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The Rite. Is Exorcism really necessary. Background to the Book and Movie 'The Rite'

By:Richard Rowley
Date: Mon,21 Mar 2011
Submitter:Richard Rowley - reviewer

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Is Spirit Rescue and Release enough, or do we need the rituals of Depossession and Exorcism ? - review of a CBC programme.

“Do you believe in the Devil?” was the question put on CBC’s Sunday Morning Television News Show on May 4th, 2008. It was quite an interesting feature, and has relevance for Spiritualists, mediums, psychiatrists, therapists and other practitioners I think, in relation to our spirit rescue and release work. We may not use the same terms, or have identical beliefs, but we are dealing with the same spirits, entities and energies, whatever we may call them. In fact, members of the Spirit Release Foundation debated this very topic at their AGM in June of 2008: "This house believes in the existence of a conscious force of evil that permeates the world and manifests itself through, demons, devils and dark force entities." The result of the debate as almost a 50:50 split amongst the psychiatrist and therapists, one half the house believing in the devil and demons, the other half believing that the devil and demons are mythical creatures, personifiactions of human misconduct and to be treated individually in rescue work, and not as an evil power intent on opposing the will of God, and so needing exorcism and sending into eternal damnation. We would assume that this means that trying to exorcise the devil or a demon brings into play the whole Manichean Dualist philosophy, which probably creates more problems than it solves. If God or the Supreme Spirit cannot control his own creations, we are indeed in trouble !

Readers are recommended to read Matt Baglio's book as well as seeing the film "The Rite" and then make up their own mind, after also taking a look at some of our ""Rescue Circles" articles in the Spiritualism section here.

First of all I will present the notes I took while I was watching the show, adding my comments [within square brackets] as I go along. In my next post I will forward the comments from viewers of the show which make interesting and illuminating reading. No conclusion is reached on the programme, which merely presents opposing viewpoint. I personally am not a Dualist, and do not believe in the Devil, or Satan, and demons, though I do believe people can be obsessed or possessed by very negative, evil spirits, entities and energies. I have met victims of possession, some beyond hope, who committed suicide, and others who recovered, and also the victims of various addictions, some of whom succumbed to illnesses resulting from their addictions. Richard.

The Hosts are Carole MacNeil and Evan Solomon.

Evan: I could never watch “The Omen” or “The Exorcist” because of that dark, scary side to exorcism..

Carole: “The Exorcist” is really responsible for the impression we have. The Chief Exorcist of the Vatican told me that that movie was very realistic.

Evan: That’s really comforting! But the point is, it’s not just Hollywood. There IS as you discovered a whole theological history ongoing here.

Carole: That’s not unique to the Catholic church, so let’s get to the story and let’s start by asking you a question at home. “Do you believe in the Devil?” Well, the Roman Catholic church certainly believes and what’s more, the Pope believes in diabolical possession: that the Devil can actually get inside of you and control you. That’s why the Vatican says that ideally it would like to have an exorcist in every diocese. Today (May 4th, 2008) on CBC Sunday meet a Toronto woman who believes she was possessed. Meet the priest who she believes helped deliver her from evil and meet the Chief Exorcist for the Vatican itself who says the whole world is at risk. [“Twilight Zone” music in the background here. This music, or chants and prayers from church rituals continues spasmodically throughout the rest of the programme].

Toronto woman (in silhouette): For weeks I saw a black image of an animal inside me from my head down to my waist with long ears, my eyes moving back and forth – it was not MY eyes. I kept on moving forward through it all and I thank God every day because I thought I was going to die.

Carole: The woman in the shadows believed she was possessed by a demon. She also believed she was saved [monks chanting on the soundtrack] by no less than God Himself through a Roman Catholic ritual called exorcism.

Vatican’s Chief Exorcist: Exorcism is a series of prayers that commands the demon to leave the person that is possessed

Carole: 82-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth is the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. Here in Rome he performs exorcisms full-time seven days a week. He says he’s performed 70 thousand of them in his lifetime, many of them here in his small, nondescript office.
[to Father Gabriele] Have you conversed with the Devil or the demons when you perform the exorcism?

Father Gabriele: Always whenever someone is possessed by the Devil I speak to the Devil. It’s very important to speak to him because he’s a liar. By the name of Jesus he is forced to tell the truth. The first question you usually ask the Devil is “What is your name?” Then you ask him why he possessed this person. Usually it is to prevent the person from getting married, or to prevent the person from getting a job. There’s always a specific reason why the Devil possesses someone.

[Spooky music]

Carole: But how does an exorcist know when a person is possessed? Here’s what an exorcist looks for: 1) The possessed may have the ability to speak foreign or ancient languages of which the possessed have no prior knowledge. [namely, xenoglossy, which is a common occurrence with trance mediums, and in that case, has nothing to do with demonic possession]
2) They could have supernatural abilities and strengths [which is common with physical mediums, and again, not possession]
3) Or have knowledge of remote or hidden things which the possessed has no way of knowing [the mediumistic abilities of clairvoyance, remote viewing and psychometry]
4) And of course, an aversion to anything holy [a low-level spirit, accustomed to living in the gloom of the lower spiritual regions, encountered by a rescue medium here on earth is commonly blinded or distressed by the light or brightness of the aura of more enlightened beings].
[5) Other signs of possession could include poltergeist activity, levitation, foul language and foul odours, and drops in temperature] .
Carole: [to Father Gabriele] Could you show us, if you have some time, how you would perform an exorcism here in this room? {She offers herself as a candidate].

Father Gabriele: Yes. I ask a person to sit down. This is the stole of repentance [wrapping it around her shoulders].

Carole: He kissed the cross and then asks me to do the same. Father Gabriele Amorth blesses me and then sprinkles holy water on me.

Father Gabriele: Then I start my prayers.

Carole: These are special prayers, designed for exorcism. One of the main ones is called “St. Michael’s Chaplet” named for the ultimate exorcist, St. Michael the Archangel, who cast Satan himself out of Heaven.

Father Gabriele: The existence of the Devil is one of the truths that cannot be scientifically demonstrated. These truths are revealed by God. The activity of the devil has increased because people no longer pray. They do not take sacraments and they turn to the occult. They go to fortune tellers and witches. Just think of children simply reading a book such as Harry Potter, which is a book I fought against because I think it helps children to turn towards Satanic sects.

[Cut to Toronto priest,] Father Scott Lewis: Harry Potter! I’m sorry. I’ve read the books and seen the movies. I see nothing wrong with it.

Carole: Father Scott Lewis is a Jesuit priest who specialises in the New Testament.

Father Scott: One of the abuses of the interest in exorcism is to use it as a club or stick to make certain moral points, as you say, living without the benefits of marriage, reading Harry Potter books. It becomes like a grocery shopping list of all the things that the conservative elements of our church are violently against.

Carole: What’s your view then when you hear what seems to be the promotion of the idea of the necessity for having an exorcist in every diocese?

Father Scott: I’m distressed. I think it is a step backward. It is a step backward into a very dualistic world-view where everything is black and white, good or evil, where the earth is a battleground between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and we of course are on the side of light, and those people over there are on the side of darkness.

Carole: Nearly every major religion in the world believes in demonic possession, but until recently the Catholic Church has downplayed the need for exorcism. In fact many churches don’t even have a designated exorcist. That’s because many don’t believe they actually need one.

Father Gabriele: It is the bishops’ fault. I have always fought against their ignorance because they are responsible for appointing exorcists in their dioceses and if they don’t do so because they don’t believe in these things or some other personal reason, well, it’s still their fault.

Father Scott: [laughing] Well, always in the churches it’s the bishops’ fault. The world is the folks’ fault! We are the successors of the apostles. It’s our mission to guide the church and it’s our mission to discern.

Carole: [to Archbishop Collins] Do you believe in diabolical possession?

Archbishop Collins: Yes, it’s real. It’s rare, but it’s real.

Carole: Archbishop Collins became head of the Toronto archdiocese about a year ago with 1.7 million Catholics. This is the biggest English-speaking diocese in Canada. [to the Archbishop] So will you follow the Vatican’s guidelines and appoint an exorcist?

Archbishop Collins: I might do that, have somebody sent away to study and look at it, or have someone ready for that. I think that makes good sense.

Carole: Perhaps the urgency isn’t there because the demand doesn’t appear to be all that high here. After all, there are no records of exorcisms ever having been performed in the diocese of Toronto. But as we discovered, records and realities can often be two different things.

[cut to the Toronto woman in the shadow, with the sound of the Vatican priest performing an exorcism in the background “By the Divine Power cast into Hell Satan and all evil spirits”]

Toronto woman: [in a tremulous voice] I was so afraid and I didn’t know what to do or where to go.

Carole: She believes the Toronto priest delivered her from evil and saved her

Toronto Woman: I don’t know how this demon took over me and came into me. I can hear his voice in my mind. It just scared me like you wouldn’t believe. I just didn’t know what to do and as days went on it formed into evil black emptiness from my waist up. It’s like a gremlin. It was long-eared. I was seeing eyes moving back and forth. I could not feel my own eyes. I felt like it was possessing my body, not only my mind.

Carole: The woman in the shadows has actually gone through an exorcism here in Toronto. We agreed not to show her face. She says she first started having symptoms of possession about a year and a half ago.

Toronto woman: I didn’t know what to do so I went to the doctor’s and the doctor told me to go for MRI, CT scan. He said it was no form of schizophrenia. It was no form of depression. It was something I did not know how to explain. No signs of anything physical or mental. It was unexplainable.

Carole: Unexplainable until a family friend put her in touch with Father Carlos Tibon. He is from Colombia. As a Catholic missionary, he’s worked in many Latin American and African countries. He came to Toronto in 2003 and became the priest in Toronto’s notoriously gang-ridden Finch and Kipling area.

Father Carlos: I believe in my ministry and around here I have seen many people suffering from oppression, obsession, subjugation and curses.

Woman: I was being controlled.

Carole: In fact, the woman WE interviewed believed SHE was victim of a curse by a person jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend.

Father Gabriele: [in the background] May God in his great love and mercy for you, give you peace in mind and heart.

Woman: Father Carlos helped me very much [in a fearful, timid voice] through spiritual prayers, through spiritual healing, he performed an exorcism that helped me, taking away all the evil that people have done through curses, through all evil things and wishing upon me through their jealousy of me, not to prosper in life.

Carole: A lot of people believe that another person can put a curse on you. [to Father Scott] You are having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Father Scott: I have been asked by people who are very well-educated, who don’t go to church and don’t think that it is fun and they say “by the way, Father, can you put me in touch with a good exorcist?” “Well, why?” “Because someone’s put a curse on me!” I can’t put the two together. On the one hand, rejecting sane religion, and then buying into the idea of someone putting a curse on them. Curses are real in the sense that if you DO believe in them, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you tell a person who lives in a culture that firmly believes in spells and curses and so forth, that someone has put a spell on them, they will wither away and die. So, in that sense, it IS real. But as far as its being an outside power, I really don’t think that it is.

[Tolling bells and spooky music]

Father Gabriele [in Rome]: St. Michael the Archangel defend us and give us protection against the work of the Devil. May God
restrain him by the Divine Power and cast into Hell Satan and all other evil spirits.

Toronto woman: Father Carlos sat me in a chair and he made me close my eyes and he poured salt all over me in front of a saint and he was tapping me on the shoulders and head and over my eyes, saying spiritual prayers and as he was saying it, the rocking in my body stopped. The shaking in my body stopped. I felt negative thoughts going. I felt the Lord within me.

Father Gabriele [in Rome]: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, please be gone. Peace be with you.

Carole: What's your spiritual experience actually, performing an exorcism. What is it like for you.

Father Gabriele: The more you work with this, the more you realise that it is not you. It is God, alone, and you feel your own poverty and misery when you are doing this, because no human being per se can do that. We do it because we believe firmly in that power.

Woman in Toronto: I'm still healing. It's a healing process that was part of the exorcism process to take it away and as time went on I felt better and I felt like evilness was pulling away from me.

Carole: Father Lewis, what about the people who've gone through exorcism and feel like something left their body, feel that their depression has lifted, feel like it's done something for them.

Father Scott Lewis: Well, I've no doubt that they feel that way and if you look upon the persons I've mentioned as being afflicted, I think that it's important they they be prayed for. Prayed WITH and prayed FOR and
that if you can somehow objectify or personify all of their own negative emotion and energies and through prayer expel it and say goodbye to it, all the better. But to say that it is Satan within them is another story.

Carole: Do you believe in the Devil?

Father Scott: I do believe in the Devil, yes. I do think there does exist a negative power opposed to God, but I do not see the Devil under my bed and behind every tree and bush, and I don't think that every mistake people make or things that go wrong in their life or crimes they commit - I don't see those as the work of the Devil. I don't think we really need [the idea of or belief in] the Devil. We do a good job of oppressing and butchering one another without the Devil and to say it's the Devil gets us off the hook and I don't think we deserve to be off the hook on that account.

Father Gabriele in Rome: In truth it has been said many times that the most important victory for the Devil is having people believe that he doesn't exist because if you do not believe in the existence of the Devil, then he's free to attack people. But with the means suggested by the Gospel, such as prayer and the sacraments, you can defend yourself against the attacks of the Devil, who then can't do us any harm. [He says a closing prayer] May the Lord be with you. From the snares of the Devil deliver us all.

Carole [back in the studio]: We thank all those for being willing to take part and share their stories.

Evan: One of things revealed is the split within the church - the rather conservative forces on the one hand - you talked with the Vatican's Chief Exorcist. He'd like to appoint an exorcist in every diocese. What's the current status? Of course, the story you had in Toronto wasn't about an official exorcist.

Carole: No, because he's a missionary. A missionary doesn't want to be the official exorcist. Every priest potentially can do it, but to be the official exorcist, you have to study, do certain thins, you have to be a priest's priest.

Evan: Are there any now in Canada?

Carole: There are now 2. A few weeks ago the Diocese of Ottawa appointed 2. One for French and one for English. However their names are being kept private and they are not telling anybody and the dioceses are not telling anyone who they are.

Evan: When you asked Father Lewis, the Jesuit priest, "Do you believe in the Devil?" - now, here's a guy that was smirking at people who believe the notion. He couldn't keep a straight face when you talked about possession. So how do you believe in the existence of a devil, even if you talk about a negative force on one hand, and then,----- what are the limits of it? Either you believe in it or you don't!

Carole: You are talking about something where some people would believe in the Devil as metaphorical, a metaphor for the conflict with ourselves, between our own good and what we deem evil, sometimes what we call our own demons. So I don't know exactly what you're asksing.

Evan: It's just that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. I don't know if it's something inside, or an outside force or not. What is it?

Carole: You were saying on the one hand, how can you believe in the Devil and then on the other, as he was saying, he went on to explain that he believes it is negative energy. What's the problem with that?

Evan: When you say there are forces working against God, you open up the door to the exact thing he was smirking at. That's the difficult point.

Carole: I don't think that's it. The overall point that he was making and the others in the Church is that in the history of exorcism, a long time ago exorcism was used when we know today it was mental illness, that people were suffering from. So as we know more about psychology, and know more about how the mind, body and spirit work, what place is there for exorcism in today's society with what we know? What's interesting is that the psychiatric community has diverse opinions about this. Jennifer Green for the Ottawa Citizen did a great piece focussing on exactly that in April when the two exorcists were appointed, and there's an Ottawa psychiatrist who believes in healing prayer which is ultimately what exorcism is. There's another psychiatrist in Ottawa who believes the opposite, that exorcism is very dangerous and the potential for misdiagnosing someone who is suffering from what used to be called split personality disorder {MPD, now DID] is
very high and a very great concern. This is what people are grappling with within the church.

Evan: And will continue to grapple with. [Time's up]. We'd love to hear from you. Please send us your emails, in answer to the question "Do you believe in the Devil?"

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