According to the Church, exorcism isn’t a distraction from the real issues. It is one.

Exorcism as a Relic of the Past

This final misconception about exorcism is one that threatens to undermine the ministry not only from the outside, but also from within. Many—some priests included—feel that the ministry of exorcism is an embarrassment to the church, and that it’s simply a relic of the past that has no real relevance in our fact-driven, science-studied world.

Exorcism isn’t as backward as some might assume. This isn’t a case of a churchgoer being caught doing something sinful and being bundled away into a little room and forcibly prayed over.

But exorcists are very careful—almost scientific—in how they practice their role. Demonic possession, an exorcist will tell you, is exceedingly rare, and most strange occurrences and mental disturbances are not due to supernatural attack.

Before ever uttering a word of the Rite of Exorcism, an exorcist will thoroughly interview a client, send a him or her to a psychiatrist, and then to a medical doctor. It is only when all other naturalistic possibilities are ruled out that exorcism becomes an option.

“I think what’s fair to say,” says Fr. Thomas,” I get lots of desperate people, and they’re suffering, every one of them suffering, and it’s a matter of what’s the cause of the suffering. That’s my role—what’s the root cause of their suffering? It’s not like giving them the penicillin shot in the ER because you know that’s going to make them feel better. I get lots of requests for exorcism. I say that I don’t do them on demand. It doesn’t work that way.”

So, no—the ministry of exorcism isn’t based on archaic notions of reality. Exorcists are there to heal when all natural remedies are exhausted, to help the oppressed and the afflicted when their suffering cannot be explained by any means.

And they do. Many testify to the healing power of exorcism. No matter what you feel about the existence of demons, there is little to criticize in that.

Spiritual Healing

The ministry of exorcism isn’t about sensationalism, diverting attention away from key issues, or about meaningless rituals. It’s about helping people, and if you ask any of the many people who have been helped, it’s an effective one. In the Christian Bible, Christ, Himself, performed exorcisms in order to both show the power of God, as well as to heal, doing so out of love. Exorcists seek to follow His example.

But still, we fear the unknown. It’s a part of the human makeup. And because the ministry of exorcism works at the very fringes of our understanding of reality, it arouses a natural suspicion.

Some even open deride the ministry, but as one prominent exorcist told The Guardian, “If you downplay it and make fun of it, you can convince yourself more and more that evil is not real.”

Don’t let fear keep you in the darkness of ignorance.

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