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Exorcisms make a 21st century comeback

Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Religious News

MINNEAPOLIS -- They arrive with a crucifix, a book of prayers, holy water and a conviction that the Holy Spirit is at their side.

Infrequently summoned for decades, Catholic exorcists say they are now being beckoned across Minnesota and the nation, as pleas from the faithful to "cast out the devil" are on the rise.

"Sometimes they hear voices in their heads," said Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "They have reactions they don't understand. Fits of rage. Sometimes it's a depression they just can't shake and psychologists can't help."

Exorcism, often considered a relic of the Dark Ages, is making a 21st century comeback. Catholic dioceses, including in St. Cloud and Winona-Rochester, say they now are sending their exorcists to a new U.S. institute that trains spiritual warriors. No official data are available, but Catholic leaders say there are more Catholic exorcists in the United States today than at any time in recent memory.

"When I first was appointed as exorcist in 2005, I knew of only a dozen exorcists in the United States," said the Rev. Vincent Lampert, exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and one of a handful of American exorcists public about their work. "Today I'd say there are at least 175 -- and more each year."

That's not to mention the countless faith leaders for charismatic and Pentecostal communities who believe in casting out demons.

 

But psychologists warn that even well-intentioned treatment of traumatized people can aggravate the situation. They urge individuals to focus on evidence-based interventions.

"There are treatments for trauma supported by strong scientific evidence, but exorcism is not among them," said University of Minnesota psychology professor Patricia Frazier.

The Twin Cities archdiocese is currently working with "several dozen" people, Cozzens said.

But not everyone who believes they are possessed and requests an exorcism gets one, church leaders say.

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