genuine demonic possession as an extremely rare phenomenon

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Anna Elisabeth Michel. Over a 10-month period, Fathers Renz and Alt carried out 67 one-hour exorcism sessions with Anneliese. Audio recordings from the sessions reveal their efforts as well as how Anneliese’s voice was distorted, the sounds she made, and the growls and other utterances that she made in response to the religious ritual. Anneliese herself was supportive of the exorcism, but as it proceeded, she became weaker and thinner, and no medical intervention was sought.


Exorcisms are the stuff of Hollywood movies ? but real life versions of the rituals often make the headlines around the world.

But what are they and why does the Catholic Church perform them?

The idea that demons exist and can possess people is one of the most widely-held religious beliefs in the world. Most religions claim humans can be invaded by demonic spirits and offer exorcisms to cast out them out. The Vatican first issued official guidelines on exorcism in 1614 and revised them in 1999. The changes state that ?the person who claims to be possessed must be evaluated by doctors to rule out a mental or physical illness”.

Along with a handful of Vatican-sanctioned exorcists, there are hundreds of self-styled exorcists around the world. Catholic Church law requires that every diocese has at least one specially-trained priest who can perform exorcisms, although the Vatican says demonic possession is very rare and the majority of cases turn out to be people suffering from mental illnesses. In past centuries, epilepsy, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome and similar conditions were mistaken for demonic possession.

The Church lists symptoms of demonic invasion as a loss of appetite, unnatural body postures and a change in the person’s face, voice as well as predicting future events and a cold feeling in the room. Other tell-tale signs include a person losing control and lashing out, an intense hatred toward religion or antipathy towards entering a church, speaking Jesus’ name or hearing scripture.

Most reported cases do not require an exorcism because twentieth-century Catholic officials regard genuine demonic possession as an extremely rare phenomenon.

Often someone will just need medical help.

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