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Commentary

Irish Priest: The Catholic Church Has Dire Need for Exorcists

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Most people who lean right, whether religious or not, tend to believe that there is good and evil in the world. While that view usually refers to right versus wrong, a Catholic priest in Europe is raising the alarm about a much more specific kind of evil: Demonic possessions.

Some might roll their eyes at the idea, but the Rev. Pat Collins takes it very seriously. According to Newsweek, he’s giving a somewhat creepy warning to anyone who will listen.

“An Irish priest has put out an urgent call for backup to help with the growing demand for exorcisms in the country,” the magazine reported, citing the Catholic News Agency.

“It’s only in recent years that the demand [for exorcisms] has risen exponentially,” Collins explained. In an open letter addressed to Irish bishops, the priest called on the Catholic Church to take exorcisms more seriously and train more priests in how to perform them.

“Collins’ comments are on par with those of other exorcists throughout the world, including the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), a group of 400 Catholic leaders and priests, which has reported a dramatic increase in demonic activity in recent years,” explained the CNA.

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This no doubt sounds far-fetched to those who don’t believe that demonic possessions are real — or even in the existence of an external evil force. Interestingly, Collins himself acknowledged that many “possessions” are probably imagined, but he said they can be real enough to individuals who are suffering.

“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, according to the CNA.

“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,” Collins said.

It’s an interesting perspective: In other words, he and other priests believe that if someone has convinced himself he is possessed, the result is essentially the same, and the Catholic Church should be available to help them.

Do you believe that exorcisms can actually help people?

“Each Catholic diocese in Ireland is required to have a trained exorcist who can identify whether a person is suffering from mental illness or has been possessed,” explained Newsweek.

The church’s own catechism, or list of official beliefs, recognizes the difference between mental health problems and what is calls “demonic activity.”

“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,” state the official teachings.

“Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science,” paragraph 1673 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains.

Even as an increasing number of Americans are identifying as non-religious, the vast majority believe in evil, and a surprising percentage also believes in exorcisms.

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“Currently, 79% agree that ‘there are clear guidelines about what’s good and evil that apply to everyone regardless of their situation,'” Pew Research reported in 2007. “That opinion has not changed much in the past 20 years.”

“Majorities of Americans of every political inclination, region, educational level, and age group said they believe in the devil,” Gallup confirmed.

“More than one-in-ten Americans (11%) say they have experienced or witnessed an exorcism, when the devil or evil spirits are driven out of a person,” Pew also found in 2007.

Regardless of your views on the church and exorcisms, one thing is clear: There seems to be a growing number of people who are looking for answers and haven’t been able to find it from traditional mental health services.

Whether people like Father Pat Collins are helping or hurting is open to debate, but it’s certainly an interesting topic to explore.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.




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