“Please send me information on how to attend the class on exorcism at the Vatican!”
As most readers of this blog might imagine, the preceding request is one we frequently receive; it would seem that a large number of people want to take part in the battle against demonic possession or they simply desire to satisfy their curiosity.
It was my understanding that up until the last year or so the Istituto Sacerdos only offered this course to the Priests and Sisters of the Roman Catholic church, however as the story we posted titled “Institute to hold 11th exorcism course” explains, the course is now apparently open to not only clergy but lay people as well.
Now as to how one might attend, your guess is as good as mine at this point, but perhaps there is an answer…
Please allow me to interject that the ordained ministers affiliated with this blog are not Roman Catholic. Yes contrary to popular belief there are catholics (little c) that are not Roman, some are Eastern Orthodox, Polish National, Copt or of other more traditional denominations and a very small number ( as in world wide) are Independent Catholic, Old Catholic, Reformed Catholic or use other similar titles to describe a sacramental form of worship independent of the Vatican. Apparently as we use titles such as Priest or Bishop, some believe us to be Roman Catholic, however the Anglican and Episcopal churches use the same titles and some protestant churches use the title of Bishop; obviously the Bishops of the Anglican, Episcopal, and other Protestant churches are not Catholic (big C as in Roman Catholic). But those that practice a sacramental form of worship similar to the Catholic or Anglican Rites are in fact none the less catholic (little c). Therefore although those of us at St Michaels Journal who are ordained are catholic (little c) and not affiliated with the Catholic church (big c) in any way, without such an affiliation we have no idea how to contact the Istituto Sacerdos regarding the course on Exorcism. At least not until today so keep reading.
In the past we have suggested that the “seeker” contact their local parish Exorcist and ask him how to contact the Istituto Sacerdos; feedback from those who have tried this route have indicated (most generally) no one at the local parish seems to know who the official diocesan Exorcist is. The next route we suggest is to ask a Catholic (big c) Priest or Bishop who the Exorcist for the diocese is or how to contact the Istituto Sacerdos; this too seems to be a state secret. In conversations with Catholic Priests (big c) I have been told that some Bishops as well as some Priests—men highly educated in our finest modern universities—have a low opinion of the subject of exorcism as they feel that demonic activity and Satan himself are naught but a figment of a passé mythology; they feel that possession is nothing but mental illness.
Some Priests I have interviewed, privately speculate that the subject is somewhat of an embarrassment to their ordinaries even though the previous Popes have instructed each diocese to have a resident Exorcist, they also suspect that the fear of litigation plays a major role in the decision of a Bishop who determines to closely guard the identity of the Priest assigned to perform this sacramental rite. Frankly—as a catholic (little c) Bishop myself—I do not blame them a bit as I have been hesitant to perform certain aspects of the Rite of Exorcism for fear of law suits, and now due to changes in legal opinion from the Supreme Court I find that I must place certain conditions within our Archdiocese on the performance of other particular sacraments as well. We live in a cultural climate that breeds unjust litigation.
But I digress. Did I already mention that although we are catholic (little c) and not affiliated with the Catholic church (big c) we have no idea how to contact the Istituto Sacerdos regarding the course on Exorcism?
But then again when all else fails there is the power of prayer and sometimes …Google…
As I reviewed my email inbox and read today’s requests for this information, the thought occurred to me that I might write this article explaining that although we are catholic (little c) and not affiliated with the Catholic church (big c) we have no idea how to contact the Istituto Sacerdos regarding the course on Exorcism; and suddenly I wondered if it might be that easy; that all one might have to do is Google the term Istituto Sacerdos; and so I did.
Patiently I waited.
You see I live in a rural area where the choices for internet is limited; the local cable service is an absolute joke, there happens to be an offending high ridge between me and the closest repeater that broadcasts wireless broadband (I’m sure that particular technology has a name but at the moment it eludes me) and although my smart phone has a tether feature, satellite based service is the most cost efficient in the long run albeit rather slow at times. Apparently satellite internet is at times slow as the old dial up systems that those of us with gray hair remember oh so well. I discovered that fact as when I typed in the phrase “Istituto Sacerdos” and clicked on enter and waited, and waited.
I then realized the signal travels from my laptop to the wireless router which is hooked to the satellite transceiver at the far end of my house, then through the dish on the roof and up some several thousand miles through outer space to a satellite in orbit around the earth, down to an earth station, then without a doubt the signal bounces back up to another satellite and down to another earth station to a server presumably somewhere in Rome. Then the process reverses. Isn’t it amazing how impatient we have become what with all the technological advances we have witnessed in the last fifty years or so? Such an amazing process as connecting to a computer on the other side of the globe and we get impatient waiting just a few seconds? Who said Bishops must have the patient of a saint?
Anyway when the Google return page displayed in my monitor the first listing was for the web page of the Istituto Sacerdos, but before I impetuously clicked on the link as I would imagine so many of us are prone to do, I did notice that not only was the synopsis in Italian but also Google was so nice as to suggest a translation and provide a link to such a service. But I was too late, I had already clicked on the link http://www.sacerdos.org/blog-2/italiano-blog/ and received a page in intelligible—at least to me—Italian, so I clicked on the back button and followed Googles suggestion for a translation. There appears at this time to be information on the Exorcism class in April 2016 and a means to contact the Institute in the Google provided translation.
But don’t be impatient and impetuously rush—as this Bishop is sometimes prone to do—and click on your favorite air travel site booking a flight to Rome, unless you are fluent in Italian. To my knowledge the lectures are still given in the local tongue and you might have a bit of trouble understanding the content presented.
The major motion picture “The Rite” was the medium through which most of us learned of the existence of a course on Exorcism given by the Vatican. Prior to this course the practice was generally learned through experience, usually as an assistant to a veteran Priest who had previously fought many a battle, going toe to toe with the devil to free an innocent from spiritual bondage. Some Priests had the misfortune to find themselves required to perform the rite without any prior experience relying only on prayer and the text of the Rituale Romanum. But now Priests—Catholic (once again big c) Priests at least—can learn the rudiments of the Rite, presumably at the expense of the Church.
In the book “The Rite” author Matt Baglio relates the experience of the real life Priest from Silicon Valley that left behind the high tech modern world and traveled to Rome to attend the course and learn about what he had previously presumed to be a passé notion of mythology and superstition. Not quite as dramatically as his fictional counterpart in the movie, but Father Gary did indeed learn that this subject is not mere superstition and antiquated mythology, but a very real phenomenon that we are hard pressed to explain using our modern knowledge as a benchmark. Trust me as I have seen things I don’t even want to try to explain but prefer to try to forget.
As the character in the movie learned, Father Gary also learned that the language barrier could be frustrating for Americans as everything was in Italian when he (the real Fr. Gary) was there in 2005. So once again take time to check out all necessary aspects of what might be a once in a lifetime adventure before you click on any travel links, perhaps they have improved the translation equipment and processes but expect to be as a stranger in a strange land. Remember you are a guest. Passports and Visas are probably also a due consideration, so if you are reading this before the 2016 April course, you simply do not have the time to complete the necessary hurdles to attend this years course; but there is always next year.
So there you have it, a rather long answer to a short and simple question. Perhaps it is a writer’s thing; you know a habit to write a long article so as to generate more words because everyone knows a writer gets paid by the word. Well I don’t get paid a penny for my work here, it is all voluntary, an effort to bring to the world stories on this arcane but serious subject. Perhaps this particular exercise is nothing but an attempt to interject a bit of humor as we address a question often asked of us, we pray you enjoyed it.
May the Peace of the Lord be with you.
Bishop Benedict Johns,
Editor/Publisher St Michael’s Journal
Presiding Bishop Archdiocese St Michael