Crisis and the Rise of Exorcisms

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 16, 2011 — 54 Comments

I’ve spent quite a bit of time at The Wild Hunt looking at the revival of interest in exorcisms within the Catholic Church. The reason for this interest is the fact that many of these exorcists list modern Pagan religions, and interest in the occult, as symptoms of demonic possession.

“A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …” Father Gary Thomas

“Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons … Father Euteneuer told me possession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards. ”Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.” – Father Thomas Euteneuer

“No one knows why more people seem to be seeking the rite. Paprocki said one reason could be the growing interest among Americans in exploring general spirituality, as opposed to participating in organized religion, which has led more people to dabble in the occult. “They don’t know exactly what they’re getting into and when they have questions, they’re turning to the church, to priests,” said Paprocki, chairman of the bishops’ committee on canonical affairs and church governance. “They wonder if some untoward activity is taking place in their life and want some help discerning that.”Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Religion News Service correspondent Daniel Burke, writing for U.S. Catholic Magazine, explores the reasons for this spike in interest and practice of exorcisms within contemporary Catholicism. Burke quotes historian Nancy Caciola, who says that increases in exorcism usually happen during times of crisis and upheaval.

“Portable manuals detailing ever more elaborate and standardized rituals of exorcism proliferated during the papal schism of the 15th century, when two men claimed to be the rightful pope. The manuals surfaced again during the Protestant Reformation. “In general, exorcisms are associated with these turning-point moments when the church [feels] challenged in some way and tries to centralize power and clarify the delegation of authority from God down through the hierarchy,” Caciola says. The challenges now confronting the Catholic Church in the United States are legion: the sex abuse scandal, a secularizing society, and a restive flock that, studies show, loses one out of three adult Catholics, to name just a few.”

One of the ramifications of a “secularizing society” is increasing competition, no matter how small in stature. Paganism and “the occult” being ready made culprits and opponents for a reviving body of exorcists. Even still, this would only be a minor annoyance were it not for the fact that the “training” received by exorcists seems to point in ominous directions. Earlier this year media critic (and practicing Witch) Peg Aloi interviewed Father Gary Thomas, the brightest star among American Catholic exorcists, also interviewed in this U.S. Catholic Magazine piece, and found that he held some rather troubling ideas concerning who exactly he was battling.

Peg Aloi: Do you believe there are a lot of satanic cults out there?

Father Gary Thomas: There are probably more than we think. In fact, I pray over a woman right now who is a satanic cult survivor.

PA: I need to ask this. Speaking as someone who has done extensive research on the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s: Do you think it’s possible your parishioner’s experiences are false, or that she may be lying, or delusional? Because despite many, many horrific accusations of abuse and murder and various other atrocities by satanic cults over the years, most of them by alleged “survivors” who claim to be former cult members, the FBI, after years of investigation, never found a single shred of evidence to suggest there is or ever has been an underground network of satanic cults in the United States.

FGT: I don’t believe that she’s lying. She had been seeing a priest in our diocese for a while and her memories stated to surface, and that’s how we learned of her involvement in the cult. But if even half of what she’s saying is true, and I have not found any reason to doubt it, in her system, if anyone exposes the group, they’ll be killed. There is a whole culture in terms of what these people tell their members.

What you are reading there are the seeds for a new Satanic Panic, the same sort of moral panic that imprisoned, terrorized, and ruined the lives of hundreds of people. Some spent nearly twenty years in prison on false charges, as documented in the chilling 2008 film “Witch Hunt”. Others, like the West Memphis Three, are still fighting for justice. The deeper you dig into these exorcists, the more problematic material you find. That they are enjoying a certain level of mainstreaming now may point to tensions and problems faced by modern Catholicism, but it also has the potential to do considerable damage to any group unlucky enough to become spiritually scapegoated.

Religion journalists, both secular and denominational, seem to completely gloss over the problems in modern exorcism rhetoric. If “occult,” “Wicca,” or “Paganism” were replaced with signifiers for any other mainstream religion or spiritual practice there would be international outcry and mountains of bad publicity. That there isn’t seems to either be a failure of journalists to understand that these priests are saying that some religions are fair game for what is, in essence, spiritual warfare, or they simply can’t believe that anything serious could result from the rise of exorcism. That this is simply a interesting trend piece. But for those who are named in the fear-mongering and half-truths, who have lived through one “panic” already, this rise in spiritual warfare, whether Protestant or Catholic, carries with it the threat of future panic and hysteria.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Rheana Powers

    I am a Shaman and I do professional paranormal interventions and exorcisms. While there has been an increase in activity over the last 10-15 years, the actual number of legit possession cases has continued to remain a very tiny percentage in the paranormal field, probably around 3-5% at best. It's true that there are more paranormal cases resulting from occult practitioners who dabble and don't know what they are doing, but of those, maybe 1/2 % result in possession. Most just open a doorway and it results in a haunting they aren't prepared to cope with.

    While there is some truth in what the Father states here, there is a slanted, heavy bias towards blaming any and all other paths for the rise in activity. The Church has even denounced Reiki, which is a form of hands on healing, as a path to evil, which is ridiculous because it's an extremely positive energy and practice with no negative side effects.

    The real issue is people exploring other paths takes power away from the Church. The propaganda is so they can remain the only supplier of spirituality. This is not healthy nor balanced, and I personally believe stunts a person's spiritual growth. Imagine a parent who bogarts all forms of self-reliance to keep their children eternally dependent on them for power, control and profit. It's not healthy. People are leaving the Church because it's tenants are outdated and they are seeking a direct relationship with the Divine, with no middle man acting as the sales person.

    The Bible is full of channelers, demon-busting, hands on healing, and talking with supernatural entities. They need to get over the idea that only their characters are good and all others capable of these feats are evil. People want to experience the Divine for themselves, that's why all the interest in New Age, occult and paranormal is out there.

    This is a time of transition and change. My experience is that the beings on the other planes are just as restless as everyone is on this one: our politics, global economy, environment, and our consciousness are all going through a time of transition right now. It's normal for the old guard to fight to hang on to their slipping power as a new era rises and emerges from the one that failed before it, which is exactly what's happening. All the old systems are breaking down right now because they simply don't work anymore.

    I believe this is what is really going on with the Church. They are looking for excuses to try to hang on to their departing flock, and blame any thing out of what only they themselves can provide as reasons for the decay of society. It's really the decay of their own power they are bitter about. They are going the way of the dinosaur. People are waking up and don't need them anymore, and this "rise in exorcisms" is a false need they are creating to try to hang on as more and more people leave the Church.

    • Rheana Powers

      I just want to clarify a few things about my experience with exorcisms, because there isn't a lot of reliable information out there. First, all mundane causes need to be ruled out. This includes medical, psychiatric or environmental causes. In my work, there is ALWAYS a correlation between a trauma the victim has suffered in the past and the attack. The trauma is what makes them vulnerable, or even a target, and is frequently the point of attack the entity uses. Doing healing work to resolve that trauma is absolutely necessary. This can include therapy, energy healing, EFT or any other modalities that helps that individual. They also obviously need to choose to get better and be healthy, and not be attached to any victim drama.

      Also, when an actual exorcism is performed, ideally there should be a licensed EMT on hand to help if there are injuries and to serve as a witness for the victim's safety. There should be loved ones present to offer love and support as the ritual is done, to offer strength and positive energy and also to serve as witnesses for safety. Genuine exorcisms are NOT about religion, forcing another person's belief onto someone else, faking, acting or role-playing in any way. Also, the Catholic rites are not the only ways to deal with type of thing.

      Generally for myself and for the Church, there needs to be ample evidence that something paranormal is afoot that any sane, rational person present cannot deny. It has to be extreme, have a number of incidents, and has to be thoroughly investigated to rule out all other possibilities first. This is why there are actually so few numbers of genuine cases. Example of extreme are things like spontaneous fires, a malevolent attacking apparition with several witnesses that see it, objects being thrown around the room, and furniture levitating in front of people. These cases are extremely rare. There are many other specific descriptors in identifying the type of entity, but that would take too much space here. My point is that most hauntings are not nearly this eventful. That's why I state that genuine possession cases are really very rare and only a very small percentage of paranormal cases.

      And while any ritual does have a therapeutic effect as part of it's performance, I'm talking about actual real entities doing bad stuff to hurt people, not a healing drama to act out, or an "archetype" to banish or any other New Agey pseudo-magick. I'm talking the real deal in your face and scary as hell and everyone present experiences it. It also means the victim is in very serious trouble and really, really needs help from whoever can provide it. It is not the sole domain of the Church. I have a large number of clients that got no where with the Church and then sought me out. Thankfully, cases like these are truly a very small minority.

      And no, I don't expect anyone, even in our community who summon and talk to spirits regularly, to believe it unless they experience it first hand. But once you do, there's no going back to your former comfortable beliefs about the topic.

      I just wanted to comment on the issues in the article from the perspective of a pagan out there in the field doing the same type of work. There are some small truths, and a lot of bludgeoning of other faiths.

      • Leea

        I used to work with a social worker whom I liked and respected. Her judgement was always excellent, in the years I worked with and knew her. One evening we grabbed supper together after a pretty long day. As we talked-and I don't remember what we were talking about to lead to this topic, she told me about her experiences during the "satanic panic".. and Mary truly believed something was going on in our mid size, Midwestern city. Too many unrelated kids were describing stuff in the same way. These were little kids, traumatized kids. Mary said that other social workers were having the same experiences-but they couldn't find anything to document/prove the allegations. You know-she was scared when she was talking about this stuff. I don't know the truth, but I do believe that something was going on.

        • elnigma

          If there was something going on, the most vocal and public situations were false and cause the whole to be discredited. How to know if the urban myth (spread most publicly by con men) had really happened.

        • Jason Pitzl-Waters

          "I don't know the truth, but I do believe that something was going on."

          The problem I think is distinguishing isolated instances of religious abuse from the idea of an interconnected, underground, Satanic conspiracy. We should also not underestimate the suggestibility of small children, something that led to dozens of people being wrongfully imprisoned during the Satanic Panic. In addition, folklore and myth easily spreads to all sorts of people, even "unrelated" kids. Take, for instance, the unusual folklore that has grown up around the "Blue Lady" and "Bloody Mary" among homeless kids across the country.

          When you deal with children and families in crisis, stuff gets around. For some kids, it may be easier to believe a Satanic cult did horrible things to you than a family member.

          • Jennifer Parsons

            My gods…the stories the children tell in that article are so beautiful and so sad.

            Also very interesting: some descriptions of the Blue Lady keep reminding me of Yemanja, who is said to protect children.

          • Morwyn

            Bloody Mary sounds like a Banshee. Thanks for the link, Jason.

          • Apuleius

            After all, the whole phenomenon of "Satanic Panic" revolves around the fact that large numbers of people are swept up into sincerely believing that "it" is true.

  • elnigma

    JPII was a brilliant man, too bad it wasn't all used for the good, especially when it came to protecting children from abuse.

  • Beth Winegarner

    I absolutely agree that these kinds of trends are dangerous, particularly for those who belong to "alternate" spiritualities. It's something I return to again and again on my own blog, including in today's entry on a goat slaughter in rural Britain:

    Thanks so much for continuing to put this message out. We need it.

  • Jess Matz

    Ooh, I'm gonna use that. TPK, dead ahead. (haha "dead ahead" I kill me! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your waitstaff.)

  • Thaniel

    “…have lived through one “panic” already…” ONE? Just one? Oh no. Let’s not forget The Burning Times. Or the fact that the Catholic Church has spent 2000 years trying to destroy us. Individual Catholics may be benign but the Church itself has ALWAYS been our enemy.

  • korakaos

    I agree completely. The exorcisms these men offer are not necessary. Demons can be dealt with in different ways. I will say from personal experience that I would not trade my ecstatic experiences for anything- connection with God is priceless- but I would rather that none of it had been induced through abuse. I would rather it had been bookended with a loving approach. The actual ecstasy was good, but the human behavior not so much. A decent exorcism would be incredibly rare- these men are obviously the ones perpetrating the only horrific, Satanic activity here.

  • Khryseis_Astra

    Actually I think there's a world of difference between my gods, goddesses and other divinities & spirits and the twisted perversion of them that the Christians sell as "demons."

    Their definition of "demon" (the word itself coming from the Greek daimon) as anti-divine, inherently evil entities that go about randomly possessing good, morally upstanding (usually Christian, go figure) folk has nothing to do with the beings I honor and worship. As far as I'm concerned, it's nothing more than a scary tale to frighten children and anyone else who might dare return to the gods the Christians thought their violent conquest extinguished.

    • korakaos

      You're the only one imposing this "Christian" definition that you've got going on in your head, boxing in the definition of demon, when this idea you've got is nothing more than the idea of SOME Christian weirdos. Not that labels mean anything, but I do like language, and am a student of Greek- the definition of demon is not anti-divine. I am surprised you speak of the root and yet not correctly- *whips out her Autenrieth* "δα?μων , ονος. divinity, divine power; sometimes equivalent to θε?ς, but esp. of the gods in their dealings with men, Il. 3.420 ; σ?ν δα?μονι, ‘with the help of God,’"

      If you would prefer the opinions of a few slightly more in-the-know men, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle did not think demons were scary tales to frighten children, nor did they think they were evil, but rather, benevolent. Aristotle even uses eudaimonia to mean happiness. Of course, this is all imposing value judgments- having been a longtime practitioner of Goetia as well, I know that imposing value judgments is besides the point in the highest dealings of spirituality. Why would I want to box in any demon as "good" or "bad"? For nothing is good or bad but only thinking makes it so.

      But I don't really feel like getting into any big philosophical debate here with you. I only wanted to correct you in case anyone else thought you spoke the only truth. Also, I want to make you aware that you are employing fallacious generalization- "the Christians sell" and "the Christians thought THEIR violent conquest"- LOLOLOL I've never conquered a pagan in my life. That's like blaming the Jews and Italians for killing Jesus, or the Germans for killing Jews, when it was only certain individual human beings.

      • Khryseis_Astra

        Perhaps I'm being unclear. :) I accept the original definition of the word daimon. I do not accept the modern definition of "demon," which more often than not is used exactly as I have described it: evil beings led by a big baddy evil being called Satan, or as an insulting reclassification of my deities and daimons.

        You can protest my definition if you like (and no, it is not only *my* definition), and I will accept that you yourself do not share it, but I can find you numerous examples of Christians who do believe exactly that, and more than a few of those can probably be found in the archives of this blog.

        As for the rest, it is a point of historical fact that the conversion of ancient cultures to Christianity was not generally a peaceful thing. Modern Christians are only responsible for the actions of their predecessors to the extent that they continue their atrocities and the teachings that encourage them. In many cases, exorcisms could be put on the level of spiritual, mental and physical abuse, and as such I oppose them.

        • korakaos

          You don't have to accept the "modern" definition- it is only the definition of some cranky old men. I could find numerous examples of Christians who have used it as well- but see, I'm tired of people generalizing Christians, or Pagans, or Jews, or anyone. Not all Christians are violent evil people who think demons and gods and magic are evil. I think you might be surprised at the amount of Christians who think as I do. Why, even my own priest does not think Satan himself is evil, but rather, an intrinsic part of ourselves which we must take care not to let treat others in an unloving fashion. I am just tired of generalizations, and so I call them out when I see them. I just ask that people try not to use them. Just because people like Fred Phelps are vocal does not mean they represent Christendom, for instance. There are far more like me than one might guess.

          And yes, I know conversion was often not peaceful. I am aware that the dark ages and the inquisition could be horrible. And that is not just for those poor women who thought they'd fancy a walk in the woods to gather some flowers and thus be labeled a witch- it was even self-destructive, that is to say, good Christians were persecuted by other "Christians". A monk named Bruno was killed for having dared to believe things like that the Sun is a star and that other stars might have solar systems and that the universe is infinite. To be frank I do not think any Christian who is violent is a real Christ-ian, even if they call themselves as much, but I know that those who have labeled themselves Christian have often been violent. I also know that those who have labeled themselves Jews or, say, followers of Jupiter have been violent- just look at Herod's violent politics or all the crucifixions that took place during the Roman Republic and Empire. I prefer to look at it as that humanity itself has been violent, not any one group. If I label a group instead of individuals, that keeps us divided. There is no need to blame a religion itself. I do not burn witches, nor do I perform violent abusive exorcisms. You, I assume, do not crucify other human beings or set lions upon them. I use demon in just the same fashion as Socrates, Solomon, Aleister Crowley, Jung, Joseph Campbell, and so on- you know, the real ones. And I am a Catholic.

          I, too, oppose these modern shams of exorcisms. I oppose abuse in every form. Love is the law, love under will.

  • Pitch313

    What's telling here is that the Catholic Church itself (as well as many other Christian denominations) promotes and upholds "occult" endeavors and beliefs through exorcism. When the Catholic Church conducts rituals to remove demons and afflicting spirits, it affirms those demons and such as "real."

    I think that many strands of Paganism accept incorporeal non-human entities as "real." But not necessarily as primarily inimical or hostile to human beings. Like lots of other living things we share the Earth with, mostly these incorporeal non-human entities won't bother us if we don't bother them. They go about their affairs. We go about ours.

    What I'm getting at is that the Pagan acceptance of these incorporeal non-human beings is often not so much founded on an"occult" world view as on one that is more expansive, acknowledging non-human spirits their niches in the planetary ecosphere. A much less "occult" inflected world view than that of these eager-to-exorcise (exterminate) Christian denominations.

  • iaraschamber

    umm….seriously…Harry Potter and Twilight? I read much worse when I was a kid. Then again I did turn out to be Pagan so you know maybe according to them that's why! This is ridiculous I would hope that most Catholics would be smarter than to believe these people, however that is usually proven not true.

  • Rowan

    Gee, and they can't see why it's Offensive either, I wonder if someone did a piece on the rise of Pedophilia and the Influence of the Catholic Church if they would enjoy that?

  • Morwyn

    These are the same people who turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of children. They need to exorcise themselves.

  • Apuleius

    The immediate cause of this increase is that the Catholics are running hard to the right trying to keep up with the (Bob) Joneses.

    But then that leaves open the question of: what is the cause for the sudden rapid spread of Evangelical/Pentecostalist Christianity over the last several decades, especially in Africa and Latin America?

    Basically what we are seeing is a repeat of what happened during the Burning Times. As was the case with medieval Christendom, the masses in Latin American and sub-Saharan Africa still retain a great deal of their old Pagan religious beliefs and practices, so more virulent forms of Christianity are being brought in for the mopping up operation. And as happened during the Burning Times (aka the Protestant Reformation), the old guard Christians (who accomplished the initial, and partial, "triumph" of Christianity) are upping their game so as not to be left out of the fun.

  • Stephanie Selby

    Sort of like a knockout punch after the first few jabs. Interesting analysis.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    This is not being viewed with alarm by the press for the same reason David Barton's opinions are not: Polytheistic religion is not on journalism's endangered-species list.

    But it's an ironic positive sign. When I was in college fifty years ago a Catholic girl I knew laughingly told me of an elderly priest who'd warned her and another girl of the dangers of the Ouija board. That priest would never have cited Wicca as a similar danger; nobody had heard of it. NeoPaganism has become populous and vocal enough that we're on their radar now.

  • Jess Matz

    I remember a great deal of the "Satanic Panic" and, at the time, was just starting to gain an interest in D&D. I was the little sister who wanted to do what big brother was doing, y'know? I remember hearing about the connection between D&D and these horrible ritualistic things and thinking that my brother not only played D&D, but was a DM, and the most harm that ever came to the gamers I knew at the time was that they had to roll new characters because my brother had come up with a particularly nasty puzzle trap. My simple little kid logic just didn't follow and I decided to take what I knew from experience over some stupid thing on TV. (1000 XP to me: time to level)
    Shortly thereafter or about that time, I was introduced to a number of Pagans and New Agers and again, my kid logic could not parse what was being said on TV with these weird people I'd met. By the time I actually became a Pagan, all of this had died down considerably, but I know there are still a lot of people out there who bought into those ideas then and who continue to buy into it. I've been at a couple public events as a Pagan priestess in support of the new Mosque here and remembering that had me terrified each time.
    This is why the broom closet even exists and the reason I'm out now. Nothing has happened to me or my family so far (gods forbid), but this is a scary, scary thing.

  • Joseph

    It’s funny you should mention the “Satanic Panic” from the 90’s. This has been on Drudge all day today:


  • Nicole Youngman

    Bingo–same thing with the fantasy literature and music etc, they'll cite whatever's current, and they can always find SOMETHING. These days it's Harry Potter etc, earlier it was those "backwards satanic messages" on Styx albums.

  • Nicole Youngman

    Thanks for the references, Jason, very useful.

    Meanwhile…sigh. I wonder if the fact that I'm dabbling in herbalism means I need to have the satanic spirit of basil exorcised out of me? Or maybe it's the sage, that one ALWAYS leads to trouble…;)

  • Jennifer Parsons

    In fairness, some of the comments on that article are hilarious:
    "Amazing journalism. What self respecting adult comes here for their news? Seriously? Two goats found dead. It must be Satan. Common[sic] guys, this isnt 1326. Try harder."

  • Jennifer Parsons

    I've said it before– and I've said it here– but I think it should be repeated:

    When it comes to people who have been victimized, or even those who are sincerely hurting or frightened it's terribly sad that they feel they need to couch what has happened to them in the language of "occultism" or "Satanism" in order for it to be taken seriously. I sincerely hope those who choose to be exorcised are also being offered effective psychiatric treatment as well. I actually don't have a problem with exorcisms being used as part of the healing process; I have used religious ritual to psychologically heal myself, and I doubt I'm the only person here who's done so.

    But the focus on spiritual melodrama over wellness and aid is why this exorcism trend sticks in my craw so solidly. People who engage in exorcisms pay too much attention upon "driving out evil" and not nearly enough attention to actually helping the person (exorcisee?) recover from their trauma, regardless of that trauma's origin. Time and time again with people like Fr. Thomas and Fr. Euteneuer, I see more emphasis placed on scoring points for Catholic Church than on comforting and healing anyone at all.

    The most pessimistic, cynical part of me thinks, "Of course they don't want to actually heal and help people they've exorcised. That would cause those afflicted to recover and not need the help of the Church to live happy and productive lives, and then where would exorcists be?" But I try not to attribute to callousness what can be explained by incompetence and short-sightedness.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Well, I do think Twilight glamorizes the idea of an overpowered, paternalistic figure who treats a very powerless you like crap for your own good…

  • sarenth

    Many people have, and each time there have been hews and cries from the Church that the publishers are being "anti-Catholic".

  • kenneth

    It's no longer politic to exorcise the "threat" of Jews sacrificing children and drinking their blood, so we're the next best thing in line!

    This is happening mostly because the Catholic Church has winnowed itself down to a core of angry, nutty ultraconservatives who are carrying the church back to its worst medieval instincts in all areas.

  • Guest

    Actually they looked directly at it with both eyes and active sought to hide it from the legal authorities, used their resources to introduce the pedophiles on their payroll to new victims (moved the offending priests to new locations), and threatened the victims families with excommunication if they tried to go to the legal authorities themselves. But enough about the current Pope.

  • Hecate

    Harry Potter glamorizes evil? Really? It seems to me to be a typical morality tale where evil loses and goodness, kindness, loyalty to friends, and education win out over evil. But then, G/Son's a huge Harry Potter fan, so maybe I'm biased.

  • elnigma

    Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons
    Really that long?

  • NorseAlchemist

    Ah, rocks fall, everyone dies. A DM/Gm's best friend….

  • chuck_cosimano

    and he hasn't been turned into a toad yet! Amazing. I remember one time back during the Satanic Panic talking to a friend of mine in law enforcement about the whole mess and I told him that if a prosecutor felt safe in bringing a case, he obviously was not dealing with the real thing, because the real Satanists would simply kill him.

  • korakaos

    These guys are clueless. A lot of priests are. A lot of priests aren't. Just like with any religion, I suppose. Yet the clueless ones (who obviously have never even researched the occult much less read a Harry Potter book) sure like to talk and get other people to hear them as though they spoke for God Himself. Yes, demons are real, and yes, exorcism is real, but men like this make a mockery of the good work Christ encouraged and performed. It's like the article I was reading on an evangelical church doing gay exorcisms. Yes, the exorcism will bring you into a divine ecstatic state. Will it get the gay out? Absolutely not. Are exorcisms required because of interest in the occult? Absolutely not. It is because we are human. We all have our demons.

    I am a little sad people like this have such influence and also fool so many others into thinking this is what Catholicism is about and that we must all be therefore worthy of dismissal. Yet I do not feel the need to cling to Catholics the way such priests as these would- if someone wants to leave the faith, let them go. It wasn't meant to be.

  • Lori F – MN

    Oh I'm sure Lady Gaga is a minion of the devil, to some.
    Personally I've come to like her music.

  • Cathryn Bauer

    It sells, literally. This is exciting stuff. It makes the "formerly possessed" person a superstar, at least among the community they want to be part of, and it makes the exorcist a guru. It fills churches, especially in locations where there is little diversion except church activities. It increases self-righteousness, egotism, and decreases the really lousy feeling of helplessness, so widespread at in difficult economic circumstances.

    How strange and sad that a so-called "occult" publication such as this should be the one to shine the light of reason on this destructive madness and call it for what it is.

  • grimmorrigan

    And daring folks to actually read the Satanic Bible. Good fun.

  • Apuleius

    Well, HP does encourage rule-breaking, distrust of government officials, snogging, and risk-taking generally.

  • jenzyjordan

    I live by the Villa Maria which is an Oblate's Sister's home (Yes, its Catholic) in Northeast Ohio.

    The sisters used to provide community services to other women which included yoga, Reiki, a labyrinth walk, and women's 'spiritual' retreats.

    Recently, the Pope wrote to the area Bishop and had them stop the practice. Now these women cannot preform Reiki healing for other women.

    I feel that the community lost something precious because a man in Italy wants to run these sister's lives. As a Reiki Master, I feel that a great injustice has occurred in the name of Jesus and the Church (once again).

    I was raised Catholic and found that this path encouraged me to want to know the Goddess. For that, I am very grateful.

  • harmonyfb

    You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

  • Khryseis_Astra

    I personally don't believe in their "demons." What Christians call "demons" are more often than not the gods, goddesses and other divinities & spirits of the religions that came before them, as are many of their early "saints" and "angels." Such beings are not subject to the authority of their god or their priests, so IMO exorcism is an exercise in futility, and just a further act of disrespect.

    The part that concerns me about it though is the extremes that are gone to in their quest to drive out the "other," read: anyone who doesn't believe as they do. I'm sure that for just about any phony SRA tale out there, you could find a legitimate story of abuse (mental, spiritual and/or physical) at the hands of a so-called exorcist. Nevermind how such extreme views lead to other forms of discrimination, harassment, abuse, etc. towards people of other religions in the first place.

  • Guest

    And that my friend is what makes this whole thing sad instead of funny.

  • Morwyn

    I have come to like Lady Gaga as well. There is just something about her that is alluring.

  • Crystal7431

    Well, considering how invasive certain strains of basil can be, perhaps. ; )

  • Jess Matz

    My brother's weapon of choice was the acid trap.

  • elnigma

    This doesn't surprise me coming from the current Pope.

  • Jennifer Parsons

    That's a really good point; reminds me of Hans Sebald's book "Witch-Children: From Salem Witch-Hunts to Modern Courtrooms"– his point was that children (though you can easily see how this would spill into adult behavior) who are "possessed" find themselves in a rare situation where they are actually rewarded for bad behavior. It also has the effect of pulling the community together against a perceived enemy. As many people have already pointed out, the Church is using this phenomenon to show the rest of the world how valuable and important it still is.

  • KarenAScofield

    Ready Made Culprits — Inquisition Lite for People Who Don't Give a Damn (But Who Want to Maintain Their Own Dignity)

    Social Amnesia — The Hopes That Enough People Won't Remember How People Wised Up Last Time

    Emotional Violence — Emotional violence causes upset and trauma by acts, threats of acts, coercive tactics, or other tactics used to force the upper hand in a power struggle. The intent is to denigrate/devalue/discredit/disempower the other in order to be seen as right, to increase one's own power, and to hook up with others looking to similarly "better" themselves. Emotional violence is something that's most commonly brought up in contexts of school yard bullying or domestic abuse but it's certainly applicable to moral panics (what Satanic Panics are).

    Moral panics that use religion or waves of exorcism interest like this are another way of getting off by hurting others while claiming the victims are the ones who are evil…while seeking social approval, power in numbers and perks for the effort.

    I'm sure people will continue to try to drum up moral panic as pews become emptier but society doesn't have a ready-made (repetitively and arrogantly snaps fingers) "universal" platform from which people can verbalize (in ten words or less) non-religionist (well rounded, educated) systems of ethics, morals, values, virtues. Expect moral panics and interest in exorcism to come in waves as long as more florid fantasies of Dionysian vs. Apollian false dilemma are sold to the public with a religisized Liberals vs. Conservatives (conservatives being church going Christians only) slant.

  • Apuleius

    Well, one really ought to say it like it's a bad thing, and try to sound like you mean it. Otherwise the kids might catch on that they are very sneakily being encouraged to learn to think for themselves and to develop a genuine sense of personal responsibility, while at the same time cultivating a joyful attitude toward life and a deep appreciation for true love, true friendship and the virtue of loyalty. "Rule breaking", "snogging", etc, make it all sound like great fun, especially if you throw in invisibility cloaks and cars that can fly!