An Irish American priest in Indiana believes requests for exorcisms in the US to be at an all-time high.
Father Vincent Lampert is one of 50 Catholic priests in the US specifically appointed to perform an exorcism, which although regarded as a sacramental act, is not one of the main Catholic sacraments such as baptism or confession.
Lampert states that the rate of people contacting him regarding exorcisms is continually on the rise due to the number of people turning away from faith, and he now receives as many as 20 calls or emails per week from people who believe they may be in some way influenced by the devil.
"Faith in God will lead us in one direction and lack of faith will lead us in another,” Lampert told WRTV, “so there does seem to be a correlation with people who believe they are experiencing evil in their life at the same time where faith in God is less relevant."
Of those who contact the priest, who is based at St. Malachy’s Church in Brownsburg, he confirms that only 10 percent of those are in fact experiencing demonic influence, however, and he has only performed three exorcisms involving complete demonic possession akin to those seen on our TV and movie screens. When he was appointed in 2005, he was just one of 12 priests to hold this role, with over four times as many currently needed in the United States.
"The manifestations would include things like a person's eyes rolling back in their head, foaming at the mouth," he said, citing the ability to speak and understand other languages that one shouldn’t, abnormal strength, the appearance of knowledge that one should not have, and an aversion to sacred items such as a cross, as signs of a possession by the devil.
"I don't have any special powers or ability from a faith perspective. The power resides with the person of Christ," Father Lampert continued, stating that many of the acts he performs run along the lines of intense prayers to get rid of spirits.
Ireland also has several priests ready to carry out exorcisms if the time comes, according to the Irish Mirror, with two specialists in Galway and Carlow. Cases are rare throughout the country, however.
While a recent Catholic Young Adults Conference in Dublin heard that requests for exorcisms in Ireland are also on the rise, and have climbed significantly in the past five years, priests in Ireland are trained to recognize the difference between the signs of a physical or mental illness and a possession and to act accordingly. No exorcisms were performed in the country as a result of demonic possession in the last number of years.
”Church law requires that every diocese has a trained exorcist - someone who knows how to distinguish the signs of demonic possession from those of mental or physical illness,” said a statement from the Church to the Irish Mirror.
“From time to time dioceses will get requests for help in this area. Not many. Maybe as few as one in the course of a year.
“Dioceses would refer people to one or two priests with training and expertise in this area.
“In most cases, it will emerge after several meetings that it may be a medical, psychiatric or psychological problem and they are then referred to medics with expertise in this area.”
Such problems include the like of PANDAS, a neurological condition sometimes referred to as “exorcist syndrome.” Recently, a Co. Antrim family revealed the tragic story of their 14-year-old son Cameron Lindsay who suffers from the condition after it was triggered by a throat infection. The teenager’s personality was altered completely causing fits of rage, threats to his family and even imaging Adolf Hitler was standing at his window.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, an exorcism is “the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice”.
In 1999, the Vatican changed its guidelines regarding exorcism for the first time since 1614 and urged priests to take into account what we now know about modern psychiatry when dealing with requests from those who believe they, or somebody they know, is possessed by the devil.
In 2014, the Vatican also recognized the International Association of Exorcists which has 250 members working in 30 countries. No Irish priest attended the conference about exorcism during which the group was accepted by the Congress of the Clergy and according to the Irish Examiner, attempts for form an association in Ireland have fallen through as of yet.