Help Wanted: The Philippines Needs More Exorcists

Aug 3, 2015

Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive/Corbis

By Simone Orendain

Alvin Bailon and his wife were at their wits’ end last September. Their 12-year-old son, an honors student, had begun having anxiety attacks, mostly about school. “And then all of a sudden he would slowly lose consciousness,” Bailon recalls. “We term it as doze off. He would doze off and he would fall down slowly.”

They brought him to three doctors, had his brain scanned (no irregularities were found), tried all sorts of anxiety pills prescribed by doctors. They even went to healers who use crystals for therapy.

Then they tried a beach retreat that the healers had recommended. Their son did well, but Bailon says on the car ride home the child “dozed off” and whispered in a totally unfamiliar voice, “Shhh, you might wake him up.”

That’s when the Bailons did what many in the overwhelmingly Catholic country do when facing a family crisis: They turned to the church — and its Office of Exorcism, opened in 2006 to address a growing number of cases and run by Father Jose Francisco Syquia.

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8 comments on “Help Wanted: The Philippines Needs More Exorcists

  • In the absence of a scientific solution, which clearly is lacking – go for what works. I’m not too sure that there is a vast difference in psychiatrists and priests. Psychiatrists it might be argued are just the shamen of the developed world. They have not shied away from atrocities in the forms of lobotomies and electric shock treatment.
    What I’m suggesting is that some of our western medical practices are also based on ignorance and yet we are prepared to accept them as uncritically as catholics accept exorcism. Put your faith neither in priests or trendy researchers in search of grants, careers and a reputation.

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  • 6
    Cairsley says:

    Exorcism is the driving out of demons, for the existence of which no evidence has ever been forthcoming. What really needs to be driven out here is the clergy and the superstition it purveys.

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  • Exorcism needs to be banned legally because

    Many exorcisms are performed in secret to avoid ridicule and media attention which endangers the allegedly possessed. The exorcist is protected by this secrecy if he is just a charlatan with a screw loose.

    Legally permitting it is giving religious people special treatment, special rights, because of their faith in exorcism and demons. They get away with distressing and tormenting the allegedly possessed who imagine that the demon goes berserk during the exorcism. The abuses that take place during exorcism would not be tolerated in any other field. Some atheists believe in memes – ideas that are like computer viruses and infect your mind such as religion. An atheist would not be allowed to upset a victim of possession by religious memes through administering a secular exorcism.

    Demonic possession is not a recognised mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not recognise possession by demons as medical diagnosis. It is not therefore a recognised psychiatric disorder. However there is a form of delusion called demonomania or demonopathy in which people think they are demons possessing a body. They mistake themselves for the demons. Those who suffer this illness have dissociative identity disorder. Around 30% of sufferers have demonomania or demonopathy. In possession, the person often claims to be the demon and acts accordingly.

    There are no peer reviewed medical articles or journals that advocate exorcism.

    When many parts of the world legally prohibit the teaching of creationism as if it were a scientific theory in schools (it is banned in England and Wales for example) it is mind-boggling how schools can be allowed to teach that demons possess people and exorcism evicts them.

    Diagnosis is a problem – many people with mental illness have been mistakenly diagnosed as possessed. Some exorcists admit they are not sure if the person is mentally ill or possessed and still proceed with an exorcism. It is accepted that you can be mentally ill and possessed at the same time. Diagnosis in medicine based on what symptoms the person reports and are observed by others only if there is no way to get hard evidence – such as in a poor country. With exorcism, the diagnosis is based purely on what the victims and their friends or family say. Those people are rarely educated the right way or unbiased – they are not great witnesses. And as they will get away with it, they feel they can lie and exaggerate. And if people fear a demon in their midst their imagination will run away with them. Exorcisms were far more common in the past because people did not have the tools for diagnosing anything properly never mind possession or a need for an exorcism. Overall, the belief has hurt and harmed. There is tremendous pressure on people who realise that a family member is not really possessed to say nothing against any exorcisms that are performed on her or him – they don’t want to look like insane fanatics and fools who are responsible for what the family member is suffering as a result of belief in possession and exorcism.

    Individuals with a known history of diagnosed psychotic and psychiatric symptoms will still be subjected to exorcism if the priest and the Catholic doctor decides that her or his problems are down to some force other than the illness.

    It is odd that very evil people are not asked to undergo exorcism – it only happens when people act deranged. This is because vulnerable people are targeted by religion for its own ends and because evil people are often too smart to be fooled by religion. Surely if a person was possessed they would be acting evil rather than deranged!

    Exorcism is fanaticism as is proven by the Church’s opposition to Freudianism and Jungianism and modern psychiatry because of its stress on learning to love yourself so that you can use this learning to love others. The Church claims to co-operate with psychiatry in order to determine if a case may require an exorcist. How can it when it does not even really believe in psychiatry? It claims an infallibility for itself that it does not imagine any medical discipline to have.

    Unlike medicine which is carefully regulated, each religion invents its own rules about exorcism. It is irresponsible to put mental treatment in the hands of non-professionals as is done when the exorcist steps in.

    Consent to exorcism raises problems. The demon is thought to simulate the person so if the person objects to exorcism it will be assumed it is the demon talking. Thus the person will be ignored and exorcised against her or his will.

    Nobody can prove it is a demon at work – if anything paranormal is happening could it be a psychic illness? Treating it as a demon will worsen the problem. If people have psychic ability, then perhaps the entity is part of them. Perhaps the demon is an artificial personality created in the subconscious by psychological and psychic forces. To abuse the demon is to abuse the person. Also, if the problem is the subconscious then merely to assume that it is a real demon at work and to treat the person accordingly is abuse.

    People with mental health problems may suffer because of belief in demons. If you doubt your sanity, imagine how upsetting it will be if you start to feel you are possessed. Even going to Mass and hearing the readings from the gospel about Jesus’ exorcism can put this terrible suggestion in your mind.

    Exorcisms sometimes cause a violent reaction in the person – how can you know that it is a demon doing this and not the ritual or the person’s delusion that they have a demon?

    Exorcism tends to be private which increases the chance of abuse and harm. It prevents regulation.

    If psychiatry is unable to find out what is wrong with the person, that does not prove that the person is possessed. Arguments such as, “I don’t know what is wrong therefore it is probably a demon”, show that you want to believe the person is possessed – you want to use the victim to make a religious point. No decent or sane psychiatrist would approve of exorcism or facilitate it.

    Some possessed people have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Their possession is considered to be a separate issue from their illness. Where can the line be drawn? It is hard enough to do that without bringing demons and the supernatural into it.

    Exorcists believe that somebody cursed the victim or the victim invited the demons in. You need proof before you can say things like that. Exorcism endorses the slander of accusing somebody – even if the identity is unknown – without proof that anybody was to blame.

    Where do you draw the line with belief in possession and exorcism? You write a poison pen letter. Why not say your pen was possessed and wrote that letter? What about the dangerous doctrine of Cen? Cen is when the spirit of a dead person steals your body and pretends to be you. It can lead to a child being put to death for his father’s crimes.

    Exorcism can be a very long process bringing great trauma and worry to the victim and her or his family and friends and it does not always succeed. Often a demon is allegedly put out and when the person seems possessed again it is insisted that the demon was put out and returned. That claim is a cop-out. Exorcists cannot be trusted no matter how kindly they seem to be. Fortune-tellers are great charmers too.

    When the demon “returns” the victim is typically blamed not the exorcist.

    Exorcists sometimes believe in beating up the victim to get the demon out. Some who believe that the person and not just the body is taken over rationalise this abuse.

    Your mere belief in possession or exorcism is enabling those who carry out extreme and cruel forms of exorcism. Promoting a religion that believes in exorcism is enabling it too. And so is giving that religion money.

    Exorcists claim to be performing an act of love for the victim – real love is based on evidence what is best for the person. It is not based on the guess that demons exist and that demons possess the person. It is not based on the guess that some demons though naughty might actually be tolerable. Though Christendom claims to love its neighbour by not accusing without proof it is happy to accuse demons without proof. Those who do not have the guts to hate and abuse the people around them like to target fantasy entities such as demons and fairies and ghosts instead. The bad side of human nature will always out. People regarded as good love God because they think he hurts others and protects them – thus they find peace in the misery of others. People need demons to hate and curse. It unleashes the bad energy they would unleash on other people otherwise. Exorcism is based on the principle: It is okay for me to take beliefs very seriously when there is little or no suitable evidence in their favour. Where do you draw the line with a principle like that? Real love respects principles for principles serve not only truth but us as well.

    Exorcists deny that you need extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims – but surely they should put more emphasis on evidence that a case of possession is not authentic before deciding that it is? Even the most ardent believer has to confess that there must be cases of possession or miracles which are fraudulent or deceptive but which were never found out or may never be. You never really know 100% if something is supernatural. Many have faked possession usually to get attention. You cannot be as sure that a demon is in a person and to be blamed for what she or he does, as you are that Hitler was evil. And you need to be – accusing on insufficient evidence says something about you.

    Some victims seem to recover after exorcism by the placebo effect. This effect can be achieved other ways without exorcism. Friendly doctors who listen to their patients are the best catalyst for the placebo effect. Exorcism is about ritual and scary. Any talking or friendliness happens outside of it. The placebo effect in exorcism can backfire – the person might get worse if not better. Doctors telling a white lie to trigger the placebo effect is nothing compared to exorcism which is a big issue and presupposes a whole world view. It is a religious placebo effect not a medical one and should not be tolerated.

    Exorcists believe that though demons will possess people, they much prefer tempting people to sin. This leads to the evil notion that if temptation comes from a supernatural source then there is nothing we can do about it. Why encourage X to avoid temptation if temptation is not coming from within her or him?

    Matthew 7:15-20 has Jesus stating clearly that good fruits are unmistakeable. An exorcism that takes time to work is hardly an unmistakable sign from God and a good fruit. Jesus said the false prophets do enough good to pass for sheep but they cannot get grapes from thorns – their followers might be fine people but just not good enough. Catholic exorcisms are not delightful and imply that God prolongs the agony. They are marks of a false religion.

    Conclusion: Ban exorcism. The concept of possession gives evil people a way to avoid being found guilty even if they are caught. If this is unlikely to happen that is not the point – the point is the principle. Violating the principle says yes to it happening. If found guilty, they may still tell themselves that they are not guilty. A person who can lie to themselves like that is going the right way about being a good person who can be still do shockingly evil things.

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  • Patrick
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Exorcism needs to be banned legally because

    I should be, but unfortunately many legislators are possessed by the Catholic god-virus.

    Many exorcisms are performed in secret to avoid ridicule and media attention which endangers the allegedly possessed.

    That is what educated people in civilised countries might think, but it is not always so.

    The exorcist is protected by this secrecy if he is just a charlatan with a screw loose.

    They are all charlatans with screws loose, but some blatantly operate in public with airs of authority!

    In 2012, the cause of beatification and canonization for Fr. Candido Amantini, a Passionist priest who served as the exorcist for the diocese of Rome for 36 years at the Scala Santa, was taken up in Rome. His most famous disciple (who is considered to be his successor), 87 year old Don Gabriele Amorth, wanted to participate in the opening ceremony of the process. The Pauline priest, who recently published the book, The Last Exorcist, wished to remember the Passionist Father and told Stanze Vaticane about the time when the devil spoke to his teacher about Hell.

    Don Amorth, are you happy? Fr. Candido will become a blessed.

    It is a great joy because Fr. Candido was a man of God! He was always serene, always smiling, never angry even with the devil! Everyone was talking about him, he was extremely well known in Rome, where he served as exorcist for 36 years without ever quitting.

    So an exorcist is an official Catholic saint!!
    Some people may think the devil doesn’t exist, and that he’s just a medieval fairy tale.

    Father Gabriel Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, begs to differ.

    At age 88, he still battles the devil every day. In his lifetime, he’s performed more than 160,000 exorcisms, according to published reports.

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