The following comes from an October 30 Christian Review article by Peter LaFave:
They’ve witnessed the stuff of Hollywood-horror variety, including levitation. They’ve trained under a master exorcist in Rome, and have counseled hundreds of individuals suffering demonic influence. They’re humble, they acknowledge personified evil, but are never afraid, because Christ’s sacrifice has already conquered evil.
While recent popes have reemphasized the importance of exorcism, it is often misunderstood both within the Church and in the secular world. To provide insight into this vital ministry, I’ve recently had the opportunity to speak with two of America’s most experienced exorcists:
Father Vince Lampert is the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He has ten years of experience in dealing with the demonic, and has lectured extensively on the topic, drawing from his expertise and experience.
Father Gary Thomas is the exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, California. His 2005 apprenticeship in Rome was the basis for the 2011 thriller, The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins.
There are many in the United States today (even Hierarchy in the Catholic Church) who are skeptical about the existence of demons and the ministry of exorcism. As highly trained and experienced exorcists, what do you say to this?
Father Lampert: Many people within and outside of the Church view the practice of exorcism as outdated. Yet Scripture contains many accounts of a clash between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. The name “Jesus” means “God saves.” If we deny the reality of evil then we deny the need for Christ to be our Savior.
Father Thomas: Read the Gospels: Christ performed exorcisms and the demonic recognized Him.
Have attitudes in the Church shifted in recent years?
Father Thomas: There are many Catholics who do not believe in personified evil, i.e. Satan and the demonic realm. In the post-Vatican II Church, the definition of sin became obtuse and the concept of personified evil became vague in many areas of the Church, including Seminaries, where eschatology or its related subjects were no longer emphasized.
However, I do believe that there has been a shift in recent years, of more priests believing in personified evil. Since 2011, the U.S. Catholic Church has quintupled the number of known exorcists, largely because bishops are receiving so many requests for investigations into demonic activity.
Is demonic activity on the rise?
Father Lampert: Yes, though the increase in demonic activity is not merely because the Devil has “upped his game,” but also because more people are willing to play his game today, through activities that are opening up doorways to evil in their lives.
Can demons read our thoughts?
Father Lampert: Demons do not know what we are thinking. They are intelligent creatures who can use their reason to deduce what we might be thinking or how we might act. God alone knows a person’s mind.
What brings about demonic involvement? What should be avoided?
Father Thomas: Ouija boards, dark magic, séances, violent video games, the Charley Challenge, tarot cards, any devices that can muster some kind of spirit in any way that circumvents God.
Father Lampert: People may think these things are just fun and entertaining but the truth is they are dabbling with evil and can get themselves into trouble.
Father Thomas: Pornography and drugs can also be open doorways to the demonic, especially certain drugs such as meth and cocaine. In some cases, curses can be placed on these in order to make them even more addictive.
You mentioned earlier that the decline in morality of society accompanies an increase in demonic activity. In today’s society what are the key indicators of this? For instance, is there something diabolical about abortion?
Father Thomas: Abortion is a doorway to the demonic because it involves the destruction of an innocent human being. The new law in California which legalizes assisted suicide is also a doorway for the same reason. This decline in morality is growing rapidly and provides the opportunity for Satan to have a foothold in a family’s life. I do not believe that most people who are believers in “choice” realize this. That is part of the seduction of Satan who will disguise his presence in these choices.
Father Lampert: Anything that attacks human life has to be viewed as evil, for the human person is created in the image and likeness of God. With that said one must always distinguish between evil as an action of our own free will and evil that is the result of demonic activity.
In closing, what is the best defense against the forces of evil?
Father Thomas: There are four ordinary means of protection against the Evil One: a prayer life, a faith life, a moral life, and a sacramental life. Do those and you will build up the armor of Faith against the forces of Hell.
Father Lampert: The best defense against evil is for us to devote ourselves to the things of God and to think about the positive aspects of life. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” [Philippians 4:8].