It may seem strange that the catholic church would so suddenly need more exorcists, but the increase in the number of requests for exorcisms has led to the training of far more exorcists than ever before. And while some suggest the move may be related to an increase in mental health concerns, others are suggesting that this is only one of several indicators that a massive battle between the forces of good and evil are taking place. Are we on the verge of a massive exorcist shortage?
Images from the 1973 film The Exorcist cast the profession as a terrifying and dramatic ordeal, although many priests have come forward suggesting the drama is less external in real life. The act of splashing holy water, restraining, and screaming at demonic entities was notoriously exaggerated by the film, but others have come forward suggesting it is occasionally actually more terrifying. And when peoples’ souls are involved, it’s no small matter to save what could be a matter of eternity.
Symptoms of possession vary greatly from sudden personality changes, levitation, paranormal abilities, and superhuman strength to speaking in languages previously unknown by the afflicted. So the question ultimately is inevitably asked: when is it possession rather than a mental illness? The paranormal elements related to each case is generally what makes it a case of possession.
But the church has cited a need for trained individuals who are objective in analyzing when something is a case of possession and when it is simply a mental illness. Though they have been declared exceptionally rare in previous years, a gradual trend has shown that many more people are showing signs of possession than ever before. So what exactly is the cause? That’s a mystery that no one seems to have the answer to. It would have been considered suspicious if the number of cases had increased shortly after the release of Exorcism’s media counterpart in 1973, but today the phenomenon seems to be coming out from nowhere. But just as there are more cases of possession, there are also reportedly more cases of false reporting of a mental illness as possession as well.
You may recall the story of the crowd of school children that suddenly started acting very strangely and exhibiting superhuman strength, speaking in a strange dialect, and acting generally violent toward those attempting to calm them earlier this month. The incident was declared an exceedingly rare case of mass demonic possession by those involved, but the case is still understandably being investigated as more facts are uncovered. Is this a cultural manifestation of something we as of yet do not understand about our own psyches? Or is this something purely paranormal and of religious significance? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between? Interesting aspects of exorcism in society are not only in the manifestations of demonic influence themselves, but in the ways people react to it. Our perception of this mysterious and often terrifying force is just as unexplainable as the events themselves.