05 December 2007

Witness to Exorcism in Madrid

I feel that the ritual is about to begin and sit expectantly on a pew. The exorcist extends his right hand and places it just over the girl’s face without touching her. Then, he closes his eyes, bows his head and whispers a prayer several times. It is then that the first unsettling shriek breaks the silence of the chapel, penetrating my soul and making my flesh crawl. It is not human. A profound and overwhelming howl comes out of Marta’s throat. But it cannot be her and is not her voice. It is hoarse and masculine. Father Fortea continues to pray while the howling goes on. Little by little the girl’s body begins to tremble violently. She begins moving slowly from side to side at first, and shakes violently thereafter.
A skeptical journalist attends an exorcism--and believes. You can read the whole thing here.

Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, the priest in the above exorcism, is a Vatican-approved exorcist who was trained by chief exorcist of Rome Fr. Gabriel Amorth, offers his thoughts in an interview.
MB: In closing, what prayer do you think is the most effective in combating demons, possession, and temptation?

FORTEA: People ask me which prayers are the most effective, but all of them are equally effective. There are prayers in which we beg God expressly to protect us from the snare of the Malignant One. But in reality, every prayer has the same power since in the end it is a petition to God, not a formula that has a power in itself. There are people who slowly repeat, over and over, the name of Jesus as an ejaculatory prayer in which is found everything they might ask. This is an example of how a single repeated word (as in the marvelous book “The Way of a Pilgrim” by an anonymous Russian author) can be better heeded than a long prayer; everything depends on the faith and the love that is directed to God. Sometimes we say long prayers, sometimes short ones, sometimes oral prayers, and sometimes mental prayers. But all of them protect us equally from the devil.
Fr. Fortea hosts a website where one can learn more about possession and exorcism, and has written numerous books on the subject.

Fr. Amorth discusses the situation in France:
Q:You are locked in daily battle with the Devil. What do you see as Satan’s greatest success?

AMORTH: The fact that he has managed to convince people that he does not exist. He has almost managed it, even within the Church. We have a clergy and an Episcopate who no longer believe in the Devil, in exorcism, in the exceptional evil the Devil can instill, or even in the power that Jesus bestowed to cast out demons. For three centuries the Latin Church – in contrast to the Orthodox Church and the various Protestant professions – has almost totally abandoned the ministry of exorcism. So because they no longer perform exorcisms, or study them, and never having seen them, the clergy no longer believe in them. And they no longer believe in the Devil. We have entire Episcopates trying to counter exorcism. We have countries completely devoid of exorcists, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. This is a shameful shortfall.

Q:You haven’t mentioned France so is the situation there any different?

AMORTH: The most famous French exorcist, Isidore Froc, wrote a book entitled ‘Exorcists. Who they are and what they do’. It was translated into Italian by the Piemme publishing house and had been commissioned by the French Episcopal Conference. This book never once says that exorcisms are performed in certain cases and the author has said on French television on several occasions that he has never performed an exorcism and never will. Out of about 100 French exorcists, only five of them believe in the Devil and perform exorcisms. All the others send people who come to them to psychiatrists. The bishops are the first victims of this situation in the Catholic Church, whose belief that the Devil exists is fading. Before this new Rite came out, the German Episcopate wrote in a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger that there was no point in a new Rite in that exorcisms should no longer be performed.
20/20 has a good piece on modern day exorcism, the increased demand for the rite, and the concept of "victim souls" (Anneliese Michel, on which The Exorcism of Emily Rose was based, was one such victim soul).