Demon Days

Exorcism is experiencing a renaissance in American Catholicism. The devil is in the details.


| September-October 2011



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Tom Keating / www.tomkeatingart.com

For more than a decade, Frank, a software consultant who lives near Silicon Valley, California, has been haunted by depression and rage. Searching for remedies to lift his dark mood, Frank, 52, tried pills, therapy, even channeling spirits. Nothing worked.

Three years ago, his wife handed him a book about demonic possession. Written by a former priest active in charismatic Catholic circles, the book presented scriptural arguments for the existence of demons and offered advice to questions such as “How do we know if an evil spirit is really present?” and “How do I pray for deliverance?” Desperate for relief, Frank decided, while he was jogging one night, to pray for deliverance.

“If I had known what was going to happen, I would have picked a more private place,” Frank says. After reciting the recommended prayer, he doubled over, dry heaving, by the side of the road. His lungs felt like they were leaping out of his chest.

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.