natural state it makes your blood run cold, your throat goes dry, and you try not to scream as you are screaming your head off.

The last 5 years have been worse then I ever could have imagined. My Spouse and I endure bed shaking, knocking on walls, disembodied voices calling out our names in the middle of the night. 'Things' walking on our ceiling, voices speaking from the attic. AND the 'things' follow us. If we go to another house or even another State they follow. The WORST part is the attempts by demons to possess me. You can not imagine the horror of looking through your eyes while something else is also looking through your eyes. The one place you are supposed to be alone is inside your skull. To have some 'thing' inside there with you slithering around is beyond terrifying.

My local Parish priest is great and very supportive. HE has blessed our House 2 times and has documented all the eye witness testimony, plus His own observations of the Supernatural occurrences.

BUT the Archdiocese Superior does not believe in the devil and all the Hocus Pocus stuff. AND HE is the Dioceses Exorcist! So need less to say I have hit a brick wall in trying to get help.

I have had to go to the Protestant Church to get any help at all. The problem is my Protestant friends don't really care for the fact I am Catholic.

I tell you I have spent more night crying, screaming in fear, and trying with all my might to hold onto my sanity since this nightmare began to accelerate from simple annoyance to outright terror.

The devil is very real, so are demons, and hell is a real place. Don't ever kid yourself that it isn't. I know this for a FACT!!!

Anonymous said...

This is Bobby from New Orleans again. I wanted to update you guys. The Archdiocese Superior is still stone walling me but thank GOD my Protestant friends have reconsidered and are again giving me help. What Help? Spiritual counseling, Spiritual Deliverance prayers, Biblical advice, and most importantly Spiritual Deliverance Prayer Sessions where they pray over me for the release of my Soul from Demonic Obsession.

Last night was a great step forward in this regard. The LORD often shows me things that are to come. When I see these visions I often am viciously attacked either right at the instant I am receiving the vision or later on when I am totally off guard.

Last night was so AWESOME because the LORD showed me the gate of Heaven and I watched as people walked through. I was able to experience only a fraction of the JOY that they were experiencing. I nearly fainted from the BLISS, JOY, AWESOME DIVINE LOVE that these Saints were being filled with as they transversed the gate of Heaven.

There is NOTHING on earth, not everything on earth combined squared to the tenth degree, that could compare with just a fraction of the Saints reward in Heaven.

I spent 2 hours floating on air last night as I replayed the scene the LORD revealed to me. I can not wait and there is NO PRICE high enough to attain the reward waiting for us in Heaven.

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