|The Return of the Catholic Exorcism|
CHRISTINA KONINGISOR - The Atlantic..
"Father Thomas, pastor of the Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California, is an avid Giants fan and a 28-year veteran of the priesthood. He is also a practicing exorcist; in the fall of 2005, Father Thomas traveled to Rome to complete a year-long training course under the tutelage of a master Italian exorcist. The story of his training inspired The Rite, a Warner Brothers film starring Anthony Hopkins that opens in theaters Friday.
Despite this fictional portrayal, Father Thomas is also the embodiment of a new trend in the American Catholic church: Long the purview of American cinema, Catholic exorcism is being reclaimed, publicly, by its real-life practitioners. A factual account of Father Thomas's training has been published in a book by journalist Matt Baglio; the Discovery Channel recently announced the airing of a reality show featuring the accounts of trained Catholic exorcists (though the Vatican has denied any official involvement with the series); and last November, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois convened a two-day conference to discuss the practice of exorcism within the Catholic Church.
Today,...broader changes within the church's leadership and its flock have brought attention back to the ritual. Many of today's Catholic worshippers are drawn from immigrant communities with a strong tradition of religious exorcism, explains ...[Mathew Schmalz, a Professor of Religion at the College of the Holy Cross] , and their members are accustomed to seeking priestly assistance with the expulsion of satanic influences. He believes that the movement also stems from an effort to reclaim the centrality and distinctiveness of the priest's role. "There is a feeling that priests' lack of specialness is among the reasons for a decline in interest in joining the priesthood," he says. "If a priest has the power to cast out demons, that's a lot of power."
Father Thomas, however, points to more insidious forces: he views the rising demand for exorcisms as a consequence of increased involvement in the occult. And once the door has been opened to satanic influence, he warns, it is both difficult and dangerous to close. An improperly trained exorcist can place both himself and his charge in great peril: "As a cardinal rule you never talk to demons," he says. "Demons are, by their nature, devious, and they lie. They can engage you in all kinds of conversation to throw you off track." more...