Chapter 9: The Challenge
The Christian religion is centred on Jesus, not on the devil. Our concentration should be very
much on. Jesus. Too much thinking and talking about the devil, and demons gives them an honour which is not due
to them. That is 'demonitis'. However, to ignore
totally, the existence of the devil and demons is not right either, and that is a much more common failing among
Catholics today, at any rate in many countries.
When did you last hear the devil mentioned in at parish sermon? I would think that in some parishes
the devil has not been mentioned in a sermon for many years. God forbid that we should have frequent sermons on
the devil! But it is not right either simply to forget his existence. As has often been said, one of the greatest
triumphs of the devil in our times has been to make many Christians think that he does not exist, or at any rate
to act as if he did not exist. He can work, more powerfully when we ignore his existence.
Why do a number of priests never mention the devil in a sermon? Because some priests do not think
that:, he exists, other priests are uncertain as to whether or not he exists, other priests would not want to frighten
people - but if there is a real danger of fire, we should not refrain from mentioning it in order not to frighten
people! Still other priests would simply not know what to say about the devil, even when they do in fact: believe
that he exists.
It is not only a matter of sermons. There is also the question of individual counselling and ministry. Many priests
would never suggest to a person in distress that they were perhaps being troubled or attacked by the devil. Nor
would some priests say that it was important not to play with ouija boards and tarot cards. because it can open
people up to demonic troubles.
I do not however wish to judge and blame individual priests. What preparation did they receive in this area in
the seminary? I personally have spoken to two priests who lectured in seminaries and who could not affirm that
they believed in the existence of a personal devil - one said that perhaps in five years time he may do so. So
having received little or no instruction in these matters in the seminary. the priest is understandably at a loss
what to preach or advise in this area.
Father Jim McManus CSSR, now provincial of the Redemptorists in this country, writes in his remarkable book, Healing in the Spirit. Ministry of Healing in Today's Church
"I had taught moral and pastoral theology to students
for the priesthood for six years and I had never even mentioned a ministry of deliverance or exorcism. Looking
back on those years I have to say that although I never formally gave up belief in the Church's teaching on evil
spirits, my faith was totally inactive. I was aware that possession by the devil could take place in rare cases.
I was also Uware that if that happened the bishop would appoint a holy, wise, and ascetical priest to deal with
it. It Would be no concern of mine. I realised that throughout the Catholic Church, in most, if not in the seminaries
where priests were being trained, ther would be no teaching on this ministry. That is why said that I understand
why so many priests an ministers don't use this ministry. Like myself, nobod taught them about it."(page 111). Father Jim has since those days developed a powerful ministry inner healing and deliverance,
as readers of his book will discover.
Because quite a number of needy Catholics are not receiving any or much instruction or help in their own church
in the field of deliverance or protection from
evil spirits, quite a few of them are going to other Christians for this help. I know several Anglican priests
experienced in the deliverance ministry who have over the years been receiving quite a stream of, Catholics for
this ministry. And other Catholics have been going to Pentecostals and other Evangelicals. Cross fertilisation
in the healing ministry can be a good, thing in the ecumenical age in which we live, but there can sometimes be
a danger of Catholics being over influenced by teaching which is not in line with the Catholic way of seeing things,
for example being told that all alternative therapy is demonic, or that all inter-faith dialogue is of the devil,
or that it is wrong to ask Our Lady to pray for you.
Every Pentecostal minister would not only firmly believe in the existence of the devil and evil spirits. he would
also have received some training in recogriising when people need deliverance from evil spirits and in how to exercise
this ministry. So it is understandable that some Catholics in need of deliverance may go to a Pentecostal pastor,
rather than a Catholic priest who may not believe in the existence of the devil.
There are also the problems posed by the difficulty for Catholics who need serious exorcism ministry of finding
an approved Catholic exorcist. Despite canon law, in some dioceses no provision is made for this ministry. And
where a priest is appointed for this ministry, it may in practice be very difficult for the needy person to get
to him, and if he does get to him he may find that the 'exorcist' more or less limits his ministry to sending people to psychiatrists - which was the stated policy of
one diocese in the USA of which I heard.
Some years ago a Catholic man in a prayer group in the USA felt the need for exorcism ministry. His request was
passed on to the diocesan chancery, who spent six months making enquiries and considering the question. The man
lost patience, and one evening he walked down the road to the local Pentecostal church, where he was effectively
delivered from evil spirits in half an hour.
There can be other practical problems. A very experienced Anglican priest exorcist told me of
a sad case. He was asked if he would minister to a person in another diocese. The local Anglican bishop was consulted
and insisted that a psychiatrist be consulted first. Arrangements were being made for the person to see a psychiatrist
but before this could happen, the depressed person committed suicide. The general principle of consultation between
exorcists and the medical profession is an excellent one but when people are feeling suicidal or violent, delay
in receiving exorcism ministry may be fatal, as it was with the man mentioned above.
In case people think I am exaggerating, I will refer to the book by the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome:
Un esorcisto racconta, by Gabriele Amorth (Edizioni Dehoniane,
Rome 1990). In the Introduction he relates how on being appointed official exorcist of the diocese of Rome he discovered
that there were very few official exorcists in Italy and that these had received very little training. He goes
on to say that the situation is worse in some other countries, complains that he has had to minister to people
in France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and England because needy people had not been able to find this ministry
in their own country. He asks whether this is because priests and bishops do not believe in the need for, and fruitfulness
of this ministry. He goes on to say that in the Catholic world, pastoral practice in this field is totally neglected
("e deltutto trascurata"). It was
not always so in the past, he continues, and we must recognise that it is not so in certain protestant denominations,
in which exorcisms are taking place often and fruitfully. He suggests that every cathedral should have an exorcist,
as also major parishes and sanctuaries.
Gabriele Amorth is his book describes a telephone call he received from a bishop elsewhere in Italy. The bishop
asked him if he could see someone for exorcism from his diocese. Amorth suggested that instead the bishop should
appoint a priest in his diocese for this ministry. The bishop said there was no one he could appoint. Amorth then
suggested that the bishop should exorcise the person himself, to which the bishop replied that he would not know
where to begin. That is an important point. it is not enough to appoint a priest as official exorcist. There needs
to be some training. It is to the credit of the diocese in which I live that the bishop sent a priest to Rome to
be trained in this ministry.
Now for another important point. It has been our experience in the healing ministry of the Catholic Charismatic
Renewal that not only priests but also some religious sisters and some lay people have received special gifts of
healing in the deliverance-exorcism area. (I use the word 'exorcism' to describe the heavier and more serious end
of the deliverance ministry.) I myself have in this field ministered with the help of lay people who were clearly
more gifted than myself. What use is the Catholic Church making of these gifted people? Does God want gifted lay
Pentecostals to be able to exercise this ministry but not gifted lay Catholics? In his book, Renewal and the Power of Darkness (DLT
1983), Cardinal Suenens makes an interesting suggestion: "I would
add that if the office of exorcist has disappeared as a minor order, there is nothing to prevent an episcopal conference
from requesting Rome to restore it. I do not know if this is advisable, but it is at least a possibility which
is deserving of study. If the conclusion is positive, then the office of exorcist could be made available to qualified
laymen." (page 97)
As the Irish bishops said in their recent very positive statement about the Charismatic Renewal (1993): "In the Charismatic Renewal there is an awareness of the
operation of the power of Satan" - an awareness which, seems to be missing in so
much of the life of the rest of the Catholic Church. I think that in practice much of the effective deliverance-exorcism
ministry in the Catholic Church today is being done by Catholics involved in the Charismatic Renewal. I think that
more and more bishops are using priests involved in the Charismatic Renewal for this ministry, to judge from priests
with whom I have talked on this subject.
So it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in the whole field of deliverance-exorcism ministry, the Pentecostals
and the evangelical Charismatics are in general much more active and indeed more competent than Catholics. I would
think that in general a non-believer who found himself badly caught up in demonic troubles because of involvement
with the occult would be more likely to receive the help he needed from the Pentecostal-Evangelical side than from
a Catholic priest. I remember one such case, and the man himself after being delivered joined an evangelical church
and developed a powerful healing ministry. The Catholic priest whom he had approached simply could not help him.
On the Catholic side we are hampered by unbelief in the existence of demons, by ignorance about
the deliverance ministry, and by very tight regulations. Surely we need to wake up, we need a real renewal of the
deliverance-exorcism ministry in the Catholic Church, as the official exorcist for the diocese of Rome pleads with
all his heart and mind in his book.
There is, however, another side to this whole questions and we must mention that now. Things
can go very wrong in the exorcism ministry and sometimes do. For example, a few years ago in the London borough
in which I live, a wandering evangelical preacher and his friend attempted to exorcise a woman at her request.
In trying to get the demons out of her they stamped on her body - and this killed her. They then prayed for twelve
hours for her return to life, which needless to say did not happen. They then handed themselves over to the police.
Then there was the famous Barnsley case in 1974, when after an all-night exorcism session a man went home and killed
his wife in a most brutal manner. So the Catholic Church is quite rightly cautious, and she rightly does not believe
in allowing anyone and everyone to undertake the ministry of exorcism.
Although many Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches have a serious discipline when it comes to the ministry of exorcism
and are very careful as to whom they allow to minister in this field, there are nevertheless sometimes excesses
on the evangelical side. Needless to say, as a Catholic I was not happy about the well-known evangelical exorcist
who used to cast out 'evil spirits of Romanism from Catholics who came to him for ministry!
Nor am I happy about the following passage from the book by the leader of a well-known evangelical
"After conversion the man renounced all his New Age beliefs, but
remained a vegetarian because he thought it made sense.
"Whilst ministering to him the Lord drew my attention
to this by Word of Knowledge, and I asked him therefore, if he would renounce vegetarianism also. He declined,
the demons would not go and I was unable to minister to him any further. An hour later he: was back, realising
that if the demons that had come into him through his New Age involvements would not go, because his vegetarianism
was giving them a, legal right to be there, he would prefer to give up being a vegetarian than continue to be demonised!
"Immediately he renounced vegetarianism, he was
free to be delivered and in a relatively short period of time, a large number of spirits left. Refusing to eat
all that God had made available for him to eat had given sufficient ground to the enemy for him to be held deeply
in bondage, graphically demonstrating the truth of Paul's words to Timothy about the teachings of demons!" Are we to believe that the many generations of monks who abstained from eating meat, were all demonised
by evil spirits of vegetarianism?
Exaggerations of this kind bring the ministry of deliverance into disrepute. If we are seeing demons where there
are no demons, then people will not listen to us when we warn them about the danger of demons which really do exist.
Obviously the Catholic Church needs to keep a balance between caution and confidence when it
comes to the exorcism ministry. One can be over-cautious or over-confident. If we are over-cautious, then we shall
fail to help needy people - often very desperately needy people - whom we should be helping. If we are over-confident,
then there will be casualties. It seems to me that at present we are in general clearly erring very much on the
side of overcaution, so that we are failing in our duty to help people. One priest who has exercised this ministry
with the blessing of his bishop once said to me that fear of the tabloid press was too often the dominant factor.
If we are taking the line that whatever else happens we must never under any circumstance risk the possibility
of an exorcism scandal in the popular press. then we shall be paralysed by fear and prevented from helping people.
Perhaps there is a parallel with medical surgery. We all read in the press from time to time about cases in which
surgery has gone very wrong. The only way to make absolutely certain that nothing could ever go wrong in surgery
would be to perform no operations. Some people would take this line with exorcism, and thus nullify the Lord's
promise that "by using my name they will cast out demons" (Mark 16:17).
It is however clearly important to cut down as far as reasonably possible the risk of things
going wrong in the exorcism ministry, and some things can help us here. The first point is to do as much healing
and liberating as we can through the ministry of inner healing. There can be a considerable over-lapping between
praying for inner healing and deliverance ministry - deliverance ministry should normally be accompanied by prayer
for inner healing and for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes - but not always - prayer for inner healing
will suffice to deliver someone from evil spirits.
The second point is that concentrating on the healing power of the sacraments can sometimes -
but not always - suffice to liberate people from evil spirits.
We should not under-estimate the healing and liberating power of the sacraments. However, there remains a place
for casting out evil spirits. In the New Testament Church the sacraments were not a substitute for the casting
out of evil spirits.
A final point worth making here is that there is nothing to be gained from trying to cast evil
spirits out of someone who is not willing to repent of and renounce the sins or practices which allowed evil spirits
to enter. So if someone is having trouble with evil spirits because of involvement with the occult, then they need
to repent of and renounce that involvement before we try to liberate them. As long as someone holds on to the occult
involvement, the evil spirits have in a sense the right to be there. I have met people who wanted to be liberated
from the unpleasant effects of evil spirits but were not willing to try to give up the practices which had let
the evil spirits in. Trying to cast evil spirits out of people who are not willing to repent and renounce can lead
to trouble, and in any case is a waste of time and energy. In such cases we need to pray that they will be given
the grace to repent and renounce.
Chapter 10: Further Challenges
Another urgent area of challenge is that of Warning Catholics - and anyone else who will listen to us - of the
dangers of involvement in the occult. Children in schools, including Catholic schools, are playing with ouija boards
and tarot cards. In Catholic schools there are sometimes Halloween parties of a kind which have no place in a Christian
institution. In Catholic parishes there are sometimes fortune-telling stalls in parish bazaars, In case someone
thinks I am exaggerating I will give some examples:
At one Catholic cathedral a day of celebration was announced with a special Mass to be celebrated by a bishop.
On the notice announcing all this, a list of events was advertised, and one was a palm-reading stall. (This stall
was in fact dropped as a result of protests.) I can think of several cases of parish bazaars with fortune-telling
stalls - and serious ones. One was dropped as a result of protests. In another casejer case the parish priest told
a woman who objected that if she did not like the stall she could transfer to another parish. In a Catholic school
there was a Mass celebrated at Halloween, and the walls of the room Where the Mass was celebrated were decorated
for the occasion with lots of sweet-looking witches flying around on broomsticks. (One member of the staff refused
to attend the Mass as a protest.) This reminds me of the Catholic mother in a house I was recently asked to bless
who had placed a cloth witch hanging from the ceiling by the bed of her daughter "as protection for my daughter". Finally, a priest who the official
exorcist for his diocese told me that he had heard of a "great many
cases of children playing with ouija boards in schools".
Now that the new Catechism has appeared, whic is very definite about the existence of the devil and demons and
equally clear that involvement in the occult and fortune-telling are definitely out for Catholic, we can surely
hope that the bishops, the clergy, and catechists will remind Catholics of the teaching of the Bible and the Church
in these areas. And the Catholic Church can warn the wider public of the dangers of demonic trouble arising from
involvement in the occult.
Another area of challenge is that of the personal lives I of individuals. Christians need to be aware that we are
all being attacked at times by the devil, that we:
are all involved in spiritual warfare. The love of God and our neighbour is the key to holiness, not belief in
a personal devil. And some Christians who do not believe in a personal devil are more holy than some Christians
who do. Nevertheless, an awareness of the existence of personal demonic forces is normally an aid to growth in
holiness, for it helps us to understand better the nature of the spiritual life. So there is a need for Catholics
to be reminded of this area of Catholic tradition, but avoiding exaggerations. The clergy surely have here a special
responsibility in their roles as teachers and spiritual guides. Furthermore, I think that not only reading the
Bible can be important here, but also reading the spiritual classics. The saints and major spiritual writers are
aware that we are involved in spiritual warfare with demonic forces. In a way, the point made in this paragraph
may be more important than some of the more dramatic things mentioned earlier in this book. To get the ordinary
Catholic prepared for his or her spiritual warfare is doubtless more necessary than dealing with the far fewer
people who need exorcism ministry, important though the latter is.
It has become obvious to all thinking people that we are living in very extraordinary times. Humankind now has
developed the power to destroy human life on earth. When we remember what harm a relatively small accident like
Chernobyl did, it is not difficult to imagine what harm could be done by mad leaders in an all-out war - and history
has thrown up mad leaders from time to time: one has only to think of Hitler. Then there is the whole environmental
and ecological crisis, with the increasing pollution of our planet. And there are new illnesses like Aids, and
also the increasing problem of drug abuse.
In the face of all this, and reflecting on the significance of the return of the Jews to Israel, increasing numbers
of Christians are convinced that the Second Coming of Jesus is imminent. This conviction is held by all Pentecostal
Christians, many other Evangelicals, and I have met Catholics who think on those lines. I personally do not share
that definite conviction, but I must say that I do not regard it as being in any way a lunatic fringe opinion,
and they may be right. In any case, all Christians should in a sense be looking forward to the return of the Lord.
All Christians can say with the book of Revelation: "Maranatha. Come,
Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20) even if it is not for their life time.
(I hope that I will excused if I point out to the Pentecostals that for nearly a hundred years
now they have been saying that the return of the Lord was imminent. Perhaps we are at the beginning of a very new
period of human history on earth rather than at the end of it - this is the view to which I incline.)
However, I am not claiming to be a prophet when it comes to predicting the future of humankind - I do not think
that l am called to that role. But l do wish to say as strongly as I can that in the tensions, clashes, and dangers
of our times the devil is especially active. He is a defeated foe, the final outcome of the battle is certain,
the final victory of Jesus is being worked out. However, in the meantime Satan is causing a lot of trouble, and
may well cause even greater trouble in the coming years.
The words of Vatican II in the Dogmatic Constitution' on the Church (paragraph 16) apply,
I think, in a very special way to the times in which we live: "For
a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from
the very origins of the whole world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord attested (cf. Matthew 24:13; 13:24-30, 36-43). Caught in this conflict
man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good. Nor can he achieve his own integrity without
valiant efforts and the help of God's grace". The above words are true for every
age, but it is only in our times that human-kind has developed powers which could possibly bring human life on
earth to an end. In that sense the situation is different now, the dangers are now far greater. As Christians we
know that Jesus is Lord of this situation, that he will limit the evil that Satan is allowed to do. As Christians
we can be hopeful, because we put our trust in Jesus.
Now I come to an ecumenically delicate subject, but one which, I think, honesty demands that I do not try to avoid:
the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, especially in our times. A considerable number of Catholics - and not a
few other Christians - are convinced that in our times Jesus is in a special way making use of his mother in bringing
people to Himself, and in combating the activity of Satan. Of course, "there
is only one mediator between God and human-kind,
Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all" (Timothy 2:5). Jesus is our only Saviour. But Catholics and many
other Christians believe that Jesus listens to the prayers of his mother.
I am thinking largely of the apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje and elsewhere, which seem to be increasing in
number in recent years. What are we to think of these apparitions? I remember one good priest, now dead, who had
a very real devotion to Our Lady, who once said to me that he was not interested in apparitions of Our Lady. It
is not necessary to be interested in Medjugorje and similar places in order to love Our Lady, and to ask for her
prayers. However, I think that if we honestly face up to the facts we shall have to admit that very many people
who go to Medjugorje and similar places are coming to a new or greater knowledge and love of Jesus as a result
of going there. I have met a considerable number of people who have been converted or more deeply converted to
Jesus at Medjugorje. Indeed, I think my own two visits to Medjugorje and my reading of literature connected with
it have increased my knowledge and love of Jesus. So I would particularly ask our evangelical friends, many of
whom are such wonderful Christians, to judge the apparitions of Medjugorje and similar places by the test of what
influence they are having on people's relationship with Jesus.
Some Catholics will wish to limit their interest in shrines of Our Lady to places where the apparitions
have been officially approved, such as Lourdes in France (1858), Fatima in Portugal (1917), and Barineaux in Belgium
(1933). Fair enough. No one is obliged to go, for example, to Medjugorje. However, it is worth mentioning that
a certain number of the recent apparitions have already been officially approved, for example: Akita in Japan (1973),
Kibeho in Rwanda (1981), and Betania in Venezuela (1981).
Others appear to be on the way towards official approval, for example, San Nicholas in Argentina (1983), where
the local bishop is very supportive. Moreover, there are the recent apparitions which have been officially approved
by the Eastern Churches, such as those in Cairo, where Our Lady was seen by many thousands of people.
However, though I believe that Our Lady really is powerfully active in Medjugorje and in an apparently increasing
number of similar places, I am also convinced that there are a number of false apparitions, in which the devil
plays his part. Moreover, I do not think it is just a question of black or white - there can be various degrees
I must also add that I am not entirely happy with some literature connected with apparitions of Our Lady in which
the name of Mary is mentioned so much more often than the name of Jesus. Nor am I entirely happy with religious
art which seems to place Jesus and Mary on the same level. Mary is always wanting to lead us to Jesus, is always
wanting the main thrust to be very much on Jesus. So I think that she herself is not happy when we appear to be
putting her on the same level as her son. Some Catholic literature and religious art would almost seem to be deliberately
making it more difficult for evangelicals to understand the true Catholic teaching on Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Now we come to the final challenge in these chapters, the challenge of Christian unity. Jesus prayed "that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be
one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John,, 17:21). Perhaps the devil's greatest success over the centuries
has been to divide the disciples of Jesus and to create hostility between them. I am particularly thinking in this
chapter of the disunity, ignorance, prejudice, and often hostility which frequently exists in the relationships
between Evangelicals and Pentecostals on the one side and Catholics on the other.
I write as someone who is a convinced Catholic, but I recognise that the Holy Spirit is working powerfully among
Evangelicals and Pentecostals. Moreover, on the subject of this book, spiritual warfare, I think we Catholics can
often learn from the example of the Evangelicals and Pentecostals. So frequently we Catholics seem to be silent,
while it is left to the Evangelicals and Pentecostals to point out the dangers of the occult, witchcraft, satanism,
and things connected with them. One is not surprised that it was, for example, an Evangelical, David Porter, who
wrote the excellent book, Halloween Treat or Trick (Monarch),
pointing out the dangers of many Halloween celebrations. It seems to be left largely to Evangelicals and Pentecostals
to warn us about games like Dungeons and Dragons, and some children's toys, and other harmful influences on children.
Yes, Evangelicals and Pentecostals do sometimes exaggerate - and I have felt bound to point out
in this book some of these exaggerations, as I see things. But I think our debt to the Evangelicals and Pentecostals
far more than outweighs the harm done by their exaggerations.
I pray that Catholics will wake up in the whole area of spiritual warfare, and that we shall
work together with Evangelicals and Pentecostals - and with anyone willing to work with us - in our common battle
against the devil, serving together our common saviour, Jesus, and drawing closer to each other as we do so.
Come Holy Spirit!
The writing of this book has been a very difficult task. No sooner had I started collecting material
than I was hit by illness, which postponed work on the book. Then there were considerable and unexpected delays
over publishers, until I got in touch with New Life Publishing, who could not have been more helpful, encouraging,
and rapid. Certainly I have had the impression that the devil was anxious to prevent the book being published.
However, I have also had the impression that the need for a book of this kind is increasingly
urgent. Many Catholics, and also other Christians, need to wake up to the reality of the spiritual warfare in which
we are all involved individually and collectively. For instance, I have before me a public advertisement for 'The Little Voodoo Kit Revenge Therapy', which includes 'a small voodoo doll and six pins'. (Sticking pins into dolls
has long been a traditional witchcraft way of cursing people.) A Japanese advertisement for a similar product is
more open, and calls it a 'cursing kit'. Surely
the time has come for Christians and other people of good will to work for the legal banning of the selling and
advertising of things of this kind.
Then there is the whole question of satanism. Not so infrequently, horrific crimes are in one way or another linked
with satanism. For example, Harrett Campbell, who was recently "found
guilty on seven counts of attempted murder", ran amok among young children in a
nursery school with a machete blade on which he had written "666
Marks the Devil". He also "wore a
deer stalker hat with two bolts attached on each side resembling the horns of a devil".
(The Times 10.12.96, page 1)
Then there is the recent news from Belgium;
"Satanic sects involved in bizarre rites including human sacrifice
are being linked by Belgian police with this summer's string of grisly paedophile murders in which at least four
children died. Five witnesses came forward last week and described how black masses were held, at which children
were killed in front of audiences said to have included prominent members of Belgian society The witnesses - several
of whom claim to have received death threats - say that young babies were handed over by their parents willingly
in return for money. In other cases the victims were abducted." (The Sunday Times,
29.12.96, page 14).
Being convinced of the truthfulness of very similar accounts given me by a woman I was recently frying to help,
I have no difficulty in believing the above reports from Belgium.
A priest friend of mine who was for a time a chaplain to a small prison in the USA reckoned that about 10% of the
prisoners were satanists. Indeed, the Satanists in the prison had asked the prison governor to allow them to meet
regularly for the worship of Satan, Since satanism is an officially recognised religion in the USA. The governor
had refused permission. If there is that sort of link between crime and satanism in the USA, are we to suppose
that there is not also a real link in this country and elsewhere? If this is so, should not Christians and other
people of good will be working for the banning of satanism by law - something which surely could be done without
endangering true freedom of religion?
In our Catholic parishes we very rightly often pray in the bidding prayers of Mass for such intentions as peace
in the world, the unemployed, and the homeless. Should we not also be praying sometimes against the dangers of
witchcraft, satanism, and the spread of paganism? Bishops and other Church leaders rightly speak out strongly on
questions of social justice. Should they not also be speaking out about the dangers of the occult? Is it right
that the latter concern should be left largely to evangelical and Pentecostal Christians?
However, I do not wish to be pessimistic about the situation in the Catholic Church. An increasing number of official
priest exorcists are being appointed, at any rate in some countries. There are now regular gatherings for priest
exorcists in certain countries, and also at the international level, and the number of priests coming to some of
these gatherings is increasing rapidly. Francis MacNutt has written a book on the deliverance ministry Deliverance from Evil Spirits, a Practical Manual, (Chosen Books, Baker
Book House, USA 1995) and published in England by
Hodder and Stoughton. I think this will become a classic, as his previous book Healing (1974) has been for the
My smaller book, however, is intended for a much, wider public. It is an introduction to the subject of spiritual
warfare for the ordinary priest and lay person. It seeks to help the ordinary Christian in his or her ongoing battle
with the forces of darkness, warning them of dangers, and giving them helpful advice and confidence in the victory
of Jesus over a defeated foe. It might be a suitable book to lend or give to your parish priest, especially if
he is not certain whether the devil exists.
Some of the people who read this book may think that perhaps they themselves, or a member of their family, or one
of their friends, or their house may be in need of some form of explicit deliverance ministry. Perhaps they themselves
are troubled by inexplicable experiences or harmful compulsions, over which the doctors cannot help, perhaps one
of their children is behaving in strange ways which the doctors cannot understand, perhaps strange noises or happenings
are being experienced in their home. What can they do about it?
Catholics should normally start by consulting their parish priest. He might deal with the problem himself, or he
might suggest that they should see the diocesan exorcist - if there is one - or they themselves could ask to see
the diocesan exorcist. It is of course always possible for Catholics to approach their bishop directly.
If you are a Catholic and have decided to look for help elsewhere, please be very careful where
you go. Some Catholic priests and lay people, especially in the Charismatic Renewal, do have gifted and reliable
healing and deliverance ministries, as do some clergy and lay people in other Christian churches - for example,
the Anglican Church has a network of official exorcists in this country. However, it is very important not to go
to Spiritualists, or to people involved in the occult, because this could lead to disasters. Only recently I saw
a Catholic lay minister of communion who has been very badly damaged by someone who was trying to heal her through
At the end of the main body of this book, may I suggest that the reader
should pause for prayer, both for themselves and for other readers, not a few of whom may be going through difficult
struggles in their, spiritual warfare. May the Holy Spirit guide, strengthen, protect, heal, and anoint us all.
Herons have long necks, and in this book I have stuck out my own neck not a little. So perhaps some readers may
like to spare a prayer for the author and also the publishers of this book. Thank you.
Copyright © 1997 Benedict M. Heron OSB
This Version: 24th October 2001