The Telegraph wrote a couple of credulous, one-sided articles regarding exorcism recently. Apparently the interwebs makes it easy for people to find information on satanism, which is leading, of course, to more exorcisms. OMFSM, I just said the word satanism! I'm probably already possessed now! Get me a priest!
So is there a rise in satanism? Let's see what Google Trends can find:
First I looked up satanism by itself. There is no increase in searches for that term since 2004. It's really not that popular, I don't think. Then I did "satanism, exorcism". Exorcism has spikes, either from movies like Last Exorcism or "scary" vatican rumblings about the exorcism "crisis".
So, I guess they lied? Or they have no idea what they're talking about.
Anyway, a few things in this article stood out. First, they were written because the vatican hosted a 6 day conference in Rome regarding the "crisis". It was to give support to families and priests. Apparently "there is a particular risk for young people who are in difficulties or who are emotionally fragile."
Also, the objective of the seminars was to look at the "phenomenon" of satanism with "seriousness and scientific rigour". Uh, really? That's laughable!
So anyway, an exorcism should be done by a professional, even though any priest can perform one. A "professional" exorcist should be called when "the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed." Moral certainty? What happened to scientific rigor?
How can you tell when someone is possessed? Look for radical and disturbing changes in behavior and voice, or an ability to garble in foreign languages or nonsensical gibberish. Wait, don't televangelists babble in nonsensical gibberish? So are they posssessed by demons or the holy spirit? I'm confused.
Other symptoms of people possessed by Satan: vomiting shards of glass and pieces of iron. And they also "scream, dribble and slobber, utter blasphemies and have to be physically restrained." I'd like to see hard evidence of the glass and iron. The screaming and slobbering? Oh please.
Those are pretty vague symptoms, and could easily be mental illness, drug problems, or possibly even cries for attention. Certainly that's more plausible than demon possession. The church puts troubled people through the trauma of an exorcism when what they really need is psychiatric care or some kind of real help.
And what happens when the exorcism is over and the mental illness remains? Another one? Something even more aggressive?
True possession doesn't happen often, but the church feels the need to remain "on guard because occult and satanist practices are spreading a great deal, in part with the help of the internet and new technologies that make it easier to access these rituals." As I've shown above, that's not true.
The vatican's chief exorcist, father Gabriele Amorth, last year said that the devil was in the vatican itself. Here is where it gets really insidious. He claimed that the sex abuse scandals in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries were proof that the antichrist was waging a war against the holy See. He also said pope Ratz believed "wholeheartedly" in the practice of exorcism.
So this is a classic lesson, kiddies, in how to avoid responsibility. Instead of saying, "we have a problem with priests fucking little boys" they instead blame it on the devil. But this is a bit confusing. I think possession is a catch-all excuse. First the chief exorcist says it's because young people are surfing the intertubes for devil-worshiping rituals. But then he said the child rape by priests is because of the devil. So did those naughty priests go online to download satanic rituals? Or is it just Satan attacking the church? Are they related or separate in their evil?
I almost wrote that I can't believe the pope and other grownups actually believe in demon possession. But then I deleted it because I guess it's not a stretch to believe in such things if you also believe in talking snakes tempting women, and in a virgin giving birth to a half-god who then gets crucified and ascends to heaven 33 years later. After suspending disbelief for that, I guess it's easy to believe in demons, devils and puking glass and iron. And who can refute screaming, slobbering and blaspheming?
Just in case this glowing article has encouraged you to get into the exorcism business, the Telegraph helpfully has a companion article to give you some tips.
You have to be a Roman catholic priest, and your bishop has to give you permission to join the International Association of Exorcists. (I wonder what their meetings are like?)
It takes 2 months to learn how to exorcise evil spirits. I wonder if they have dummies like Annie. Remember the CPR dummy Annie that we all learned on in health class? I wonder if their little boy dummy spits out pea soup and broken glass. Oh my. I could go on but I won't.
Requirements for being an exorcist include the "supernatural force - the presence of God" and also you should be wise and know how to get your strength not just from within but from God. But can't God just defeat demons himself? Why does he need a mortal human to do his dirty work? Why can't he just squash them like bugs?
Also, you need to study psychology and know how to tell the difference between a mental illness and a possession. Um, yeah. Pretty much all of them are some type of mental illness of some sort. Or a drug problem, as I said before. Or in some cases perhaps a cry for attention/outright lying. Don't forget that "scientific rigour" you mentioned in the first article!
Oh, and you should be very patient. Because nonexistent demons don't come around very often. Or never.
And you should be a "holy man, of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble." (that rules out a lot of priests, or all of them, maybe). And here's the final clincher: And he "should avoid ... anything resembling superstition". I kid you not. I just can't make up this kind of hypocritical irony!