Does This Patient Need an Exorcist--or a Psychiatrist?

November 19, 2010

Speaking in a language a person has never learned; extraordinary shows of strength; sudden aversion to things spiritual; severe sleeplessness; lack of appetite; cutting, scratching, and biting one's own skin. . . these are the "classic signs" of possession by a demon, according to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Illinois.

Speaking in a language a person has never learned; extraordinary shows of strength; sudden aversion to things spiritual; severe sleeplessness; lack of appetite; cutting, scratching, and biting one's own skin. . . these are the "classic signs" of possession by a demon, according to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Illinois, who is quoted in a November 12, 2010 article in The New York Timesabout renewed interest in exorcism.

With requests for exorcism among people who believe they are possessed by the devil rising in the United States, and with only a few priests trained to perform the ancient rite, Bishop Paprocki organized a 2-day conference to help prepare priests and bishops meet the growing demand. Organizers of that meeting say its goal is to help clergy learn how to distinguish "who really needs an exorcism from who really needs a psychiatrist, or perhaps some pastoral care." 122 priests and bishops attended the conference.

Demand for exorcism is expected to rise as the number of Hispanic and African Catholics immigrate to this country. "People from those cultures are more attuned to the experience of the supernatural," said Reverend Richard Vega, president of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, an organization for American priests.

Vatican guidelines issued in 1999 stipulate that a person who claims to be possessed must be evaluated by doctors to rule out a mental or physical illness. Those guidelines supersede the previous set issued in 1614.

References:

Reference:

1. Goodstein L. For Catholics, interest in exorcism is revived. New York Times. November 12, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/13/us/13exorcism.html?scp=1&sq=exorcism&st=cse Accessed November 17, 2010.