Catholic Church Now Struggles to Keep Up With Exorcism Demand

By Sabeasmodeo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Catholic Church received 500,000 requests for exorcisms in 2015.

When anyone utters the word 'exorcism', the first thing that comes to the mind is a Catholic priest. Several exorcism movies have been made in Hollywood, including the iconic The Exorcist, that have acted as catalysts in creating these automatic associations. Exorcisms are one of the Catholic Church's most important rites, however, the number of priests who perform exorcisms has been shrinking. Now, it has been discovered that younger members of the clergy are afraid to undergo training to become exorcists—an issue causing alarm among senior priests.

The lack of interest among priests to perform exorcisms is not new. Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the church underwent a shift from archaic traditions to more liberal doctrines. This liberalization did not go well with traditionalists, many of whom formed a new faction that follow Church traditions more strictly. Among these revisions was the doctrine on Satan, evil, demons, and of-course, possessions. This change in theological dogma set in motion the current trend of denying Satan's existence among the Catholic clergy. Today, a growing number of priests refuse to believe in the church's traditional notions of Satan and the devil, thereby creating a shortage of exorcists. Pope Francis, however, warned Satan is real, despite his reputation for being modernistic in his thoughts.

Even as this new trend was causing a lot of worry among senior clergy, the fear younger clerics are showing is causing new ripples of worry among current exorcists. Father Vincenzo Taraborelli, 79, is one such exorcist who is anxious about the church's future. Currently Rome's busiest exorcist, Fr. Taraborelli says around 500,000 requests for exorcisms were made in 2015 alone. This number is too big to be handled by the nine priests who are trained exorcists.

Things do not seem very promising in the U.S. either. Although the number of Catholic priests trained in exorcism have increased to 50 from 12, it is still dwarfed by the sudden “boom” in demand for exorcisms in Italy. It's ironic, belief in Satan and exorcisms is seeing such a rise in a time when atheism and religious non-affiliation is higher than ever.

Is the media to be blamed? Partly yes, asserts Fr. Taraborelli. He believes magical stories like Harry Potter are influencing people to dabble with the occult.

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