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How to Determine the Difference Between Mental Illness and Demonic Possession

An exorcist explains how to spot a real demonic possession.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1673), exorcism is the process of liberating a person from the possession of demons through the Church's spiritual authority. Mental illness, on the other hand, is a concern of medical science and needs to be treated by medical professionals. It is very important for an exorcist to be certain that he is dealing with an evil entity and not just a person's state of mind, before performing the exorcism.

How to Determine the Difference Between Mental Illness and Demonic Possession[/tweetthis]

According to Father Cipriano de Meo, an active exorcist since 1952, finding out whether a person is really possessed is a matter of judgment in prayer on the part of both the exorcist and the possessed. There will be a visible reaction from the possessed upon seeing the exorcist himself and to the prayers he says. Also, the possessed will make a lot of facial expressions that are frightening. He/she will make a lot of threatening gestures and will threaten the exorcist with bodily and spiritual harm. An exorcist can also expect to hear a lot of blasphemies against God and Mother Mary.

Father De Meo, who has led a school for exorcists for 13 years with the authorization of his bishop, says it is vital for the exorcists to undergo rigorous training. Not all exorcist cases are the same. The priest serving in the ministry has to take the call on how to deal with each case. Every case, however, has to be dealt with love and humility. By the will of God, they will be able to successfully rid the person out of the demonic possession.

In a seminar hosted by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and the Sacerdos Institute last year, training priests and lay people were educated on how to spot the difference between a demonic possession and psychological problems. The seminar that was hosted at the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome saw the participation of practicing exorcists, theologians, psychologists, medical professionals, and lawyers.

According to experts, exorcism is thriving in Poland and America. As per author Nadine Wojcik who spent a considerable amount of time in Poland researching for her book on exorcism, the logic followed by Polish Catholics is that the devil is present where the faith is the strongest. Poland is one of the strongholds of Catholicism. Hence, the devil is present in Poland, and that is the reason why Poland has a number of possession cases.

The U.S. sees a lot of exorcisms each year, according to J. Gordon Melton, a Methodist minister. There are at least 10 official exorcists in the U.S. According to Michael Cuneo, the author of American Exorcism, in the U.S. exorcism is readily available today than ever before. It was the movie The Exorcist that brought national attention to the subject. However, it was in the last two decades that it gained popularity.

Father Gabriele Amorth, the Church's top exorcist who has claimed that he sent 160,000 demons back to hell, died last September.


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