Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roman Catholic Church Seeks Exorcists

In response to a growing demand, over this last weekend the Roman Catholic Church held a special workshop in Baltimore - to train exorcists!

The church has signed up 56 bishops and 66 priests for the two-day workshop that began on Friday, seeking to boost the small group of just five or six American exorcists that the church currently has on its books.

"There's this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental U.S.," Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, was quoted as saying.

"Actually, each diocese should have its own" exorcist, he added.

Paprocki did not say why there was increased demand for exorcisms, which he noted were rarely performed.

Let's hope that this increased demand is unrelated to the recent popularity of grimoire magick. After all, if more people are working with demons these days the odds are that more idiots are probably doing so as well. But exorcism has also become more common in popular culture over the last five years or so, inspiring movies such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and television series such as Supernatural, so that might explain the increased interest in the practice as well. It might be worth examining if a similar increase occurred in the early 1970's following films such as Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, both extremely popular at the time.

While solemnly regarded by the Catholic Church, exorcism is a staple of Hollywood fright films -- most notably the 1973 film "The Exorcist" -- and regarded by many as superstition that lends a chill frisson to festivals like Halloween.

Catholic Church law stipulates that only properly trained priests can perform the rite -- and then only with the permission of their bishops.

Possible signs of demonic possession include scratching, cutting, biting of the skin; profound displays of strength; and a strong or violent reaction to holy water.

The trouble has always been that these can be signs of mental illness as well, and exorcists need to be extremely careful when examining cases, probably more careful than a weekend training session really allows for. While I'm not willing to completely discount the possibility of demonic possession, the fact is that it is extremely rare and mental illness is quite common - about one person in four according to some psychological studies.

That being said, I would love to get the opportunity to scientifically investigate a case that the Church considers genuine and see how well the traditional exorcism ritual works compared with modern ceremonial methods. I would also like to observe the sorts of paranormal activity that are said to accompany real possession and see if there is any sort of objective method of measuring them.

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Unknown said...

Are the Church's methods of exorcism different from that of a Ceremonial Magician's?

Scott Stenwick said...

The visualizations, ritual forms, words of power, and so forth that a ceremonial magician would use are different than those used in the Roman Catholic Rite of Exorcism. The goal of either form of the operation is the same, though, and both methods incorporate the same basic ideas.

Essentially what I would be interested in determining is which method is the most efficient - that is, which one gets the job done the best and the most quickly. It is also possible that they might produce approximately the same results and differ only superficially.