Discretion is the key to identifying diabolical possession over mental illness
Baltimore – When they adjourned here last weekend, the nation's Catholic Bishops agreed they need more qualified exorcists.
More than 50 bishops and 60 priests attended a two-day conference to review the policies and procedures laid down in a revised manual that deals with the ancient rite of exorcism.
Written in Latin, “De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam” (Of Exorcisms and Supplications) was approved at the Vatican in 1999.
The guidelines include a caveat not to mistake diabolic possession with mental illness. There is a shortage of qualified priests to perform this ceremony, all agreed, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
“Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult,” he said. “The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite.”
Guidelines require a thorough evaluation through the diocese, consultation with physicians both psychiatric and internal, and a determination that the ill behavior priests seek to cure is not caused by any disease, but by a spiritual malady.
With deep roots in Christianity, the Bible is filled with examples of Jesus casting out demons and diabolical influences from troubled persons told in the stories of the New Testament. Symptoms include abnormal strength and speaking in languages unknown to the afflicted person.
The exorcism ceremony includes reading Psalms, giving prayers and sprinkling holy water on the diabolically possessed person. It is always performed in private. The renewed emphasis on the rite highlights the divine element of the church and underscores the belief that evil is real, according to the organizers of the training session.
Many priests are reporting that people turn to the church after dabbling in the occult, needful of their services in a return to a Christian faith.
Said Cardinal DiNardo, “For the longest time, we in the United States may not have been as much attuned to some of the spiritual aspects of evil because we have become so much attached to what would be either physical or psychological explanation for certain phenomena. We may have forgotten that there is a spiritual dimension to people.”
A more general conference continues this week among the church's American hierarchy in this city.
More than 14 million viewers have watched this brief clip of an actual exorcism. It is not a pleasant experience.