The AP reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms.
Organizers of the [two-day training] are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.“
Yes, that’s like Coca-Cola spending millions on advertising to avoid the perception that Coke is just fizzy brown sugar water.
Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.
Speaking an unknown language? Like speaking in tongues? Of course, that’s mostly a Protestant thing, so no wonder the Catholics think it’s a sign of demonic possession.
As for displays of strength, should I have a priest on hand at my next Festivus party?
I was going to suggest that they could win James Randi’s prize by demonstrating that demonic possession is a real phenomenon, but they’re the Catholic Church. What do they need yet another million bucks for?
The full exorcism is held in private and includes sprinkling holy water, reciting Psalms, reading aloud from the Gospel, laying on of hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Some adaptations are allowed for different circumstances. The exorcist can invoke the Holy Spirit then blow in the face of the possessed person, trace the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and command the devil to leave.
Yes, I’m so glad this isn’t magic or superstition.