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Healing Line

Healing Line

What's New in the Healing Ministry?

by Francis MacNutt
Winter 2000

Thoughts on Exorcism and Deliverance

You have probably noticed articles in your newspaper with such titles as "Frail Pope Fails in Exorcism at the Vatican." And you've probably heard that the famous horror movie, The Exorcist, is coming out again with new footage. In all of this, there is good news and bad news. But mostly, it's good news.

For example, the ministry of exorcism has been downplayed for many years in the Roman Catholic Church, and some theologians were hoping it would disappear as a remnant of superstitious religion. But now it's reappearing in a big way. To cake just one example, the liberal bimonthly National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently chose exorcism as its main topic and featured several fascinating articles on the resurgence of exorcism in Europe. One article cold about the formation of the International Association of Exorcises. When they held their first meeting in 1993, only six priests showed up, but chis summer more than 200 exorcists gathered together. The NCR also interviewed my friend, Fr. Rufus Pereira from India, who now travels the world giving conferences to priests on deliverance. I cannot imagine chat a topic such as exorcism would have been covered in the NCR just 10 short years ago. And then you see these headlines about the Pope as exorcist in the tabloids as you head out of the supermarket.

Now, news has come out that Pope John Paul II has been involved in three exorcisms over the years. The most recent one, though, has been the one that has attracted attention; it took place in Sc. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome, where the Pope was speaking to a large crowd. Suddenly, a young woman in the front row began acting in an extravagant, wild manner. The Pope cook time after his talk to try to minister to her privately, but after half an hour she was still not free. The tabloids naturally sensationalized the story: "Satan Beats Pope in Exorcism Horror," said one. But the official exorcist of Rome gave what I believe is the intelligent response. He said the degree of possession was so extreme that half an hour was simply not enough time co deal with the woman's problem. This explanation matches our experience.

Then, I read in the Chicago Sun Times that the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal George, has just appointed an official exorcist. This procedure is ordinary, bur the publicity given to the appointment is different from the past.

All of this is of real importance because it indicates chat the sleeping giant of at least one mainline church is waking up to the need of dealing with evil spirits. The less than good news is chat the sleeping giant has only one eye open.

For example, most churches are not dealing with the problem (the exceptions being mostly the independent "post–denominational" churches, like the Vineyard), but chose chat are, such as the Catholic Church, are only dealing with the rare, the exceptional, the possessed man or woman. What we find commonly in our ministry is very real and very serious, but it falls far short of possession. We call it "infestation," where the person is rational and only influenced in one or another area of his or her life, such as by a "spirit of addiction."

We find that this is common, and the need for deliverance is very common. As I mention in my book Deliverance From Evil Spirits, Judith, in the days when she was active as a psychotherapist, estimates that a third of her clients needed prayer for deliverance. Possession is rare, but the need for deliverance is common.

And the sad thing is that most Christians are not aware of this great blessing chat Jesus came to give.

Next, the need for teaching on this subject, for the most part, is not being addressed. By and large, priests and ministers do not address the need for ordinary Christians to protect themselves by prayer, as well as to avoid occult practices — especially at a time when witchcraft is promoted in the media as a fascinating hobby. The implication is that only priests and other experts need to bother themselves with all of this, and that most practices, such as playing with the Ouija board, are harmless pastimes.

Lastly, the recent news flashes imply that only priests can deal with the demonic. Admitting the need for some kind of church supervision, compounded by chose extremists who find a "demon behind every bush," we nevertheless find an enormous need for an afflicted people to receive deliverance so that chis ministry needs to be opened up. At a time when 15 percent of Roman Catholic parishes are without a resident priest, there is no way that the need for priest–exorcists can be supplied, especially since exorcism is an exhausting ministry, requiring much time and experience.

What I believe is that we should return to the practice of the Early Church where lay people, the non–ordained, could perform exorcisms, as well as pray for deliverance. Origen, for example, a "church father" who lived around the year 250, held up as an advantage for Christianity chat not only could a Christian pray co free people from demonic oppression, but chat an ordinary, uneducated Christian layperson could do chis. For Origen, this deliverance ministry was a great witness to pagans and revealed the love and power of the true God.

I propose that it would be a great step forward if the churches would appoint qualified laypeople as exorcists — especially health professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychotherapists, and in particular those counselors who are trying to help the victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) who are crying to recover from their past.

Even the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church indicates chat such a step is feasible, because until 1972 one of the four "minor orders" of the Church was the order of "exorcise." The other three minor orders were "acolyte," "lector" and "doorkeeper," which are routinely filled today by ordinary commissioned laypeople. These four orders came before ordination to the subdiaconate, diaconate and priesthood — the major orders. Then, Pope Paul VI abolished chem as no longer necessary for our time. The clear teaching we can take from chis is chat you can be commissioned co be an exorcist without being a priest.

The good news is that the whole subject of exorcism and deliverance is being opened up. But we still need much teaching, and the actual ministry of deliverance and exorcism to suffering, afflicted humanity needs to be opened up, too.

It is exciting co be alive to see all of chis coming up at the beginning of a new millennium — and not just co see it, but to be a part of it all!


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM./em> Winter 2000 Issue