Rome, Italy, Apr 25, 2018 / 01:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- According to one exorcist working in Italy, the average time needed for a person to be freed from demonic influence in an exorcism is taking much longer than it did in even the recent past.
Whereas before it was common for a person to be liberated in one session, even if the blessing lasted several hours, now on average sessions are growing longer and multiple meetings are required for a person to be completely freed from the devil’s grasp.
Fr. Francois Dermine, O.P., an exorcist of nearly 25 years, told CNA he believes the prolongation can be attributed to a few basic elements: the high diffusion of atheistic attitudes in society at large; the reduction of the understanding of faith as merely an intellectual concept; and a growing lack of belief within the Church, even among priests and bishops, in the devil and his actions.
Though there are no set rules for how long it should take for someone to be liberated from demonic obsession or possession, Fr. Dermine said that “some people can be liberated with very few blessings, though many require months.”
Others, if they are serious cases of possession, “can take a year.” However, longer sessions like this did not really happen until recently, after the 1960s, he said.
“One blessing was enough – a blessing of one hour, two hours, three hours, six hours, but one blessing was enough to liberate one person of a possession. But now it’s different. It’s becoming very long.”
“I think the reason for that is our society is becoming more and more atheistic, people are going away from prayer and the sacraments … so there are fewer defenses against the devil.”
Another important, but “abnormal” factor, he said, is a lack of faith within the Church itself, because during an exorcism, “the exorcist prays in the name of the Church.”
“If, within the Church, you have the clergy and also a certain number of bishops who do not believe in the devil or his actions, then the exorcist is deprived of the power of the prayer of the Church.”
Because of this, “the exorcist is liberating [people] more slowly. Before it was not the case.”
Fr. Dermine was ordained a priest in 1979 and has been an exorcist since 1994, He currently serves as the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo, and was one of the speakers presenting at an April 16-21 course on exorcism offered by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
In his comments to CNA, Fr. Dermine said there is a general lack of formation on exorcism and the actions of the devil in the Church today.
Noting how this year’s course on exorcism had 295 students most of whom are priests studying at pontifical universities, enroll, Fr. Dermine said the high number can be attributed at least in part to the fact that courses on exorcism and the devil are not included in theological curricula.
“There is a void,” he said, “so they want to learn what is not taught to them but should be taught.”
In the past, it was common for a theological curriculum to include courses on angels, demons, and their influence. “It was very important for moral theology and also for the theology of exorcism, but now it does not exist anymore,” Dermine said.
“So it’s a sign that within the Church faith in these things is not as strong as it was before.”
However, the exorcist said that while it is crucial that priests be instructed on the topic, it is important not to dwell on the devil too much, in order to avoid superstition.
Fr. Dermine also voiced concern that the practice of the faith is becoming more intellectual, but less spiritual, and is therefore at times being reduced to a sort of “moralism” void of actual belief.
“Our faith is becoming more and more intellectual. We have to inform the person, we have to instruct the person with catechism, it’s very important. I myself am a Dominican, I am a moral theologian, I teach theology, I believe in formation,” he said, while emphasizing that “problems cannot be solved only through information.”
Faith, he said, is above all “a mystery of salvation; we have to be saved from something, from someone, and this someone is also the devil.”
Because of this, simply changing our behavior is not enough, because “this is a sort of moralism; but our faith is not a moralism.”
Moral principles are important, but they are not the full picture, he said, explaining that Christ came to save men from sin and death, and from the actions of the devil, and because of this, it is important to know the devil and how to fight him.
Speaking of the qualities needed in an exorcist, Fr. Dermine said he believes being an exorcist is a “vocation within a vocation,” and as such, is not something priests should strive for, because it is a call from God.
Rather, he said exorcists ought to be appointed by their bishop, without trying to pursue the job themselves.
A strong personal prayer life is also something essential for an exorcist, he said, and stressed that someone called to this role is not a “super priest”, but is “a person named by the Church, and that’s all.”
Fr. Dermine said the majority of exorcisms he performs are not full on possessions, but are rather blessings or prayers of liberation for people who have opened the door to the devil through actions such as fortune telling or the reading of tarot cards, or who have been attacked by the devil or cursed in some way.
He pointed to a growing superstitious and “magical” mentality in global society, saying dappling in spiritualism and occult practices can open the door to demonic activity, and make it easier for the devil to take hold of a person or influence their life.
It is important for exorcists to know the difference between someone with a genuine charism who receives spiritual gifts from God, and a medium, who is a person that may have the ability to predict or foretell past or present events, but whose abilities do not come from God.
In the case of mediums, many “think it’s normal to have these phenomena, but it’s not normal,” he said, adding that “many times these people have a lot of problems, but they don’t understand why they have these problems,” so they come to an exorcist for help.
For those who have opened the door to the devil through occult activities, “we must try to convince these people to renounce these phenomena, which is not always easy because many of these people feel important because they have these paranormal phenomena, but they pay a very heavy price for these faculties.”
“They must renounce them because they are not moved by God,” Fr. Dermine said, explaining that every true charism that comes from God is meant to produce a spiritual or salvific effect.