February 17, 2014

On the Exorcism beat

Local Psychologist A Former Skeptic, Now Trains Priests In Exorcisms 

Once he was a skeptic, but after assisting in nearly 100 exorcisms, his experiences have made him a believer.  Adam Blai studied psychology at Penn State, and studied the most violent criminals, but even in serial killers and rapists, he found at least some humanity – not so with the possessed…
Your mind rebels against really believing that this is really real, even after you’ve seen some things,” he says. “But eventually, the evidence piles up, and the pile becomes so large that you really have to accept it.”…..

Demonic Possession: Real or Mental Illness?

While some psychologists would argue that the vast majority of these cases involve psychiatric disorder – schizophrenia or Tourette’s syndrome – the Diocese relies on Blai, who holds a Master’s degree in psychology, to make the determination.

Blai says true cases of possessions have clear characteristic, such as a man in rural Pennsylvania with a high school education who spoke in languages he did not know -“French, German, Latin and Lithuanian.”…There is also the reaction to religious artifacts like crosses or holy water, the knowledge of hidden things and superhuman strength, which does not diminish hour after hour of restraining a person.

Above all, when he comes face to face with evil , Blai says he knows it.  “Their heart is so black and lacking of any hesitation or compassion that you know they would tear you apart and be smiling the entire time,” he says. “There’s a sense of evil with a demon that is so far beyond any human I’ve ever met it’s impossible to convey it to you in words.”

"When it comes to fighting vampires and performing exorcisms, the Roman Catholic Church has the heavy artillery. Your other religions are good for everyday theological tasks, like steering their members into heaven, but when the undead lunge up out of their graves, you want a priest on the case. As a product of Catholic schools, I take a certain pride in this pre-eminence,"    Roger Ebert.

It was the most bizarre situation in 30 years of his priesthood. Father Michael Maginot  was asked to save an Indiana family who appeared to be afflicted by demonic possession in 2012.  He discusses his role as exorcist.

The best is this story on a Zen exorcist, Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry in the London Review of Books.

I met a priest in the north of Japan who exorcised the spirits of people who had drowned in the tsunami. The ghosts did not appear in large numbers until later in the year, but Reverend Kaneda’s first case of possession came to him after less than a fortnight. He was chief priest at a Zen temple in the inland town of Kurihara. The earthquake on 11 March 2011 was the most violent that he, or anyone he knew, had ever experienced. The great wooden beams of the temple’s halls had flexed and groaned with the strain. Power, water and telephone lines were fractured for days; deprived of electricity, people in Kurihara, thirty miles from the coast, had a dimmer idea of what was going on there than television viewers on the other side of the world. But it became clear enough, when first a handful of families, and then a mass of them, began arriving at Kaneda’s temple with corpses to bury.

Nearly twenty thousand people had died at a stroke. In the space of a month, Kaneda performed funeral services for two hundred of them. More appalling than the scale of death was the spectacle of the bereaved survivors. ‘They didn’t cry,’ Kaneda said to me a year later. ‘There was no emotion at all. The loss was so profound and death had come so suddenly. They understood the facts of their situation individually – that they had lost their homes, lost their livelihoods and lost their families. They understood each piece, but they couldn’t see it as a whole, and they couldn’t understand what they should do, or sometimes even where they were. I couldn’t really talk to them, to be honest….

Amid this numbness and horror, Kaneda received a visit from a man he knew, a local builder whom I will call Takeshi Ono….‘Ono told me that he’d walked along the beach in that devastated area, eating an ice cream,’ the priest said. ‘He even put up a sign in the car in the windscreen saying ‘disaster relief’, so that no one would stop him. He went there flippantly, without giving it any thought at all. I told him: “You fool. If you go to a place where many people have died, you must go with a feeling of respect. That’s common sense. You have suffered a kind of punishment for what you did. Something got hold of you, perhaps the dead who cannot accept yet that they are dead. They have been trying to express their regret and their resentment through you.”’
Posted by Jill Fallon at February 17, 2014 12:06 PM | Permalink