Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Exorcisms and the Catholic Church

Exorcisms aren't always as epic as those depicted in the films The Exorcist and The Exoricsim of Emily Rose.

They can be as simple as saying the common prayer "Our Father."

Recently Pope Benedict the XVI said would like trained clergymen, or exorcists, to perform more major exorcisms.

It's a move that reverses a stance the church took in the 1950s when they dramatically reduced the number of major exorcisms they performed, said Dr. Britt Minshall, dean of the Renaissance Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

By around, 1950 the church had started performing fewer exorcisms in the United States. One of the reasons was that legal liability started to take hold, and priests began getting sued for performing forced major exorcisms, Minshall said.

Another reason was that medicine for mental illness started to make great advances, as did psychology, Minshall said.

"One of the first things Jesus did when he began his work was to cast out demons," Minshall said.

But he argues that if one looks at the cases in the New Testament it's obvious that many of the people who received exorcisms had severe mental illnesses. During Jesus' time, there was no way to scientifically explain mental illness, so exorcisms were performed.

As the church started backing away from major exorcisms, the rules surrounding when they could be performed became more rigid.

Major exorcisms now fall under the authority of the bishop of the diocese where the possessed lives.

It can only be performed with the permission of the person and when "all other possibilities of deviant behavior have been ruled out," Maher said.

Exorcisms are performed by a trained exorcist who is appointed by the Bishop.

Not all Bishops choose to appoint exorcists.

Bishop Raymundo J. Peña of the Diocese of Brownsville has not appointed an exorcist.

While major exorcisms have decreased in the Catholic Church, minor exorcisms still play a strong role in Catholicism.

Catholics perform minor exorcisms almost every day when they pray the "Our Father."

And minor exorcism is a part of the final preparation for baptism, said Robert Maher, vicar general of the Diocese of Brownsville.

The "prayer of minor exorcism" releases any "remnants of evil, slavery of sin they are trapped in," Maher said.
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(Source: TT)

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