Exorcisms on the rise: Occult activity sparks 'pastoral emergency'

Crucifix Credit LeChinchi via Flickr CC BY NC SA 20 CNA 11 5 14 LeChinchi via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Catholic experts say occult activity and the resulting need for exorcisms has reached a critical level.

Just prior to the season of all things supernatural, the International Association of Exorcists (AIE) met for their 12th annual conference in Rome, from Oct. 20-25.

According to AIE spokesperson Dr. Valter Cascioli, an increasing number of bishops and cardinals asked to participate in the conference due to an increase in demonic activity.

"It's becoming a pastoral emergency," Cascioli told CNA. "At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise."

The rise in demonic activity can be attributed to a decreasing faith among individuals, coupled with an increase in curiosity and participation in occult activity such as Ouija boards and séances, Cascioli added.

Many people are led to occult activities through seemingly innocent curiosity. One concerned mother wrote to Crux, the Boston Globe's Catholic news outlet, for advice on her teenage daughter who seemed to becoming obsessed with the occult – she checks out books on witchcraft, watches "Long Island Medium", and attends séances at the home of a friend who owns a Ouija board.

The advice columnist dismissed it as a phase, similar to an obsession with such literature as C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkein's Middle Earth – or with My Little Pony.

"If you don't make it a big deal, she'll have to face reality herself: Sooner or later, she has to grow up," wrote Lisa Miller, Crux's advice columnist.

However, any involvement, even passive participation in the occult, can be catastrophic and should always be rejected and avoided by believers, Cascioli said.

"It usually starts out of ignorance, superficiality, stupidity or proselytizing, actively participating or just watching."

"The consequences are always disastrous."

Ramifications of occult activity affects people on physical, psychological, spiritual, and moral levels, and  include anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, acts of self-harm, and constant thoughts of death, to name a few, he said. In severe cases, occult activity leads to demonic possession.

"Whether we realize it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we do it for fun, for amusement or for any other reason, it does not change anything: the devastating impact of spiritism, is the same."

Often, people are misguided and believe they are in touch with the spirits of deceased loved ones, when in fact they have contacted and invited demons into their lives, Cascioli continued.

"This spiritual entity deceives and betrays us about their true identity, telling us things that are only partially based on truth; thus seduce us, trick us and try to enter into us," he explained.
Fr. Stephen Doktorczyk, a priest of the Diocese of Orange, has participated in healing and deliverance workshops and has prayed many times over people who were approaching possession.

He suggested in response to the Crux column that the mother's duty was to pray the rosary for her daughter and to dissuade her from any further occult involvement.   

"The young girl's behavior is potentially dangerous and could lead to serious problems in the not too distant future," he said. "The Evil One is smart. He knows how to entice people with seemingly harmless things. As we read in 1 Peter 5:8-9: 'Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.'"

"I have dealt with too many situations involving people who, perhaps innocently, started dabbling in the occult. They now wish they would could go back and undo their prior decision," he added.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all forms of "divination" – anything that involves recourse to Satan or demons, or that attempts to conjure the dead or reveal future events – are to be rejected.

From CCC paragraph 2116: "Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone."

The Catechism continues the warnings in the following paragraph against any magic or sorcery or occult activities, called "spiritism."

Another common error is believing that the devil and the spiritual realm are not real, Cascioli said; but the devil is real, he affirmed, and the Bible refers to him 118 times under various names including Satan, the evil one, and the prince of this world.

The International Association of Exorcists, whose 250 exorcists are placed all over the world, have noticed an increase in demonic activity irrespective of particular places or cultures.

"We know that in some countries of the world, there are no exorcists, and demonic activity and its consequences are spreading all over the world," Cascioli said. "It is not a socio-cultural phenomenon, it is present all over the world, and that tells us a lot."  

"So, it is truly becoming a pastoral emergency and this is why we have the necessity to combat this situation."

Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.

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