Exorcism growing among Catholics? San Francisco Weekly offers flawed investigation.

by Julia Duin 17 March 2016 Getreligion.org

(Editors Note: the article referenced in this piece can be read at St Michaels Journal or at SF Weekly)

There are some publications that treat religion-news coverage like a trip to some mysterious planet where the inhabitants are incomprehensible. Such was the San Francisco Weekly’s recent take on a local exorcist. It was so crammed with mistakes, one wonders if anyone bothered editing or fact checking the piece.

The Weekly has had some decent religion stories in the past, but this was not one of them.

Which is a shame, because the issue of exorcism is wildly interesting, the stuff of movies and best-selling books. The reporter identifies himself as a lapsed Catholic non-believer, which makes it odd that the research would be so sloppy.

We begin:

Every Thursday evening, a few dozen people file into Immaculate Conception Chapel, a small Catholic church on the steep slope of Folsom Street on Bernal Hill’s north face, carrying bottles of water, tubs of protein powder, small bottles of booze, watches, rosaries, and cell phones…
The people stir a few minutes past 7 p.m. when a tiny man wearing white robes – a long rectangle of cloth with Vegas-worthy golden sparkles hanging around his neck – appears from a door to the left of the altar. A few weeks shy of his 89th birthday, Father Guglielmo Lauriola walks slowly across the raised altar area to a waiting chair. Here he sits, facing away from his congregation in the style of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, to read from laminated card prayers and songs devoted to the Virgin Mary. Aside from Jesus on the cross, she is the principal figure of veneration here at the 104-year-old church.

So the scene is set. This priest conducts a Mass, after which, we’re told “the show really starts.”

The people line up in the same way they did when receiving Communion, but instead of a piece of consecrated bread, this time they’re waiting their turn to hold Lauriola’s hands for about 20 to 30 seconds as he offers each of them a special prayer. As Lauriola murmurs his blessing, the two men hold their hands up behind the person receiving it, their palms held out and a few inches away from the person’s back, as if preparing for a trust fall at a work retreat.
It’s a necessary move. After Lauriola releases his grip, some of the people stagger away as if stricken, caught by the waiting hands. Some need to be helped to the altar, where they kneel to pray. Every once in awhile, the blessed person will fall to the floor as if they fainted. Sometimes they may remain there for as long as 10 or 15 minutes while the rest of the congregation files around them to receive their own blessings, with their own reactions…
This is not an ordinary Catholic Mass — it’s a healing Mass. The prayers here are for sick people, for deliverance. Some of the prayers are to be rid of evil, of the influence of the devil in their lives — to be free of the hold Satan has on their bodies and souls.
This is exactly the right place for that kind of prayer. This is the house of an exorcist. Lauriola is one of two Catholic exorcists — priests whose official duty it is to perform the Solemn Rite of Exorcism, the formal casting-out of the devil or a demon from a Catholic’s body and soul — living and working in the Archdiocese of San Francisco…

At the very end of the article, the author explains that he was not allowed to attend a real exorcism, so he had to settle for a healing service, which he morphs into a quasi casting-out-of-devils time.

Which this service definitely is not. Read the rest of this at Get Religion dot org

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