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November 12th, 2010
07:17 PM ET

Catholic clergy confer on exorcism rite

By CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi

A group of Catholic bishops and priests are gathering in Baltimore, Maryland, on Friday and Saturday to examine what Scripture and canon law have to say about exorcism.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, spoke with CNN during a break in the Friday session to explain why the clergymen are meeting about this titillating, yet rare, rite in the Catholic tradition.

"It's an effort to try and provide some pastoral training for bishops and priests, to try and provide a pastoral response with people who may or may not be having demonic activity," he said. "The reality is there really have not been regular courses, or even a class, on how to do [exorcisms] because it is a rare thing. The work of the devil possessing someone is a rare thing. It's not part of the daily practices of a priest."

According to canon law, the governing structure of the Catholic Church, any priest, because of his ordination, has the power to perform an exorcism, Paprocki said. But, he said, "Canon law states he needs the permission of his bishop before he can perform an exorcism."

And therein lies the reason for the conference.

Bishops and priests have to be sharp on rules of this rarely used rite. Both are gathering in Baltimore for the annual U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And with so many coming from across the country, it seemed to be a natural fit for the workshop on exorcism.

Paprocki heads the Committee for Canonical Affairs and Church Governance for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was one of the organizers for the gathering on exorcism.

During the conference, the group will look at what the Bible says, paying careful attention to how Jesus responded to evil spirits or demons in the New Testament. During the Friday morning session, Paprocki said, they examined the Gospel of Mark. He said one of the first things Jesus did in his public ministry was cast out demons, and it was the demons that first identified Jesus as the Messiah in Mark.

Among the speakers is Cardinal Daniel DiNardo from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, who will speak about Jesus confronting evil in the Bible, according to his representative. The attendees will also examine the study of angels and demons. From there, Paprocki said, they will move to the practical ways Catholic clergy should respond to requests for exorcisms.

"We use the principle that we have to exclude all natural explanations before we go to the supernatural explanation," he said. This includes having the person requesting the exorcism see a doctor and a psychologist.

"A lot of people experiencing what they think is possession just aren't taking their medicine," he said. Because of this, he said, priests and bishops need to use a great deal of pastoral discernment. "Is it a mental disease that can be diagnosed, or is it demonic activity, or even is the event both?"

Before becoming the bishop of Springfield in June, Paprocki was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Illinois. In that position, he dealt with the administrative side of exorcisms. When a request came into the diocese, his office received them. "I was the first portal to these inquiries," he said.

In his 25-plus years in ministry, he has never seen an exorcism and said demonic possession is rare and extraordinary. In his time processing the administrative requests, he said, "I'm not aware of a formal exorcism while I was there." But he said there has been an increase in requests since he left and the Archdiocese of Chicago has since appointed an exorcist.

"This is an element of our pastoral care for people. If possession is extraordinary and the use of the exorcism is the extraordinary response, then the daily work of the devil is temptation. Very few people are possessed, but everyone gets tempted," he said. The fix for temptation, he said, is not exorcism but rather participation in church resources such as Mass, Communion and confession.

As for the conference, he is not surprised by the attention it has received. "It shouldn't be unusual for us as clergy to be talking about the devil," he said.  "People kind of look at you funny when you talk about it in public." But he said that even while talking about the devil and exorcism may be a small and rare part of the Catholic tradition, "Yes, I believe it's a regular part of our faith."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Mass • Pastors

soundoff (528 Responses)
  1. John

    Zen

    November 13, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  2. hotchathbabe

    I have had an exorcism. Yes I am telling the truth. The devil is real, spirits of oppression, seduction, anger, lust etc. are in people . After 25 years of therapy,..I new this was possesion. Its very hard to be approved of by the Catholic Cannonical office in the archdiocese....My therapist is a Christian Doctor, a Christian Psychologist, he knew the root of my problems were not just organic but spiritual in nature, i agreed with him, i have been feeling this way for a very long time. To be approved takes months, there is a fine line between a mental illness or emotional illness and demonic possession...and that is what the cannonical office does. I called Father Peter Rookey who has prayed over thousands of people, he prayed with me and I knew something was coming out of me. For the last 20 years i have been going to Mass almost daily, confession regulary and Adoration alot..............with my faith , and leaving it in gods hands and the priests who knew of my case, I was granted an exorcism. It is not frighting but freeing, it took 5 hours or longer, there were 3 priests, a number of very holy healing prayer teams and the Rite was administerd to me...somethings came out of me demonic spirits........I am free now , joyful, not oppressed, my mind loves god and I am Happy to love Jesus and get to know him more and more each day.......I have had a follow up with the team after 4 months and they prayed over me again......I think exorcisms should be a big part of annointing of the sick for catholic people...especially in this crazy culture we are in. people are sinning , the world has gone mad and people are suffering..there are spirits out there who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of your soul...more now today then ever .....there are alot of people who truly have demonic spirits clinging on to them . we spend thousands of dollars on therapy that can sometimes not work...........remember everyone, your emotional illness can be a spiritual warfare clinging on to you.......you need to go back to Mass talk to the good priests that are out there, go to adoration and god will reveal to you if you are oppressed and possessed and open the doors for you to be prayed over and have the catholic rite of exorcism...it is real and needed.............A freed soul.

    November 13, 2010 at 12:42 am |
    • Peace2All

      @hotchathbabe

      Glad to hear that this 'model' seems to have worked for you.

      Peace...

      November 13, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • David Johnson

      @hotchathbabe

      You are so right about those demons! In my church, Sister Betty got this thing on her neck. Ugliest thing I ever did see. It looked like a conjoined twin. Brother George swore the thing snarled at him, but George drinks a little.

      Well, my preacher knew just what to do. He had his wife boil some tap water, to make it holy water. He then began to splash that on Sister Betty! At first she yelled and screamed, but after we let the water cool down, she quieted.

      Sister Betty went to the dermatologist. He removed the demon (our exorcism had made it very weak), and bandaged up her neck.

      The following Sunday, the preacher unbandaged Sister Betty in front of the entire congregation. Oh what a miracle Jesus had worked! Just a tiny scar remained. Yes sir, we have a god in the Bible Belt!

      That collection plate was never fuller than that Sunday! Jesus had revealed himself! Well...not like brother George did at our Christmas party. Jesus didn't expose himself.

      You will never convince me, after seeing this miracle, that god does not exist!

      You non-believers, all you have to do is accept! Don't think! You to, will see the face of god!

      You must baaahlieve!

      Your brother in Christ – Cheers!

      November 13, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  3. tony

    On of the most outrageously offensive and downright wicked freeway billboards ever, is located about 30 miles South of San Jose, Ca, on highway 101. It says "School. I need to be there. God". Appropriately, it is on a black background. Presumably so has it's author.

    November 13, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  4. Ricefarmer

    I never paid the priest that did my exorcism.... I ended up getting repocessed.

    November 13, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Ricefarmer

      Now that is an oldie but goodie exorcism joke. Haven't heard that one in awhile. 🙂

      Peace...

      November 13, 2010 at 2:32 am |
  5. Seriously?

    They are really have a conference on exorcism? Come on. Where are the unicorns?

    November 13, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  6. Reality

    John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed." J. Somerville

    It is very disturbing that such religious falsehoods, violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  7. JesusFreak

    The downfall of Christianity has always been, and will continue to be organized religion. The message of Jesus Christ is quite simple – and it frustrates me to no end when a religious organization/priest/bishop/pastor uses their position of authority for purposes other than spreading the message of Jesus. Then again, they are all, as we all are, only human – "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23),....."There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10)...that includes the Pope. I feel sad for those of you on this blog who go to great lengths to espouse your disbelief in God. Sad because God speaks of your kind..."He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). I have, and will continue to pray for non-believers like the ones I read about here. May God open your heart and mind so that you may see the truth of His word.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • tony

      Go figure why, in Exodus, an all-powerful God has to hide the Israelites from the Egyptian Soldiers, the night before he parts the Red Sea, yet the next day he can easily and happily kill them all.

      November 13, 2010 at 12:12 am |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians From the Big Resurrection Con:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now even Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology grad school notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      The single Step continued:

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      So where are the bones? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus very possibly would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      o

      November 13, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • JesusFreak

      Like I said, I have, and will continue to pray for non-believers like the ones I read about here.

      November 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
  8. Reality

    Time for Hick!!!

    "John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed

    It is very disturbing that such religious falsehoods, violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  9. rafael

    "have to exclude all natural explanations before we go to the supernatural explanation"
    I appreciate the rationality of the first part, but how exactly would they achieve it? How can one prove a negative?

    November 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  10. Kaballah

    I Am the I Am

    November 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  11. tony

    Born again Atheists like myself, post on lists such as these in an attempt to inject some sanity into community life, reduce the amount of unsolicited (and evil if you like to think in those terms) grooming of young children into religious belief, and to slightly counteract the constant pounding of irrational religious belief transmitted unasked, through most aspects of the media.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
    • SourceAK

      So you think you're a type of profit huh? Spreading the word. Telling people what you believe to be true is true because they are ignorant and blind to the "truth". Great. Just what everyone needs. Keep up the good work.

      November 14, 2010 at 2:53 am |
    • Harrison

      where did we come from? not just me, not my parents, but the first living thing on the first universe. where? you cannot create matter out of anything, that a scientific law, so where did the first thing come from? That is why i believe in God, and that is why i will raise a Christian family and invite my friends to church.

      November 14, 2010 at 4:02 am |
  12. Chip

    LOL. Oh religion... it'd be cute if it wasn't so destructive.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  13. Buddha

    As long as they aren't hurting anyone and the people wanting the exorcism are given a psyc evaluation before hand I say go ahead. Its not my business if a person wants that kind of help as long as they keep it private and are made sure they aren't mentally ill.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • rafael

      Oh, but very little belief these days remains private. Christians want to impose their beliefs on this secular society no less than muslims want to do the same elsewhere. The irony is that they cannot see this in their own mirrors.

      November 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      My feeling, is if there is demonic possession out there it should be studied by science, and there should be a board of licensed medical people to check these cases out. Since this hasn't been done, promoting and rubber stamping exorcism could do more harm than good. I agree if someone is a consenting adult, it is up to them however, but I won't call it exorcism until it is scientifically studied and proven to be so.

      November 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Attempted exorcism ends in man’s death"
      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20027027/

      "Crucified 'exorcism' nun buried"
      news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4112568[dot]stm

      November 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  14. Dario

    I was having a discussion with my future wife about weather to baptize our children (if we decide to have some), Me being an atheist and her being raised Catholic, but starting to doubt a lot of things she was told, by using common sense/reasoning.
    Anyways, the point is: Why on earth would you impose your beliefs onto a baby? When he will be old enough to think and elaborate for himself, he will make the conscious decision to either embrace or disregard religion.
    If someone is not old enough to drive a car, drink alcohol, or be mature enough to make the right choices in life, then how could he make a choice about what to believe in? He couldn't. And that's what many are not grasping. Of course if you brainwash someone into believing what you believe since he is too little to understand/dispute anything he/she is told, than he/she will grow believing what you feed them. But is that right? I don't think so. Jesus was baptized in his 30's...
    Probably someone who grows up free of indoctrination will be atheist. But at least it will be out of freedom and respect. And not an imposition. I was raised Catholic. Baptized, communion, the whole nine yards... You can imaging, being born and raised in Rome. I was traumatized by stories of Devil, Hell, Damnation, and I was shown a movie in elementary school that terrified me. I spent most part of my childhood, being scared, or feeling guilty for things that were completely normal. Now that I am old enough, I consider this abuse. In retrospect, I would have rather have the option to grow up free of all these bad feelings, and allowed to make my choice when I would be old enough. I will make sure, I won;t make the same mistake with my Kids...
    Just my 0.2 cents... please forgive any errors in syntax or form. I'm Italian, and English is not my first language.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
    • Know What

      Dario,

      You have an excellent command of the English language you make excellent sense. Bravo!

      November 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • tony

      UK Sunday School screwed up my formative years and much of my early adult life too. Looking back I cannot believe the teachers actually also believed the incredible rubbish they fed us children.

      November 13, 2010 at 12:00 am |
    • Mr. Logic

      First off...good luck with your marriage.
      "Why on earth would you impose your beliefs onto a baby? When he will be old enough to think and elaborate for himself, he will make the conscious decision to either embrace or disregard religion."
      How ignorant we are....are you not getting "married"? Is this not something that had been pushed on you by society and you are happily following like the religious lemmings you condemn?
      Reality is we know and learn what is feed to us by the news, government, parents, friends, books....
      If someone ever has an original thought or idea let me know...otherwise join the rest of the lemmings, I think they are heading to the cliff.

      November 13, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • Dave

      You should have a discussion about grammar and spelling...

      November 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  15. Angelica

    Ortizimo...you think they proved the Big Bang or that it makes scientific sense? All the matter in the universe expanding rapidly from an infinitely small space? What triggered that? And how does that scientific theory even make sense?

    21k, your holocaust statement doesn't make sense. If God is a loving being, then clearly he isn't going to induce someone to death, even if it means that person's going to be an idiot and try to kill a bunch of people later in life. That is not how God operates. Furthermore, we are at a stalemate, because even though you think we are afraid to admit we're wrong, we can't. Because we believe we aren't. Just as you do.
    A belief in God is not something you question once you do. You love God like you love your parents, or your child, or your grandfather, or your wife or husband. God isn't someone you fear and believe in for fear of punishment, he's someone who's there for you through your own life's trials, helping you in times of need like a family member would. Not that this matters, because you're set in your ways. I just want you to understand that there is reasoning behind theistic belief.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
    • tony

      All the Biblical stories are starkly and explicitly about a particularly violent and racist beast of a god. The Devil in disguise would be a better description.

      November 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • rafael

      It makes sense because the evidence (of an expanding universe) supports it. Just because you cannot grasp it, given your limited knowledge and training, doesn't mean it's not true.

      November 13, 2010 at 12:00 am |
    • Sum Dude

      @Angelica

      If God is not going to induce someone to death, then he is not going to induce someone to life, either. Not when they are so intermixed.
      So maybe that's why prayers don't work.
      By attempting to correlate the concept of God with what is essentially random events even at the quantum scale, you reduce God to mere coincidental happenstance. And that certainly pans out as far as that goes.....!

      Thanks for helping to prove that most religions are based on delusional thinking. Your delusions cannot help but be revealed.

      November 13, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Sum Dude

      Or, maybe prayer doesn't work simply because there is no god. It would tend to explain a lot.

      Sorry for interrupting.

      Cheers!

      November 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      You are likely correct about there being no God(s), but what if there was a God that never used prayer, never contacted the human race or created the universe? Eh? 😀
      Define your terms, yes or no? But you are just teasing me again. I was coming in at an oblique angle to poke the fundies in a new place...there are so many targets to choose from! Truly, we are blessed with an abundance of fundies!
      *all hail CNN!* 😛

      November 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  16. ortizimo

    Damn that was great. I completely forgot about those. Either way, I'm sure they use a 20 side dice to decide. I'm a 20 paladin with 3 charisma though.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • FuzzyNutz

      lol

      November 13, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  17. SierraHennessy

    You think they'll be looking at Qabalistical Magic and its related roots to Hebrew and Christian traditions as according to demonic possession and casting out? Be curious to know if the Church still uses the Goetha or the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
    • thorrsman

      Research it.

      November 12, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  18. ortizimo

    Reality, I wish it was that easy but the basic human nature of oppressing those who are weak come into effect here (i.e. Priest v children). Its easy to convince and manipulate those who are ignorant based on education and inexperience than an adult and still there are exceptions as when an adult hurts due to the passing of a loved one or because of a disease (i.e. depression) make them also an easy target of these type of people that only want satisfaction to what ever they're looking for by hurting others.

    November 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • ortizimo

      OMG.. this ortizimo is a genius! and also handsome...(((whispering))) i love you!

      November 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • ortizimo

      yes he is! and he makes a lot of sense too! we should worship him!!! Allah is great! 70 virgins! etc. etc. etc.

      November 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • Katie

      @ortizimo: LOL, on your replies to your own post!

      November 13, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  19. littledevil

    Stupid christians and catholic still believe this scam. The world would be better off without GULLIBLE worshipers!

    November 12, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • Harrison

      your narrow mindedness is a disgrace. If you want to refuse Christianity, in any form, that's your right. But, do not call me stupid for believing in God. That is just "stupid" of you. I feel like if i have the right mind not to call you a terrible nonbeliever who is going to hell, then you should have the respect not to call me stupid. Its people like you who are shoving atheism out on to public forums like this, fueled by other quick to speak atheists like yourself. If you claim that you are "smart" for not believing, then you should be smart enough not to call millions of people stupid in one general bland completely crazy statement.

      November 14, 2010 at 3:56 am |
  20. BB

    They are having a conference on what the bible says about exorcism. Didn't they have about 2000 years to figure that out? The word of god is coming in loud and "clear".

    November 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.