By Barb Arland-Fye
Many people are troubled by demonic influences and need spiritual healing, but some require deliverance from Satan through exorcism, says Msgr. Marvin Mottet, exorcist for the Davenport Diocese.
He recently participated in a conference in Rome on exorcism and prayer of liberation, which he said helped him fine tune his skills as an exorcist. More diocesan priests need to be educated about this ministry, he believes. He’s encouraging them to attend an international conference on Exorcism and Deliverance to be held this summer at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., Aug. 7-12.
According to a conference brochure, “The major focus of this conference is to develop the ministry of inner healing so that the exorcism and deliverance flow out of the holiness and ministry of the Shepherd, to and for his priests and the faithful. It is imperative that exorcism and deliverance are experienced as movement from an external procedure to deep internal conversion focusing not on manifestations but on a movement of the heart.”
The Church teaches that special powers have been given to priests, particularly in the sacrament of holy orders, that dispel the oppression and obsession of Satan. But the rite of deliverance and exorcism fell out of use in the last 50-75 years.
Surveys show that the majority of Protestant theologians and roughly 40 percent of Catholic theologians believe that the devil is a figment of the imagination, Msgr. Mottet said. They fail to see that satanic influences — such as satanic cults, Ouija boards and other occult games – are having a devastating impact on young people, the priest said. Break-down of the family and societal mores serve as an invitation to Satan entering people’s lives, he believes.
While in Rome, he said he was among a group of priests who observed Father Francesco Bamonte, ICMS, exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, perform seven or eight exorcisms over a three-day period. For some possessed individuals, return visits to the exorcist over several years’ time are necessary for healing.
One of the individuals in Rome seeking exorcism talked about the pain she was suffering and how she would offer it up for the priests, for consecrated persons and for the Church, Msgr. Mottet said. Exorcists are trained to distinguish between spiritual affliction and mental illness, and to make appropriate mental health referrals. Signs of spiritual possession are evident in an individual’s aversions to sacred objects or places. Hearing the names of God and the Virgin Mary, both of whom Satan despises, repels possessed individuals, Msgr. Mottet said. They also demonstrate aversion to anything holy — crosses, rosaries, holy water and other sacramentals; show excessive strength for their size, age and physical condition; show fluency in languages they’ve not learned; and express knowledge about things they would not ordinarily know.
In his own ministry as an exorcist, Msgr. Mottet receives requests nearly daily for help, but generally the individuals don’t need exorcism. They need healing from an addiction, an obsession or some past trauma. Some requests deal with houses infested by spirits, he said. “They’re probably souls in purgatory wanting to get our attention so that we will pray for them. If they are not doing evil, they are probably souls in need of prayer.”
In those cases, the exorcist conducts a history of the house and its inhabitants and then says prayers in and around the house, commending restless spirits to the Lord and commanding evil spirits to leave. Msgr. Mottet recalls one case involving an old house in Iowa whose earlier inhabitants had included a grandfather recently home from the Civil War. Three grandchildren in the house contracted the flu from him and died. Years later, another family with children living in the house began seeing the ghosts of three Civil War-era children. A house blessing and a home Mass ended that. The children living in the house later reported to Msgr. Mottet that they weren’t seeing ghosts anymore.
Another case he recalls involved a man who in a fit of rage broke the arms off of a chair as Msgr. Mottet prayed over him. The priest was not harmed and usually has a deliverance team — several trained, lay helpers — who are with him during an exorcism or deliverance session. He identified three stages of demonic activity: the first stage is temptation, which every human being experiences. The next stage is oppression, in which an individual is under attack by Satan or one of his cohorts. An example might be someone struggling with an obsession. Its origin can be mental, demonic, or both, Msgr. Mottet said. The third stage is possession, which never occurs without invitation. “Somehow, you have to open the door … Ouija Boards, Dungeons and Dragons, or involvement in satanic cults” are ways in which individuals open the door to Satan’s attack, the priest said.
Possessed individuals generally do not seek out an exorcist on their own; it’s usually a family member who brings the individual to an exorcist for help. During his visit to Rome, a husband sought help for his possessed wife. The individuals appear normal when they arrive at the place of exorcism; it’s when the exorcist begins praying over the person that abnormal behavior occurs. “If you think of a 2-year-old having a temper tantrum, think about it being 100 times more intense,” Msgr. Mottet said. During the prayers, the individual falls into a trance. The exorcist taps the individual on the head and he or she wakes up as if coming out of surgery, he continued.
Faith, a willingness to participate in the sacraments and to pray, will help an individual overcome possession or other spiritual afflictions, the priest said. “We should have deliverance teams at every parish.”