ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Demonic possessions are increasing, but there are not enough exorcists to perform the ancient rite. Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, a Vatican-endorsed group, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa earlier this week that the shortage is a "pastoral emergency."
"The lack of exorcists is a real emergency," he said. "There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting."
Cascioli, who teaches an exorcism class in Rome, went on to say, "The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising."
The comments by Cascioli come in light of the passing of Fr. Gabriel Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome. In 1990, Amorth founded the International Association of Exorcists and remained president until he retired in 2000. Amorth claimed he had exorcised more than 70,000 individuals over the course of his lifetime.
Amorth strongly pushed for Church leaders to take seriously the ministry of exorcism, and approved of the Vatican's directive to ensure every diocese in the world has an officially appointed exorcist. During his lifetime, he saw the number of exorcists in Italy increase from only a handful in the 1980s to more than 300 today.
To match the increase in occult activity, more priests are joining the ranks of exorcists, but there is still a shortage. The internet has been key in the demonic activity uptick because occult and satanic practices are now mainstream.
Cascioli hopes one day there will be a university devoted specifically to training priests in the work of spiritual warfare. "There doesn’t exist a training institution at university level," he commented. "We need an interdisciplinary approach in which science collaborates with religion, and psychiatrists work with demonologists and exorcists."
Earlier this year, Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, wrote about his adventures working with an exorcist here in the United States.
"I'm a man of science and a lover of history," Gallagher said. "After studying the classics at Princeton, I trained in psychiatry at Yale and in psychoanalysis at Columbia."
"People with psychological problems should receive psychological treatment," he clarified. "But I believe I've seen the real thing. Assaults upon individuals are classified either as 'demonic possessions' or as the slightly more common but less intense attacks usually called 'oppressions.'"
"Anyone even faintly familiar with mental illnesses knows that individuals who think they are being attacked by malign spirits are generally experiencing nothing of the sort." Gallagher continued, "The Vatican does not track global or countrywide exorcism, but in my experience and according to the priests I meet, demand is rising."