Exorcisms are quite a scary thing to think about. Horror movies usually portray a helpless man or women possessed by a demon. Priests hover over them chanting words to ward away the devil as the victim acts in creepy ways under the control of their occupying demon. The image is hard to shake, especially in the middle of the night when tiny sounds with unknown sources spook you out.
Guidelines for exorcisms in the Roman Catholic Church were first published in 1614. Over the centuries the guidelines changed, but the overall goal remains the same: to rid a person of demonic possessions.
Movies strictly show priests performing this kind of ritual. However, the Roman Catholic Church believes that any Christian has the power to drive demons away in the name of Christ. At one point exorcisms became a thing of the past but, films in the 1970s sparked an old flame of interest in exorcisms.
The Catholic Church Requires Psychological Screenings
With the rise of people requesting exorcisms, maverick priests used to perform them without having the self-proclaimed victims psychologically screened and without any clearance from the church. This urged new amendments to the exorcisms guidelines. Now psychological screening and medical evaluation by a professional are required before performing an exorcism.
These amendments were created to secure the health of the potentially possessed human. Catholic officials say that demonic possession is extremely rare. Thus exorcisms are hardly ever performed. The first line of response is to offer spiritual and medical help.
The reason psychological screening is so important is that the signs of demonic possession look a lot like the DSM description of psychotic mental illness.
Here Are the Signs:
– Loss or lack of appetite
– Cutting, scratching, and biting of skin
– A cold feeling in the room
– Unnatural bodily postures and change in the person’s face and body
– The possessed losing control of their normal personality and entering into a frenzy or rage and attacking others
– Change in the person’s voice
– Supernatural physical strength not subject to the person’s build or age
– Speaking or understanding another language which they had never learned before
– Knowledge of things that are distant or hidden
– Prediction of future events (sometimes through dreams)
– Levitation and moving of objects/things
– Expelling of objects/things
– Intense hatred and violent reaction toward all religious objects or items
– Antipathy towards entering a church, speaking Jesus’ name or hearing scripture.
Increasing Demand for Exorcisms
Recently there’s been an increase in interest in exorcism. This time the Roman Catholic church decided to get a hand on the situation before priests take it upon themselves to perform the ritual. The Vatican opened a six-day seminar. Priests from all over the world are attending to learn the proper way to rid people of demonic possessions.
The April gathering in Rome aims “to offer a rich reflection and articulation on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial,” exorcist Friar Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio. “We touch on the most burning issues,” he said. “From the sects linked to Satanism to their story of liberation [from] their possession,” Padilla explains.
Why Priests Think the Demand Increased
Each year there are 500,000 cases that require exorcisms in Italy. Palilla believes the increase in demonic possession stems from current trends that attract demons such as fortune reading and Tarot cards.
Many priests never learned or even refused to learn about how to deal with exorcisms. Palilla believes it’s important for priests to learn especially because the number of requests for an exorcism is souring all over Europe. Many priests are refusing to perform the exorcisms and, people are reverting to others who claim they have the skill to perform them — these nonprofessionals charge around 200 dollars an hour. Palilla urges priests to study the ritual at the Vatican so that there will be enough trained priests to handle these situations in the right way, and recommend psychological screening if necessary.