Via the Utne Reader:
With a doctorate in astrophysics, Frank (not his real name) considers himself a man of science who relies on research and analysis to make sense of the world. Despite the occult overtones, his body’s violent reaction to the deliverance prayer struck him as an obvious case of cause and effect. He became convinced that he—like the poor souls he’d just read about—was infested with evil spirits.
After reading more books about demonic possession, Frank, a lapsed Catholic at the time, asked around for a priest who might be willing to exorcize him.
In a way Frank was fortunate. Exorcism is experiencing a renaissance in American Catholicism. There are more exorcists in the United States now than at any other time in modern history, according to experts. More than 100 bishops and priests met in Baltimore last November to recruit dozens more. So Frank didn’t have to look far to find Father Gary Thomas, a gregarious priest in Saratoga, California, a small city on the western slope of Silicon Valley…
Dormant for centuries at a time, exorcism tends to awaken when the church confronts significant crises, says Nancy Caciola, a history scholar at the University of California–San Diego. Portable manuals detailing ever more elaborate and standardized rituals of exorcism proliferated during the papal schism of the 15th century, when two men claimed to be the rightful pope. The manuals surfaced again during the Protestant Reformation.
The challenges now confronting the Catholic Church in the United States are legion: the sex abuse scandal, a secularizing society, and a restive flock that, studies show, loses one out of three adult Catholics, to name just a few. Exorcism reasserts the relevance of the church and its inimitable power over human destiny. Who else is going to help when the devil comes for you?
Pope John Paul II, who is rumored to have performed several exorcisms, frequently warned Catholics that Satan is very real and very dangerous. In a similar vein, Pope Benedict XVI praised a group of Italian exorcists in 2005, encouraging them to pursue their “important ministry.”
Good grief. Read the whole thing.