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January 17th, 2011
Interview With the Exorcist: Father Gary Thomas


Fr. Gary Thomas is a Vatican-certified practicing exorcist whose experience is the subject of the new movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins, scheduled for release on January 28. That movie is based on a 2009 book about Fr. Gary by journalist Matt Baglio, The Rite: The Making of A Modern Exorcist.

[Read our review of the movie The Rite here.]

We interviewed Fr. Gary on the heels of the book’s release, about what is and isn’t true concerning exorcisms and demonic possession, and what this means in terms of our faith life. The book and upcoming movie chronicle Father Gary’s own Vatican training to become an exorcist, and give an inside look of the church’s use of the rite of exorcism and its role in contemporary life.

I’d you’d prefer to listen to the interview, you can play it here:

or download the mp3.

Fr. Dave Dwyer: Father Gary, many of our listeners might be surprised to know that having a priest on staff at a diocese in the role of an exorcist is still something that we do. They may think, “Oh, well gee, isn’t that a thing of the past,” or, “Didn’t we get rid of that? ” or something like that. But it actually not only is common, but you went over to the Vatican for training. Is that about right?

Fr. Gary Thomas: I did. I finished my 12-year term as pastor of my previous parish, and was granted a one-year sabbatical. I laid out the things I had hoped to do on it. However, at the time, when I was going through the process of getting ready for the sabbatical, exorcism was not part of the equation. Exorcism became part of the equation toward just before the end of my term as a pastor, in which the bishop appointed me, and then said, “Oh, by the way, there’s a course in Rome, when you’re there, on exorcism.” But, halfway through the course — which is when I met Baglio [journalist Matt Baglio, author of The Rite: The Making of A Modern Exorcist] — halfway through the course, it became really apparent to me that I needed to tutor under an exorcist, that the course itself was good, but the course was not based itself on any practical training and so…

FD: I would imagine that it would be hard to be appointed by your bishop to fulfill that role without some sort of training. I mean, if they asked me to do that I’d be, “Well, okay, what should I do?”

FG: Well, most bishops, and this is not to knock the bishops, very few bishops really understand what’s involved in the ministry of exorcism, and I can say that, including my own bishop, who appointed me. And I think I, a number of times, tried to explain a variety of things to him, and he does very much believe in the reality of Satan, but I think that, even when I went over to take this course that I had no idea what was really going to be expected of me. It all kind of unfolded and evolved as time went on. And so, I think once I was training under Father Carmine De Filippis — whose name is in the book, who is one of the nine exorcists in Rome — it became very apparent to me not only that is this very serious, which I didn’t deny that it was, but the variety of situations and peoples’ experiences that were coming to Father Carmine and what really was required. And the course, I think, provided actually a lot of very important insight and information that really kind of helped supplement the actual practical teaching.

In my three years as an exorcist, I’ve exorcised five people, and I would say that there was one particular situation that would probably be pretty similar to [the portrayal in The Exorcist.]

FD: Well, let’s talk about some basics for our listeners out there. And, we have a lot of Catholic listeners, even many non-Catholic listeners, and maybe the basics of the Church’s teaching that has to do with this, as in evil, as in Satan, as in being possessed by demons. We certainly see it in the Gospels and maybe some people relegate it to, “Well, there was a lot of stuff that happened in Jesus’ time that doesn’t happen anymore.” What is our real belief about this stuff as Catholics?

FG: Well, I think you simply have to begin with Scripture and then it really reaches an apex in the Paschal Mystery — the death and resurrection of Christ. In the very first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, there’s the first reference in the temptation of Adam and Eve by the serpent, which really constitutes what we say is the Fall of Man. It is out of the tensions which you find in the rhythms of the Old Testament that lead up to Jesus’ coming, where it’s very clear that that Christ’s mission is to conquer Satan, sin, death, and create the bridge for us to reach eternal life through the grace of the Son in the Father. And so, you know, the gospels of Matthew and Mark, in particular, are fraught with many, many clear examples of demonic possession, and Jesus as the exorcist who comes and delivers people from the throes of Satan and demons.

FD: Certainly there are those accounts in Scripture. In addition to healing somebody from blindness, or from some other sickness, it very clearly does say that somebody was possessed by a demon or he drove a whole bunch of them into the pigs and all that.

FG: Right. Right. We went through a phase, though, I think, in the post-Vatican II Church until somewhat recently, where I think a lot of biblical scholars saw exorcisms as really a metaphor for evil that really was unexplainable, and sometimes would think of possessions or the manifestations of possessions as being related to diseases that had yet to be discovered per se. But now, there’s a much sounder grounding that, no, Christ, in fact, was performing real-life exorcisms. And so, I encounter lots of Catholics who will say, “Oh, the Church is still doing those things?” or, “We still believe in Satan?” Satan hasn’t go away. He is relevant in and out of season.

FD: …You’re in the Diocese of San Jose? Is that right?

FG: That is correct.

FD: Even in California, where people think life is sort of relaxed and casual, sunny and pleasant, you in the course of your duties have been a part of — you have performed exorcisms, right?

FG: I have. I have.

FD: Well, tell us what that’s like, I mean, what would people not expect it to be. I suppose what many people bring to the table is Hollywood’s version of that. So, many people would have seen somewhere back in the day the film with Linda Blair, The Exorcist, so I guess, in terms of our recollection, is it like this…?

[Plays sound clip from the movie The Exorcist.]

“I command you by the judge of the living and the dead to depart from this servant of God. It’s the power… (Holy Water!)

The power of Christ compels you
The power of Christ compels you
The power of Christ compels you”

FD: So very familiar in our pop culture, and people even called in earlier in the show, Father Gary, with other movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose that are certainly based on true accounts, so people go, “Are the Hollywood directors just kind of juicing that up or is that kind of what you experience?”

FG: Sometimes that’s what I experience.

I think as long as people have a relationship with God and stay close to God, they really don’t have anything to fear.

FD: Wow. Okay.

FG: And, what’s fascinating about that movie, just as a quick aside, it is amazing to me that that movie was made in about 1972, so that is about a 37-year-old movie. That movie is still inscribed in an icon kind of way in the minds of people when they think of exorcism. I cannot tell you how many times people have even cited that movie, “Oh, I saw the movie The Exorcist, is that what you do?” Not The Exorcism of Emily Rose but The Exorcist. It is just amazing that after all these years that movie still has an embedded memory in the minds of so many people. Yes, to answer your question, I have exorcised in my three years as an exorcist, I’ve exorcised five people, and I would say that there was one particular situation that would probably be pretty similar to what you just played in terms of the movie. I don’t use the word “compel” but I do certainly say, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I demand you to leave,” and I will say that repeatedly in the midst of the prayers of exorcism from the Solemn Rite that I pray over the people.

FD: So essentially this is us saying, as a church, that is not just Hollywood lights and bells. We believe that some sort of demon, whether it is Satan himself and his minions can take over a human person.

FG: In a rare full possession, yes, but not every situation a full possession. In fact full possessions are very, very rare. However, less than full possessions are not quite as rare although they are not normative — what we would call an oppression or an obsession that sometimes does exist with people where they’re able on the one level to function but on another level they have opened a door or someone else has opened a door for them where a demon does have some serious influence. I would like to stress, though, you really have to invite the demon in. Or, someone else has to invite the demon in. Lots of times, though, people, out of fear, go, “What do we have to do to protect ourselves?” What I say back is largely, “Continue having a relationship with the Lord. Stay close to God in prayer, and refrain from being involved in things that would be considered to be the New Age — rituals of the New Age, rituals of the occult, things such as Wicca, or tarot cards, Ouija boards, superstitious practices, black magic, white magic, anything that would really be idolatrous. I think as long as people have a relationship with God and stay close to God, they really don’t have anything to fear in the sense of any of the kinds of things that we’re specifically talking about.

FD: So, is it part of your training that you can distinguish someone with, as you call it, a partial possession from something that is genuinely a psychological issue and/or do you hear people kind of critiquing the practice of exorcism, saying, “These days, don’t we just believe that all of that is schizophrenia or something else?”

Fr. Gary Thomas

Fr. Gary Thomas

FG: Right. And those are legitimate points. I have a team. And on my team, my exorcism team, I have a trained clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a physician, all of whom are practicing Catholics, and all of whom believe in the possibility of Satan’s existence, but they’re not people who says there’s a demon under every rock or chair. And I have two clergy, two priests, who are on the team as well. So, as a person, as a priest, who’s not a therapist, much of what I do involves what we would call discernment. So, how do we discern the spirit? Well, we discern the spirit by, first of all, asking a lot of probing questions, and then, you know, some of those questions involve not just their own personal spiritual life but the things they’ve been exposed to. And then you simply pray prayers of deliverance, really as a starting point, and you encourage people if they don’t have a sacramental life to return to the sacramental life, and then you pray with them over the course of time.

Sometimes it’s very clear when people come in that there really isn’t any particular diabolical doorway that they’ve opened, but sometimes you’re drawn to conclude that, because nothing else seems to make any sense or explain away their problems. So that’s why you have therapists. Sometimes I use a therapist. Sometimes I don’t. When it’s very, very clear that — sometimes people will say that they feel that they’ve had a curse put on them and then you ask them questions in which they can’t give you any definitive answers, either the person who put the curse on them, any reason why someone would have put the curse on them, any evidence that a curse has been put on them. Then you simply conclude, “Well, no curse has been put on you. You simply have chosen to believe that.”

There are things that happen that we can’t explain. When people, though, show signs of some kind of demoniacal manifestation such as foaming at the mouth or rolling of the eyes or taking on the appearance of a serpent sometimes or speaking in a language that they have no competency in but all of a sudden do, those are the classical signs. But again, that doesn’t always come in the first go-around. You have to ask all kinds of questions. You pray over people. You get them to go back to the sacraments if they’re not already, and then, you know, you say to them after you’ve prayed over them a couple of times and there’s no manifestation, nothing whatsoever — you simply encourage them to continue in their own prayer life. What I try not to do — I try not to give people, a) false hope, and b) share things with them that I just want them to go away. So if someone really doesn’t have what appears to be any kind of diabolical intrusion, I have no problem telling them that. It isn’t that I’m looking for more people to come and see me. You’re there to try to help people, and sometimes they’re just reassured that what they thought was, wasn’t.

FD: In the way you go, perhaps, to an oncologist and he says, “No, you don’t have cancer.”

FG: That’s correct.

On my team, my exorcism team, I have a trained clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a physician, all of whom are practicing Catholics, and all of whom believe in the possibility of Satan’s existence, but they’re not people who says there’s a demon under every rock or chair.

FD: … I’m just wondering about how much of your time as a priest is devoted to this. Are people knocking on your door every day? Or, do you do this once a month or something?

FG: I would say probably 15 percent of my day, although not every day, but probably on average, at least 15 percent of my week is spent on this. So probably 15 percent of a 40-hour week, probably six hours of my week some weeks, maybe not so much other weeks. I just finished ministering to a person just before I came over here to wait for your phone call. And I exorcised a man on Monday and exorcised somebody else on Friday, and they were long sessions.

FD: Now, tell us about you as a priest, you as a believer. When you’re talking about something like that, is there some sort of prayer for yourself after you’ve been in contact with such evil? Is there part of the ritual or some sort of after words, or do you just run to hang out in the Blessed Sacrament or something? [Laughs.]

FG: Well, there’s protection. There’s a protection prayer that I pray — and then an authority prayer that I pray over the person — but the protection prayer is for the person, anyone else who is in the room and myself. And then the authority prayer is to take authority in the name of Christ over the demons and then you begin — and again, whether it’s the formal right or whether it is just deliverance prayers, this is just standard operating for me. So at the very beginning you pray protection prayers.

FD: So, how has this affected your faith, let’s say?

FG: Well, I mean, before I took on this role I certainly believed in the reality of Satan. I think, now that I’ve been in this ministry, I’ve been — I’ve never had a doubt — but anybody who has a doubt can simply come and see what I’ve seen at times and then maybe they won’t have doubts either. But, I think one thing it has done — it is a profoundly healing type of ministry. The people who come to me, in one way or another they all have — whether it’s something diabolical or whether it’s psychological, these are mostly people who are enduring great suffering.

FD: And I would imagine, thanks to your ministry you have been part of some success stories, some people who are really genuinely freer?

FG: Yes, I would say, at times. But, it’s really Christ who’s the exorcist. It’s really Christ who’s the exorcist and I’m the vessel through whom Christ works. It’s incredibly important that in my role — and I learned this when I was in the course in Rome — that the exorcist always remain a truly humble prayerful person, because when you begin to see how the prayers you use agitate demons and sometimes deliver people from them, human nature being what it is can sometimes bloat — and Satan is also part of that in the bloating of — the exorcist’s ego in ways that can sometimes really assist the exorcist in losing his own effectiveness, cause he thinks that he’s the one responsible, but it’s really Christ.

FD: And, then they right a book about you, and that doesn’t help the ego.

FG: Well, again, I haven’t let any of this get bigger than it is…

It is a profoundly healing type of ministry. The people who come to me… whether it’s something diabolical or whether it’s psychological, these are mostly people who are enduring great suffering.

FD: God bless you. [Laughs.]

FG: Even the movie that’s hopefully going to come out. The book — again, Matt wrote the book to really help educate the average Catholic and the average person about what the Roman Catholic Church is trying to do in this area, and I think he actually — and I’m not saying this to toot my own horn — I do think it’s a good read, and it is very informative, and kind of has a textbook feel, told in a story form. And I think there’s a lot of really good information in there. The book was sent to every bishop in the United States by my request with a letter from me, and every rector of every seminary in the U.S. with a letter from me. So I communicated with every rector and every bishop in the U.S., encouraging them, a) to train an exorcist, which is what John Paul II asked us before he died, and b) to help the seminary rectors begin to take this on in formation because there’s very, very few priests who have any exposure to this.

FD: …It sounds like you are a happy, healthy priest, and you’ve got just a new role in your life.

FG: I hope I’m happy and healthy. I think of myself as. The happiness is just a fleeting moment but more and more I find this more satisfying and meaningful.

FD: So, it’s a ministry that you would recommend to priests?

FG: Well, I think, to the right priests. I got into it providentially. I think a lot of guys today have the inclination to do this but sometimes it’s a matter of a) having the confidence, and b) recognizing that you don’t have to be afraid of the demons. You have to respect them but you don’t have to be afraid.

FD: And have you been scared?

FG: No, I’ve never been afraid.

FD: Really?

FG: No. Never.

FD: Interesting.

FG: And, the exorcist gets attacked, but I’m not afraid. And it’s got to be a grace, because most people I know, and most priests I know, want nothing to do with it.

FD: Well, Father Gary, God bless you. This is a needed service in the church, because as you have pointed out earlier, there’s plenty of evil out there, we don’t have to look too far to find it, and hopefully your book, in the hands of all the bishops and the seminaries, will maybe get it a little more well known.

FG: I hope so.

FD: Well, thanks for joining us on the Busted Halo Show.

FG: Thanks, Father.

(Originally aired: 10/29/09)

Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Anonymous

    Wow, this is not right in my opinion. First of all why would that happen. If you listen to God’s word Jesus came to forgive our sins, if we can be “possessed” or something similar due to sin then thats like saying the fact that Jesus died, suffered on the cross for us was all done for nothing.

    As someone that suffered from a type of OCD that is called pure O that causes bad thoughts that are pretty intense and scary and at one point I was terrified. I thought it was bc I watched pornography as a teenager and was being punished. Well although I no longer watch this there are tons of people who do and don’t experience what I did. I’m not saying I don’t think its wrong. However, I do believe I was forgiven. But at that time I read about something called demonic obsession that described almost the same thing as my OCD. After 4 years of learning to let this go and dealing with the crippling fear and trauma of what I read and finally getting an OCD diagnoses I am finally feeling better. Because it is a mental disorder and to be honest people create their own evil. There are scientific studies linking these disorders to genes and people getting better through therapy. By talking about letting this possibility exist you are truly hurting many people and I hope you understand this. The talk of demons in the past was all on the context of the past. Even epilepsy was said to be caused be demons bc at the time no one knew what it was. I wish this ignorance would stop so that so many people can find peace and when faced with such hard times not also have to fathom that a “demon” has entered their body. If people read the bible in its context and not literally then the true meaning can be heard that all you need is trust in Jesus and you can be free , not this stuff that scares people and hurts many. God bless you and I truly hope that God’s will be done.

    • dlwatib

      I don’t understand your logic, or more properly the lack thereof. Demon possession/oppression/obsession/attachment happens because a person doesn’t feed his spirit healthy stuff like prayer and Bible reading and sacraments and a personal relationship with Jesus, but instead opens the door to demons by sinning. Or demons attach to people because of the sins of others that expose them to demons when they are vulnerable.

      You apparently had OCD and got a correct diagnosis for it. Congratulations. So now you think that there is no such thing as demonic activity? Your logic is so faulty as to be nonexistent.

  • jack

    A previous commenter wondered why possessions aren’t filmed. Fr. Gary Thomas, in another interview with Patrick Coffin on Catholic Answers Live, heard a similar question–why not film the exorcism? His answer: for the sake of the possessed person’s privacy. It is a very sensitive and compromising situation. I think Fr. Thomas is very diplomatic about this question. To be thorough, he said he did ask some of the people involved. They expressed their reservations and he respected that.

  • Inquizitive Agnostic

    I heard a story on the news that the catholic church is now considering denouncing the existence of hell. I know that they’ve eliminated purgatory, but hell too? I’m a skeptic but I’m open minded on spiritual issues. While I’m no way sold on the existence of heaven, hell or the spirit world, I’m always keen to an intelligent conversation on the said matter.

    • Catholic Guy

      Your info is incorrect. The Church still teaches the reality of Purgatory, and Hell is not going away either. Both are dogma and cannot change. Best wishes in your quest for truth!

  • marcella

    The devil is amongst us from the begining, the bible teaches that. Only God, through those He has chosen, can protect us from evil.

  • Kelly

    Catholic? Mualim? Buddhist? What is of concern is if one believes in helping out their fellow being. Sometimes spirits need to learn to move on to the light. It does not reguire a Catholic priest to do that, but a person of conviction believing that if God can cast the devil out of heaven, He can certainly have juristiction over the power satan can have over people on earth. By believing in God, one can overcome anything the devil can deceptively convey.

  • Hope

    These are very interesting discussions and as I read more the more I ponder. Regarding the fact that psychology is does not require faith as a profession would be like putting a bandage on an open wound. If any profession requires faith more than any other it is precisely psychology. Why? To get to the root of a problem, when possible, you need to look at all the basis. This is especially true when applied to the psychology of a person. Faith is the foundation of any person and to exclude it means excluding the root of who that person is. What can you hope to achieve with that? Your only treating the symptom not the cause.

    • Whitepantheress

      Faith is your foundation, which is not generalizable to every person. I am studying to become a psychologist. I have faith in the ability for people to heal and to become better, if they want to. If that power comes from their faith in God, Buddha, Jesus, Krsna, Quan Yin poor the blessed Virgin Mary I support that. If it comes from a self-sufficient humanistic perspective, that’s fine too.

      My own beliefs about God and how it all works, my faith are irrelevant to my job. They have to be. Even when I act as priestess I am not called to dictate what another should believe. My role is to assist them in to explore their own relationship with God. Every person has to live and die with the consequences of their actions based on faith, trying to control those choices is unethical.

      The catholic priests I have talked with have respected that. Well, other than insisting my purple hair was to celebrate a catholic religious season. Any potentially rebellious act must be interpreted as a sign of faith

  • Hope

    I’m not Rob – get over yourself. Have you been present in any exorcism. How much is the church(s) charging? You know everything and so you must know that?

    Why wood anyone want to show their possession on television is beyond me. Yes, please let’s get pictures and specially video because everyone needs to see another person suffering and much more.

    I guess the Catholic boat is missing the boat on this one “I’m Not Rob” because guess what they are not putting it on YouTube and you know what YouTube is one of the best ways to create sensationalism and get money. So yes, I wonder why the Church is not doing it?

  • Hope

    I just saw the movie “The Rite” for the first time on HBO. I saw it several times. I was raised catholic and I don’t believe in God. I know with our a doubt that GOD EXISTS. I have experiences in my life that are proof of his existence. So to hear some one claim they are atheist is sad. My education is in Computer Science so my background is in science, technology and engineering. To hear that believing that God or spirituality go against science is ridiculous and old school. Einstein believed in spirituality, maybe not in the traditional way but spirituality none the less. Judith you need to bring yourself up to date and get out more. Fraud has been proven, in modern science, to be incorrect. Science itself has become dogmatic in itself, refusing to accept many scientific facts because of their own agendas. I do believe in intuition, and the gifts of The Spirit everyone has that ability, it comes from our connection with God when properly used and not from God when channeled. Going back to science and Einstein his formula E=mc2 shows that all things are made of energy. Also a scientific fact that energy cannot be destroyed but transformed so if we are energy it becomes pretty clear to me that death is not the end. So if it is not what happens? I do believe in possession I have seen it for myself and I also know that God’s power over evil is greater. There is only one thing that can separate us from God and one thing only…”our choices”. We all the have the gift of “free will” which no one can take from us. The angels have a great deal of respect for it. Well with the exception of the fallen angels, that is. I want to get the book for a more accurate understanding of this story.

  • Tiredmom

    Im praying for you “Im not Rob,” that God will bring you peace. I pray he will bring us all peace.

  • Roberta Northern

    Yes, Father God, Jesus Lord and Savior and Holy Spirit and the Destroyer the enemy of old are all real. Possession is real, suppression is real, oppression is real and faith is real. Jesus is the only way to the Father and to heaven and Holy Spirit is the only way to combat and win over the devil who is the enemy of old the Destroyer. The devil has come to steal, kill and to destroy and he also is a master deceiver and the only way to over come him is through Jesus and His blood, the name of Jesus and the shed blood of the Lamb Christ and Holy Spirit and being born from above and which allows Holy Spirit to live in us so that we then have the new righteous nature of Father God Himself which replaces our old sinful nature which gives us a scar in the spirit. This movie was riveting to me and I did not even know there was a book about it and I did not know it was based off of a real story until the end of the movie. This is the time, right here on this earth to decide who we will follow God or the devil before we cross over to the other side. Once we cross over it is too late. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Hell is real and so is heaven and so is Jesus, Father God and Holy Spirit and the Devil. Now is the time to come to the cross. Jesus went to hell for us so that we could go to heaven with Him.

  • knight

    this is in response to a comment made by JUDITH the nurse,1st im with no doubt your not a christion?if you are you would know that many things are unexplained,you said you dad was a athiest?then you were and had that influence through your life at home,as said the greatest trick the devil tried to fool man with is that he does not exist,nobody says mental illness isint even 99%of this but how bout the 1%?Jesus himself said blessed are those who cannot see me and still belive?you want science?with every action there is a equal and negative reaction,eg,good-evil,God -devil,if your a person of science your not a person of God,we know God through our faith not substance,faith is a substance of things not seen,but yet hoped for,and if you are not a person of faith?you could not possibly comprehend this?-bible-people perish for lack of knowledge?end quote,but we will see wont we?remember?eternity is forever?hmmm

  • Danny

    Let us not be so amused by the doings of the devil that we forget to praise the One who defeated him, Jesus. For those who want to see “proof”, you will never see proof even if you see nails coming from someones mouth. You need to ask Jesus Christ into your heart and give your life to Him who loves you. This is the point of “The Rite” – that God wins and wants us to come to Him and love Him. When the end of days come, there will no longer be the devil, either you will be eternally praising God or eternally condemned for rejecting Jesus. I pray that all of you, believers and non-believers, come to know and love Jesus more and more each day.

  • Travis

    Phil–the Exorcist was released in 1973. Annalise Michel died in 1976. Look up Robbie Mannheim, which is the story that the Exorcist was based on. As Jeff mentioned above, Robbie was first seen by seminarians from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and then taken to the Catholics for full exorcism. Go here for more info.

  • Tyler

    This Father had me until he started trailing off into avoiding New Age unless you want be possessed by the devil. B.S. Sorry. And untrue.

    • Whitepantheress

      Ehhh, I know what you mean. I took it as without the right protections it will open doors, but a catholic priest won’t be talking about the other kinds of protection because doctrinally that is not right.

  • Liz

    I have personally met Father Gary. I am not Catholic, but he has been involved in my and my children’s lives. He is an incredibly easy going, level headed, welcoming and warm individual with a calm, strong, spiritual faith. He is unassuming and is very observant. He lives in an area where it seems more than 70% of the people have Masters degrees and above. Yet, he has the ability to manage the politics that affect his job, and comfort someone who speaks English as a second language in a time of sorrow or question. Here is my understanding after a two hour discussion with him. It boils down to this. Exorcism is a “healing” faith or “healing” art. It is not the extreme generalities that have been imagined or assumed by others who have not been directly involved. I got the feeling that it is the last effort when science fails to explain. A possession will not occur if it has not somehow been invited in or found a door left open in some way. I am not talking about being a religious zealot. If it works, then more power to those who can benefit from healing under the wings of a person of faith. Whether or not it is a mental illness or a true possession. These Priests have incredible schedules to maintain. Their jobs are tough, they have to wear many, many hats, and to diagnose someone as possessed so to speak, takes a lot of their time, a huge test of their faith and strength. I did not find it is something they take lightly or that they are anxious to use to prove the existence of God or Satin.

  • phil

    Jeff, half of the things u tell us are wrong. The movie the Exorcist is based on the case of Anneliese Michel. She is the most famous case of demonic possession and many movies are based on that story. there are ten original audio recordings and photographs on youtube. Go look for yourself. Learn the facts before u comment ;)

    • Jon

      The Exorcist is not based on Anneliese Michel’s story at all, sorry Phil. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the film based on Anneliese. The Exorcist WAS based upon the story Jeff related to us here; it’s probably the most famous exorcism case to take place in the United States, whereas Anneliese Michel’s exorcism took place in Germany. Hate to break it to you, but YouTube is a dubious source of “facts”.

  • Jeff in Prairie Village, KS

    When I was attending Concordia Seminary, (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), is St. Louis, a doctoral student friend of mind was doing archival work for the seminary. He shared with me that he came across the most interesting document–an affidavit signed by a handful of seminary professors regarding the strange case of a boy brought to the seminary by his parents, (members of a church in the LCMS denomination); the boy was exhibiting what Fr. Gary Thomas described as “full-manifestation”. Please read on as what I am about to share may add some insight to our comment thread. (Before I continue, I share this with great respect for the opinions voiced that demonic possession is short-hand for undiagnosed psychiatric illness. No doubt, most of the time it probably is, and the veracity of Fr. Gary’s story is proven, I think best, by his inclusion of trained psychotherapists on his team. However, logically, true demonic possession cannot be excluded). Now, to continue with my story, what did my friend’s found affidavit say? That the boy brought to the seminary to meet with the highest theological minds of the synod was ministered to by the pastor/professors. I would assume these ministrations aggravated the demonic entity for my friend described what happened next. They brought the boy, with parents, into a small octagonal chapel at the base of the seminary bell tower, the Chapel of the Holy Apostles. At this point, my friend related that the boy began shouting blasphemously as he began to float around the small room. You heard me correctly, and be it said I testify faithfully to you what my friend found in the affidavit. Only one professor yet remained active teaching who was on that affidavit, Dr. Louis A. Brighton, and as I was taking his class on Revelation, (from the original Greek!). I was young and decided one day to ask him about this in class; his response was, “no, no, I don’t want to talk about that.” This confirmed to me that the affidavit was true. And what became of the boy? Unfortunately, the seminary professors were not able to exorcise the demon/s from the boy. Someone, probably the professors themselves, directed the boy down the highway a bit further into downtown St. Louis, to St. Louis University in fact, a Catholic School. It was there that the boy’s demonic manifestation was truly understood and the exorcism took place. Later, this would be the same boy written about in the book the Exorcist, and the movie changed gender and made it about a girl. Perhaps this affidavit was not meant to be seen, or shared if seen, but I relate it here so that this one unique case, quite rare of course, can bring us pause if we write off true demonic possession. As C.S. Lewis said in the introduction to his book, The Screwtape Letters, regarding the demonic, (I paraphrase), “the error is to pay too much attention to the demonic and likewise, not enough.”

  • Laura

    I decided to add a little background… I have always believed in God, though I’ve had my ups and downs in faith. But, I used to think that the idea of demons was a way of making people believe by intimidation. Experience proved me wrong.

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