by Francis MacNutt (from the Jan/Feb 2002 issue)
News About Healing and Deliverance
In November NBC’s Dateline aired an amazing program on the controversial topic of exorcism. In the past, most such programs have tended to be sensational, were superficial, and were characterized by skepticism. In contrast, Dateline’s treatment was, we thought, very fair and had sufficient length to show a real change in the man who underwent the exorcism, which took place near Charleston, South Carolina.
An unusual feature was that the main exorcist was a Southern Baptist, with a team of four Baptists, including his pastor. They prayed for five hours and the program showed the growling, the retching and the other disagreeable manifestations that often accompany a deliverance session. The client was about 60 years old and his main complaint was a long-time severe depression, accompanied by much anger.
The Baptist exorcists went about their work in as calm a way as they could manage while still dealing with a violent man. Dateline interviewed him afterwards, and he seemed to be transformed into a peaceful person.
A fascinating sidelight to this were interviews with two experts. One, a Catholic sociologist (who wrote American Exorcism, featured in our last Newsletter) was more or less skeptical and wasn’t sure if the man didn’t just have a psychological problem.
The other was a psychiatrist, a Jewish Christian, who held a position in the American Psychiatric Association and who gave a very positive evaluation of the exorcism. The interviewer could hardly believe what the psychiatrist was saying, and rephrased his questions several times to make sure he really heard what the psychiatrist had to say.
All in all, this NBC program is one more sign that our culture - the medical world in particular - is more open to healing and deliverance than ever before.
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More on Exorcism
Back in the 1970’s, I met a brilliant young priest, Fr. Rufus Pereira, who had gotten involved in exorcism back in his native India. Then in 1978, he, among others, invited me to bring a team to preach in India, where he showed me how many people were inhabited by demons in the form of Hindu gods. (You will find an interview with Fr. Rufus in the Appendix to my book Deliverance from Evil Spirits.)
One of my many happy reunions in Rome was meeting Fr. Rufus again after 25 years, and to hear him give a 20-minute talk on exorcism. He presented a remarkable narrative about the amazing breakthrough in this ministry in which he has labored so long during an often lonely walk, as he has tried to communicate his knowledge about the need for deliverance from evil. Now, at last, the “glass ceiling” seems to be pierced and he is seeing a dramatic growth in interest among Church authorities.
Among other causes of this surge of interest has been the increasing number of cases of Satanism in Europe – in Italy, in particular – which caused the official exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, to write a book in which he publicly states that bishops who do not inform themselves about the ministry of exorcism are committing a serious sin of omission! Then the Pope issued an instruction asking every bishop who heads a diocese to appoint an official exorcist.
Fr. Rufus reported that two seminars in East Berlin, sponsored by Lutherans and Catholics in 1995, came out with the startling conclusion that Satanism has succeeded Communism as the greatest scourge of Christian Europe today!
The growth of priest exorcists has been explosive. In 1993 seven exorcists held a meeting near Rome and formed the International Association of Exorcists (AIE). By the following year the membership had grown to 80 and it now numbers in the hundreds.
At the same time, due to the influence of charismatic renewal, prayer for deliverance from evil spirits (i.e., non-formal prayer, often by laypeople, but not the official Rite of Exorcism) became more common, and Fr. Rufus, with others, formed another organization (1995) called the International Association for Deliverance (IAD), starting off with 135 members.
Suddenly, Fr. Rufus found himself in great demand as bishops from all over the world invited him to give five-day training seminars to their priests. He has now done this in Brazil, Argentina, India, Singapore, Uganda and about 20 other countries! The need for teaching on this topic is now finally being recognized.
In one diocese in Africa, after Fr. Rufus gave a talk to priests on deliverance, one priest stood up and said that all of them, including the bishop, had been involved in the occult as part of their cultural, family background. He admitted that they send their difficult cases to the local witchdoctors. He asked if Rufus would tell them how to deal with these cases. Instead, Rufus said, “I’ll show you what I do.” On the last day of the retreat the priests brought him some 30 cases of demonic oppression and all were delivered with the help of 120 priests, within just 30 minutes!
Now, Fr. Rufus has taken to praying for entire countries. In Haiti, for example, at a congress for 60,000 people, he prayed for deliverance for this land that has been so subject to violence, poverty and voodoo, since that country’s leaders dedicated Haiti to Satan 150 years ago.
Talking with him after his presentation, I asked him whether he wasn’t meeting skepticism and resistance on the part of some leaders; he responded by saying that he now finds many bishops open to this topic, but the most resistant group are theologians who teach in seminaries.
One conclusion that Fr. Rufus has come to – with which we certainly agree: deliverance is a ministry of compassion for the afflicted, more than a ministry of power against the oppressing spirits.
This is great news about the startling growth of the deliverance ministry – so closely allied with healing. Now deliverance is not just out there on the fringes, performed by “Lone Ranger” ministers who have trouble finding acceptance in their churches, but suddenly there is an explosion of interest among established church leaders. Isn’t this what we have been praying for for many years?