By Mary Rezac
With the September debut of the new T.V. series The Exorcist, based on the horror film series of the same name from the 1970s, another wave of fascination with the supernatural has also surfaced.
In an article prior to the show’s launch, Lance Higdon, writing for pop culture website Vice, explored the world of exorcism, a phenomenon mysterious to many inside and outside the Church.
Higdon recalled that in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) in May, director William Friedkin, of the original “The Exorcism” film series, claimed that he had been invited to the Vatican to see – and film – an exorcism in real life.
A Vatican spokesman denied the claim to AFP, noting that the Vatican does not have an official exorcist. The spokesman said it may have been possible that Friedkin was mistaking the Vatican for another Catholic entity.
Fr. Vincent Lampert is a Vatican-trained exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a parish priest. He has travelled around the country speaking about the supernatural and his experiences as an exorcist.
In e-mail comments, he told CNA that it would be forbidden for any Catholic priest to allow an outside party to witness or film an exorcism.
“Filming an exorcism is not allowed because it must be performed in such a way that it manifest the faith of the church and that no one can consider it as a magical or superstitious activity,” he said.
It would also be prohibited for the protection of the possessed person, he added.
Another claim about exorcisms in the Vice article is in its headline: “Latin Is Still The Best Language for Fighting Satan.”
The article cited a comment made by exorcist Fr. Gary Thomas, as reported by the site The New Liturgical Movement. After a talk he gave in February, Fr. Thomas commented that “The Devil hates Latin, it is the universal language of the Church.”
Until very recently (2014), an English translation of the rite of exorcism had not been approved by the Church. When further questioned, Fr. Thomas said that in his experience and in talking to other exorcists, while the Vatican has approved translations of the rite in multiple languages, Latin seems to be the most effective.
However, that the exorcist is a man of God is actually far more important than the language of the rite used, Fr. Lampert noted.
“There are many who claim that Latin is the most powerful language for exorcisms,” he said.
“It is my experience that as opposed to the language that is being used that the exorcist be a man of God. In my opinion this is the most effective weapon.”
When asked whether or not he would recommend people watch the new exorcism series, Fr. Lampert said that there can be benefits as well as dangers to shows that deal with the demonic and the supernatural.
“If watching these types of shows helps people understand the reality of evil then there is a benefit,” he said. “The danger would be for someone to become unduly fascinated with evil.”
Recently updated rules of the Catholic rite of exorcism state that a person who believes they are possessed must first rule out mental illness before seeking an exorcism. If the rite of exorcism is still needed, they may seek out a priest who has been trained and appointed as exorcist for his diocese by his Bishop.
The International Association of Exorcists (AIE) also meets annually in Rome to discuss demonic possession from both theological and scientific perspectives.
Recently, an AIE spokesman told CNA that the rise of occult and demonic activity had become a “pastoral emergency.”