Daily Telegraph Highlights Exorcism Course In Rome

The Daily Telegraph reports on a course in Rome that

…aims to train about 200 Roman Catholic priests from more than 30 countries in how to cast out evil from people who believe themselves to be in thrall to the Devil.

The conference, “Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation”, has also attracted psychiatrists, sociologists, doctors and criminologists in what the Church called a “multi-disciplinary” approach to exorcisms.

Giuseppe Ferrari, from GRIS, a Catholic research group that organised the conference, said there was an ever growing need for priests to be trained to perform exorcisms because of the increasing number of lay people tempted to dabble in black magic, paganism and the occult.

This is barely news: the course has been running for nine years. Matt Baglio’s The Rite: The Making of a Modern-Day Exorcist (2009) has the background:

According to Doctor Ferrari, the idea came about in 2003 when he met with a priest from the diocese of Imola who told him that a growing number of his fellow clerics were being inundated by parishoners suffering from problems related to the occult…

Ferrari decided there was a need for a university-level course that would cover “a wide variety of historical, theological, sociological, and medical topics, in order to go beyond the superficial and sensationalist aspect of of exorcism.” One wonders what Ferrari will make of the Daily Telegraph‘s take, which is illustrated by a ludicrous and grotesque cartoon apparition of the devil as drawn by George Cruikshank.

Baglio adds that Fr Paolo Scarafoni arranged for the course to be held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, which is run by the (scandal-plagued) Legionaries of Christ. The course’s website shows that registration is through the university’s Istituto Sacerdos, which is turn “a program of Mission Network, Inc.”

GRIS, meanwhile, stands for Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione Socio-Religiosa. As well as the exorcism course, it is also currently advertising a one-day conference in collaboration with the Bar Council of Acqui Terme on “Satanism, magic and destructive cults.”

However, GRIS and Ferrari are controversial; I noted one critical source in 2005, which claimed that

…on January 1997… L’Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican daily paper) started to publish a series of articles about the dangers of Satanism. This series was edited by Giuseppe Ferrari, the president of the GRIS. Ferrari himself wrote the first piece, titled ‘The Phenomenon Of Satanism In The Contemporary Society’. He described Satanism as an absolute emergency, drawing alarmist conclusions from a hopeless mess of rumours, cliches and urban myths. No specific examples, no precedents, no statistics. Moreover, Ferrari extended to excess the definition of ‘Satanism’, including ‘other groups that do not intend to present themselves as Satanists and, for example, claim to practice pagan rituals in order to harmonize with the occult powers of nature. As a matter of fact, these groups are suspect and we can include them in the multi-form world of Satanism’. Such a mysterious sentence was aimed at accusing a whole constellation of various movements, cults and philosophies.

One Response

  1. Until recently the official position of the Church has been that satanic possession is extremely rare and other factors have to be seriously considered first such as the physical and mental health of a person or even fraud. Sadly since the “saitnly” reign of John Paul II a large number of fundamentalist and fanatical cults have grown in Italy involving apparitions of Madonnas and frequent exorcisms at the rate of at least every five minutes during their meetings. I think the Vatican now wishes to give credence to these fraudulent cults mostly because they attract large numbers of people and gather tons of dosh. Something about bread butter and side perhaps and rationality and caution is handily thrown out of the window.

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