A Catholic priest has said virtually all his free time is taken up with exorcisms these days as he struggles to counter the tide of demonic possession washing up Silicon Valley and the rest of Northern California.
Father Gary Thomas, together with fellow exorcist Father Vincent Lampert, has been profiled in a lengthy piece in the Daily Telegraph, in which the pair detail how they are deploying some of the Church’s ancient rites to counter the results of very modern problems, such as creaking healthcare, drugs, the revival of “pagan” customs, and the tide of internet smut. Though of course, the actual presence of Satan is also part of the problem.
According to the report, the pair point to a “spiritual void” in the centre of American culture as part of the reason for their increasingly busy schedules - as well as the more temporal failure of the US’s mental health care system. This has left space for Satan himself, and his tribes of demons, to create havoc via demonic attachment, infestation, vexation or full-scale possession. [You can get a full rundown of the differences here]
Fr Thomas said he has performed between 50 and 60 exorcisms over the last decade - a case of full-on demonic possession takes around six months to deal with apparently.
“Often the stories are very complicated and many (seeking help) have been suffering for a long time” he says.
By the time they come to him, they’ve exhausted conventional avenues such as psychiatry, he says: "They’re sick in one way or another and sometimes they do have a demonic problem. These are the local ones (in my parish).”
“I am a full-time pastor and this is a very intense ministry. Almost every free night that I have is taken up with exorcisms," he says. "I could conduct one or two exorcisms a week for demonic attachment (as opposed to full possession).”
“People could be quite functional but once they get into a sacred arena, such as a church, or participate in some element of parish, they’ll begin to manifest or they’ll begin to get sick or they’ll begin to show other kinds of signs that something is amiss. And it’s my role and my team’s to discern what it is. Is it something psychological?”
Thomas adds that “I don’t do exorcisms on demand.” He added that while he gets many requests for help with demonic vexation and worse from non-Christians, “If they have no Christian ground...we can do more harm than good.”
Thomas also warns that as well as Demons, troubled individuals may be bothered by disembodied human souls - but with his training he’s quite able to discern the difference. Demons' ultimate aim is to drive their host to suicide, he said.
He added that exorcism is usually conducted in Latin - a language that Demons hate most. Apparently though, Italian, Spanish and Portugese also tend to get right up their demonic noses. There is no approved English translation, and officious demons will snottily tell the priests they are not required to respond to follow his commands unless they are in a Latinate form.
While Fr Thomas is rushed off his feet dealing with full possessions, apparently any priest can assist you if you’re suffering from attachment, vexation or “infestation on property”.
Just last month Scottish police referred a Scottish family to a local exorcist after cops apparently witnessed a poltergeist at work in their home.
Even the Vatican is not immune to the presence of Satan - or is most at risk, depending on your point of view. The Church’s top exorcist, 91 year old Fr Gabriele Amorth warned six years ago that the “smoke of Satan” was wafting around the corridors of Vatican City. Pope Francis, for his part, has refused to stay at the traditional papal apartments, and gave his blessing to the International Association of Exorcists a couple of years ago. ®