Bishops to Discuss Exorcism

Update:Over 100 Catholic Clergy Attend Exorcism Training in Baltimore

The portion of the "In All Things" commentariat that thinks I'm in need of an exorcism may soon have their wish.


This weekend, Catholic bishops from around the United States gather in Baltimore for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops fall assembly, where, according to the New York Times, they will have an opportunity to attend a pre-conference workshop of exorcism.

From the article:

"There are only a handful of priests in the country trained as exorcists, but they say they are overwhelmed with requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil.

"Now, American bishops are holding a conference on Friday and Saturday to prepare more priests and bishops to respond to the demand. The purpose is not necessarily to revive the practice, the organizers say, but to help Catholic clergy members learn how to distinguish who really needs an exorcism from who really needs a psychiatrist, or perhaps some pastoral care.

"'Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one,' said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference. 'It’s only used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.'"

The author writes that some observers see the conference as complementary to Pope Benedict's desire to highlight more fully the spiritual dimension of the Church, while others question whether discussion of exorcism should rise to this level of importance. Fr. Richard Vega, president of the National Federation of Priests Councils, offers his analysis:

“'People are talking about, are we taking two steps back?'” Father Vega said. 'My first reaction when I heard about the exorcism conference was, this is another of those trappings we’ve pulled out of the past.'

"But he said that there could eventually be a rising demand for exorcism because of the influx of Hispanic and African Catholics to the United States. People from those cultures, he said, are more attuned to the experience of the supernatural."

This is certainly an interesting topic for bishops to discuss, but hopefully not one to fuel more hostility between the so-called left and right wings of the Church. As the article notes, exorcism in the Christian tradition is as old as the new testament itself, and it remains part of the Church's ritual. Organizing a conference to study the issue, get a sense of what is happening in the field, and, if necessary, take more steps, seems quite appropriate. Bishops will devote several days to other, perhaps more pressing,  matters once the conference begins, including the election the new USCCB president. Portions of the conference will be streamed live at

Below is the trailer for the movie, The Rite, based on the “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (Doubleday, 2009) by journalist Matt Baglio, who is quoted in the article.

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8 years 4 months ago
I was having lunch with a client several years ago who was an ex Catholic and made it very obvious that he was an atheist and an extremely rational person.  I kept quiet on religion and God as after all this was a business lunch and he was the client.  He was not one who liked to be challenged.  He went on jokingly saying his faith in atheism was shaken some years in the past by the Amityville horror stories and the supposedly haunted house but that he now felt comfortable with his atheism and things like Amityville were always frauds.
The last thing I wanted to do was get into an argument with him but did in a fun way say that the devil would never be so obvious as to haunt a house.  After all the devil is supposed to be one of the greatest minds in existence and would not want to give the whole thing away by being so transparent.  The devil will not come as a grotesque creature with horns, scaly skin and a tail that scares people into models of horror that could be used for church gargoyles. He is more likely to appear if he does so as someone very attractive.  So far I can not point to anyone who would meet the criteria and his presence would be subtle.
So I tend to look at exorcisms as a curiosity not because there is no devil but that he would never want his presence actually revealed to us by something so blatant.  For doing so would destroy atheism which is probably his greatest achievement in our society.  Atheism is such a stupid belief but it so wide spread and it is the culturally and intellectually elite who embrace it the most.  Which is one reason to doubt the wisdom of the elites.
ed gleason
8 years 4 months ago
Here is my take on 'real' diabolical possession.One third of the homeless are mentally ill.  First it is not the mentally ill who are possessed.
We have modern examples of how sane mediocre men with no early talent were able to suddenly empower themselves over more talented people. Hitler, Manson. David Karesh are some. Hitler after 4 years of WWI combat rose to the rank of corporal; yet later was able to intimidate tough aristocratic generals. From whence came his power? I posit that  these men sought out the evil one and were given power by the evil one. Throw in Marciel as he made fools out many in high places too. None would have ever sought exorcism; so what can the People of God do.?? forget exorcism ..
Bishops...Here is a suggestion of how the homeless mentally ill can be nurtured.  
Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago
My experience of "haunted" houses have turned up mice and insects causing creeking sounds and flickering lights.  On the other hand, I have also experienced inexplicable shadows passing through rooms and been told by my children that they were seeing people whom I could not see.  As mentioned by JR, these kinds of things should cause an atheist to think twice to the extent that there are things that seem to be beyond our senses.

I tend to agree that Satan is more subtle and comes when invited.  However, he(she/it) probably also tests people constantly, just the way Jesus was tested in the desert.  He(she/it) probably zeroes in on people's neediness, fears, and mental conditions in order to claim victims who would prefer not to be involved with him(her/it). 

If the Church's representatives approach an exorcism workshop with the idea that this service will bring more people to the Church, they will certainly be playing right into the hands of the evil one and will end up becoming their own best customers.  However, if this workshop allows them to explore ways the vulnerable (all of us?) can protect themselves or rid themselves of demons, then this will have been a worthwhile workshop.

Skepticism may offer some protection, but it will not prevent someone from falling into traps like the ones presented to Jesus in the desert.  I think we have evidence that people routinely do succumb to these kinds of temptations without realizing how they have been led.  They are not possessed by demons, but still afflicted by them and have an impact on other people that likely is just as satisfying to Satan as would be a possession.
8 years 4 months ago
Should anyone be interested in exploring more on these topics, I recommend Fr. Hardon SJ at the site below. Go to the demonology index. -
Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago

Fr. Hardon probably has his notions of demons and the devil in order, but his identification of Feminism as evil and his blaming women for his reaction to them is a little odd.
8 years 4 months ago
We recently learn that one out of three American adults raised Catholic have left the church. Bishops should extend their November meeting by several months until they handle this frightening statistic. It's probably not even on their agenda. But let's make room for tackling the pressing exorcist issue. This is Catholic nonsense at its best. Bishops and priests who think this is important and relevant today should be ashamed. In the famous 1973 movie "The Exorcist," the demons make actress Linda Blair's head spin around on her shoulders. Bishops and priests who promote interest in training exorcists would do well to go away and get their heads screwed on straight.  
ed gleason
8 years 4 months ago
Right on Jan. Catholic church marriages have declined 50% .. a more startling statistic then the one in three adults leaving.
 "CEO says same store sales are down 50%... he says.. lets hire a juggler' ..
I have met some of the clergy who will push to the head of the line to get trained in this Rite, Another arrow in their clerical quiver that will impress the babouskas. 
Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago
I think there should be greater emphasis on exorcism need prevention (ENP?), and I think the first step is be to acknowledge the objective existence of evil and demonic forces in our lives.
8 years 4 months ago
Pretty soon people will be questioning spirituality.  Will Catholics start taking the position, ''My, God, they want us to believe in spirits.''  How medieval.

If one wants to point to those responsible for Catholics leaving the Church, who can one point to.  Could they point to the organization that teaches more Catholics than any other.  No, they wouldn't do that.

Exorcism is a non issue unless one one wants to make fun of those who might believe there exists intelligences that may be spirits and that some of them might not be benign.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
8 years 4 months ago

From the RNS story:

"Thomas knew little of this in 2005, when his bishop sent him to Rome to train as an exorcist. At Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-sanctioned school run by the conservative Legion of Christ religious order, Thomas learned about detecting demons, how spirits fit into Catholic theology, and the source of the devil’s power.
"He also apprenticed with a veteran Italian exorcist, sitting in on 80 of his appointments with reportedly possessed people. In Italy, where more than half a million people seek out an exorcist annually, exorcisms are commonplace—more like going to the dentist than starring in a horror movie, Baglio reports."


Jack Barry
8 years 4 months ago
The NYT article omits one motive for exorcism probably associated with Bishop Paprocki's initiative - money.  In a 2007 homily, he declared that the devil is the principal force behind the [costly abuse-suit] attacks on the Church.  It was reported Nov 11, 2007 in the Chicago Tribune and LA Times.,0,5927950.story
In May 2010, Paprocki confirmed and clarified his view in his own statement in the Springfield State Journal-Register.  
He inserted ''the sins of priests and bishops'' between the devil and the abuse consequences which he deplores, with emphasis remaining on the financial impacts.  Perhaps litigiousness should be added to the list of symptoms of possession Bishop Paprocki provided to the NYT.
8 years 4 months ago
What predictable responses on here...

The Church is not aiming for popularity, folks - as Pope Benedicts recently said on the UK trip - but on being authentic to the message and teachings of Jesus Christ (who did, of course, know something about the casting out of demons).
8 years 4 months ago
PS - thanks for the clip!  Anthony Hopkins is awesome and looks like a perfect fit in this role.
Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago
Jack, Observations like Bishop Paprocki's are often taken as an attempt to shrug off blame, particularly where the Chicago diocese seemed/seems not to understand the problem of pedophiles in the priesthood at any depth. However, it's entirely possible that pedophiles experience a pestering that persuades them to undertake pedophilic actions even though they are aware of this as sinful or, at least, abnormal. This is different from their being possessed by a demon or the devil. It is, rather, something that they might resist were they to acknowledge the possibility that the urging is coming from outside themselves, such that they would send it on its way instead of giving in to it.
david power
8 years 4 months ago
Recently a friend of mine who is a Priest told me that he believed the Devil was behind the sexual abuse of children and moreso the cover-up.Pedophilia of course has a mediation much greater than what Lucifer decides to get up to.The Jesuits traditionally had a great understanding of him. When I pushed my Priest friend about this he readily agreed that Bishops and even Bishops of Rome had been duped by the Evil one.
The  rape of innocent Children is something so sick that the Bible never even mentions it as far as I am aware.In the Bible there is Rape and Murder ,fratricide.You name it and the Bible has it.But the rape of Children is so sick that it seems ancient men could not even conceive of it.
Pope Paul famously said that "the smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary of St Peter"   .The deep spiritual understanding of Pacelli,Roncalli and Montini was not in evidence over the past 30 years.The devil triumphed by getting us all obsessed with morality ,a game we will never win ,and one which held little interest to Jesus.Game ,Set ,Match Lucifer!  
Exorcism is not to be easily pushed aside. I am not proposing a fetish for things of the spirit , or spiritualism which is the second great heresy of the Church today.(Ed are you ready?).The moralism and spiritualism of the recent past have taken the joy out of catholicism.The love of life and the understanding of human weakness have been replaced by mechanisms of power,however well intentioned.  The devil fears nothing like the recognition by us that     Christ was born!!
8 years 4 months ago
A nice post by David; however, the pronouncements are a bit dramatic.

Pedophelia is certainly sick but it is not exclusively a modern sickness, it is simply much more common now due to the sexualization of children and and blatent disregard for natural law.  When sex is separated from its purpose and is individualized - anything goes, so to speak.

Nothing is new under the sun, after all.

As for morality, Christ did not believe in the system of rabbinical codes and mores of his time (and the scapegoating that they enabled); however, this does not mean that he was not concerned with moral behavior in the divine sense.  Telling the adulteres to, "Sin no more," comes to mind.

The Church still loves life and understands the sinner that she ministers to, so what exactly are you getting at David?  What is your recommendation for the Church if you dont mind me asking?
david power
8 years 4 months ago
Dear Brett,

I am on Roman Time which means that it is 2.00 more or less in the morning.So my answer may not do justice to your question.What am I getting at?
I have lived in 15 countries even if I am still fairly young.I have confessed in four different languages and it would take a great deal of dishonesty to say that the "Church loves Life ".The Church fears life ,I would second in a second.The Holy Spirit is present in the Church but does not have a monopoly.
Christ is a difficult question,I do not write of Him with facility.But HE is found in the totality of experience not in the limits of experience.There is a book to be written on that question.
Here comes a short-circuit.If we went back a couple of thousand years the stoics would seek out the Christians of today and embrace them with the fervour of one one who has lived the same experience.The Christians would look on dumbfounded.St Paul would be reduced to a gaping idiot.Mouth open at what had traded between parties for so little. I was 20 metres from Ratzinger when he said "Paul was not converted from a bad religion to a good religion to ,from immorality to morality,but simply to a relationship with Jesus Christ"   .
The Church fell in love with moral norms,none of which I contest.But the saints and good priests and others in the Church are far more intoxicated with this relationship with Jesus.      
Drama is needed!
Anyway,I hope my answer has at least explained something.Now I am off to bed with too much wine in my system.

ed gleason
8 years 4 months ago
My recommendation for bishops is; less devil made me do it...stress the positive spirits.
Talk/write about the communion of saints.. it's orthodox. scriptural, uplifting. traditional, part of the Creed and Latino presente'.  Many including 2 billion in China believe their ancestors are present to them.  also Proclaim/Acknowledge more married and lay saints...  
8 years 4 months ago

I don't agree with your pessimism about the Church but, I definitely agree with your fine conclusion!  Very true about the Saints and good priests - drama is needed!  ...And the head of the Church - Benedict - provides much love/drama and witness to Christ all around the world!  Those who love the status quo in the church hate to see Benedict on the way.

PS- to see the church at my local level (with its fiestas and happenings) or to watch Benedict in London or Santiago, I would say it is to see a Church in love with life (as opposed to moderns who are merely in love with license)!

Marie Rehbein
8 years 4 months ago

They need to acknowledge why they are stressing the positive.  It is the antidote to the devil.  Scapegoating the devil is not the answer, and I don't get the impression that this what they are hoping to emphasize in giving more attention to exorcism.


The part of the Bible where Jesus tells people that those who would harm a child would have been better off not having been born, etc. has always seemed to me to be directed more toward a future time than at anything that had taken place at the time he was speaking.
8 years 4 months ago
Well, as Fr. Hardon SJ says: " There’s a war going on! And we’re all conscripted ".
Bill Mazzella
8 years 4 months ago
Now I get it. Exorcize the bishops. Jesus says that anyone who harms the innocents were better off if he had a milstone tied around his head and thrown into the sea. So there is a  very severe punishment for pedophile priests and the bishops who have covered it up and continue to cover it up.

So Brett why is it  you defend Benedict as if he cannot make a mistake. The best pope of our lifetime, John XXIII said he is not infallible. The Vatican acts more like empire than spiritual leader. Can you picture Jesus drawing up concordats so the he can have control over people's lives who disagree with him?

The church needs real reform and we do the Body of Christ no service by rubber stamping everything that comes out of the Vatican empire.


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