Vatican legitimizes process of exorcism

This is ridiculous. It raises serious questions about the involvement of religious officials and medical professionals in mental health care.

Vatican recognizes International Association of Exorcists –

The International Association of Exorcists has been formally recognized by the Vatican’s Holy See, an indication the Catholic Church approves of the controversial practice of exorcism.
The group, restricted to Roman Catholic priests, was founded in 1990 by six priests. They included Father Gabriele Amorth, known as the “Exorcist of Rome,” who claims to have performed 160,000 exorcisms — the ceremonial process of releasing demons from those possessed by them.

The organization now has 250 members in 30 countries.

OK, let’s play “devil’s advocate” here. Some people who have mental or behavioral troubles may be believers in demonic possession. The process of exorcism (done under the strict Roman Catholic exorcism procedure which requires a priest’s consent from his bishop, and examinations by medical specialists) may serve to help the patient cope with their difficulties.

That does not require the rest of us to accept that demons are real and bothering humans. It is like a placebo that makes people feel better. Is it ethical?

Not for a doctor, no. Should a doctor recommend spiritual counseling? I’m sure many do.

I suppose I’m torn on this. I do not condone this absurd superstition. (Note that the piece mentions the 1973 film, The Exorcist, as the public face of “exorcism”. That was FICTION. This idea is based on fiction.) But is it worth it to help people who are beyond rational help with irrational methods that may work?

This is a case where science informs what we should do (not exorcism) but we may need to consider non-science-based input.

In no way should we accept amateurs trying to do exorcism. They are seriously dangerous. Also, I do not condone the involvement of exorcism’s lead cheerleader, Gabriel Amorth. He’s off the edge.

The Devil beware Father Gabriele Amorth – The Washington Post.

Chief Exorcist Rev. Gabriele Amorth Says Devil Is In Vatican – ABC News.

My opinion would be much stronger input by psychologists and psychiatrists in evaluating these cases. They should be carefully documented and analyzed with followup so we can see what effect this procedure has on affected people. This would be the ethical course for the RC church to take. Will they? I doubt it. But health professionals should demand it.

This acknowledgement by the Vatican will surely legitimize the practice far more than it should be. As usual, the nuance will be totally lost.


  16 comments for “Vatican legitimizes process of exorcism

  1. Peter Robinson
    July 3, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    After all the talk about how wonderful the new pope is, this just goes to show that he and the institution are still just a medieval anachronism. Never bought into the idea that he would do more than superficial modernisation.

  2. spughie
    July 3, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    I thought this had to be a joke, an association for exorcists? They actually have a website: All you need to join is $65 and fill out a one page form and a non-disclosure agreement.

    This is a both palms to face and head shaking in disbelief.

  3. Altus
    July 3, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    “In no way should we accept amateurs trying to do exorcism.” Really? Does this imply there is such a thing as a “professional” exorcist? It seems to give the whole idea a reverse legitimacy – sort of like the idea there would be “amateur psychics.” If we could only get rid of the pesky amateurs, this industry would be much more legit!

    I’m sorry but, I think the problem lies with the premise that any person called an “excorcist” should be given any degree of credibility.

  4. chemical
    July 3, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    I bought into the idea that he would do more than superficial modernization.

    While I agree that exorcism is a medieval anachronism, Francis is a lot better than some previous popes that I can remember:

    * Atheists and homosexuals no longer being condemned to burn in hell for all eternity
    * He actually helps poor people
    * Generally preaches religious tolerance and humanistic principles

    Endorsing exorcism lowers my opinion of the pope, but I’ve seen some other popes do a lot worse. I’ll chalk it up due to his humanity.

  5. July 3, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Little steps?

  6. July 3, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Yes. There sort of are. The amateurs are those that take matters into their own hands and kill their family members or clients. Also, some paranormal investigation teams will give it a whirl too. I’d rather actually have a priest do it. At least he has to answer to some (human) superiors.

  7. July 3, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    I’d suggest the church is trying to appeal to the masses (no pun intended). Exorcism is HOT and people believe it. It is something that gives the church notoriety and power. I’m not surprised by this. We can thank pop culture. Why are exorcisms so fascinating?

  8. Richard Cornford
    July 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    If you work 16 hours per day, 365 days a year for every year of a 40 year career, performing 160,000 exorcisms still works out at one exorcism every hour and a half.

    ((16 x 365.25 x 40) / 160000) = 1.461

    It may not be a profession but it does appear to be full-time employment. (Alternatively the seemingly exaggerated claim of 160,000 exorcisms performed by one individual says something about their credibility.)

  9. Blargh
    July 3, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    @ chemical
    There’s a big difference between what Pope Francis says, how it’s reported, and what he actually does. The last bit is what’s important, and as far as I know, we haven’t seen any changes in actual Catholic dogma.

  10. July 3, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    “Atheists and homosexuals no longer being condemned to burn in hell for all eternity”

    You do realise nobody can really condemn anyone to do anything in a mythical future existence, don’t you?

  11. July 3, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    The UPI writer got two points wrong – Under church law, every Catholic and Anglican diocese has to have a priest who is an exorcist (if no regular priest is appointed as one, the bishop is it). All the Vatican did was recognize an organization of exorcists, that, contrary to the story, is open to Anglican and Orthodox exorcists as well, which is hardly a new “indication the Catholic Church approves of the controversial practice of exorcism” – it’s been a established of church practice for a very long time.
    Some exorcists don’t believe that demons possess people – they regard what they are doing as trying to help someone with personal problems –

  12. chemical
    July 3, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Yes, of course. Being an atheist myself, I don’t believe any of it. My own Catholic family told me I was going to burn in hell, but I take this threat about as seriously as a child telling me that Santa Claus won’t bring me any presents for Christmas.

    My main point is that Francis seemed to be an OK person in my book, on the grounds that he seemed more tolerant to other religions (i.e. other religions not going to hell) and more willing to help the less fortunate than his predecessors. Unless, of course, I receive evidence to the contrary…

  13. TwoEyeHead
    July 5, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    Just goes to show how ancient the catholics are, they should have published an exorcist app.

  14. Gary Grady
    July 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Didn’t realize skeptics hate religion so much yet they faithfully follow their own Global Warming Gods. This is a funny fringe site. Lotsa laughs, thanks again.

  15. Bill T.
    July 7, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    It’s all a matter of evidence. No one is expected to believe that climate change is real through (blind) faith, the evidence is and has been argued, and only a very few actual climatologists actually doubt the evidence for “global warming”. See “qualified to hold an opinion”.

    I have, actually a very good, friend that is a vehement denier that has recommended sources to me to read. Each of the counter-arguments are well refuted, hence, denier.

    How is pointing out patently silly ideas hating? Belief in demons requires the blind variety of faith, hence is well open to question.

  16. July 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Best you be off to some denialist site then… Bye.

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