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.
† 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!