Exorcism and religious intolerance
The Catholic Church is much more restrained in its approach to demonology than Pentecostal, Charismatic, and new-Apostolic "deliverance ministries" typically are. Whereas the latter tend to see demons, demons everywhere, Catholic exorcists make at least some attempt to distinguish "demonic" activity from mental illness and to recommend appropriate treatment for the latter.
However, at least one Catholic bishop has admitted that the recent Catholic exorcism trend has been influenced by the Charismatic movement. According to the National Catholic Register story A Nation and Its Demons, January 29, 2010:
The exorcist usually works in union with another priest and/or with a deliverance team. According to Bishop [Thomas] Paprocki [of Springfield, Ill.], the "deliverance" aspect is a modern addition, having grown up through charismatic prayer groups that focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He explained that during the 1960s and 1970s the devil's work received less emphasis in the Church. The charismatic groups which formed during those decades, however, tended to focus more on deliverance of people from evil. Most exorcists today turn to such groups to be part of an exorcism and deliverance team, to pray for and with them. Another aspect to the team approach is the use of health-care professionals to screen for mental illness.
(P.S., February 21, 2011: In North Dakota, according to the Rapid City Journal news story Bismarck Diocese only in area to have its own exorcist by Mary Garrigan, Sunday, February 20, 2011, the un-named local exorcist is said to work with two lay people who have the "gift of the discernment of spirits." Most likely these two "gifted" people are Catholic Charismatics, I would guess.)
Talk To Action's "New Apostolic Reformation Resarch Team" might want to investigate the possible extent of crossover between the "New Apostolic Reformation" and Catholic charismatics. (Such crossover might be possible even though at least some "New Apostolic Reformation" leaders, on the other hand, are very anti-Catholic, even going so far as to regard the entire Catholic Church as being controlled by a demon called the "Queen of Heaven.")
Be that as it may, long before the "New Apostolic Reformation" emerged as a distinct movement, Catholic exorcism has long been associated with the more conservative and authoritarian sectors of the Catholic Church. For example, back in the 1970's, a leading popular proponent of exorcism was Malachi Martin, a Catholic traditionalist who wrote Hostage to the Devil (1975).
More recently, in 2005, a Vatican-backed course on exorcism was taught at the Pontifical Academy Regina Apostolorum, run by the Legion of Christ, a controversial, notoriously authoritarian conservative religious order founded by the subsequently-disgraced Marcial Maciel. (See Vatican backs exorcism course: Church lacks priests qualified to practice ritual by Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2005, re-published on the Boston Globe site.) The course was taught in the midst of a Satanic panic in Italy, and the course itself featured highly questionable alleged "experts" on Satanism. (See Richard Bartholomew's posts Italy an Unhealthy Climate for Satanists, January 7, 2005, and More on Italian Satanism, January 10, 2005.)
In November 2010 in Baltimore, there was a two-day closed-door conference on exorcism, for American Bishops, just before the annual fall meeting of the nation's bishops. According to the New York Times ("For Catholics, Interest in Exorcism Is Revived" by Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, November 12, 2010):
Some Catholic commentators said they were puzzled why the bishops would bother with exorcisms in a year when they are facing a full plate of crises -- from parish and school closings, to polls showing the loss of one of every three white baptized members, to the sexual abuse scandal flaring up again.
The conference on exorcism was organized by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, who I quoted earlier. Paprocki was appointed bishop of Springfield, Illinois, in April 2010. His appointment was protested by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) due to his remark, three years ago, blaming the Devil for the wave of sex-abuse lawsuits against the Church. (See New Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki Once Blamed Devil For Sex Abuse Lawsuits, by Christopher Will, Huffington Post, April 10, 2010.)
The movie The Rite is loosely based on the experiences of Father Gary Thomas, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga, Calif. Father Thomas regards all non-Abrahamic religions as opening doorways to demons. He has even said that "any new age activities," or dabbling in witchcraft, "immediately disqualifies" the practitioner from running for public office! According to an interview in The Catholic Spirit, "Book focusing on US priest's training as exorcist being made into movie," January 25, 2011:
Asked about the case of Republican U.S. Senate aspirant Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, and her comment that she had "dabbled into witchcraft" in high school, Father Thomas replied, "I find that incredibly troubling that a person who had taken part in witchcraft would run" for office.
Of course, there were other, better reasons to object to O'Donnell's candidacy. (See Ask Christine O'Donnell the Right Questions - Not if She is a Witch by Rachel Tabachnick, Thu Sep 23, 2010, here on Talk To Action,)
According to an interview with Father Gary Thomas by Peg Aloi, on January 26, 2011, Father Thomas believes in pretty much the entire "Satanic Ritual Abuse" meme, complete with recovered memories. Here again he also condemnts polytheism, including traditional Native American religions, as "opening them up to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous."
Another well-known exorcist is Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, former president of Human Life International: "The Pro-Life Leader Who Is Also an Exorcist." Euteneuer is the author of two books, Exorcism and the Church Militant and Demonic Abortion. In an interview by Deal W. Hudson in Inside Catholic, republished on the Catholic Online website, 7/20/2010, Euteneuer said:
Exorcism and the Church Militant is intended, in part, as a warning to parents who allow their children to be desensitized to "the dark world" by books and films like the Harry Potter series and the vampire books of Stephanie Meyer. Father Euteneuer told me possession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards.
Yes, he really believes that reading vampire fiction is evil and dangerous, if the following blog post has accurately reprinted a statement of his: Vampire Logic, Monday, July 26, 2010.
In August 2010, Euteneuer was removed from public ministry by his bishop, for undisclosed reasons. More recently, some Catholic bloggers have alleged sexual improprieties. (An example is "Of Aquinas, Augustine, and Euteneuer: reflections on Fr. Tom on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas" by Tom O'Toole on the right wing website Renew America, January 29, 2011.) Another blogger, Frank Weathers, questioned the accuracy of Euteneuer's autobiography, in "For Cults of Personality, Not! (Or My Brush with Fr. Thomas Euteneuer)," Sunday, January 30, 2011.
(P.S., Feb. 5, 2011: Frederick Clarkson has called attention to the Bene Diction Blogs On post Father Thomas Euteneurer, the cult of personality, moral failure and the blogosphere, February 1, 2011. Apparently the talk of a sex scandal has been verified.)
(Further P.S., February 6, 2011: The following blog post includes a history of Thomas Euteneuer's anti-abortion activism: The Shame of an Exorcist Admitting Violation of Chastity by Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast, February 2, 2011. And here is a relevant news story: Anti-abortion group says multiple women have complained about disgraced priest by Lona O'Connor, Palm Beach Post, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.)
Pagan blogger Jason Pitzi-Waters has written the following posts about the recent Catholic exorcism revival and accompanying attitudes toward polytheistic religions:
Anyhow, the recent mass media attention to exorcism, thanks to the premiere of The Rite, may result in some good opportunities for activists here to call attention to the political implications of the larger "spiritual warfare" trend.
Exorcism and religious intolerance | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
Exorcism and religious intolerance | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)