Understanding Christian Exorcisms

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • January 15, 2023
  • An introduction to Exorcism in Christianity. What is Eucharistic celebration, Extreme Unction, Catholic dogma, Satan and How to get rid of demons.

When you send your kid to a Roman Catholic school, you can identify them by the statues of the Virgin Mother of God, Mother Mary outside the school building, you are sending your kid to one of the most devout communities of women and men in the world.


Unlike Hindus, all Roman Catholics, including Fathers, Brothers and Sisters believe and know to be true the reality of the Immaculate Conception, of the presence of holy angels and the real presence of demons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there exists demons and the Catholic faith community comes together to perform minor and major exorcisms. Other Abrahamic religions too have set rituals which the devout use to perform exorcisms.


Only Hindus make fun of exorcisms if done by other Hindus. We are our own enemies since as followers of Sanatana Dharma, we dismiss Hindu exorcisms to be either quackery or black magic. Yet this same group who send their kids to Christian schools and boast about this as a status symbol will glibly call others Fathers and Sisters and spew venom at our own Babas and Matajis. A Hindu monastic friend told me that when he travels people ogle at him and treat him with condescension. But we have no problems in calling random strangers Fathers when we all have our own dads, alive or dead.


Today at the request of someone I cherish and respect, I will explain here how Roman Catholic exorcisms are done. Do not be fooled for a moment that possession does not occur among Hindus.


On a lighter note, perhaps we are so far gone into monetary and other lusts that we are already in the grip of evil. I have asked stalwarts of Hinduism about how we are doing. The answer was that costs of everything is rising and inflation is eating into savings. I have asked the same question to other religious communities including the Jains and Buddhists. The answer is always that their religions are facing huge crises. The day is so far gone, spent and wasted that we as a Faith community have become irrational to the point of smugness and just live for earning more money and wasting our lives. A sadder note must be added before we begin talking of exorcisms.


Whether we agree or not, the reality is that we Hindus do not study our sacred scriptures. The greatest scholars of our Dharma are intellectuals from other religions. We boast of settling in the first world, we blame other religions for our moral and intellectual degradation and all this while we do not even help Hindu Covid orphans who have none to bring them up. We are happy if our families are happy. Nothing beyond that. Our Dharma can take a long break. Who cares?


Fathers who run these Christian schools are first and foremost priests. They are what we call pujaris or Panditjis. Every morning they celebrate the Holy Mass where they transform a piece of wafer into the real flesh of Christ. This is dipped in sacramental wine and every Christian eats that. This is known as Eucharistic celebration.


Now these priests have some powers vested in them through the Church hierarchy. An example is that if someone is dying, these Fathers go and hear their last confessions and anoint them with holy oil. This is the sacrament of Extreme Unction.


It is also the duty of a priest or Father to exorcise when he is called to do so by his higher authorities like the local Bishop. Unlike in horror movies, often exorcisms are done in churches and in consecrated ground over a period of time. There are broadly speaking two types of Roman Catholic exorcism: minor and major exorcisms.


Before we proceed further, let us understand what the dogma of the Catholic Church teaches. Not what theologians and philosophers discuss! If any Catholic Father does not agree to this dogma, ex-officio, immediately he is excommunicated by his Church. The Catholic dogma and not theology, is fixed and though it had been revised during the Second Vatican Council, it stresses the following essential realities about demons: 


1. Demons are legion. That is, they are nearly innumerable in number. 


2. These demons followed the one called Light Bearer before being thrown out of heaven. After this archangel, or one of the main angels, decided to disobey God, it became known as Satan. Satan is very real according to Roman Catholicism and it is against Satan that Christ was victorious.


3. These demons are intellectually strong beings who can never ever love God or God’s creation. God is a Christian concept. 


4. Demons tempt humanity to sin, that is, to commit unspeakable evils. And sometimes they possess human beings. They torment humans. This is known as obsession.


5. Then they manifest and reveal their presence to the person they are going to take over and sometimes family members too are made aware of their presence. This is manifestation. And then these entities take over or possess a human being where they live within and alongside the soul of the possessed person. This is possession.


How to get rid of demons?

The Vatican trains priests/pujaris/Fathers to exorcise and most Roman Catholic dioceses, or areas under Bishops, have their own exorcists. After a person is declared possessed a priest or, Father is assigned to perform the exorcism where he invokes God, Jesus and the holy archangels like Michael, Raphael and Gabriel among other angels.


They recite passages from the Psalms and set prayers found in special prayer-books called breviaries. The exorcist has to follow set rituals laid down by the Catholic Church to use every means including expirations to free the suffering person from the demon who is inhabiting the body of the possessed. This is a priestly ministry. Within the Roman Catholic Church generally, it is a priest who exorcises and there are Retreat centres where Charismatic prayer meetings are held where exorcisms are carried out routinely.


Minor exorcisms do not need hierarchical permissions but can be individually done by a Catholic priest/Father. In many churches, minor exorcisms are carried out by charismatic priests on Fridays. Charisma here means a special form of group prayers or satsang.


Protestant Christians like the Baptists, the Lutherans, and the Pentecostals among many other sects, perform exorcisms regularly. We on the other hand, ridicule our own exorcists. Our movies and horror shows have reduced Hindu exorcisms to jokes. We send our children to Christian schools and colleges and boast about it. Then we do not have problems with miracles and exorcisms.


Without two proven miracles there cannot be Saints. We accept that miracles do happen within Christianity for had we not agreed to the existence of miracles, would we have sent our children to their schools, colleges and universities? But at the sound of even the word supernatural coming from Hindus; we Hindus get into fits of mocking laughter. Yet as St. Paul says that without the greatest miracle of them all --- Christ returning from death/Hell, and rising to heaven, there would be no Christianity. This is known as the harrowing of hell. The Christian pujari/Father re-enacts in the here and the now, Christ's miracle of the harrowing of hell during exorcisms.


But the moment a Hindu speaks of the need for exorcisms, other Hindus have problems. Instead of learning about the rite of exorcisms within Hinduism, we are running for blessings from men of other religions. This, at the cost of pooh-poohing our own religion. We nag about rationality and the need for the scientific temper without realising that some of the greatest scientists have been Christian priests. They did not find the existence of demons contrary to science but we Hindus find contradictions everywhere. This is because of our now habitual resistance to deep study and 24*7 pursuit of materialism. 


Unless we can live for others beyond our families; unless we stop watching television and streaming media and stop living for our careers, our kids have no futures as followers of our Dharma. At least, for the sake of your children, slow down; respect the deep faith in demons and God of the administrators of the Christian schools your kids go to; otherwise our kids too will continue mocking our own Dharma and our own exorcists. 


I wrote of the Immaculate Conception at the beginning of this essay. Google it up and see what is taken for granted within Roman Catholicism. Then mock the existence of Mahavatar Babaji or our doyens of spirituality. Till then study our Dharma with the respect it demands. Through little learning and excess laughter, we have become an emasculated community of memorable non-entities.


Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay  has a Ph.D. in Patristics and the Problem of Evil in American Horror Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences.


Read by author Of Demons and Exorcism in Sanatana Dharma , Mysteries-Miracles and Dogmas in Christianity

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