Not only is the Catholic Church facing a shortage of priests around the world, but in the United States they are also facing another shortage -- that of priests who know how to properly perform an exorcism. To remedy this problem, it is holding an emergency two-day meeting in Baltimore, MD, to teach clerics how to cast out demons.
The Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism began on Friday, and includes a group of 56 bishops and 66 priests.
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the archbishop of Houston, said:
"Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult. The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite."
In recent years, the number of clerics in the U.S. who know how to perform an exorcism has dramatically dropped. This is due in large part to Linda Blair's head-spinning performance in the 1973 film "The Exorcist", which made the practice a laughingstock in the country.
These days, there are now only five or six priests in the U.S. with the knowledge to carry out an exorcism. The demand, however, for priests with such knowledge hasn't diminished. With numerous Catholic immigrants coming to the U.S. from nations where exorcisms are taken seriously, the few exorcists there are here are being overwhelmed.
Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki said:
"There's this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental US."
Exorcisms are an important church rite. Pope John Paul II is said to have performed one, and the Bible talks of Jesus casting out demons.
Each year the church gets about 400 inquiries, but only two or three are actually performed. Determining whether a person is actually possessed takes time.
Before an exorcism can occur, a priest has to look for tell-tale signs, which include an aversion to the name of Jesus or Mary, speaking in tongues, super strength, and a violent reaction to holy water. The person must also be looked at by a psychologist to make sure that they are not mentally ill.
Once a person has been deemed possessed, a priest can try to drive out the demon by sprinkling holy water, reciting psalms and laying on hands.