EXORCISTS AND DEMONS CLASH IN A
SUPERNATURAL SHOWDOWN FOR THE FATE OF SOULS
- While exorcism may seem like the stuff of Halloween horror movies, Christian ministers say battling the demonic is reality.
- Cases of alleged demonic possession occur to this day, attested to not only by priests but medical professionals as well.
- The demand for exorcism has spiked in Western countries in recent years, sparking calls for more education on the subject and for the training of more exorcists.
Major Christian denominations in the U.S., Ireland, and the U.K. have noted a “demonic crisis” in which the need for exorcisms has exceeded the number of available ministers to provide that service. Christian ministers attribute that surge in reported demonic activity to everything from the popularization of the use of witchcraft, to immigration waves from regions rife with animistic practices, to a growing brazenness of demonic forces in the faces of churches’ relative silence on the matter of spiritual warfare in recent decades.
Whatever the cause, the result is that ministers are reporting increasingly frequent confrontations with demonic spirits over the souls of suffering individuals.
The Catholic Church often asks licensed psychiatrists to examine people who claim to be suffering from demonic possession or demonic harassment. Dr. Richard Gallagher, psychiatry professor at New York Medical College, faculty at Columbia University, and a board-certified psychiatrist, is one such person who the church has turned to many times for help in these cases.
Gallagher expressed skepticism when the church first asked for his help over 25 years ago, but that only affirmed to church officials that he was the right man for the job.
“Well, if we didn’t think you were skeptical, Dr. Gallagher, we wouldn’t have wanted to use you,” a priest told Gallagher…
Gallagher knows all too well the reality of the demonic, as exemplified in the extraordinary case of the woman known by the pseudonym “Julia,” documented in the March 2008 issue of the New Oxford Review.
Julia was the self-professed queen of a Satanic cult and believed that she had been demonically possessed. She reached out to a priest who referred her to Gallagher for a psychiatric examination. Not long into his examination, Gallagher said, Julia relieved him of any doubt he had about her claim.
Objects flew off the walls and shelves when she was in the room. She reportedly displayed knowledge of Gallagher’s personal life that she could not have known, spoke in ancient languages, and entered a trance state during which a demonic voice spoke through her. That voice allegedly interrupted a phone conversation between Gallagher and the priest Julia contacted when Julia was not present with either of them. Both men heard it.
“At one point, the voices spoke in foreign languages, including recognizable Latin and Spanish. (Julia herself only spoke English, as she later verified to us.) The voices were noticeably attacking in nature, and often insolent, blasphemous and highly scatological. They cursed and insulted the participants in the crudest way. They were frequently threatening—trying, it appeared, to fight back—’Leave her alone,’ ‘You’ll be sorry,’ and the like.
Julia also exhibited enormous strength. Despite the religious sisters and three others holding her down with all their might, they struggled to restrain her. Remarkably, for about 30 minutes, she actually levitated about half a foot in the air,” Gallagher wrote.
Clergy performed a total of eight exorcisms on Julia with Gallagher present. Unfortunately, she was never freed of the spirits assailing her.
“True possession can sometimes be taken care of in one exorcism but other times it can take years,” Gallagher said. “It can depend on the willingness of the victims to help themselves. The exorcism makes the demonic hold on the person weaker, but the person’s response also influences the outcome.”