Fr. C’s Handy Guide to Getting an Exorcism!

5 Dec

My Resident Evil trilopost continues to get a strong response from people, many of whom are interested in investigating the possibility of a demonic presence in their lives. I was talking with “Father Cornelius” recently about this, and he helped me put together the following guide:

Fr. C’s Handy Guide to Getting an Exorcism

† Who do I talk to in my diocese about this? The chief exorcist in every diocese is…pause for effect, raise eyebrows, lean forward…the bishop! He’s really the guy who handles exorcisms, using the power and authority passed along to him by all the bishops before him in a super-long-rosary-bead-strand of bishops stretching all the way back to the apostles, who got it from Jesus Christ himself. But, let’s face it: bishops have a lot to do. So, they delegate that responsibility to one particular priest who acts as the lead exorcist for the diocese.

† So, where do I find him? Exorcists do not advertise. They prefer not to have everyone knowing who they are and what they do. Why? Reason # 1: people would be pounding on the door all day, calling on the phone, hanging off the windowsills, sending them devil-grams, skywriting, whatever, all kinds of nosy, talkative, interruptive, baloney-filled people who lack lives. Or people who work for the secular media who would love to take the opportunity to scoff at the Catholic Church. Reason # 2: the Devil is constantly looking for ways to harass Exorcists. Fr. Cornelius already has to deal with enough of that, and I’m sure plenty of other Exorcists can say the same. They would rather not have to be bothered by people who may unwittingly be pawns of the Devil coming around and working mischief.

"An Exor-hootily-what?"

“An Exor-hootily-what?”

† Got it! But wait…you didn’t answer the question. Where do I find him? Go to the chancery—the bishop’s office—in your diocese. Ahhhh, I can already feel the warm ire of chancery staff members everywhere, cursing me for advising people to bum-rush the chancery! But there’s no other answer. There is no hotline (that I know of), no Directory of Exorcists (for all the reasons listed above). Just go to the chancery, and ask to speak with the exorcist for the diocese.

† Are you crapping me positive? There is no way I’m going down to the chancery and telling some 78-year old secretary who looks like a Gary Larson cartoon (pictured left) that I would like to see an Exorcist. Touché, mon ami. Then just ask to see a priest. You’ll probably have to schedule something. That’s cool. Be persistent.

† What do I say when I finally get to talk to a priest? You tell him your concerns. Don’t hem-and-haw—just tell him. Say “Father, I suspect that I am being harassed on some level by evil spirits, and I would like to see the diocesan Exorcist about it.” Let him interview you—and, you might as well know, he will (in the nicest possible way) be looking for any signs that you may have some kind of purely natural mental illness. You can’t blame him for that—sometimes mental illness is all it is, and the care you need is that of a mental illness specialist, not an exorcist.

† This makes me uncomfortable. What if he tells someone? I don’t think I can do this. Yes, you can! If it helps, before you begin talking to the priest, tell him that you would like for the conversation to be under the seal of Confession. He will not be allowed to share anything you reveal.

† What if he just starts busting out with an Exorcism, and I’m not ready, and I get freaked out? It’s just too weird! No Exorcist is just going to start blasting you like that. There will be a very calm interview first, as I indicated. He’ll be looking for signs that you do not need an exorcism. As things progress, he may simply do some Prayers of Deliverance over you—not a full-on Exorcism, but exorcistic prayers that are especially powerful because they will be coming from a validly ordained Catholic priest. That may, in fact, get the job done—some evil spirits will vacate the premises due simply to that. Wouldn’t that be nice? Afterwards, you’ll take a break, schedule another appointment, and when you go back to see him you’ll hopefully know if it was sufficient.

† What if I go the chancery and find nobody who will help? What if even the bishop refuses to take me seriously? It’s possible. We live in a materialistic, atheistic time, when the spiritual is badly neglected by many. If push comes to shove, take a trip to the neighboring diocese. Go to their chancery, and their bishop. Eventually, you’re going to meet a Catholic bishop or priest who will help. Remember that Pope Benedict himself is very much on the case here. Since 2009, he has urged a greater exorcist presence in all dioceses, along with increased training for exorcists. Now’s the time!

† Follow-up question: what if it’s not me who I’m concerned about, but with someone I love? First and foremost, you pray. But you can’t force a person to address these concerns—they have to recognize and want it for themselves. Certainly (if you think it’s appropriate) talk to them, be a friend who listens, and gently urge them to seek help. Remind them that there is no harm whatsoever in simply going to a priest and asking for a Prayer of Deliverance—it’s quick, it’s painless, and it confers healing and grace in all cases. What’s bad about that?

I hope all this is of help, everybody. God bless!

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5 Responses to “Fr. C’s Handy Guide to Getting an Exorcism!”

  1. LMG December 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    Rightly or wrongly, my understanding is that before any serious full on exorcism an interview or series of interviews with a psychiatrist is routinely required. Yes or No? For me, that would be a deal breaker right there. The care of souls should not be surrendered to psychiatrists imho. That is the very thing that constituted a very large element of the recent scandal.

    Year ago when I was first in the charismatic renewal I became aware that I was very depressed. I read many books on depression and threw off layers and layers of it by virtue of the good advice I found in these books, usually by penetecostal authors such as Tim LaHaye. Also I pursued every sacramental angle known to man, with still more relief. Yet, in the end I was not, and knew I was not totally free. I began strongly to suspect demonic possession.

    Unrelatedly- or so I thought- I went one summer to a Pentecostal Bible camp in northern Minnesota. I am and was a daily communicant, but nevertheless I learned a very great deal from those people. One evening they prayed over a few people for exorcisms, and I stepped forward and asked if they would pray the same for me. They did. There ensued a very memorable and protracted evening for them and for me, eventuating in my complete escape from depression and its demons who- it is fair to say- did not go quietly. But that was the complete and total end of my depression problem.

    And it is because of that experience that I take with a very large grain of salt the notion that only priests have the power to perform exorcisms, or know what they are about when they do so. Even Our Lord bore witness to the fact that there were successful Jewish exorcists in his time who were not allied with Him.

    With a very large percentage of our fellow human beings sinking into sexual addiction, I doubt very much that if every priest in this country did nothing but perform exorcisms it would be anywhere near adequate to the task at hand. Yes, we ought to think about training and discipling spirit-filled lay people to take on some of this task- not that I am volunteering, mind you.

    • Dan Lord December 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

      Hello LMG,

      I’m glad you wrote. You’ve brought up a number of interesting points here.

      First, the answer is “yes,” the presence of a professional mental health expert has become fairly routine during the process of exorcism. But I don’t see why you would consider that a “deal breaker,” since that by no means implies a “surrender” on the part of the exorcist. It is a verifiable fact that many people go to exorcists who do not have demonic troubles–they have chemical imbalances, hormonal imbalances, or behavioral disorders that can be traced and treated by licensed professionals in the field of medicine. It just makes good sense to include such people in the process–and they are often people of faith, in fact, but experts in psychology or psychiatry, not in spiritual warfare.

      Secondly, I’ve never anywhere claimed “that only priests have the power to perform exorcisms”–you’ve projected that onto my stuff, I think. For one, all Christians share in the exorcising ministry of Jesus–as I’ve pointed out before, Mark 16 tells us that Christ-followers in general are known by the fact that they “cast out demons.” Father C., in fact, was recently talking with me about his appreciation for the gift of exorcism that he has seen some laypeople display. It is true, though, that from among “the priesthood of the faithful” God chooses certain men–priests, bishops–who are given by Jesus an extra-special share in Christ’s power to expel demons. I have no doubt at all that there are wonderful people in Pentecostal churches who are casting out demons–but there are any number of documented cases of non-priestly folk who attempt to exorcise demons who get themselves into serious trouble very quickly. It’s a dangerous business–Catholic priests who are trained, experienced priests are most definitely the best people to approach, particularly if the demonic presence is severe. Therefore, as a rule, I urge people to go them.

      Put it this way: if I was being menaced by bullies, and for my protection I had the choice between 1. the purple belt-level karate guy who takes classes at night and works at Best Buy during the day, or 2. a professional ninja…I’d go with the ninja, wouldn’t you?

  2. Theresa Pumpkin December 10, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Ninja indeed!

    I love the way you manage to inject humor into areas that many consider dark, scary, foreign. Your humor serves to alleviate the dark without detracting from the urgency. What a blessing.

  3. steve souther January 21, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I’m trying to get my head around this idea of demon possession. Question: is there not a distinction between demon harrassment and actual possession? I’m hoping that it requires a person’s permission for dark spirits to take possess of them, and that (mostly) they have the power to prevent this….. I’m thinking outloud here.

    • Dan Lord January 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Hello Steve!

      Yes, there is definitely a distinction between those two. Exorcists recognize “possession” as the worst: the person’s consciousness is taken over, which can result in total loss of bodily control. A lesser version is “obsession”–the person doesn’t lose control of consciousness, but the body experiences limited, temporary losses of control to the evil spirit. There’s also “oppression”: external attacks, physical afflictions, scary stuff designed to wear a person down physically and emotionally.

      As for asking permission, I write about this in my autobiographical “How I Made Friends With the Devil” post which is there in its own widget on the side of the site. Basically: there’s a lot of ways to give permission, and it doesn’t need to be explicit and formal. Our behavior, our actions, can give permission. Who we associate with. Careless words. All these things are a way of opening our spiritual front doors and inviting evil things in.
      I hope that helps a little. God bless.

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