.- Despite the intrigue and attention given to the topic of exorcism, the primary work of the Devil lies in daily âtemptation,â Bishop Thomas Paprocki said, following a successful exorcism training weekend hosted by the U.S. bishops in Baltimore.
The Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism took place Nov. 12-13, just before the bishops' annual fall assembly. According to Bishop Paprocki, who chairs the Bishop's Committee on Canonical Affairs, the program came about after an increasing number of inquiries from priests in the U.S.
Because only a âsmall numberâ of priests have undergone exorcism training, the conference was held âreally to provide some guidance for bishops,â he said.
He explained that exorcism training falls under the jurisdiction of the canonical affairs committee because of the requirement in canon law that says a priest needs permission from his bishop to perform an exorcism.
Over 100 bishops and priests attend the two day conference, which Bishop Paprocki said they described as âvery helpful.â
In an interview with CNA, he said that âthe reality is that an exorcism is really rare. It's really something rather extraordinary because possession â a person being possessed by a devil or demon â is also very rare.â
âGiven the fact that possession and exorcisms are rare, people tend to think that that's the only activity of the Devil,â and they mistakenly think that âif I'm not possessed, I don't need to worry about the Devil,â he said.
However, it's âquite the opposite,â he explained. âThe ordinary work of the Devil is temptation and everybody has to face that everyday.â
âThe ordinary response to dealing with temptationâ can be found in âthe ordinary means of spiritual life that the church offers: the Sacraments, going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, saying prayers and devotions, the Rosary, blessings, Holy Water, things like that,â he said.
âAnd in fact, I would go so far as to say that the Sacrament of Penance is more powerful than an exorcism.
âAn exorcism is a type of blessing in effect â it's a sacramental â whereas the Sacrament of Penance is actually a sacrament,â the bishop explained.
âSo if we live a good life, a good spiritual life that's sound, we don't need to worry about that.â
Bishop Paprocki smiled as he clarified that exorcism is âsensationalized in the movies,â and that demonic possession âis not contagious.â
Usually it's needed âbecause people have willingly and freely opened the door to the Devil, looking for that kind of involvement and enjoying the pleasures that the Devil has to offer,â he said.
âIt's a relationship â a relationship between a human person and a fallen angel â a devil.â
âExorcism,â he explained, âis breaking that relationship,â and it âstarts with the person renouncing Satan.â
Primarily, it âinvolves getting a person to renounce that relationship,â and âsecondly, for a priest to intervene and invoke the power of Christ to break that relationship.â
Speaking on what determines the need for an exorcism, Bishop Paprocki said that âwe use the principle that you have to exclude all the natural explanations before you resort to the supernatural.â
âThat means getting a medical examâ and a âpsychiatric assessmentâ first, he clarified. If a person is mentally unwell, bringing up the suggestion that he or she is possessed would undoubtedly make the situation worse.
âThat's why a careful screening and permission from the bishop is needed,â he explained.