Exorcism is as old as Christianity itself. The New Testament has accounts of Jesus casting out demons, and it is cited in the Catholic Church’s catechism. But it is now far more popular in Europe, Africa and Latin America than in the United States.
Most exorcisms are not as dramatic as the bloody scenes in films. The ritual is based on a prayer in which the priest invokes the name of Jesus. The priest also uses holy water and a cross, and can alter the prayer depending on the reaction he gets from the possessed person, said Matt Baglio, a journalist in Rome who wrote the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (Doubleday, 2009).
“The prayer comes from the power of Jesus’ name and the church. It doesn’t come from the power of the exorcist. The priest doesn’t have the magic power,” said Mr. Baglio, whose book has been made into a movie to be released in January, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm
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1. midwestnorwegian wrote:
Good timing…maybe it could do Nancy Pelosi some good?
November 13, 5:20 pm | [comment link]
2. northcoast wrote:
Maybe ‘common’ or ‘frequent’ would have been a more fitting word than ‘popular’.
November 13, 5:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Larry Morse wrote:
This is hard to believe. Of all the antiquated notions! Well, the RC leaves a lot to be desired in other categories, so I should not be surprised that they have revived this silliness. Jesus’ name has magic power? This is how the church is going to treat the mentally ill? And Anglicans are running to join this organization? Yes, I am being contemptuous because there isn’t the faintest shred of evidence that this practice is anything but superstition, and Christianity does NOT need to give the nay-sayers any more ammunition. Larry
November 13, 6:08 pm | [comment link]
4. Ad Orientem wrote:
Was there supposed to be <s></s> sarcasm tags on your post?
November 13, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
5. billqs wrote:
#3. Larry- this seems to be a departure from your usual on screen M.O. If you wish to take the “Faith once Delivered by the Saints” and the biblical witness seriously you have to come to terms with exorcism. Heck, there’s exorcism present in the traditional baptismal creeds.
November 13, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
6. drjoan wrote:
I recall C.S. Lewis said something like “People either give Satan WAY too much credit or WAY too little; the truth is somewhere in between. I think ideas such as expressed in #3 fall in the WAY too little side!
November 13, 7:25 pm | [comment link]
7. advocate wrote:
It might be useful to note #3, that for an exorcism to be performed by the RC church, all physical and psychological problems must be ruled out first. They require full medical workups prior to even considering an exorcism to make sure that the problem is not a medical problem, or a diagnosible mental illness. It is only after this that an exorcism is authorized. And btw - frequently it is the person’s doctor that requests it or supports the idea, because they have ruled out every other option.
November 13, 10:08 pm | [comment link]
8. Knapsack wrote:
Now if only we had media that dared to point out that socialism never helps the poor.
Now if only we had media that dared to point out that secularism kills more innocents than religion ever has.
Now if only we had media that dared to point out that abortion has killed millions, yet only hurt both women and society.
Now if only we had media that dared to point out that welfare reform actually helped more than it harmed.
Now if only we had media that dared to point out that . . . can I stop now?
November 13, 10:34 pm | [comment link]
9. recchip wrote:
#3 Larry, You do of course realize that we Anglicans do have the concept of exorcisms.
In the Church of England, every diocese has an official exorcist, who will usually be an elderly priest and from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church. In The Episcopal Church the Book of Occasional Services discusses provision for exorcism; but it does not indicate any specific rite, nor does it establish an office of “exorcist”.
November 14, 1:28 am | [comment link]
Diocesan exorcists usually continue in their role when they have retired from all other church duties. Anglican exorcisms sometimes take the form of a mass for the dead if it is suspected that the souls suffering in Purgatory are responsible for the disturbance. Anglican priests may not perform an exorcism without permission from the Diocesan (regional) bishop. Exorcism is an extremely dangerous ritual and must not be performed unless the bishop and his team of specialists (including a psychiatrist and physician) are convinced that the individual’s problem is not a form of mental illness or a behavioural disorder. The theological danger of exorcism is that if the cause of illness is not demonic in nature, the patient will perceive the continuation of their condition as a sign that they are rejected by God and beyond divine healing. They may interpret the continuation of their distress (which may be behavioural or physiological in origin) as a sign of damnation. They may enter into a state of despair which is spiritually dangerous as one cannot enter into a trust relationship with God because one feels divine rejection or unworthiness.
10. Larry Morse wrote:
No, I was not bring sarcastic. See #9 for one substantive danger. Another is the perfect inability to isolate and identify that which “possesses.” The devil? How do you know? The evidence is what? The notion that Satan can “possess” anyone should frighten all rational people, for the upshot is and has been a belief in witchcraft. See Salem. I can understand the Salem logic if one starts with the certainty of witchcraft, but the evidence is that hysteria was the “demon” and the consequences of this ignorance were bloody indeed. If one can be possessed, then one MUST believe in the reality of witches and witchcraft, for if one can be possessed, the one can make a deal with the possessor. This is as dangerous and it is ignorant - well, the two go together, don’t they? How can anyone support this notion? Haven’t we made ourselves look ridiculous enough already (see Schori and RW et all and the Anglican inability to reach even the simplest decision) Larry
November 14, 9:45 am | [comment link]
11. Br. Michael wrote:
Well Larry what you are saying is contrary to Scripture and the witness of Jesus Himself. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Paul mentions is the discernment of Spirits and dealing with Spirits is part of any solid healing ministry. Now actual possession, which is something of a technical term, may be rare, but is part of the spiritual warfare that we find ourselves in. And yes, there are also witches.
I am not sure which part of the supernatural you can pick and choose to believe in. To believe in the Trinity is to believe in the supernatural and by extension the demonic.
November 14, 12:46 pm | [comment link]
12. Larry Morse wrote:
So now there are witches? What shall we do with them, for they are clearly dangerous. Shall we burn them with Biblical precedent? And how is this superstition different from the RC belief and use of relics, for Heaven’s sake. Shall we believe that they have Powers, a bunch of bones from who knows where, that can cure diseases? Come on, Br. Michael, you surely cannot buy into this pandora’s box of superstition?
November 14, 1:52 pm | [comment link]
What I am saying is contrary to scripture if you assume that all scripture is literally correct, that we are NOT ever to understand the events and declarations as analogical. Christ’s temptation by Satan has no literal element in it; it is a clear and fundamental declaration of how the temptations of this world are to be dealt with. Literalness in this case is quite unnecessary, for the point is clear and matches human experience. (We need an Occam’s Razor for Biblical translation.)
And Br Micheal, the Trinity is NOT supernatural at all. It is a clear and sufficient explanation of how the Master of the Universe functions in the spiritual and the physical world at once.
AS to the discernment of spirits and the Holy Ghost, may I assume that you will allow Schori the benefits of the Holy Ghost doing a new thing. After all why shouldn’t she “discern” as well as anyone else?
Is there anyone else out there who believes there really are witches (and succubi and incubi and genii and magicians who can say a magic word and a door opens?)
I suppose this looks like an attack on Br. Michael, and the elves may score me for this, but it is really meant to be an attack on using religion to justify superstitions, which, by their vagueness, open the door to every imaginable abuse of authority. Larry
13. Br. Michael wrote:
Larry, I do not regard your post as a personal attack. I do profoundly disagree with much of what you say and you are conflating a lot of things. The Holy Spirit is active today and the gifts of the Spirit are active today. Quite frankly a lot of your argument is precisely that same sort of attack on Scripture that the revisionists and Shori herself makes.
November 14, 2:12 pm | [comment link]
14. Ad Orientem wrote:
I find it surprising (in the extreme) that you believe sans concrete proof in supernatural good in the form of God and yet dismiss the existence of supernatural evil in the form of Satan and demons. This despite the fact that Scripture explicitly affirms the existence of both and such has been the consistent teaching of the church and her saints. Witchcraft and sorcery do in fact exist. Most of what passes for it today is just silly nonsense cooked up by people trying to make a buck. But it should not be dismissed as harmless. The theology behind demonic obsession and possession (and in the case of places, infestation) is a touchy subject.
In general I adhere to the advice I got from a priest whom I held in high regard many years ago. He told me that studying the dark arts and demonology should be undertaken only by spiritually mature persons with a compelling reason, under careful guidance and with the blessing of their spiritual father. Beyond which I would encourage anyone with doubts on this subject to read the book “Hostage to the Devil” by the late Malachi Martin.
Under the mercy
November 14, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
15. billqs wrote:
Larry, I have always considered you orthodox in belief. However, your posts seem to indicate a “Cafeteria Christian” mindset. If this is so, then why choose the bits of Christianity you find important and discard the rest, rather than find the bits Schori and her folks find important and discard the rest.
November 14, 3:39 pm | [comment link]
16. billqs wrote:
#12. There are witches today. They call their religion Wicca and you can read all about them on Wikipedia or any of other sources. They believe they are worshipping the “Goddess” which roughly corresponds to the Earth and they believe they trace their religion back to the ancient Celts.
In reality they can only trace their religion back to Alistair Crowley and his ilk who make the study of the occult popular in late Victorian England.
And no… we shouldn’t burn them at the stake. We should share the Good News with them and with all.
November 14, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
17. Sarah wrote:
Hmmm . . . an unexpected thread. Maybe our communication has been thwarted in some way.
I have a couple of “baseline questions” just to make sure we’re starting with the same presuppositions.
Larry Morse, do you believe that a history-acting, personal force of evil exists who is sometimes called Lucifer, Satan, the Devil?
If so, do you believe that this personal force acts within current history?
I believe that you believe in the existence of the supernatural so that’s probably covered.
But there are several commenters—including me—who are befuddled by your comments here.
I can understand deciding that exorcisms can’t happen—or that they are not well done—or that they accomplish nothing. I could see that as a possibility.
But it appears that you do not believe in the existence of Satan or of his actions.
November 14, 7:18 pm | [comment link]
18. TridentineVirginian wrote:
You’re an unbeliever, Larry.
November 14, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
19. advocate wrote:
I believe that there are people who worship Satan, and who choose to work to forward a temporal agenda of evil, just as I believe that there are many of us who explicitly “Reject Satan and all his works, and all his empty promises.” I would tend to call them Satanists rather than witches (I don’t think Wiccans are evil, just profoundly misguided). I also believe that Satanists are different from atheists. Atheists deny God’s existence. Satanists do not reject the existence of God, they just choose to work for his ancient enemy. This is also one of the many reasons that I believe in Hell - because I believe among other things that people choose in life and in death to go there rather than to be with God.
November 14, 10:54 pm | [comment link]
20. advocate wrote:
And oh yes, there actually is objective criteria for determining possession, including such things as the person knowing things that he/she could not possibly know outside supernatural means, and speaking in languages that the person did not know and had not ever studied.
November 14, 10:58 pm | [comment link]
21. Chris Molter wrote:
Just out of curiosity, what does Anglicanism and/or the Episcopal Church officially teach regarding Satan, demonic possession, and exorcism?
November 15, 8:44 am | [comment link]
22. Larry Morse wrote:
Let me take this one thing at a time. We are talking about demons - real (physical?) entities which have the power to control human thoughts and actions, poisoning the soul presumably or capturing it.
November 15, 9:49 am | [comment link]
If all things that are, are made by God, then such demons are made by him. (There is no such thing as being possessed by angels?)
Now see #16. Here there is no issue of demonic possession, just a nut-case “religion.” Talk of conflating. My question again: If there is such a thing as possession. then there must be such a thing as REAL witches, not Wiccaramians, women (mostly) who have sold their souls to the devil in return for “powers.” So must there not be REAL witches?
And if there are, then they are worse than possessed for they have made the Faustian bargain and sold their souls. And you think they are going to listen to the good news? They are dreadfully dangerous for they have the power of the devil. We execute murderers; how can we not do AT LEAST the same with witches who are far more dangerous.
I submit to you all, this argument I have made is logical and inevitable (given possession) and sheer nonsense. Do you really[ believe those Salem women (and men) in Salem had sold their souls?
If not, why not? And incubi, succubi and magicians, for they all have
“supernatural” powers? . And if the Sewell had called on Jesus’ name. the devil would have left them?
I regard this as an important argument. There is much to say here, but space requires breaks.Superstition has poisoned religion for a long time and,quite justly, has made us a laughingstock of those who are capable of telling superstition when they see it.
Oh by the way, next installment I will present you with a careful study of witchcraft wherein its reality is demonstrated and which you will see as palpable balderdash. Larry
23. Sarah wrote:
So you *do* believe in the existence of Satan—a personal force of evil who has worked within history and against God’s will, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully?
The rest of your comment is irrational and incoherent. The “argument” you made is merely a string of assertions with no connection at all. For instance, you say: “If there is such a thing as possession. then there must be such a thing as REAL witches.”
Uh, no there mustn’t at all. You obviously don’t understand what “possession” is.
Further, if someone were to attempt to “sell their souls to the devil” [a bizarre interpolation here of something out of Sleepy Hollow or Mephistopheles] that does not make them “REAL witches” at all. Again—completely unconnected and irrational assertions.
RE: “And if there are, then they are worse than possessed for they have made the Faustian bargain and sold their souls.”
Huh? Why must they be “worse than possessed” at all? Purporting to sell one’s soul to the devil [again, I have no idea why you’ve suddenly come up with some example from literature, but I’ll work with you] doesn’t make someone “worse than possessed” at all. Nor “dreadfully dangerous” nor does “selling one’s soul” give someone “the power of the devil”—if someone *were* able to “sell their souls to the devil” [something which I don’t grant] it is highly unlikely that the devil would grant them “the power of the devil” in exchange! That’s the very last thing that the devil would want to do in fact.
Again—your comment is made up of utterly incoherent and irrational assertions strung together with words like “and.”
RE: “I submit to you all, this argument I have made is logical and inevitable (given possession) and sheer nonsense.”
Well actually, your string of unconnected assertions is irrational and unconnected.
I—and most of the rest of the thread I’ll wager—now have no idea whatsoever of what you are talking about.
Why don’t we get back to the theme of the post—which is that 1) a personal and powerful force of evil who has worked through history and that we call Satan or the Devil or Lucifer exists and 2) he works in the world today, with great malevolence towards human beings and God’s will.
Are you able to even grant that much?
If not, then none of us have anything to talk about since you don’t accept Christian doctrine on those matters.
If so, then any disagreements exist on a lighter and shallower level—and that is that, given the Devil’s activity and malevolence towards human beings, does he or do his demons ever *possess* or take up temporary residence with a human being?
If not, Larry, than all is well. Any exorcisms are dull and void and just a bunch of priests engaged in some tomfoolery.
If so, then the question arises as to what on earth does one do with a human being who has encouraged and ended up possessed by a malevolent personal force of evil [beyond our own sin nature and the dire influence of the world].
Anglicans have traditionally seen evil as springing from three places: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Have you just deleted that latter category of evil altogether?
November 15, 10:28 am | [comment link]
24. advocate wrote:
Larry, it seems to me that you are conflating some historical/literary understanding of “witch” with a person who 1) chooses to worship and follow Satan, and 2) a person who has for whatever reason opened themselves up to evil and has become possessed by a physical manifestation of evil. I don’t know about “selling your soul”, that seems like a literary construct. I’m talking about people who choose to reject God and follow and worship Satan. They are called Satanists. I don’t know if they have any extraordinary power, but yes, I do believe they are dangerous, immoral, and blasphamous people. Google them if you don’t believe they exist. I assure you that they do.
I believe we base this belief firmly in scripture, particularly Rev. 12:7-9. Basically, Satan was driven from heaven along with his minions. I believe the traditional understanding is that Satan and his minions are fallen angels who chose not to follow God. It is these minions that can influence, or in rare cases possess, weak, spiritually vulnerable people who have left themselves open to such possession.
I think most people agree that the historical Salem “witches” were some hysterical girls making false accusations. These are two very different kettles of fish.
November 15, 3:33 pm | [comment link]
25. Anthony in TX wrote:
Let’s look at it another way. I do hope you are able to answer “yes” to this series of questions:
Do you believe in God - God who loves us beyond our understanding? If so, do you believe that there exists the devil and his demons working against us and the love of God?
Borrowing a phrase from my evangelical brothers and sisters - Do you believe God comes to us when we ask Him into our hearts and follow His path? Following this logic, would you say that opposing His love, the devil and his demons are also ready to come into the hearts of many - especially if they are invited?
Even if demons are not explicitly invited, the soul is open to attack if the person leads a hurtful life, opposing God’s will. Contrariwise, if a person has never heard of God or His Gospel (a rare case, I admit), and never explicitly accepted God as his Lord and Savior, most believe that God will have mercy on the soul that led an upright and righteous life.
Historical Christianity has always believed that an evil force exists working against God and His saints and angels in Heaven. How else would we have fallen human nature and sin in the world?
November 15, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
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