With the "Ghostbusters" movie franchise returning to the big screen, more people are calling on those who claim to be real-life vanquishers of evil spirits. A dramatic increase in people experimenting with Satanism and the occult, along with a general decline in faith and values, has led to a desperate need for exorcists, according to experts from the Catholic Church in the United States and Italy.
Dramatic exorcisms have been popular fodder for entertainment since the 1973 release of "The Exorcist" right up to this month’s launch of a television series of the same name. But, albeit in less theatrical fashion, the practice is also an ever increasing part of the work load in the Catholic Church. And much of that can be attributed to young people experimenting with what they find on the internet, said Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the Vatican-endorsed International Association of Exorcists.
“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency,” he told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting. The number of exorcists has increased in recent years, but there are still not enough to deal with a dramatic situation that affects, above all, young people who use the internet a lot.”
Pope Francis has previously been credited with sparking renewed interest in a practice that was once something of a taboo subject in the Catholic Church. The pontiff has regularly cited the need to guard against the work of the devil.
“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil,” Francis said in a Mass shortly before Halloween 2014. “But the devil exists and we must fight against him.”
Cascioli, who claims a general degradation of morality in society is also to blame, has called for a training institution at university level to be set up to educate priests on performing exorcists and help fill the growing demand.
That demand has spread to the United States, with one pastor admitting he is struggling to cope with all the requests.
“I am a full-time pastor and this is a very intense ministry,” said the Rev. Gar Thomas, the official exorcist of the diocese of San Jose, California. “Almost every free night that I have is taken up with exorcisms.”