American Catholic exorcism
Critical attention greeted the Nov. 12-13 "Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism," although the Roman Catholic Church arguably needed to recruit.
Dennis Sadowski of Catholic News Service wrote:
Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, told Catholic News Service he knows of perhaps five or six exorcists in the United States. They are overwhelmed with requests to perform the rite, he said.
Even Poland apparently has more than 100, who also met this weekend and according to the London Telegraph “work in tandem with psychologists in order to distinguish between psychiatric problems and the work of the devil.”
There may be more Southern Baptist exorcists than Catholic exorcists. The Good Shepherd Institute in Summerville, S.C., run by a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate the Rev. Brian Connor, devotes itself to training in such matters. It lists a staff of seven.
Wikipedia’s index of exorcists who have “been publicly recognized” also lists Pentecostal, Anglican and Lutheran practitioners.
Ridicule from skeptics, like PZ Myers, is to be expected. He wrote of New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein’s account:
Does she really think there are patients who really need an exorcism rather than psychiatric care? Is demonic posession a real problem? Maybe Homeland Security should be involved, if we actually have an ongoing invasion by demonic creatures from Hell. … I would like to have seen at least one sentence suggesting that it’s nuts to be training witch doctors, but nope…
It can be seen as a kind of marketing strategy. Ms. Goodstein interviewed R. Scott Appleby, a professor of American Catholic history at the University of Notre Dame:
“What they’re trying to do in restoring exorcisms,” said Dr. Appleby, a longtime observer of the bishops, “is to strengthen and enhance what seems to be lost in the church, which is the sense that the church is not like any other institution. It is supernatural, and the key players in that are the hierarchy and the priests who can be given the faculties of exorcism.
“It’s a strategy for saying: ‘We are not the Federal Reserve, and we are not the World Council of Churches. We deal with angels and demons.’ ”
“We don’t think that’s poetic metaphor,” Bishop Paprocki said.
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