William Blatty

Are demons going to start sending us links to that Washington Post exorcism essay?

Are demons going to start sending us links to that Washington Post exorcism essay?

It's perfectly understandable why many journalists are fascinated with the subject of exorcisms, especially when the Roman Catholic Church gets involved. For starters, we are talking about battles on the front lines between the material and the supernatural, encounters that raise eternal questions about free will, the love of God and the existence of ultimate good and ultimate evil. And then, of course, there is Hollywood.

So you will not be surprised that your GetReligionistas have taken a look at quite a few mainstream news stories about this topic. Click here and do some surfing, if you wish.

But this post is not about a news piece. Yet, over the past week people have sent me the URL to this Washington Post essay more than any other. At this point, I have begun to wonder if the demons are sending it to me. Why, well you know what C.S. Lewis said about demons (speaking through the voice of Screwtape, his great demonic professor).

We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work -- the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” -- then the end of the war will be in sight.

The headline on the Post piece, written by New York Medical College professor Richard Gallagher, was this: "As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession."

I should note that this is a sequel, of sorts, to his 2008 essay -- "Among the Many Counterfeits -- A Case of Demonic Possession" -- that ran in the journal The New Oxford Review, a very small-o orthodox Catholic publication (and one with a high digital wall around its content).

Here is the opening of the new Post piece:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Washington Post leaves readers with a generic bishop, in Style story on 'Exorcism: Live!'

Washington Post leaves readers with a generic bishop, in Style story on 'Exorcism: Live!'

I don't know about you, but the moment I heard about the "Exorcism: Live!" event on reality television, the very first thing I thought was this: There is no way on earth that a priest from a mainstream Catholic or Orthodox body agreed to take part in this pop-culture train wreck.

So, as I read through the Washington Post Style section take on this mass-media product, I was looking for one thing -- the name of the exorcist and the detailed identification of his church.

Surely, no one was going to write about this eve of Halloween production without giving readers that crucial detail? I mean, that would leave the religion-beat professionals at the Post pounding their heads on their desks. Right? Hold that thought. 

First, what is the fuss all about?

Welcome to “Exorcism: Live!” airing at 9 p.m. Friday on Destination America, a cable channel owned by Discovery Communications. The two-hour telecast tasks a clergyman, a psychic and the team from the network’s “Ghost Asylum” series to go into the spooky suburban St. Louis home that inspired “The Exorcist” book and movie. Ghost hunters insist that the house is filled with a dark, sinister energy, and “Exorcism: Live!” is determined to cleanse it.

Now, I happen to like the book that is behind all of this, and its author is a fascinating man (click here for my "On Religion" interview with him). And don't get me wrong. The documentation for the original case behind all of this is pretty disturbing stuff. The question is what it has to do with reality television, and the ministry of an exorcist.

So here is some more information on the supposedly troubled setting for today's planned epic.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

So the first Jesuit pope comes to D.C. and visits one not-so-scary Catholic campus

So the first Jesuit pope comes to D.C. and visits one not-so-scary Catholic campus

If you follow religion news at all, you have probably heard of this Pope Francis fellow. You may even have heard that he is coming to the United States this fall, including a series of media-friendly events in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Readers may even have heard that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope. Hold that thought.

Detail-oriented folks may want to inspect the actual details of the schedule by clicking here. Yes, we are talking about a hug from President Barack Obama, an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, an address to the United Nations and other events that are automatically "news," on every conceivable level.

Now, the pope will also do some obviously Catholic stuff, which led to a recent report in The Washington Post that focused on one interesting college detail, when comparing this papal Beltway trip with others in the recent past:

For the Catholic faithful, a papal visit is always historic. For one university in the nation’s capital, the upcoming visit of Pope Francis provides special bragging rights: It will be the third papal stop at the Catholic University of America in less than 40 years.
Pope John Paul II came in 1979, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, came in 2008.
The university in Northeast Washington is a natural destination for a traveling pontiff. Founded in 1887 under a papal charter, Catholic U. is overseen by a board that includes numerous bishops and other church clerics. It is not just affiliated with the church; it is the church’s national university in the United States.

Bragging rights? Hold that thought, too.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Still falling for 'The Exorcist,' 40 years later

Long ago, pre-Internet, some researchers tried to find out which movie had the greatest spiritual effect on viewers, in terms of provoking people to think about sin, salvation and life after death.

Please respect our Commenting Policy