Exorcisms for entertainment? Terrible idea, St. Louis archdiocese tells cable network

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A crucifix in Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastavere. (Daniel Ibanez/CNA)
A crucifix in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastavere. (Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (CNA/EWTN News) — A television show’s promise of a live exorcism rite is more dangerous than it thinks, the Archdiocese of St. Louis warned on Thursday.

“Any attempt to use the solemn Rite of Exorcism as entertainment exposes all participants to the danger of future hidden satanic attack,” said Bishop Robert Hermann, an auxiliary bishop emeritus of St. Louis, Oct. 29. “We cannot play games with Satan and expect to win.”

Bishop Hermann said no exorcism can take place without the authority of the local Catholic ordinary. St. Louis’ Archbishop Robert Carlson has not granted permission to any priests or bishops for the event.

The purported exorcism will take place on the St. Louis-area house of a boy known as Roland Doe. Jesuit priests from St. Louis University helped the boy and performed exorcisms on him at several locations, including the house, in 1949. Reports of the boy’s exorcism inspired William Peter Blatty’s novel “The Exorcist,” the basis of the 1973 horror movie.

The cable network Destination America said it would air the live exorcism Oct. 30, the day before Halloween. James Long, a bishop in the United States Old Catholic Church (a schismatic church that is not in communion with Rome), is scheduled to perform the minor exorcism. He has appeared on other television shows about supernatural activities, and is a former Roman Catholic seminarian.

The cable network, which is owned by Discovery Communications, described Bishop Long as “qualified and trained.”

The television show also plans to have a psychic medium and a Tennessee-based team of reputed ghost hunters. Also participating in the show is a woman who is a grand-niece of one of the priests who conducted the original exorcism.

The St. Louis archdiocese said it was not involved in the “dangerous endeavor.”

“Anyone involved in this production who claims to be a member of the Catholic clergy is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of St. Louis nor are they operating under the authority of the Vatican,” the archdiocese clarified.

The archdiocese said any purported exorcism for entertainment purposes by spiritualists, paranormal investigators, or a non-Catholic clerics “trivializes this ancient rite of the Roman Catholic Church and the very real danger of evil.”

The St. Louis archdiocese told CNA Oct. 30 it was not making any other comment on the case.

St. Louis-area Catholic priest Fr. John Mayo voiced concern about the rise in shows about spirits and occult practices.

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Other Church news regarding exorcism:

Wanted: More exorcists to meet demands in Philippines (Catholic News Service)

What does the Philippine church look for in a potential exorcist? (Catholic Philly)

Quick lessons from the Catechism: Exorcisms (Phoenix-area Catholic blogger)

Archived article — part 1 and part 2 — on an exorcism docudrama

More stories on exorcism from The Catholic Sun

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“A spiritual world exists, with good and evil sides to it,” he said, warning against practices that are “entryways for spirits.”

“Demonic possession is indeed quite rare, but it does happen. In this case, the Church still conducts exorcisms,” he said in one of his regular columns published in the St. Louis Review, the archdiocese’s newspaper, Oct. 21.

Fr. Mayo said that in exorcism inquiries, the Church aims to make a diligent investigation of the person involved, including a psychological examination. If the local bishop approves an exorcism, he will ask the Church to accompany the priest involved in it with prayers and good works.

Fr. Mayo encouraged any Catholic who has taken part in activities that opens him or her to evil to go to confession “as soon as possible.” He said that if a person’s home appears to have unusual supernatural occurrences, they can ask a local priest to bless the home.

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