Why Are Exorcisms Making a Comeback?

STEPHEN DEMENT is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Both Individuals and the Catholic Church believe demonic possession is on the rise.

Do you know someone speaking in a language they don’t know? Maybe they have unusual strength? Perhaps they recently have taken a hatred of God? According to a growing body of representatives in the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, they may be the victim of demonic possession.

Exorcism has existed as a part of Catholic tradition, with references dating back to the Bible. While it has never been popular, it relatively disappeared in the modern world until the last couple of years.

That has changed with the ascendancy of Pope Francis. Pope Francis is a large supporter of exorcisms and exorcists. He has repeatedly said he believes the Devil exists on earth and there are real cases of possession that are rising. He has been recorded offering an exorcism to an individual in Poland.

In fact, the Catholic Church is reporting that the number of demands for exorcism have tripled in the last year. Over half a million-people asked for help expelling evil spirits. This has led the church to hosting a conference on exorcism and creating a program for training Catholic priests in the ministry of exorcism. Contrary to popular belief, very few priests are trained in exorcism and the Catholic Church did not create a formalized ritual until the late nineties.

Exorcisms have a particularly popular place in popular culture. Many horror movies are about possession or include an exorcism: The Conjuring movies, the Ouija movie series, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Exorcist, the list goes on and on. This may be because nearly half of Americans believe that demons and exorcism are real.

But what exactly is an exorcism? For Catholics, only an officially sanctioned priest can perform an exorcism. The two major types of exorcism are “simple” which is a blessing to help ward off evil influence or a “Rite of Exorcism” designed to help someone rid their body of demonic possession. Catholic officials will sometimes say that usually 1 in 50,000 possessions are real, while the rest are mental health issues. In fact, in the official procedure, a priest will consult with a mental health professional to help determine if a ritual is necessary.

Catholic officials state the amount of demonic possession is related to the lack of godlessness in the world. Others would say the influence of religion causes people to manifest the symptoms they hear through religion and popular movies. Either way, the number of rituals being performed seems poised to continue to rise with the support of the Catholic Church.

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