Exorcisms Are On The Rise: Priests Point To Growing Fascination With The Occult
Ouija board séances, marathon-watching “Long Island Medium” and reading witchcraft books may be common teenage obsessions, but for one mother this was a cause for concern — and for the Catholic Church, it may be the source of a growth industry in exorcisms.
Last week, in an advice column in the online Catholic magazine Crux, an anonymous mother asked whether her child’s occult interests could lead to “black lipstick and Satan worship” in the future.
Whoever this young girl is, she is not alone. Films like the recent blockbuster hit “Ouija,” ghost-hunting “reality” TV shows and even the Harry Potter books have made magic mainstream. While the advice columnist told the mother that her daughter’s activities are most likely harmless, Catholic exorcists see the situation differently.
“There has been a greater demand for people to call and talk to exorcists,” Father Vince Lampert, an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told International Business Times. He is one of 50 Vatican-trained exorcists in the U.S. “From a faith perspective it may seem like the devil has upped his game, so to speak. I don’t think the devil has upped his game, but more people are inclined to play that game.”
Lampert’s words echo throughout the exorcism world. In late October, the International Association of Exorcists held a conference on the impact of the occult and Satanism. Valter Cascioli, a spokesman for the 300-member organization, warned of an “extraordinary increase in demonic activity,” citing how Satanic groups are “constantly increasing.”
For exorcists, this means their jobs are in high demand. While Hollywood has depicted the rite as a terrifying experience, where the possessed do everything from spinning their heads around to levitating, Catholic exorcists say demonic activity comes in many forms. Besides full demonic possession (as in the film “The Exorcist”), evil can penetrate homes and exist in people in lesser forms known as “vexation” and “obsession.” Vexation usually takes place when someone has been cursed by black magic. This can manifest as physical attacks on a person. Obsession can be seen as evil spirits causing inner torment and anxiety, more of a mental than a physical attack.
“Demonic possession is a possibility. It could happen but it’s extremely rare,” said Lampert, adding that he has seen “full-blown demonic possession” in his diocese once every three to four years.
For the most part, “vexation” and “obsession” don’t necessarily call for an exorcism. Usually the exorcist can counsel the affected person. Exorcists say these kinds of relationships with evil spirits usually take place when a person has turned away from God in some way. This can include everything from not praying to getting a tarot-card reading. There’s also “infestation,” a form of demonic presence in a physical site, which involves a visit by the priest to someone’s home or place of business, discerning whether there is a demonic presence, and praying at the site to remove the evil spirit.