A merely human exorcist is always going to fallible in a thousand different ways. My stupidities would cripple me even more than I was crippled by a run-away-tourist-bus in Rome, as you see in the picture. That picture was taken in the mid-1990s by an exorcist, now deceased. The fellow I cut out of the picture was an exorcist in the making, whom I was helping to train. That was in Piazza Farnese, just off Campo dei Fiori…
Now, I should hope that there is no exorcist in training or any other exorcists who take what I present in these series without a critical eye. If not, I’d be tempted to give him a black eye. Jesus was an exorcist, and is, of course, the only exorcist still today. If anyone is ever successful in an exorcism, it is because Jesus is there. If an exorcist should pay attention to anyone, it is Jesus, not necessarily to any other exorcist. Jesus and the Church! Don’t make heroes of anyone except Jesus.
I must say that it is frustrating when priests over-romanticize exorcism, putting it in the too hard category to learn something about in a serious way, instead claiming breathlessly that all they need to know is what Father X said (because Father X is famous and they once assisted him). Exorcism is just a sacramental which needs a lot of common sense. The first thing to kill off common sense is breathlessly claiming an authority who is not Jesus or the Church, and this so as to rationalize some stupid thing one is doing.
The most pastoral, reasonable perspective one can have is not to have any special exciting bubbly insight. There’s no time for fluff in exorcism. No time for heroes. Satan will be sure to crush any exorcist if that exorcist has any supposed talents or tricks or insights or heroes. Depending on such things is to invite Satan to find fault with them. He will.
Now, I’m sure Father Amorth will forgive me for what I’m going to do now, for it makes for a great point not taking on any heroes without a grain of salt. I’m sure he would be the first to agree. I don’t think he wants to be anyone’s hero, but thre are countless budding exorcists who take him as a hero. I’m going to make just a little, gentle criticism of Father Amorth. The occasion for this is that Father Cameron, O.P., has included something Father Amorth wrote in the Meditation of the Day in the American liturgical publication called the “Magnificat” (401-402, on 30 August, 2011). Father Candido is cited. That caught my eye, since, for a time, he was my spiritual director way back in the 1980s. I’ve known Father Amorth for about that long as well.
As an aside, before getting to Father Amorth’s comment, I should say that Father Candido was a great exorcist. He was almost alone in those days as an exorcist, and was pretty much self-trained. That’s not good. He suffered a great deal because of that. He speaks of a mistake he made when just becoming an exorcist, which was to go and dig up a cursed object that had been buried under a certain tree. He found it and picked it up with contempt. Never hold the devil and his tools to be nothing more than a joke. Always be acting in the name of Jesus, and you will trounce Satan every time. Father Candido suffered terrible stomach pains after this incident for the longest time, beginning the very instant he picked up the object.
As another aside, I should say that Father Amoth, a canon lawyer, was a friend of Father Candido, and was trained as an exorcist by Father Candido. Father Candido may not have always been well understood by his student. Here’s what’s in the “Magnificat”, written by Father Amorth:
One day Father Candido was expelling a demon. Toward the end of the exorcism, he turned to the evil spirit and sarcastically told him, “Get out of here. The Lord has already prepared a nice, well-heated house for you!” At this, the demon answered, “You do not know anything! It wasn’t he [God] who made hell. It was us. He had not even thought about it.” Similarly, on another occasion, while I was questioning a demon to know whether he had contributed to the creation of hell, I received this answer: “All of us cooperated.”
First of all, what Father Candido has to say cannot be presumed to have been said without the context of the larger exorcism being that he was speaking such things in the name of the Lord Jesus. He even points to the Lord here, alluding to Matthew 25,41 – “Depart from me, cursed ones, into the eternal fire ever prepared (perfect passive participle) for the devil and his angels.” Father Candido is correct in his theology and his actions. The devil responded, however, with typical blasphemy and mistaken theology, claiming that before creation, God did not know that hell would have to be prepared for the angels who would fall. As always, there is enough truth in the devil’s answer to mislead someone. The only thing we can claim as truly our own is our sin, which is, however, not a creation of something, but an un-creation of what ought to be. The sin of the angels brings them profound frustration. This is of their own doing, but it is within the structure of creation wrought by God Himself, including God’s justice, including God’s ready condemnation of their arrogance. It is in this sense that God did, in fact, prepare hell.
Father Amorth is mistaken to think that what he has done on another occasion is similar, though it is not. Father Amorth questioned a demon to know something about the creation of hell and received a similar answer to what was said to Father Candido. Therefore, it has to be true, right? Wrong. Asking the father of lies anything other that what the Church asks us to ask (such as the name of the demon) is to ask for a lie. Such conversations are forbidden by the Church.
Father Amorth obviously felt it was alright to speak to the devil in such a fashion, since he thought his hero had done this. But Father Candido hadn’t done this. The devil’s answer to Father Amorth tried to make it seem as if Father Candido had done this, but such is a lie of the devil. Reporting this far and wide in the ”Magnificat” is not useful to budding exorcists who are wondering what they are or are not permitted to do in an exorcism. They should look to the Church, not to heroes to find out such things. I think I know Father Amorth well enough to say that he would instantly agree with this assessment.
Again, in this series of “tips” for exorcism I’m trying to go out of my way not to have any special insight. I’m trying relentlessly to point to the law and prudence of the Church. The last thing we need in the Church are ill-prepared exorcists.
On the one hand, teachers are helpful, if the student has a critical eye, looking always to the law and prudence of the Church. On the other hand, when it comes to exorcism, heroes are not helpful, except for Jesus!
Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us!