SOURCE: LA NACION (newspaper)
DATE: Sunday, August 20, 2006
Church Ritual: La Nacion Witnesses Exorcism in the San Isidro Diocese
The Mysteries and Secrets of Exorcism ? Cases are on the rise, say priests who carry out the Vatican-approved practice.
By Silvina Premat ? staff
?What?s going to happen is that it will try to distract us from prayer. I want to ask you, no matter what happens, that at least two people continue praying the Rosary. The others must insure that Carmen doesn?t injure any par tof her body, but especially her head,? instructed Father Juan.
Kneeling before an image of the Virgin and a monstrance with the Eucharsit in the parish hall of San Andres Avelino, Villa Adelina (Diocese of San Isidro), Carmen, 33, joined her hands in prayer. She was surrounded by her husband, six collaborators from the parish and Father Juan. At a table near the wall were the priest?s weaposn for the coming combat: holy water, oil, a crucifix and photocopies of prayers.
The time was 17:10 hrs. last Tuesday and thus commenced the fifth ritual of exorcism that this woman would undergo ? and whose real identity is kept secret ? in an effort to free her from what the Church acknowledges as demonic intervention. Five of the exorcists consulted by LA NACION stated that in recent years the number of people seeking them out has increased, as people claim to hear voices, see shadows were there are none, hear doors open and shut, or other phenomena for which no explanation can be found.
?The Church is concerned about the subject and for that reason it updated in 1999 the ritual that had been in use since 1614. Last year, the Pontifical University of Rome held courses for exorcist priests,? said Father Alberto Ibanez Padilla.
Carmen?s exorcism, witnessed by LA NACION, is the sixth case diagnosed this year by Father Ramon Morcillo, parish priest of San Andres Avelino and an expert in new religious movements. Since he began performing exorcisms in San Isidro 5 yeas ago, Morcillo recognized the presence of a strange power in only five cases.
?We Can?t Keep Up?
The priests who deal with this are too few and we can?t keep up. There should be one per ecclesiastical jurisdiction,? said the priest.
In the hall, five minutes after commencing the prayers, Carmen experienced a kind of swoon and immediately began breathing with difficulty, panting, roaring, screaming and writhing every time the prieste mentioned Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or made reference to the lies and works of demons.
Now, lying down and held by her husband and four of the women present, Carmen did not look at anyone and moved her head in circles. She wailed when Father Juan brought the crucifix near her body.
?Do you renounce Satan?? asked the priest during a part of the ritual.
?No!? was the hair-raising cry that came from Carmen, who began speaking with clenched teeth in a deep, rasping voice, similar to that of Gollum, the hideous character from ?The Lord of the Rings?
Lolling her tongue, she moved, laughed and cackled enough to chill anyone listening as she struggled to stand up. The priest continued praying and now spoke to Carmen, who replied as though she were someone else. Without losing his calm or his kindly tone, Father Juan was also addressing ?someone? other than Carmen, commanding them ?in the name of Jesus? to depart from that woman.
?No, I?m not going. I want her more than Jesus. I chose her. She?s mine. Mine. I do what I want. I?m not leaving. Leave me alone. I will say nothing. Go with your God,? said the voice, which at this point could hardly be attributed to the identity of the woman who had arrived on her own an hour earlier, seeking relief.
Before finding Father Morcillo, she and her husband had consulted 35 priests, including four bishops, regarding the strange symptoms that had plagued her for several years: at times she would see her reflection deformed in mirrors, she could move objects by just looking at them, or would suffer uncontrollable outbursts of laughter that cause intense pain in her jaws.
Carmen?s husband, 37, attributes the origin of these ailments to the practices of Umbanda and spiritism in their respective families when they were children.
Father Carlos Mancuso, parish priest of San Jose, La Plata, and an exorcist for over 2 decades, estimated that the majority of those who approach him for consultation are people who ?were spiritually affected after having participated in satanic cults or Afro-Brazilian religious groups, or else in sessions involving trance mediums, faith healers or witches.?
Marist brother Emilio Garione and another priest from Lanus ? who asked his name to be kept confidential ? agreed with him. All of them mentioned the rise of the occult as the main cause of the increase of ?people with spiritual problems.?
Among the common characteristics of those affected by these ?diabolical interventions? they mentioned that most are women under 50, from a variety of socio-economic and educational backgrounds. According Padilla, women are the most affected ?without a doubt, but there are also farsighted and prayerful women.?
As with the case involving Carmen and Father Juan, who completed the encounter following two hours of ?combat?, Morcillo explained that five or six sessions would be necessary to ?fully release her? and that ?each exorcism is like a round [of boxing] in which the demon present in the person is weakened.?
Morcillo showed LA NACION a fax from another young woman who also underwent several exorcisms that ended last June. ?I feel the immense joy that a prisoner must feel upon being released,? the young woman wrote the priest.
The First Step: Dismiss the Possibility of Psychosis
To determine whether the person claiming to be obsessed by demons is not suffering from mental illness, exorcists perform interviews, request medical and psychological or psychiatric workups. Priests must dismiss the possibility of hysteria, psychosis, schizophrenia or another pathology.
Cases of possession are considered by Father Mancuso ?a strange bird in society?. He does not keep a written log of pending exorcism cases, but stresses that he has six on his waiting list. All of the affected parties are women.
The ritual prescribed by the Vatican does not mandate medical and psychiatric workups before deciding to practice an exorcism, but it does recommend them.
The Church suggests that symptoms of demonic possession that allow a priest to perform an exorcism are: a vehement aversion toward God, the Virgin, saints, the cross and other holy symbols by the affected party; speaking in unknown languages; the ability to locate concealed or distant objects and displaying strength in excess of his/her physical build.
Among the remedies, the Vatican ritual describes the sacramentals (oil, holy water, the cross) along with confession, communion, prayer and fasting, the names of Jesus and Mary, and exorcism.
The Keys of a Growing Phenomenon
What is an exorcism?
It is a particular form of prayer that the Church uses against the power of the Devil. There are two kinds: public exorcism, when the presence a demon is verified in a person?s body, and priave, for cases involving other evil influences, such as oppression or obsession.
Who can perform it?
Public exorcism can only be performed by priests authorized to do so by their bishops. It is goverened by canon law. The private kind can be conducted by laymen. The Pope suggested that ?bishops should insure that unauthorized people do not hold meetings in which prayers are said to expel the devil.?
What is the ritual like?
Private exorcism has no ritual. In the public kind, the priest anoints the victim with oil, sprinkles him/her with holy water and recites prayers.
Who witnesses it?
Aside from the priest there may be between four or five people. Some allow the presence of physicians or psychiatrists and someone who can photograph or videotape the ritual.
Is it performed only once?
It is repeated as many times as necessary, depending on the person?s affliction.
Is the person affected afterward?
No. Generally he/she does not remember what happened during the attacks. Some psychiatrists say that the affected person suffers from post-traumatic shock, which can be treated with regular therapy.
What is the difference between exorcism and praying for release?
Exorcism is an order by which a demon is ordered to withdraw from the afflicted soul. Release is a prayer in which God is asked to release the person from certain problems.
(translation (c) 2006. S. Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Christian Quintero)