Collins said that he was “baffled” that the bishops haven’t trained more exorcists for Ireland, and added that anyone who doesn’t see the need for more exorcists is “out of touch with reality.”
“What I’m finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they’re afflicted by an evil spirit,” Collins said.
“I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the Church, the Church doesn’t know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped,” he added.
A spokesperson for the bishops' conference at Maynooth told The Irish Catholic that each diocese is required to have a trained exorcist, who is able to discern the difference between signs of true demonic possession and signs of mental or psychological illness.
“Exorcisms are very rare and this office has not been made aware of any cases of ‘exorcism’ in Ireland in recent years,” the spokesperson said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between demonic activity and mental illness. From paragraph 1673: “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”
In April 2015, the Congregation for the Clergy and the Sacerdos Institute hosted a seminar at Rome's Regina Apostolorum University, specifically aimed at training priests and lay people in spotting the differences between psychological problems and demonic possession.
The conference included interventions from a wide range of experts in the field of exorcism, including practicing exorcists, medical professionals, psychologists, lawyers, and theologians.
Recently updated rules of the Catholic rite of exorcism also state that a person who believes they are possessed must first rule out mental illness before seeking an exorcism. If the rite of exorcism is still needed, they may seek out a priest who has been trained and appointed as exorcist for his diocese by his bishop.
Collins noted that it often takes multiple meetings with a person seeking an exorcism to determine precisely what is afflicting them, but noted that whether it is true demonic activity or other problems, the requests have gone up dramatically in recent years.
Father Vincent Lampert, a Vatican-trained exorcist and a parish priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, has previously told CNA that the best defense against demonic possession is staying close to the sacraments.
In his open letter to the Irish bishops, Collins wrote: “...there has been increasing evidence of the malicious activity of the evil one.”
(Story continues below)
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“I can’t judge from my own subjective experience because people see on the internet that I’m supposed to be an exorcist so I get an inordinate number of calls from people, and emails, all I can say is I have that reputation, but it’s only in recent years that the demand has risen exponentially,” he wrote.