Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Mark 16:17: "And these signs shall follow them that believe:
In My Name they shall cast out devils"

To deal with attacks from the Evil One that go beyond ordinary temptation and obsession and cross over into possession, a Solemn Exorcism is in order. Each diocese should have at least one priest who is specially trained as an exorcist. When an exorcist is called, he will first investigate to determine whether or not the Solemn Rite is truly needed. He will try to rule out other causes of what the afflicted one or his friends and family believe is oppression or possession, likely calling on the expertise of medical doctors, psychologists, and other experts operating from a scientific point of view. Mental illness, physical illness, environmental physical phenomena that can mimic paranormal effects -- all of these have to be considered before a major exorcism is done.

Once it is determined that an exorcism is necessary, the priest will prepare beforehand, often by Confession, fasting, and deep prayer. When possible, he will gather a small team of four people to work with him -- other priests, laity, whoever is willing and whom the priest deems to be good candidates. Those assistants will pray, make the responses required by the Rite of Exorcism, help to hold the possessed person down if they become violent, etc.

Throughout the centuries, the Church has learned how to deal with demons, and the traditional rite of exorcism -- the Ritual of 1614 -- includes twenty-one directives that exorcists need to keep in mind as they go about their work. These directives are:

  1. The priest who with the particular and explicit permission of his Bishop is about to exorcise those tormented by Evil Spirit, must have the necessary piety, prudence, and personal integrity. He should perform this most heroic work humbly and courageously, not relying on his own strength, but on the power of God; and he must have no greed for material benefit. Besides, he should be of mature age and be respected as a virtuous person.

  2. To perform his task correctly, he should be acquainted with the many practical writings of approved authors on the subject of Exorcism. These are omitted here for the sake of brevity. He should, in addition, carefully observe the following few rules which are of major importance.
  3. Above all, he must not easily believe that someone is possessed by Evil Spirit. He must be thoroughly acquainted with those signs by which he can distinguish the possessed person from those who suffer from a physical illness. The signs of possession by Evil Spirit are of a peculiar genre. Among others; when the subject speaks unknown languages with many words or understands unknown languages; when he clearly knows about things that are distant or hidden; when he shows a physical strength far above his age or normal condition. These manifestations together with others of the same kind are major indications.
  4. To be all the surer, the exorcist should interrogate the subject after one or two exorcism addresses, asking him what he feels in his spirit or in his body. In this way, also, he will find out what words disturb Evil Spirit more than others; and thus he can repeat such words and have greater effect on Evil Spirit.
  5. Let the exorcist note for himself the tricks and deceits which Evil Spirits use in order to lead him astray. For they are accustomed to answering falsely. They manifest themselves only under pressure--in the hope that the exorcist will get tired and desist from pressuring them. Or they make it appear that the subject of Exorcism is not possessed at all.
  6. Sometimes, Evil Spirit betrays its presence, and then goes into hiding. It appears to have left the body of the possessed free from all molestation, so that the possessed thinks he is completely rid of it. But the exorcist should not, for all that desist until he sees the signs of liberation.
  7. Sometimes, also, Evil Spirit throws up every possible obstacle in order to stop the possessed from submitting to Exorcism. Or it tries to persuade him that his affliction is quite natural. Sometimes, during Exorcism, it gets the possessed to go to sleep; or it shows him some vision. But it hides itself, so that the possessed appears to be freed from it.
  8. Some Evil Spirits reveal an occult spell and by whom it was made, and the way in which it can be loosened. But the exorcist must beware of having recourse in such matters to witches or warlocks or sorcerers or to any others beyond Church ministers. And let him not rely on any superstitious practice or any other illicit method.
  9. Sometimes, Evil Spirit leaves the possessed in peace and even allows him to receive Holy Communion, so that It seems to have gone away. In sum, innumerable are the stratagems and deceits of the which Evil Spirit uses in order to deceive men. The exorcist must practice caution in order not to be deceived by any of them.
  10. He must remember, therefore, that Our Lord said there is a species of Evil Spirit which cannot be expelled except by prayer and fasting. Let Him make sure that he and others follow the example of the Holy Fathers and make use of these two principal means of obtaining divine help and of repelling Evil Spirit.
  11. If it is convenient, the possessed can be exorcised in a church or in some other religious and appropriate place apart from the public eye. If the subject is ill, or if there is any other good reason, he can be exorcised in a private home.
  12. The possessed must be encouraged to pray to God, to fast, and to get spiritual strength from the Sacraments of Confessions and Holy Communion, if he enjoys mental and physical health.
  13. The possessed should hold a Crucifix in his hands or have it in front of him. Whenever available, the relics of the saints can be placed on his chest, or on his head. They should be appropriately and safely covered. But let care be taken that these holy things are not treated irreverently and damaged by Evil Spirit. The Holy Eucharist should not be placed on the head or anywhere on the body of the possessed. There is a danger that it will be treated irreverently.
  14. The exorcist must not make great speeches or put superfluous questions out of vain curiosity, especially about future events and hidden matters which have nothing to do with his work. He should command the unclean spirit to keep silent and only to respond to what is asked of it. And he must give no credence to Evil Spirit, if it claims to be the soul of some saint or of a dead person or to be the Good Angel.
  15. Questions he must ask the possessing Evil Spirit are, for example, the number and name of possessing spirits; when they entered the possessed,; why they entered him; and other questions of the same kind. Let the exorcist restrain the other vanities, mockeries, and foolishnesses of Evil Spirit. He should treat them with contempt. And he should admonish those who are present--who should be few in number--not to take any notice of what Evil Spirit says and not to put any questions to the possessed, Let them pray humbly and fervently to God for the deliverance of the possessed.
  16. The exorcist should perform and read the exorcism with command, authority, great faith, humility, and fervor. And, when he sees that the possessing spirit is being tortured mightily, he should multiply all these efforts at pressuring it. Whenever he sees some part of the possessed person's body moving or pierced or some swelling appearing, let him make the Sign of the Cross and sprinkle Holy Water.
  17. Let him pay attention also to the words and expressions which disturb Evil Spirit most, and repeat them very often. And when he arrives at the point of Expulsion, let him pronounce that Expulsion again and again, always increasing the punishment. And, if he sees that he is succeeding, let him persevere until he is finally victorious.
  18. Finally, let the exorcist beware not to offer any medicine to the possessed or suggest any to him. All this he should leave to the medical doctors.
  19. If he is exorcising a woman, he should have with him some reputable women who will hold the possessed when she is tormented and shaken by Evil Spirit. Such women should be of great patience and belong to the family of the possessed. The exorcist must be mindful of scandal and avoid doing or saying anything which could provoke ill for himself or for others.
  20. During Exorcism, the exorcist should use the words of the Bible rather than his own or somebody else's. Also, he should command Evil Spirit to state whether it is kept within the possessed because of some magical spell or sorcerer's symbol or some occult documents. For the exorcism to succeed, the possessed must surrender them. If he has swallowed something like that, he will vomit it up. If it is outside his body in some place or other, Evil Spirit must tell the exorcist where it is. When the exorcist finds it, he must burn it.
  21.  It the possessed person is freed from Evil Spirit, he should be advised to be diligent in avoiding sinful actions and thoughts. If he does not, he could give Evil Spirit a fresh occasion for returning and possessing him. In that case, he would be in a much worse condition than before.

From those directives, we can see that the Evil One is a trickster, a liar. The priest performing an exorcism must not pay heed to those lies. He mustn't fall into the trap of becoming overly curious! Additionally, he must be prepared for the possibility of demons revealing his secrets and sins, especially unconfessed sins, and the secrets and sins of others present in the room. The devils will do all they can to make the rite stop.

Exorcisms normally takes place in a church, when possible, or in the home of the possessed, with the priest wearing his surplice and stole. He'll stand in front of the demoniac -- the possessed one -- and, through the use of holy water and the Sign of the Cross, ask for protection for the possessed, the members of his team, and himself. The demoniac might be tied down if there's any danger of violence.

The Rite continues with the Litany of the Saints, the Pater Noster (Our Father), and Psalm 53. Then the exorcist will pray this prayer: 

Let us pray. God, it is an attribute of Yours to have mercy and to forgive. Hear our prayer, so that this servant of Yours who is bound with the chain of sins, be mercifully freed by the compassion of Your goodness.

Holy Lord! All powerful! Father! Eternal God! Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ! You Who destined that recalcitrant and apostate Tyrant to the fires of Hell; You Who sent Your only Son into this world in order that He might crush this Roaring Lion: Look speedily and snatch from damnation and from this Devil of our times this man (woman) who was created in your image and likeness. Throw Your terror, Lord, over the Beast who is destroying what belongs to You. Give faith to your servants against this most Evil Serpent, to fight most bravely. So that the Serpent not hold in contempt those who hope in You and say as it said through the Pharaoh; 'I do not know God, and I will not let Israel go.' Let Your powerful strength force the Serpent to let go of Your servant, so that it no longer possess him (her) whom You designed to make in Your image and to redeem by Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, as God, for ever and ever.

After this, the Evil Spirit is summoned with these words:

Unclean Spirit! Whoever you are, and all your companions who possess this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, the Sufferings and Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ: by the sending of the Holy Spirit; and by the Coming of Our Lord into Last Judgment, I command you:

Tell me, with some sign, your name, the day and the hour of your damnation.

Obey me me in everything, although I am an unworthy servant of God.

Do no damage to this creature (the possessed), or to my assistants, or to any of their goods.

Then follow readings from the Gospel: John 1: 1-12; Mark 16: 15-18; Luke 10:17-20; Luke 11:14-22, after which comes this prayer:

Let us pray.

All-powerful God! Word of God, the Father! Christ Jesus! God and Lord of all creation! You gave power to Your Apostles to pass through dangers unharmed. Among Your commands to do wondrous things, You said; 'Drive out Evil Spirit.' By your strength, Satan fell like lightning from Heaven. With fear and trembling, I pray and supplicate your Holy Name. Pardon all the sins of your unworthy servant. Give me constant faith and power; so that, armed with the power of Your holy strength, I can attack this cruel Evil Spirit in confidence and security. Through You, Jesus Christ, Our Lord God, Who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

The exorcist will invoke divine protection on himself and on the possessed by making the Sign of the Cross. Then he places the tip of the stole on the neck of the possessed and his right hand on the head of the possessed. He and his assistans pray, after which the exorcist directly exorcizes Evil Spirit:

I exercise you, Most Unclean Spirit! Invading Enemy! All Spirits! Every one of you! In the name of Our Lord Jesus + Christ: Be uprooted and expelled from this Creature of God. + He Who commands you is He Who ordered you to be thrown down from Heaven into the depths of Hell. He who commands you is He Who dominated the sea, the wind, and the storms. Hear, therefore, and fear, Satan! Enemy of the Faith! enemy of the human race! Source of death! Robber of life! Twister of justice! Root of evil! Ward of vices! Seducer of men! Traitor of nations! Inciter of jealousy! Originator of greed! Cause of discord! Creator of agony! Why do you stay and resist, when you know that Christ our Lord has destroyed your plan? Fear Him Who was prefigured in Isaac, in Joseph, and in the Paschal Lamb; Who was crucified as a man, and Who rose from death.

He makes the Sign of the Cross on the demoniac's forehead and says:

Retire, therefore, in the name of + Father, and or the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit. give way to the Holy Spirit, because of this sign of the Holy + Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns as God with the Father and the same Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.

The exorcist and his assistants pray some more, then the priest will make three Signs of the Cross on the chest of the demoniac while saying:

+ Preserve what is within this person.

+ Rule his (her) feelings.

+ Strengthen his (her) heart.

Let the efforts of the Enemy power be dispelled from his (her) soul, Lord, because of this invocation of your Holy Name. Grant the grace that he who has inspired terror up to this, now be put to flight and retire defeated; so that this man (woman), Your servant, be able to worship you with a firm heart and a sincere mind. Through Christ Our Lord.

Then come two Enjoinings of Evil Spirit, in between which the exorcist and his assistants pray and make responses, respectively. The first Enjoining:

I enjoin you under penalty, Ancient Serpent! In the name of the Judge of the Living and the Dead! In the Name of Our Creator! In the Name of the Creator of the world! In the Name of Him who has power to send you into Hell! Depart from this servant of God (the exorcist names the possessed) who has had recourse to the Church. Cease to inspire your terror in him (her) I again enjoin you solemnly + ) on the forehead of possessed), not because of myself who am weak, but because of the strength of the Holy Spirit: that you go out from this servant of God (name of Possessed) whom the all-powerful God made in his own image. Surrender, not to me, but to the minister of Christ. His power forces you. He defeated you by His Cross. Fear the strength of Him who led the souls of the dead to the light of salvation from the darkness of waiting. May the body of this man + (on the chest of the possessed) be a source of fear for you. + God the Father commands you. + God the Son commands you. God the Holy Spirit commands you. + The faith of the Holy Apostles, Peter, and Paul, and the other saints commands you. + The blood of the Martyrs commands you. + The purity of the Confessors commands you. + The pious and holy intercession of all the Saints commands you. + The strength of the mysteries of the Christian faith commands you. + Get out! Offender! Get out! Seducer! Full of guile and falseness! Enemy of virtue! Persecutor of the Innocents! Give way, most despicable being! Give way, most impious! Give way to Christ in whom you did not find any of your own doing!s He destroyed your kingdom. He bound you up in defeat. He broke our strength. He threw you out into the exterior darkness where destruction was prepared for you and your followers.

But why are you resisting truculently! Who do you dare refuse? You are condemned by the all-powerful God Whose law you broke. You are condemned by his Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. You dared tempt him and you dared to have Him crucified. you are condemned by the human race to whom you offered the deathly poison of your suggestions.

I, therefore, charge you solemnly under penalty, Most Evil Serpent, in the name of the Lamb + most immaculate who walked unharmed among dangers; Who was immune to all Evil Spirit: Depart from this person+ (on the forehead of possessed). Depart from the Church of God + (over the assistants). Fear and take flight at the name of Our Lord whom the powers of Hell fear, to whom the Powers and Virtues and Dominions of Heaven are subject, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unceasing voices, saying: Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Hosts!

The Word made flesh + commands you. He who was born of a Virgin + commands you. Jesus + of Nazareth commands you. When you ignored contemptuously His disciples, He ordered you broken and humiliated to get out of that man. And when He tore you from that man, you did not dare in His presence even to enter the swine. Now that you are enjoined in His name +, depart therefore from this person whom he created. It is impossible for you to will to resist. + It is impossible for you to refuse to obey. + Because the more you delay, the more punishment you will get. It is not men you are disobeying. It is He who rules the living and the dead. It is He who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire."

The second Enjoining:

I, therefore, enjoin every unclean spirit, each devil, each part of Satan: In the name of Jesus Christ + of Nazareth. After His baptism by John, He was led into the desert and He conquered you on your own ground. Desist from attacking this man (woman) whom Jesus formed from matter for His honor and His glory. shake with fear, not at the human fragility of a miserable man, but at the image of the all-powerful God. Surrender to God, therefore, +, Who put you to flight from King Saul by the spiritual songs of His faithful servant David. Give in + to God, Who damned you in Judas Iscariot, the traitor, For He touched you with divine punishment and shouting, you exclaimed; 'What is there between us and you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come here before the proper time to torture us?' He who drives you now into perpetual flames will say at the end of time to Satan and his angels; 'Leave me Cursed Ones! And go into eternal flames which have been prepared for the Devil and his angels.' Death is your lot, Impious One! And for your angels there is an endless death. For you and for your angels the unquenchable flames I prepared, because you are the Prince of cursed homicides, the author of incest, the head of all the sacrilegious, master of the most evil actions, the teacher of heretics, the inventor of all obscenity. Go out, therefore, + Impious one. Go out + Criminal! Go out with all your falsehoods! God has willed man to be his temple. Why linger any longer here? Give honor to God the Father + the all-powerful, to Whom every knee will bend. Give place to Our Lord Jesus + Christ, who poured out His Blood for man. Give place to the Holy + Spirit who through the Blessed Apostle Peter defeated you manifestly in Simon the Magician, condemned your falsehood in Ananias and Saphira, frustrated you in the magician Elymas by afflicting him with blindness. By the same apostle, He ordered you to depart from the Prophetess of Python. Leave therefore now + . Go away + Seducer! The desert is your home. The serpent is your dwelling. Be humiliated and cast down. The time cannot be put off. Behold the victorious Lord is near and quick. The fire is burning before him and devours all his enemies. For, even though you have deceived men, you cannot make a mockery of God. From His eyes nothing is hidden; He has ejected you. All things are subject to his power; He has expelled you. The living and the dead and the world will be judged by him with complete discernment; He has prepared Hell for you and your angels.

The above is repeated as necessary, possibly coupled with the praying of the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Credo, Magnificat, and the Benedictus Canticle over the possessed. After this, the Athanasian Creed is prayed, Psalms 90, 67, 34, 30, 21, 3, 10, 12 are read, and a concluding prayer is offered to God.

Some exorcisms go quickly; others may last for years.

Important Note: The Old Rite of Exorcism vs. the New Rite of Exorcism

The Rite of Exorcism used before it was changed in January of 1999 was the "Rite of 1614," which was found in the the 1953 version of the Roman Ritual. The rite that replaced the older one is defective, so defective that Fr. Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist, had this to say about it in the interview below: "
We exorcists have all tried out the new prayers in the New Ritual ad interim and we have come to realize that they are absolutely ineffectual." Read that again. He is telling us that the new rite of exorcism is ineffective -- "absolutely ineffectual" -- that it does not work. In his paper, The Ancestry and Theology of the Rite of Major Exorcism (pdf), theologian Daniel G. Van Slyke compares the rite found in the older Roman Ritual (RR1953) with the rite in use now (Ex1999) and concludes,

The rite of major exorcism of Ex 1999 can be summarized in one word:  celebratio or “celebration.” An editor who emended the introduction for the 2004 edition found problematic the designation of major exorcism as  celebratio liturgica or “liturgical celebration,” and so changed it to actio liturgica or “liturgical action.”

The notion of exorcism as “celebration” remains, however, in several places, including a rubric affording the exorcist an opportunity to prepare the congregation “for the celebration.”

In fact, this word summarizes the radical difference in theological tone between the major exorcism of Ex 1999 and that of RR 1953. The major exorcism of RR 1953 is a weapon for the priest-exorcist acting by the power of Christ and confronting the demon who is personally present there and then. For the sake of liberating a man held in bondage, the exorcist, by ancient and explicitly imperative formulae, commands the demon to depart. The name of Christ and the threat of impending judgment and punishment are invoked to intimidate the demon and to illustrate the power behind the com-mands. The texts boldly employ language and imagery drawn from Vulgate scriptural pericopes recounting exorcisms and the ongoing struggle with the demon even after the accomplishment of Christ’s paschal mystery.

The major exorcism of Ex 1999 is a sacramental deriving its force from the supplication of the Church, particularly as manifest in “deprecatory” or “supplicating” formulae. By means of this rite, the Church celebrates Christ’s temporally past victory over evil through the paschal mystery. Instead of addressing the demon, an act now entirely optional, the major exorcism of 1999 asks God the Father, with repeated epicleses, to send the Holy Spirit upon the vexed Christian,  while anamnetically calling to mind Christ’s victory in the paschal mystery and the vexed Christian’s entry into it through baptism. The rite bypasses key scriptural passages, including the cure of the Gerasene demoniac and the exorcisms related in Acts. Also absent from Ex 1999 is the abundance of biblical figures of the demon and scriptural language depicting the ongoing struggle with the demon that remained in RR 1953. Ex 1999 also departs from Scripture and the tradition of major exorcisms by altering the grammar of exorcism through new uses of such verbs as adjuro, through drastic reduction of third person verbs describing what God or the Church does to the demon, through the disappearance of verbs such as praecipio, and through shifts in the use of per formulae. The formulae of the major exorcism in RR 1953, which can be traced to the very origin of Latin liturgical books, do not support the theological understanding of exorcism evinced by such scholars as Balthasar Fischer and Achille M. Triacca, who worked on revising the Rituale Romanum after the Second Vatican Council. The ancient formulae, therefore, were discarded. Only scattered phrases drawn from them survive in the major exorcism of Ex 1999/2004, above all in optional imperative formula III. In short, careful theological, historical, and literary analyses demonstrate that the rite of major exorcism was not, in accordance with the mandate of the Second Vatican Council, “revised carefully in the light of sound tradition.”

Rather, the rite of major exorcism was rewritten in order to accommodate experimental and tendentious opinions on possession and exorcism. It is to the credit of Cardinal Medina EstÚvez and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that they ensured exorcists the world over the use of the reliable rite of exorcism in the Rituale Romanum of 1953.

Please, if you're ever in the position of needing an exorcist, be sure to ask for one who will use the Rite of 1614, which any exorcist has every right to do. Below are the thoughts of two priests on the new rite vs. the old:


Well-known Cases of Possession and Exorcism

The Possession of Nicola Aubry

For the full account of this exorcism, see "The Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament, Or History of Nicola Aubry" (pdf), by Fr. Michael Muller (1825-1899).

The Possession of Anna Ecklund

The story of the possession of Anna Ecklund as recounted in "The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology," by Rosemary Ellen Guiley:

One of the best-documented demonic possession cases in the 20th century. The possession of Anna Ecklund also is unusual for the combination of demonic entities within one victim.

Anna was born in the Midwest about 1882 and was raised a devout and pious Catholic. She first began showing the symptoms of possession—revulsion toward holy objects, inability to enter church, and disturbing thoughts about unspeakable sexual acts—at age 14, finally becoming totally possessed in 1908. In the account of Anna’s travails, Begone Satan!, written in German by the Reverend Carl Vogl and translated into English by the Reverend Celestine Kapsner, O.S.B., Anna’s aunt Mina, a reputed witch, caused her possession by placing spells on herbs used in Anna’s food. Father Theophilus Riesinger, a native Bavarian and a Capuchin monk from the community of St. Anthony at Marathon, Wisconsin, successfully exorcized her on June 18, 1912, only to have her fall prey to the Devil again after her father heaped CURSEs on her and wished her possessed. In 1928, when Anna was 46 years old, Father Theophilus tried again.

Seeking a place where Anna was unknown, Father Theophilus approached his old friend, Father F. Joseph Steiger, parish priest in Earling, Iowa. With great reluctance, Father Steiger agreed that the exorcism could take place in the nearby convent of the Franciscan Sisters. Anna arrived in Earling on August 17, 1928. Trouble started immediately; sensing that someone had sprinkled holy water on her evening meal, Anna threw a fi t, purring like a cat, and refused to eat until unblessed food could be served. After that, the devils within her always knew whether one of the nuns had tried to bless the food or drink, and they always complained.

The ancient ritual began in earnest the next morning. Father Theophilus had several of the strongest nuns hold Anna on a mattress laid upon an iron bed, and her clothes were bound tightly around her to prevent her from stripping herself. With Father Theophilus’ first exhortations Anna’s mouth clamped shut and she fell unconscious, followed almost immediately by an extraordinary feat of levitation. Rising swiftly from the bed, she hung onto the wall above the door like a cat, and it took great effort to pull her down. Although Anna was unconscious and her mouth never moved throughout the sessions, voices issued from within her, accompanied by screams, howls, and unearthly animal noises. Earling citizens, alarmed by the outcries, gathered at the convent, ruining Father Theophilus’ hopes of keeping the exorcism secret. Totaling 23 days, the exorcisms covered three sessions: from August 18 to the 26, from September 13 to 20, and from December 15 to 23. Through it all, Anna’s physical state deteriorated to the point of death. She ate no food but only swallowed small amounts of milk or water. Nevertheless, she vomited enormous quantities of foul-smelling debris, often resembling tobacco leaves, and spit prodigiously. Her face became horribly disfigured and distorted, often suffusing with blood as her head swelled and elongated, her eyes bulged, and her lips grew, reportedly, to the size of hands. Her abdomen would swell to the point of bursting, only to retract and become so hard and heavy that the iron bedstead would bend under the enormous weight.

In addition to the physical changes, Anna understood languages previously unknown to her, recoiled at holy words and objects, and revealed clairvoyant knowledge by exposing secret childhood sins of the other participants. The nuns and Father Steiger were so frightened and troubled that none of them could stay in Anna’s room throughout the entire exorcism but instead worked in shifts. Father Steiger, taunted by the devils for having agreed to the exorcism in his parish, was especially harassed and suffered an auto accident that the devils had predicted and apparently arranged. Only Father Theophilus, confident of his powers, remained steadfast.

Hordes of lesser devils and avenging spirits, described as like “a swarm of mosquitoes,” possessed Anna, but her principal tormentors were BEELZEBUB , Judas Iscariot, and the spirits of her father, Jacob, and his mistress, Anna’s aunt Mina. Beelzebub revealed himself first, engaging Father Theophilus in sarcastic theological conversations and acknowledging that the curses of Jacob, Anna’s father, sent the devils into her at age 14. Father Theophilus tried to reach Jacob, only to be answered by a spirit identifying himself as Judas Iscariot, who admitted he was there to torment Anna to commit suicide and thereby go to HELL.

Jacob eventually spoke and said that he had cursed Anna for not submitting to his incestuous advances, calling upon the devil to tempt her with every unspeakable sin against chastity. In Begone Satan!  the author describes Jacob’s life as “coarse and brutal,” taking Anna’s aunt Mina as a mistress while he was still married and repeatedly trying to seduce Anna. At his death, a priest had administered extreme unction, but Jacob ridiculed him. The author continues: “In the judgment after death even all that was pardoned him, but (because) he had cursed his own daughter . . . that ultimately was the guilt of his eternal damnation. And so he was still scheming in hell how he could torture and molest his child. This Lucifer gladly permitted him to do.” Whether Anna’s virginity really remained intact, even at age 46, or whether she had repressed her sexual contact with her father is unknown.

A high, falsetto voice, present from the beginning among the other voices, revealed itself as that of Mina. God had damned her for living with Jacob and for murdering four children. Begone Satan!  suggests that the children were Mina’s own, but they may also have been multiple abortions. The author describes Mina as any devil’s equal for malice and hate, filled with spite and blaspheming the Blessed Sacrament.

The author remarks that the truly amazing aspects of Anna’s possession were her basic virtue and pious disposition throughout her ordeal, because “the devil has no power over the free will of a human being.” Sensing his eventual triumph, Father Theophilus continued to exhort the devils to depart, and by the latter part of December 1928, they began to weaken and moan, rather than scream, against his efforts. Father Theophilus demanded that when they returned to hell, each should call out his name as a sign of his or her departure, and the devils agreed.

On December 23, 1928, at about 9:00 P .M ., Anna suddenly jerked up and stood erect in bed, looking as if she were about to rise to the ceiling. Father Steiger called for the nuns to pull her down, while Father Theophilus blessed her and roared, “Depart ye fi ends of hell! Begone Satan, the Lion of Juda reigns!” Anna crumpled back onto the bed as a terrible shout of “Beelzebub, Judas, Jacob, Mina” followed by “Hell, hell, hell” filled the room, repeated several times until the sound seemed to fade into the distance. Anna opened her eyes and smiled, while tears of joy ran down her face and she cried, “My Jesus,

Mercy! Praised be Jesus Christ!”

Begone Satan!  describes the end: “During the first thrills of joy they were not even aware of the terrible odor that filled the room. All the windows had to be opened, the stench was something unearthly, simply unbearable. It was the last souvenir of the infernal devils for those they had to abandon upon the Earth.”

Father Celestine Kapsner wrote of this possession in "Begone Satan!," which you can download in pdf format here: Begone Satan!

The Possession of Roland Doe, a.k.a. Robbie Mannheim

One of the most famous cases of exorcism is that involving the story behind  William Peter Blatty's book, "The Exorcist", made into a movie in 1973, starring Linda Blair as the demoniac. It involved a young boy who became known as "Roland Doe," not a girl as in the book and movie based on the case. He lived in Cottage City, Maryland, and in 1949, his Aunt taught him how to play with a Ouija board. After she died a few weeks later, strange things began to happen -- the usual sort of activity attributed to "poltergeists." Things moving around on their own, pictures of Christ being slammed against the walls, scratching and knocking sounds coming from under the floor, etc. Then the boy's mother entered his bedroom only to find his bed shaking violently. The boy began to be covered in scratches, welts, and bruises that couldn't be explained, and then his behavior started to dramatically change. After consulting with doctors and psychiatrists, they contacted a Catholic priest, Father Albert Hughes.

When meeting the boy at the rectory, Father Hughes, as related by another priest, Father Bober, said he noticed a "dark stare, almost as if there were nothing behind the eyes.” "Roland" showed an aversion to holy things at this first meeting, and the room grew cold. The telephone on Father's desk moved "by itself." Father gave the family blessed candles and a bottle of holy water to use. The next morning, "Roland's" mother called Father to tell him that something had picked up the bottle of holy water and smashed it, and that when she lit one of the candles, the flame shot up as high as the ceiling, so she had to put it out. When Father tried to call her later, he heard a crashing sound as she answered the phone: the telephone table had just shattered, seemingly of its own accord. Then came the speaking of languages unknown to the demoniac. In Latin, Father asked the Evil Spirit within Roland, "Who are you?". The boy responded, in Latin, "I am legions." Roland asked him as well, "O sacerdos Christi, tu scis me esse diabolum. Cur me derogas?" (Oh, priest of Christ, you know that I am the devil. Why do you keep bothering me?")

The boy was placed in a Jesuit-run hospital in Washington, D.C. so he could be cared for while undergoing what would be unsuccessful exorcisms. He became violent, and he showed super-human strength by breaking out of the restraints placed on him in order to prevent him harming himself or others. In one instance of his breaking his restraints, he reached under the bed, pulled off a bed spring, and slashed Father's arm from wrist to elbow. While Father was away healing, the words "Saint Louis" appeared on the boy's skin in welts, and his parents took the boy out of the hospital and moved with him to that city, staying with relatives. They once again turned to the medical profession, but were failed by them. So they contacted yet another priest, a man named Father William Bowdern.

Father Bowdern assembled a team of priests to deal with this case, knowing of Father Hughes's failure and of the violence the demon had committed against him. He was taken to a Catholic hospital in St. Louis, and there the exorcisms continued. But things went badly for the priests, with one having his nose broken, and with no success in driving away the Evil Spirit. They decided that the boy needed to be baptized, something the boy strongly resisted but eventually underwent. When they went to give him the Eucharist, a fierce battle broke out, but the demons finally relented. Armed with the Sacraments, the boy's mouth opened, and the priests heard these words, "Satan! Satan! I am Saint Michael, and I command you, Satan and the other evil spirits, to leave the body now.“ A corner had been turned, and the priests went on to finally exorcize the demons successfully.

The boy known for decades as "Roland Doe" was actually named Robbie Mannheim, and in the Rare Books and Archives Division of Saint Louis University's Pius XII Memorial Library are several binders of documents, case studies, and historical artifacts related to his case. Diaries the priests kept during the exorcisms have been published into a book, "Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism" (see book above right). Read a day by day account of what happened in the case study here (pdf).

The Possession of Anneliese Michel

The exorcism of Anneliese Michel forms the basis for the movie, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" (2005).
Anneliese, born in 1952,  was a very devout, young Catholic girl who suffered from various illnesses, including epilepsy and depression. Medical care did little to help with those conditions, and they certainly didn't help when she began to suffer from demonic obsession and oppression. She began to see "devil faces" and to hear voices telling her she was damned. Then came an aversion to sacred objects. Her family approached priests, asking for an exorcism, but were refused as she hadn't met the criteria necessary (paranormal activity, etc.).

Later, she began to engage in foul behaviors, such as eating insects, drinking her own urine, etc. Another priest they approached, Father Ernst Alt, became convinced he was dealing with a case of demonic possession and was granted permission from his Bishop to proceed. Her parents made the literally fatal error of withdrawing medical care during the course of the 67 exorcism that followed, taking place over a period of time lasting ten months, in the years 1975 and 1976. The priests involved said that the demons that tormented Anneliese were successfuly exorcized, praise God, but, sadly, she died from malnutrition very soon afterward. The priests and her parents were prosecuted, with the priests being found guilty of manslaughter, serving six months in jail, suspened, and three years of probation.


For further study:

Father Malachi Martin, Exorcist

Interviews of Fr. Malachi Martin by Art Bell and by journalist Bernard Janzen can be found in this site's Catholic library. The third interview with Janzen is most apt with regard to this topic.

Fr. Martin's book, "Hostage to the Devil," is one of the most frightening -- and fascinating -- books you can read on the topic of exorcism. It's available here, on FishEaters, in .PDF format, or you can buy it so it can be more easily passed around to the people you care about.

Read Online: From Amazon:

Hostage to the Devil
by Father Malachi Martin (PDF)

Books by Father Gabriele Amorth, Exorcist


Other Relevant Books of Interest


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Obsession, Oppression, and Possession
Spiritual Warfare

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