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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Comments About Demons & Exorcisms

Msgr. Charles Pope recently blogged about pastoral considerations for people who might be battling demons. Some time back I wrote a post detailing an exorcism that was started here in Washington and concluded in St. Louis back in the 1940’s. Here are some recent comments sent to me about the issue of Exorcism, along with my responses:

Kylie – Father Joe, are there really people now-a-days that come in contact with the devil? Do people still have exorcisms preformed upon them? I am very interested in this kind of stuff and would really like to learn more information about it. Nowhere online does it really help me with my research on this. Is it only in the movies? Please contact me.

FATHER JOE:  Kylie, I would suggest that before studying evil, we should be well-versed in goodness. It is only in first knowing God and having a saving relationship with our Lord that one might research such matters with a degree of safety. It is not a subject for casual interest. Movies are often inaccurate and are geared to exaggerate so as to arouse fear. I would start with the Gospels. There you will find the full gamut of Christ’s ministry: teaching, healing, forgiving, exorcizing the demonic and raising the dead. Pick up the Bible.

Martin – I am 15 and want to be an exorcist because it interests me. I hope you reply. I could use the advice of someone with experience. I am lost in this world. I feel like this can help me find my reason to still live in this world.

FATHER JOE:  Martin, You cannot begin to help others when you cannot help yourself. A person who is lost cannot help a person find his or her way out from the grasp of the demonic. Every exorcist in the Catholic Church is a priest. Priests have the power to forgive sins. Never in the history of the world had God given such power to men. However, you must love God and feel that he has called you to a single-hearted love for him and his people. Our purpose in this world is to know God, to love God and to serve God. We will continue to give glory to God in the world to come. Can you give your life to Christ? Say your prayers, go to Mass and study the faith. If you feel at some point that God has given you a calling, see your local Catholic priest.

Edward – To read of the actual experience brings the educational level of one who watches the movie to a height that far dwarfs the power of fear that would otherwise take one further away from faith in God.

FATHER JOE:  Yes, the power of Christ is truly awesome!

Josh – Hi Father Joe, I would just like to ask what role guardian angels play in assisting the exorcism of the person they are charged with, or the protection of the exorcist to whom they are charged?

FATHER JOE:  Joshua, the guardian angels are always about praying for their charges. Of course, the good angels, like their counterparts the demons, are still only spiritual creatures. Their actions are limited by human freedom and the mysterious providence of God. The good angels are messengers of God’s grace, strength and will. Demons still have certain angelic powers but nothing of supernatural grace. That means that any confrontation is spiritually stacked against them. Not all angels or demons are the same, but the real power is always on the side of Christ.

Christian – Hi Father Joe, I believe that exorcisms should be allowed. What other way can they get help? I have never really seen one but I want to experience it. I want to be a help to these people God. Bless Father.

FATHER JOE:  Christian, while there is a need for exorcism to be practiced, you do NOT want to experience it. Such a desire, in itself, would invalidate you. We want to help people. But, in no way is an exorcism a worthwhile experience. Would you like to change the bedpans of patients in a hospital? Could you, hour upon hour, spend your day exclusively changing diapers for the elderly in a nursing home? Is that an experience you want? Exorcisms are far worse. The demons are spiritual excrement. They are vile and they will seek to contaminate you. You mean well but you really do not know what you are saying.

Colleen – Father, my daughter has been suffering from illusions such as people trying to kill her, etc. I have taken her back and forth to hospitals. She has been taken also to prayer warriors. Last night she argued with her boyfriend. Every time she argues, she gets these attacks. Last night was worse as it was dark and raining. She held a knife and wanted to stab anyone who came near her. She was speaking with sounds that I could not understand. The knife she was holding was shaking and her eyes were so red. I have never seen such during her attacks. Please help.

FATHER JOE:  What was the diagnosis given by the doctors? I am no expert on these matters and there is much in particular about this case I do not know. Has medicine been prescribed? If you feel the problem is a spiritual one then I would suggest going to see your local priest. He can pray over her for healing and spiritual deliverance. If this matter is more serious then he can take it to the appropriate diocesan authorities. I am not sure what you mean by “prayer warriors,” as we are all called to be such intercessors for one another. I would avoid anything that smacks of witchcraft or superstition. Such might seem to bring momentary relief but ultimately makes matters far worse. If she is a danger to herself and others then you must take serious steps and notify the authorities. I will keep you all in my prayers.

Charles – Several posters refer to The Rite and Fr. Gary Thomas. Father Gary is in a nearby parish. I attended a prayer breakfast with him and a Catholic group just after The Rite came out. The book ends with two exorcisms, one recurring and routine of an obsessed software engineer, the other of a Venezuelan girl who lived in the (adjacent) Diocese of Oakland (Alameda). The Bishop of Oakland asked for Fr. Gary’s intervention. The Venezuelan girl was totally possessed, he said. She’d been involved in jungle magic in Venezuela, and continued in black magic in the SF Bay area. When he sprinkled holy water on her in the rectory and began to pray, she “manifested.” Her face immediately changed to that of a monkey, she lunged for his collar, was held down on the carpet by her parents, where she writhed like a snake and screamed. Then she passed out. A few minutes later she woke up and had no memory of it. He called her in the following weeks for a full exorcism and she denied anything was wrong with her. He did not hear from her again.

FATHER JOE:  I have neither read the book nor seen the movie.

Edward M – You’re all a bunch a fakes! / You have no files of documentation! / You have no reports or films on camera! / You have no proof whatsoever! / What a bunch of fakers! / God rocks E.

FATHER JOE:  Some authorities do have documentation. I have shared parts of a journal here. But you are entitled to your opinion, even if it includes rudeness.

15 Responses

  1. There is no doubt these are indeed the last days. Look around us and see, feel and experience the evil that lurks in every aspect of our lives. From our schools, to the white house, to our own living rooms. Ungodliness is winning the war of the world and those who seek to live righteous and in god grace are being attacked daily. Those in high places are destined to change the world because of their love and lust for material things. President Obama has sold his soul for the etchelons of power. He can no longer use the name of Jesus, because he has betrayed the lord.

    FATHER JOE: I would hesitate to publicly judge another’s soul. We should pray for our president, yes even if we largely disagree with him on the policies of the day. Christians might indeed be worried about the state of the world. However, we should avoid fatalism and despair. Our Lord promises to be with us, no matter what. We must nurture the gift of hope.

  2. Father, do you know about the exorcist priest that is in the Dioceses of Providence Rhode Island? Also what are the most common demons that one is usually to encounter. I find a common interest in this stuff. I am a high, active member of my church. I would just like to also like to learn about the bad since we are always about good. You get what im trying to say? Please help me out as much as you can. Thanks.

    FATHER JOE: I am not aware of who is delegated for such services in Providence. As for demon types, they sometimes seem to mimic the seven deadly sins. However, I would encourage a preoccupation with virtue, not with vice.

  3. Dear Father Joe,

    My name is Abby, I’m only 14 years old and I’ve been troubled, I’ve been reading and learning how to comprehend the bible. The night after my reading I had a “bad dream” I haven’t read since. I’ve been praying and trying to figure out what to believe. Lately my parents have told me that they hear voices in my room and knocks in the walls, just recently they said they heard me asking for my cat. If you could please E-mail me at: [deleted].

    I would greatly appreciate it, thank you.

    FATHER JOE: Given that you are a minor I would rather speak to you anonymously online than in private emails. First, I would encourage you to keep reading your Bible and saying your prayers. God protects his children. Ask for a greater gift of faith. Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid.” Second, noises can be caused by all sorts of things and may not be supernatural. The imagination can play tricks on us. Third, it is no secret that the devil opposes prayer and a relationship with Jesus. But God is our strength and the devil is nothing next to the saving name of Jesus. Of course, you and your family should avoid anything that smacks of the occult or superstition. Just as prayer and God’s Word can chase the devil away; the occult and witchcraft can invite him in. You would not want to do that.

  4. Who is to say why the diary was found in the locked room, when it was. Was this just more mischief of the evil one….Odd place for it to have been kept. As the room was never right (normal) after the activity of 49. It was closed for a very good reason. When you look for darkness, darkness looks back…

    FATHER JOE: The diary matched up to copies and was verified by a priest involved with this incident. We bring the Light of Christ into the darkness and need not be afraid.

  5. I believe anyone can be possessed, regardless of their faith or religious sect. I think I am right in saying that God did not give you the spirit of repair/depression/hopelessness, etc., but the spirit of peace and love. Jesus said my peace I give to you. I think possession is very real and many people are afflicted by it even in today’s world, why not, if it happened in Jesus’ day why couldn’t it happen in today’s world? The clerics who do exorcisms do the Lord’s work through themselves by the power of God. I’m glad there are men of great faith who do these rituals for those afflicted and free them from that oppression.

  6. Father Joe, you can take one position and I can take another and we can debate endlessly on which is the ‘correct’ path/religion. That is not the primary aim of all this. But as a scientist I am rather intrigued as to which prayers (Islamic or Christian) would prove more effective during exorcism rites, be it on a person (irrespective of their religion) or dwelling. The implications of this can be profound.

    FATHER JOE: Catholic exorcism works and that I think is sufficient for the Christian. One would not want to put God to the test or submit oneself to any methodical doubt as if an exorcism is only an experiment. Demons care nothing for the empirical method. Indeed, they can be arbitary and deceptive. The results of native or new age religion regarding cleansing and deliverance might only be pretense where the demonic hides and/or secretly moves on having destroyed or distorted a real and saving faith. Remember, the devils are not really interested in paranormal side-shows. Their objective is your damnation and the loss of faith.

  7. Father Joe, actually, it would be an interesting proposition to use Islamic prayers to perform exorcism on a Christian person, or even vice-versa. Because if that proves effective in vanquishing whatever demon or jinn is present, then both faiths are confronted with the same prime evil and attendant agents of evil. It opens the question then that we are all really praying, in our respective ways and interpretations, to the same God.

    FATHER JOE: First, as a faithful son of the Church, I accept the verdict of the Holy See that the Muslims (like ourselves) worship the one true God. My cause for doubt was Mohammad’s amalgamation of Judaism, Christianity and the various false tribal religions with their false deities. Second, Islam in its subtraction from Judaism and Christianity has fragments of the truth but as a whole is saturated with religious error. Third, along with doctrinal deviation, the religion of Mohammad cannot render the true and full worship that God desires: the Eucharist of Jesus Christ. Any voluntary participation in Islamic ritual would constitute false worship by the Christian. That which might have some small value for the Muslim would constitute spiritual poison and mortal sin for the Christian. Mortal sin is the doorway to Satan, not the graced path to sanctity and freedom in Christ. The God who calls us may be the same, but there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ. The God might be the same, but the RELIGION is not. Religious relatavism or indifferentism is a serious wrong and moral trespass.

  8. Hi Fr. Joe, I would just like to ask what role guardian angels play in assisting the exorcism of the person they are charged with, or the protection of the exorcist they are charged with.

    FATHER JOE: Angels are definitely engaged in our protection but their influence is dependent upon divine providence, our cooperation, and grace. The demons are fallen angels and still have certain spiritual powers. Not all angels are the same, indeed, while we speak of ranks, certain philosophers have speculated that each angel is a species unto himself. Since there is no matter as such to define them as pure spirits, they inform their identity or nature at the first moment of their creation by the exertion of intellect. They further define themselves and their eternal disposition as a good angel or demon by an act of will. The good angels have the advantage of almighty God and his grace on their side. Good angels attempt to shield us by their presence. They always have their sights upon God and give him glory. Something of God is carried with them. Demons cannot stand to be in the presence of God. Our Lord says as much in the New Testament, warning us that they prefer a vacuum.

  9. Can Islamic prayers be used to perform exorcism on a possessed Christian person and if not, why?

    FATHER JOE: I would think not because a Christian is under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

  10. Just to say thank you for your story of exorcism which I read tonight. I am a Christian and I have done a Master of Arts on Theology in a Catholic University in Australia. I think your responses to others are very encouraging. I agree with you that it is more important to study God than to study evil. However a glimpse of Devil’s activities reminds us that our theological study is not just about theories, but a reality of spiritual warfare.

  11. No supernatural acivity in the hospital? Not true.
    Page 188, “Possessed” — The following words materialized on the boy’s abdomen and thigh as he was being restrained by Alexian Brothers’ staffers in his 5th floor hospital room: HELL materialized on his chest and thigh, with a long scratch of an arrow pointing to his penis from his chest, and the word EXIT. Separately, red welts covered him, the “kind you would get from thorns, Fr. Halloran said. “Very, very red.” When the words “Holy Communion” were pronounced, more cuts and slashes appeared and again the word HELL appeared on his chest, with upside down letters so Robbie could read it.
    p. 191: As Fr. Bowdern preached, Robbie’s voice changed. When Fr. Halloran tried to administer communion, Robbie punched him forcefully in the genitals, and roared at him, and long red welts appeared from “his hips to his ankles in heavy red lines.”

  12. Correction: pp. 135-136 of “Possessed”: A Prof. Bubb from Washington University was visiting Robbie at a relative’s house after his short hospital stay. Prof. Bubb saw the table levitate to the ceiling, and a chest of drawers move, in Robbie’s bedroom. He had come to see “poltergeist manifestation” and was disturbed by the demonic aspect, Fr. Halloran notes. The Professor later became the chairman of the Mathematics Dept. and then the Mechanics Dept.

  13. A priest from the Univ. of Seattle visited the demoniac “Robbie” in the hospital. The boy was unconscious. He saw a dresser float slowly up to the ceiling, hover, and then slowly come back down. I think Thomas Allen mentions that.

  14. The book by John Zaffis, “Shadows in the Dark,” has photos, as does “The Demonologist” by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The exorcism of Annaliese Michel was well-documented, as was the one of Pat Reading in Connecticut.

  15. The diary used by Thomas B. Allen is posted on the www.

    FATHER JOE: The boy’s name was not published by Allen. He changed certain details to help preserve confidentiality. Not all researchers have been as understanding. Allen also admits at the end of his book that he has fallen away from his faith; in other words, he struggles with agnosticism and is dubious of the supernatural.

    It states the pastor/minister slept in the same bed with the boy.

    FATHER JOE: I do not recall this element of the story. I know he slept over at the house of the Lutheran minister. They kept him in a chair that purportedly moved and tipped. There was also an incident with a throw-rug. There has never been any suggestion of impropriety.

    It also states the boy was seen carving words on his body with his own finger nails.

    FATHER JOE: Yes, it seems possible that the scratches were self-inflicted; of course, I was not there. But here is what Fr. Halloran said about it in 2010: “I think the markings on the boy’s body. I didn’t think there was any way they could have been self-induced, the marks, the scratches, the words, the numbers and that sort of thing that appeared in blood red. When the evil spirit took over the child, there seemed to be nothing he could do about it. There were a couple of times when something very dangerous might have happened and he had no recollection whatsoever of anything that took place when he was in one of these sieges. And that affected me, the power that someone or something has over someone.”

    It states no languages other than his own were spoken. Father Halloran stated in interviews he was repeating/mimic the priest.

    FATHER JOE: This is not clear, although it is common for demoniacs to mimic and even mock the exorcist. The Jesuits took over the case after the failed exorcism by a diocesan priest from St. James.

    Halloran also stated in later interviews not seeing anything supernatural.

    FATHER JOE: Do you have the transcripts of these interviews? Actually, the opposite is true. Fr. Halloran reported before his death (2010) about the bed rising as much as eight inches off the floor: “The first night I was there I was kneeling at the bed on which the boy was lying and the bed started going up and down and then I just about got hit with a holy water bottle that was sitting on the dresser and came flying across the room and just missed me by an inch or two.” When asked about how high was the bed rising, he reported, “Oh, I’d say eight inches.”

    You can read the questions and Fr. Halloran’s answers at: GOOD JESUIT, BAD JESUIT.

    The diary also has no supernatural events while in the Alexian Brothers Hospital. There are also descriptions of the boy being abused while in the hospital, receiving sharp slaps to his face and a pillow in his face to silence him. Much of the descriptions in the diary before his hospital stay are nothing but hearsay. The diary is on the www; so much for privacy and confidentiality or moral values.

    FATHER JOE: Again, there has been no official report released from the Church. A copy of the diary was locked in the sealed room of the hospital, found when the building was being demolished. Another copy was used by the Jesuits to teach a course of demonology and exorcism. Names were withheld. There is no evidence that the boy was abused. A hospital setting helped to insure his health. The exorcism was successful and the young man went on to attend Catholic school, get married, and raise a family. There were purportedly no more incidents. Given that your comments conflict with an interview given in 2010, it seems that you are more about making mischief here than to share pertinent facts. I would encourage healthy skepticism, but not nastiness and insinuations of wrong-doing.

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