As you know, I am not an exorcist. But I do know enough about the supernatural (God and the angels) and the preternatural (demons) to correct some common misperceptions that I am hearing from even good Catholics these days. For example:
1) This group is so evil—do you think they’re possessed?
2) Can you do an exorcism on this misled family member of mine?
Question #1: This group is so evil—do you think they’re possessed?
Answer: Many people seem to forget that mortal sin is worse than diabolical possession. While it is true that many traditional Catholics are right to be shocked at the level of evil living unabashed across the entire globe, I fear that many good Catholics forget that mortal sin is when evil possesses your soul (albeit in a depersonalized way) whereas demonic possession is when evil possesses your body (albeit in a personalized way.)
While I grant the fact that a personalized demon inhabiting your body sounds worse than depersonalized evil in your soul, it’s just not objectively the case in the spiritual life. We need to remember that a life of quiet mortal sin is worse than wild diabolical manifestations (which I have seen, by the way.)
Another thing to remember is that sometimes very holy people (like victims of abuse) can occasionally be under a full diabolical possession, even as they occasionally live nearly sinless lives. On the other hand, some people are so deep in mortal sin that they are in a state of “perfect possession” meaning that they are in cahoots with the demons inside them. Such “perfectly possessed” people can go about their professional lives with no manifestations. It’s obviously pretty scary that “perfectly possessed” could happily go about a business transaction with us revealing nothing schizophrenic about themselves.
Barring these two extreme examples, most people end up under diabolical oppression or obsession or possession through their own sins. Sins (especially sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance and also first commandment sins such as the occult) open doors in one’s soul through which demons can enter. In short, if you don’t want demons affecting you in any other way besides temptation, then you must start standing up against your daily temptations. (Executing this is obviously harder than any time in Church history as the current hierarchy not only fails to condemn high-level mortal-sins but frequently ratifies the consciences of those committing them.)
Question #2: Can you do an exorcism on this misled family member of mine?
Answer: People who ask this question think of exorcism as a magic trick. The truth is that no exorcism can be done on an unwilling subject. Exorcism can only be done on someone who puts up no major obstacles to living a Christ-centered life. So, even if I were an exorcist (and I am not) I would first ask: “Is this person willing to live a Christ-centered life?” Sadly, the answer is usually, “No.” Therefore, even the most powerful exorcist in the world can do nothing for a person who does not want to live a Christ-centered life.
In fact, exorcism on someone not interested in maintaining a decent prayer life after deliverance would perfectly fulfill Our Lord’s words: And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man in made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation.—Mt 12:43-45. Also, remember that supernatural-faith must come before the sacraments. The Apostle Paul wrote: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe Him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?—Rom 10:13-14.
Whereas most people today don’t trust a “preacher,” they will trust a friend. So put all of this together and most disturbed people in your life need a Catholic friend long before they need an exorcist. Again, friendship leads to supernatural faith. Supernatural faith leads to the sacraments. Usually (except for cases when Catholic exorcists agree to do exorcisms on Protestants) the sacraments (like confession) are required before exorcism, provided that person is even proven to be under a diabolical oppression or full possession. (If you think any of this sounds Protestant, remember that the Council of Trent says that supernatural faith must chronologically precede the sacraments.)
So, if you really suspect a friend or family member of yours is under a diabolical influence, don’t just pawn them off on some priest. Even if you were truly positive a friend were possessed (something many people get wrong) you have to take the longer-path of befriending him and then sharing the Gospel with him and getting them an old-school catechism and eventually to baptism and/or confession and only then do you contact your pastor who will then contact the diocese who then may contact the diocese’s exorcist. It’s also good to share with your loved ones the 15 Mortal Sins that many Catholics are missing in their confessions.
The power of exorcism is partly dependent on the current holiness of the Church. All older exorcists claim something happened in the summer of 1963 that made exorcisms start to last years instead of days. Such exorcists would be the first to tell you that exorcism is not something you want to bank on right now. Anyone from St. Teresa of Avila to modern-day exorcists will tell you that the best preventative way of exorcism is to do mental prayer (meditations) on the Gospels. Meditation on the Gospels is not only filling one’s heart with Christ, but it is protective, for the intellect is clearly one of the faculties through which demons can enter. (This is one reason why I started by VLX series on YouTube.) In fact, some of my priest friends in deliverance ministry will not even evaluate a potential energumen (possessed person) without that person proving he or she can go 30 days under a particular prayer-regime.
The late Fr. Gabriel Amorth (former chief exorcist of Rome) believed that at least 25% of Italians in the 1980s were involved in the occult. I suspect those numbers are even higher now. But there is also good news: Many people are now praying the Rosary. The daily Rosary is the best preventative way against future exorcisms for your family. Many men are fasting with Exodus 90 which fulfills the Gospel’s words: But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.—Mk 9:26-28 DRB.
Finally, there are good prayers at Auxilium Christianorum (AC.) AC prayers may be helpful for people who live in grace, pray the daily Rosary (at least five decades) and have their spiritual director’s permission to do those AC prayers. If you can’t do them, at least pray the Rosary, the St. Michael Prayer and the Lorica of St. Patrick every day.