Are There Any Documented Cases of Exorcisms by the Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church performs the Rite of Exorcism.
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Cases of documented Catholic exorcisms are rare, however, they do exist. The Rite of Exorcism is discussed not only in the media and movies but is an actual rite addressed in The Bible. The most famous case of an American exorcism occurred in 1949, was the basis for the movie “The Exorcist” and is still discussed today.

1 The Rite of Exorcism

According to Fr. William Sanders, the devil can possess an individual and take over a person’s body with evil intent. Possessed individuals can levitate, speak in cryptic voices and possess super human powers and strength. The New Testament describes stories of demonic possession and how the Lord’s word was used to exorcise demons as far back as the founding days of Catholicism.

2 Catholic Beliefs

The Catholic Church believes that use of the Lord’s Prayer can cast a demon from a possessed person. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the priest who uses the Lord’s word in the exorcism must be considered “of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble, and he should prepare for the work by special acts of devotion and mortification, particularly by prayer and a fasting.” The exorcism must also take place at a sacred location, such as a church.

3 Documentation

There is very little written documentation about the history of exorcisms in the Catholic Church. Across the United States approximately 30 priests are trained in the Rite of Exorcism, but exorcisms are not a publicized matter. The Catholic Church does not maintain statistics on exorcisms or discuss exorcisms openly.

4 The Mt. Rainier Case

In 1949 the Catholic Church exorcised a 14 year-old boy in Mt. Rainier, MD, known as “Robbie.” The original movie “The Exorcist” is based upon this Maryland case and is the most famous case in Catholic history. The process of the exorcism did not begin until Catholic hospitals in the region attempted to explain the boy’s condition. The source of the bodily manifestations could not be medically explained, which resulted in the initiation of the exorcism. The priests in the case, Fr. William Bowdern, Fr. Raymond Bishop and Fr. Walter Halloran, among others, worked for more than two months with the family to cast out the demon. It is reported he has not experienced any more symptoms of possession since the exorcism took place.

Shannon Jones is a news editor and writer based in Michigan. Her work has received several writing awards, including the Richard Lacourse Award for investigative journalism. Jones holds master's degrees in both administration and marketing.