A devil of a job
I must confess I thought it was all ancient history and that the plot device used in films like The Exorcist were as much derived from ancient Catholic lore as historical fantasies like the excellent The Name of the Rose.
How wrong – no, how naïve - I was. According to a story in The Telegraph today:
Applications are invited for exorcism training at the Vatican's Rome university, the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum. The 10-week course includes sessions in exorcism rites, how to talk to the Devil, the tricks he uses to fight back and signs of the occult hidden in rock music and video games.
The Catholic Church is still exorcising people???
Yes, so it seems – and not just some little sect in a far-flung monastery. Pope Benedict XVI himself (a.k.a. Mr Joe Ratzinger) met with 180 of the respondents who had gathered at “a secret location” somewhere outside Rome.
The BBC reported a similar story back in February when the ‘exorcism academy’ launched. They interviewed a Father Giulio Savoldi who, apparently, has been Milan's official exorcist for more than 20 years.
"Because each case of possession is different, each person possessed is different. Those studying to become exorcists should also study psychology and know how to distinguish between a mental illness and a possession.”
Well, it’s easy actually. A person with a mental illness might be found working here, while a person with possessions might be found leaving here.
In July, The Telegraph ran a story about “one of scores of exorcists, mystics and psychics offering their services to London's large African community.”
In one case that ended up with prosecutions, it transpired that the perpetrators had inflicted terrible injuries on a child in an attempt to drive out the devils they imagined possessed it. The child was cut with a knife, beaten with a belt and shoe, and had chilli rubbed in her eyes in an ordeal that lasted several weeks, according to the paper.
One wonders what the Catholics exorcists are getting up to with a much bigger budget and the veneer of respectability they know protects them while their African counterparts attract the attention of the police.
As the case above proves, we can laugh at the idiocy of these people but we shouldn’t think for a second that they are doing nothing more than playing out their Buffy The Vampire Slayer fantasises. There are real victims here. What have they done to make these lunatics imagine demon possession? Are some mentally ill and are others merely rebellious children?
Whatever the case, I think there is reason for a police investigation. Urgent inquiries should be made to establish whether the Catholic Church allows these “exorcists” to operate in the UK. And while we’re at it, we should find out whether the C of E is complicit in this madness too!
HAT TIP: JH