The Climate of Spiritual Warfare in Today's Culture
“As faith diminishes, superstition increases.”
People react to words like “exorcism”, but few of them know much about it. Before I started this ministry, I didn’t know much about it myself. How did I start? In 2004, Pope John Paul II mandated that every diocese needed to have an exorcist, recognizing the rise of occult and pagan activity.
Our bishop decided to appoint an exorcist, but I wasn’t the number one choice. In February, I was getting ready to go on a sabbatical to Rome. The bishop approached another priest, asking him to fill that role. That priest was very well qualified to do it, but he declined because he said he wouldn’t be able to start a spirituality center (which he was in the middle of doing) and take on the role of exorcist. And for whatever reason, I said that I could do it.
The bishop’s assignment for was very short: I’m appointing you exorcist. There’s a class you can take in Rome.
The other American in the course was a lay person, who went on to write “The Rite”. I went out to find a priest to work under, and found someone who a was apprenticed to for three months.
I’m not a big drama person. I’m going to talk about dramatic things, but not in dramatic ways. It’s primarily a healing ministry. Every time Jesus Christ healed people, it was a form of restoration. Exorcism is a form of restoration.
A demonic condition is a relationship. Some people come and tell of being harassed, something breathing on them or clinging to them. There are several kinds of demonic condition. Oppression — a kind of melancholy and lethargy. Obsession — hallucination and symptoms like that. Possession — a system of demons have taken over the body. Integration — people who accepted the demon; they don’t usually come and see me. Every person who comes to see me is suffering.
I’m always listening for doorways when meeting with people. People usually have a good reason to come see me; they don’t just come. One of the primary MOs of Satan is to isolate — so I always believe those who come to talk to me. It’s kind of like putting together a puzzle. (By the way, I don’t like jigsaw puzzles.) Eighty percent of them are sexual abuse victims — usually in mix with dabbling in the occult. The former is a trauma; the latter is a door that people open, seeking healing in the wrong places. Every story is different.
Drugs also are a big door way. So many of the gangs bringing in drugs are involved in Santa Muerte. It’s a perversion of the Blessed Mother, dressing up a skeleton and parading it around town. It’s very common for these groups to invoke Satan and his minions.
The occult is becoming very mainstream. There are little “new age” or “spiritual” shops all over the place that specialize in the occult. There used to be one down the street from a parish, next door to a deli I I used to go to. One day, I went inside and sprinkled a little bit of holy water. It’s not there anymore.
One of the classic signs of the demonic is aversion to the sacred. For example, people reacting violently when I come in. They’re not reacting to me, but to Holy Orders. The unbroken apostolic chain of bishops back to Peter is why my ordination is valid. A lot of people today underestimate the authority of Holy Orders. The Eucharist is tied to the cross, which is our battle symbol that Satan was defeated by Christ. I thought I celebrated the Eucharist with care before, but since being assigned to this office of Exorcist, I have celebrated it with even more care.
The demonic wants to hide. Its reaction to Holy Orders is out of being threatened.
Other signs of the demonic: Speaking a language you don’t know. Inordinate strength. Foaming at the mouth — a sort of dry heave. Knowledge of hidden things. Facial features and limbs becoming distorted.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation, which is God embracing everything that it is to be human — in all things but sin.
Like there are nine ranks of angels, there is a system of organization among demons. The demons recruit other demons to create havoc and drag that person away from the Lord. My job, with my team, is to discover and heal that.
Deliverance prayers are different from exorcism. These prayers that are directed to God also appear in Baptism and in the Scrutinies. (Sort of a minor exorcism.) Formal exorcism is done after deliverance has been done for a reasonable time, but it hasn’t resolved the demonic involvement.
During Baptism, the reason the priest asks for the name is not that he forgot it, but because it’s a way of calling, like the prophets and apostles were called by name. Likewise, demons don’t want to reveal their names. In many cases, the demon’s name is related to the occult practices the person has been involved with. (Names of gods from pagan/mythology etc.) Demons are legalists. They give up their name because they recognize the Petrine authority.
There are four ordinary means of protection against the demonic:
- Faith life — a relationship with God.
- Prayer life — spending time in that relationship.
- Moral life — exercising a state of virtue, even though we fall.
- Sacramental life — a medicine and a seal.
If you want to be convinced of the reality of the Eucharist, show it to a person oppressed by demons. If the demons believe in the Real presence, we sure as hell should. Pray for the ability to recognize your prayers being answered.
Exorcism is a Christ-centered healing ministry. Christ is the exorcist and the deliverer. I have authority only because I have been assigned and mandated to this office.
There are lots of Satanic cults in this country. They very much believe in the power they have been given. Mercy and forgiveness are the real power — these are the perfume of the Cross.
How do you determine the difference between the demonic and schizophrenia or other mental illnesses? I work with — and rely on — professionals in other fields, including psychology and psychiatry and medicine. In general, most therapists are agnostic or atheist; those I work with are Catholic, who can see through the lens of faith. Sometimes it’s the demonic, sometimes it’s mental illness, and sometimes it’s both.
Can a priest perform a formal exorcism? Only with the authority of his bishop. He can pray deliverance prayers though. The formal order of exorcism has only been around since the 1600s. Before that, it was a ministry carried out by lay people. I assume that some form of abuse was what lead to the formalization — that’s typically what leads to formalization.
When did the angels fall? Lucifer rebelled, and all those under his command went with him. Other angels under the command of other rebelling angels —those also fell. Demons don’t lose their office or nature because of having fallen. It doesn’t change what they are. They already knew the entire story of salvation when they rebelled, which is why they have no hope of salvation.
We have nothing to fear after we die from demons. They have no access to Heaven. Purgatory is the beginning of Paradise.
What kinds of things do demons say? They posture: “You have no power over me.” “He/She is mine.” They blaspheme the Blessed Virgin — they hate her because of her role as the new Eve.
Is there a correlation between mass shootings and the devil? I wouldn’t rule it out. For example, concerning the Vegas shooting, I suggested to the FBI team investigating that they should look into the Filipina girlfriend. I think that there was an occult influence in that particular case, because of the details of the circumstances. However, the issue isn’t all guns — though I’m in favor of banning assault weapons — it’s an issue about God. When you take God out of the culture, there’s nothing left to hold on to.
Spiritual warfare is about the battle between clarity and confusion. The confusion over gender that permeates the culture today is from spiritual warfare, as is the confusion over marriage. I’m not denigrating the people involved. I don’t object to two people living together in some legal framework, but I have a huge objection to calling it a “marriage”.
But remember — Satan lost. It might not look like it all the time, but Christ has won. As the lens of of faith gets thinner and people have less and less of a religious community, Pagan practice is mainstreamed. We are spiritual beings. At every funeral, people want to answer the same questions about the meaning of life. Our culture has no boundaries and we make up the rules as we go along — and the result is chaos. There is a great hunger for spirituality, but organized religion in all forms is on decline. How you live your life does matter?
If I follow the four ordinary means of protection against the demonic, am I ok? Yes, but you have to be vigilant. We live in the world with people who have values unlike our own.
What happens if you receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin? The Eucharist stands on its own. The eucharist isn’t diminished by sin. However, your ability to receive grace from it is. If you receive the sacrament in a state of sin, you wouldn’t be able to comprehend or accept the sacrament you’re receiving.
I think there’s a correlation between confession being disused and the rise of the need for exorcism. The Church fell asleep for 50 years — a perfect storm of fuzzy categories of sin, of culture, and of a tendency to look at at psychology only instead of also looking at the spiritual world.
Demons don’t just show up. You have to wave a flag and say that you’re interested. In many cases, the person opened a door and was open to something, just not expecting that something to be a demon.
What is involved in the care for a person after deliverance? That’s very important. I give them a prescription: daily prayer, weekly mass, and monthly confession. See a therapist if needed. Find a parish.
What do you suggest if someone things they have a demon? Talk to your parish priest. That’s the normal process — he will go through the diocese to me.
Can you talk a little more about “integration”? The person simply lives through the lens of the demonic. They often accept the demon because of what Satan gives them in this world, so they make a deal and integrate the demonic into themself.
Is there a correlation between mortal sin and the demonic? Yes. Having multiple sexual partners and the occult are doors. Part of deliverance prayers is breaking ties to the person’s past parters.
Is there a correlation between suicide and the demonic? It depends. I’ve seen one case in twelve years where a person I was seeing took her life. But demons do want the person to kill themselves.
What do you think about Harry Potter? You have to be very careful with it. It glorifies magic and sorcery. The author says she wrote it using automatic writing — so she was under a demonic influence.
Alex’s note: I haven’t been able to find any matching interview or citation about JK Rowling writing that way. The only discussion on the topic of her writing process was about how much time and effort went into planning — outlining and making tables of who was doing what when.
The power of Christ crucified is far greater than anything int he preternatural realm.
Every time we receive the Eucharist, we get a taste of Heaven.