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At is an article concerning the shortage of exorcists in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Apparently a number of dioceses have reported a need for more bishops and priests trained in exorcism. Why is there such a demand?

A skeptic might answer that superstition is spreading throughout the U. S. and a greater number of exorcisms is evidence of increased credulity. Such a skeptic might also claim that exorcisms are risky because they are a form of malpractice in treating those who are really mentally ill.

Another option is that demons (fallen angels) not only exist in reality, but that they can also possess a person who is spiritually vulnerable or who invites the demon in either by corruption of character or by intentional or unintentional invitation. Those who saw the original version of the movie The Exorcist may remember that Regan, the possessed child, became possessed after playing with an Ouija Board, in which the demon pretended to be a playmate and called himself “Captain Howdy.” Some individuals believe that using an Ouija Board, or even using other forms of automatic writing, invite entities in, and that not all of those entities are friendly.

There is also the possibility that, with God’s permission, a demon could possess the body of a good person, as was the case in the movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The idea was that if Emily Rose manifested the demon in such a way that people could not deny its existence, materialists would be open to the possibility of a spiritual world that is beyond the material. And that opens the possibility not only to the existence of demons, but to the existence of God. I do not know if the priests involved in the “real Emily Rose case,” the exorcism of Anneliese Michel, had such an end in mind. It seems to me that they sincerely tried to help her, but unfortunately she died of dehydration and starvation during the exorcism.

Why does there seem to be an increase of apparent demonic activity in the U. S.? I believe it is because the United States is becoming more and more a “Me! Me! Me!” society. Selfishness and pride are the primal sins, and they are always destructive. Humans are naturally social animals, and attitudes that harm family and other social relationships can be one causal factor in mental illness. Another possibility, which is a live option for me, is that the self-centered attitude of many Americans is a way of inviting demons into their lives in a more direct way. If that is the case, and I believe that it is, then more Americans are becoming possessed by demons–literally. Does that mean that all exorcism cases are of the demonically possessed rather than of the mentally ill? Of course not–in my judgment, Anneliese Michel, for example, suffered from mental illness and was not truly possessed. But having talked to priests who have extensive experience with exorcisms (and could not mention specific cases but referred in general to the things they had witnessed), priest whom I trust, I believe that some exorcisms succeed in expelling a real demon (for you philosophers, I do mean “ontologically real,” literally) from a possessed person.

Christians should not dwell on fears of being possessed, but should focus their lives on becoming Christlike with the help of God’s grace. As for unbelievers, it may be that God is allowing demonic activity to show, as William Peter Blatty tried to show through his novel The Exorcist, that there is a spiritual realm. In an ironic way, then, demon possession can result in bringing a nonbeliever or a doubter closer to Christian faith.