The number of Roman Catholic priests trained in the rites of exorcism to rid people of demonic possession has increased, particularly in dioceses in Italy and Spain.
The Telegraph reports that the rise in cases of demonic possession is a result of a heightened interest in practices such as Satanism, paganism, Ouija, and other dark arts that people can easily investigate and explore on the Internet.
The report indicates that the Church’s decision to train more priests in the rites of exorcism also represents its effort “to sideline unauthorized, self-proclaimed exorcists” as well as “its tacit recognition that belief in Satan, once regarded by Catholic progressives as an embarrassment, is still very much alive.”
According to The Telegraph, in Italy, the diocese of Milan has nominated seven new exorcists, while the bishop of Naples has appointed three within the last couple of years. In addition, the Church in Sardinia has sent three priests for training in the rites of exorcism in Rome due to concern about a rise in interest in the occult on the island.
In Spain, the archbishop of Madrid sent eight priests for training in exorcism in May to deal with “an unprecedented rise” in cases of “demonic possession” that went beyond the treatment that could be given by mental health professionals.
“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” said Rev. Francesco Bamonte, president of the International Association for Exorcists. “The few exorcists that we have in the dioceses are often not able to handle the enormous number of requests for help,” he said in an interview with La Repubblica in December.
Though the Church believes the majority of people who say they are possessed by the devil are suffering from mental illness, in some rare cases it considers that an individual has been consumed by evil to the extent that an exorcism is required.
The need for exorcisms is “rare, very rare,” said Rev. Vincenzio Taraborelli, a priest in a church located just several hundred yards from the Vatican. “In cases where a mental illness is apparent, we try to send them to a doctor.”
“People come to me thinking that with an exorcism they can resolve all the problems they have in their lives,” said Don Gianni Sini, a priest in Sardinia. “A child is doing badly in school? With an exorcism we can make him study. They see exorcists as a last resort. Out of 100 people that I receive, there will be one who has need of me as an exorcist.”
During an exorcism, the priest invokes the name of God and the Archangel Michael, asking them to cast out a person’s demons.
Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian and archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, told La Repubblica that the Church teaches that evil exists and that it can overcome someone and take possession of a person in extreme cases.
“God has the power to beat his adversary, but Satan never ceases to work,” Forte said. “There are people who experiment with subjection to the Devil, even a state of diabolical possession, for which the help of an exorcist can be necessary.”
In the United States, the rites of exorcism took center stage when the state of Illinois passed a law permitting same-sex “marriage” in November.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois performed a minor exorcism at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed the bill into law.
In his homily, Paprocki quoted Pope Francis who, as cardinal of Buenos Aires, said that same-sex “marriage” legislation was a “move of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Paprocki discussed the differences between the various rites of exorcism with the National Catholic Register:
There are different kinds of exorcism. This was a service of supplication, in regard to particular circumstances. In a major exorcism, it is about a possession of a person by the devil. This was about the persecution of the Church. The civil government was adopting the redefinition of marriage, citing Pope Francis, twisting his words and using Scripture…The exorcism was done in a public way because the redefinition of marriage was done in a public way…Our popular understanding of exorcism is sensational and from Hollywood.
Paprocki’s decision to perform the exorcism had a far-reaching impact in his diocese. He said battle against the devil has been an essential part of his pastoral ministry, as evidenced by the fact that the bishop distributed 50,000 prayer cards printed with the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at his inaugural Mass in 2010:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
In addition, Paprocki has a devotion to St. Raphael, the archangel in the Book of Tobit who heals Tobias and Sarah’s marriage and exorcises a demon.
Regarding the controversy that followed his exorcism, Paprocki said it was not unexpected.
“When you call out the devil, demons would cry out,” he said.