Tuesday, October 04, 2011
In all of my time as priest I have known only one person I felt needed Exorcism and would have submitted to it willingly. It tends to be non-Catholics who request Exorcism more often than Catholics, often because they tend to be more superstitious than those who believe in Christ. In Brighton, as presumably everywhere else the New Age and the occult can be very attractive but they both open up doors to the imagination which take people far from Christ. Hollywood and today's fad for horror doesn't help.
Catholics tend to need Confession and thus to receive Holy Communion in state of Grace and maybe have someone to do penance for them, and to pray of course.
The post-conciliar of the Rites for Christian Initiation of Adults has a series of optional Exorcisms for those preparing for baptism, performed by a priest or in some instances by a catechist. The ministry of Exorcist was before their abolition one the minor orders, and in ancient times was seen as an integral part of the process towards conversion and baptism. The biblical accounts of Exorcism seem to indicate the Lord using it as as a means of awakening faith. In the cases that were documented by Fr Joseph Crehan SJ, the polymath Westminster Exorcist up to the 1980s, Exorcism so often seems to be part of the process of conversion leading to baptism or reconciliation to the Church. It is worth reminding ourselves that the threefold renunciation of Satan as part of the renewal of baptismal promises is a minor Exorcism.
Every diocese should have an exorcist. One I know seems to be a charismatic who sees the devil at every turn and will Exorcise anyone at the drop of a hat, another simply says the whole thing is nonsense, and although he is deeply holy, at least in my opinion, he has never actually performed an Exorcism in the 20 years he has had the title. He would tend to describe people as "obsessed" by the the devil or evil rather than "possessed", which in most cases I am sure is true. In most cases, but not all.
The Rituale Romanum has a Rite of Exorcism, a major one, which is reserved to a Bishop, who may delegate its use to a particular priest, the diocesan Exorcist. Its very presence is an indication that if a diocese is thinking with the Church and believes in the principle of lex credendi lex orandi, Exorcism and the office of Exorcist should be taken seriously.
Perhaps their absence in so many dioceses is an indication of the lack of formation in classical spirituality and mystical theology today. Perhaps too their absence indicates a certain theological and liturgical rupture with the past, a deep tradition going back to the Lord.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake