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Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Catholic Priest Prepares for Exorcism

They don’t take classes in Exorcism 101. How they are picked is more of an art than a science. The exorcist always has an assistant priest available in case he falters in the process. The senior priest teaches the neophyte by way of long descriptions handed down by the Experienced. A process bordering on parascience has emerged that seems to work. A corner of the Catholic church acknowledges that there are devils and that they can possess us. But they can also be evicted.

Malachi Martin, author of Hostage to the Devil, brings five real cases into focus, true stories of exorcisms by various priests, supported by diaries, tapes, and meticulous interviews. The stories are too graphic to review in detail, but there are generalities that cross all denominational lines because the devil is not a denominational construct or even merely a Christian invention. In his Introduction, Martin describes the careful preparation for an exorcism, the signs that the problem is demonic rather than mental illness, and the precautions taken by all involved to avoid more physical and spiritual damage.

First of all, only priests do exorcisms in the Catholic Church. This is unfortunate, because there is a story in my blog about two untrained women, a mother and daughter, cleansing a shaman-cursed haunted home (see “What Aliens Do, Part II,” 8-30-2012), and another about a woman exorcising another woman named Claudia King (“Testimony of Claudia King, Part II,” 1-14-12). The exorcist’s assistant may be an untrained young priest who barely even believes in the reality of unclean spirits. This concentrates the battle mostly in the hands of one exorcist, who may have his own battles with faith and practice. The Church does know and acknowledge that the exorcist must live a moral and committed life because if not, he will be attacked physically and spiritually and perhaps even killed. He also goes into the fray knowing that all of his flaws and sins will be shouted out by the demons. (That happened to Martin Luther, but it didn’t bother him a bit. He already knew he was a useless, vile sinner saved by grace, and reminded his attacker of that fact. “They Saw the Devil…and the Glory,” 10-3-2012.)

The Catholic Church makes a ritual of everything. That does not mean the ritual lacks power. It may lack flexibility and creativity, but it usually gets the job done. Demons know when a competent priest is on the way, and they are not happy about it. But first, there are interviews and examinations by experts. Doctors, Psychiatrists, church authorities. Some sure signs of demon possession: strange physical ailments, mental derangement, repulsion to Christian artifacts and symbols, objects flying about the room or house, wallpaper peeling off the walls, an acrid stench, a distorted face, levitation, freezing temperature, the possessed person becomes immovable and frozen, constant opening and slamming of doors, and the ability of the possessed person to call out the sins and flaws of others.

Once possession is verified, a date is set and a team assembled. There might be a doctor and/or a psychologist. The exorcist brings an assistant priest who has been versed in what to expect, what to do or not do, how to take over if the exorcist fails. There are also at least two to four strong men on hand to hold the possessed person down.

All furniture is removed from the room. Blankets, pictures, rugs, trunks, chairs, dressers, etc. All too often, objects fly around the room or rock back and forth. Shades are drawn, windows may be boarded up . One item left in the room is a small table on which two candles are placed with a crucifix between them, as well as a prayer book and holy water. The participants are aware that the procedure may last for many hours or even days. On more than one occasion the exorcist became so attacked or battered that he collapsed or fled. In that case, the final deliverance is delayed, but the battle must continue some way or another.

All assistants must be prepared to hear the foulest of language and cruelest of taunts. They must endure the sight and smell of urine, blood, excrement. They must be steadfast in the presence of screams and shrieks, sobbing, insults, and rage. Martin has learned from the exorcists themselves that all these manifestations are common.

The priest is dressed in a long cassock with a white waist-length surplice over it. A narrow, purple stole is worn around the neck. In the prayer book is the rite of exorcism, which really is just the beginning of the event.

One priest shared with Martin his version of the phases or progression of the deliverance. The first is Presence. The team can feel it. It’s neither male nor female, but it’s a person without a body, an intelligence but not human. In stage 1 of the process, this personage tries to hide behind the possessed person. The palpable evil causes a sense of panic, but the team must remain calm, and the assistants must remain silent.

Next is Pretense. The exorcist must draw out the name and function of the spirit. Martin states that this might take days, but there is no progress until the spirit manifests its own identity separate from the possessed. It may still be using the voice of the possessed, and may try to elicit sympathy or logical discussion. The spirit or spirits may be cunning one moment, stupid the next. The possessed may babble as if they are truly insane. Martin writes: “Oddly, while this spirit or power or force knows some of the most secret and intimate details of the lives of everyone in the room, at the same time it also displays gaps in knowledge of things that may be happening at any given moment of the present,” (p. 19).

As the Pretense breaks down, the spirit begins to manifest its true nature, full of violence, filth, and abuse. In the more dramatic exorcisms, the possessed may begin to writhe, gnash their teeth, and unleash a stream of vile language (Again, see “They Saw the Devil”). Next comes the Breakpoint, in which the spirit discards the voice of the possessed. The sounds produced may not even sound human. It is a time of confusion, laughing, screaming, The exorcist’s job at this point is to take charge of the process and silence the spirit. Martin assures us that this presence is way beyond poltergeists. They call it the Voice, because a true alien, very nasty entity is manifesting itself in methods that go beyond our laws of nature.

The next phase is the Clash. The exorcist is in communication with the spirit, will against will. The expectation is that the spirit will identify itself. The roar may be a whine now, an appeal for mercy, even with the use of Scripture. Here the exorcist must maintain control by knowing exactly what he is doing. The priest may (and should) appeal to the possessed person to vocally join in the resistance if they are able. The last phase, Expulsion, will go faster and easier if the victim openly renounces the works of the devil and all of the attitudes or actions that got them possessed in the first place. During the Clash, writes Martin, the room is filled with a stench that can induce vomiting among the team. The exorcist “is made to bear physical pain, and he feels anguish over his very soul. He is made to know he is touching the completely unclean, the totally inhuman,” (p. 23). Every exorcist, whether Catholic or Protestant, male or female knows one key. There is only one power that can defeat these spirits and that is the name of Jesus. The exorcists must be in current relationship with God and all things Kingdom of God. They must have a solid enough command of doctrine that they cannot be deceived by a twisted application of it. They do not wave the banner of church or denomination or dogma. The Bible may be read during an exorcism, but ultimately it is Jesus Christ and His Kingdom power that frees the enslaved. Jesus warned us in Luke 11:25 that if the spirits will try to return. If the house is swept clean but empty of protective power, they will come back in spades.

Once Expulsion is accomplished, the victim may recall what happened, or as in the case of a friend of mine, remember nothing. However, the insanity stops… the voices, the poltergeist activity, the obsessions, the fears, the illnesses or manifestations in their body. Their life is renewed and they can once again take on their own identity as a normal human being.

The expulsion of demons is not a Catholic prerogative. Any Protestant deliverance minister would recognize all phases and manifestations described above. Protestants usually are quicker to silence the outbursts, and they turn away any accusations as Luther did, by casting their own righteous away immediately and calling on the Cross of Christ.

In a blog soon to come, I will discuss one Protestants minister’s method of approaching deliverance.