UPDATE: The discussion on exorcism, mentioned in the initial post as scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 16, has been postponed. It will be rescheduled at a later date.
(Original post at 6:45 a.m. Thursday)
The extent of my knowledge about exorcism and demonic possession is what happened to that poor kid in that one movie with the vomit and the nice old priest. I had no idea that it was still a thing.
The Liberal Catholic Church Center of Colorado Springs will present a discussion on the topic of Exorcism on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 2720 East Las Vegas St., Suite 115, at 7 p.m.
Among the topics to be discussed will be the function and purpose of Exorcism, common misunderstandings, and Exorcism in popular culture.
Admission is free but space is limited. Interested persons are encouraged to call Father Ian Carman at 719-387-0308 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aren't exorcisms like, totally 1970s?
"Sure," says Father Carman.
Who's getting exorcised nowadays?
Any person, he says, who has lost control over themselves to an outside force. This could be an entity, a malevolent being, or this could be an addiction to chemicals, such as meth or booze.
And exorcisms aren't as common as they once were because, a lot of what people thought was demonic activity in the past was actually the result of physical or mental ailments. The reason we have fewer exorcisms nowadays is thanks to developments in the medical and mental-health sciences.
"In the run-up for an exorcism, a lot of the questions rely very heavily on chemical dependency, drug use, what sort of family life they have, if they are under any kind of stress — a whole battery of stuff that we look at," he says. While the ritual might make the sufferer feel better for the moment, it obviously isn't treating the underlying, critical concern. Many of the people who come to him for an exorcism are sent to their therapists or primary care physicians.
"The question I ask is, 'Why do you think you are possessed?'" he says. The answers are often that the person is hearing voices, or that they see dark objects out of the corner of their eye. "One of the first questions that rises up is, 'How long have you been off your medication?' "
The Rite of Exorcism is sacramental. It is subdued compared to the Hollywood version, mostly just prayers, chanting, and maybe the possessed might squirm a little. "They are about as dramatic as, say, a trip to the dentist," Carman says. "They come in, they sit in a chair, we do the procedure, then it's over and we send them on their way."
Many exorcisms require multiple trips to the chair.
There are various exorcism rituals. There is the solemn ritual, which requires the sanction of the church, and to have a priest present. And, he says, "there is the simple ritual that almost any baptized person can do, if you are in the Christian religion, or anybody who is a faithful initiate of their religious practice — because the other religions have their exorcisms also." Exorcism is an ancient practice, actually, predating Christianity as it is found in Judaism and earlier even in the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Babylonian cultures. There are Hindu exorcisms and Muslim exorcisms.
While the popular image of exorcisms is that of a holy man waging holy war by flinging holy water on the devil-possessed and chanting, the reality is that an exorcism is more a form of spiritual intervention, more akin to therapy or pastoral guidance.
"Like any other addiction or psychological condition, the patient doesn't simply have the backbone to admit that there is a problem here and I need to fix this," the father says. An exorcism can provide the courage and support for someone possessed by drug addiction — or the devil — to finally take ownership of their lives.