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In an RTÉ News and Current Affairs documentary broadcast Sunday, Vincentian priest Fr. Pat Collins accused Ireland's prelates of abandoning their sheep, saying "it appalls me that we have no safeguarding from the evil spirits."
"How many bishops in accordance with Canon 1172 have trained anybody or appointed anybody in the diocese of Ireland to help our poor unfortunate people who are oppressed and sometimes possessed by these awful spirits?" he asked. "Who have you trained in your diocese?"
"The buck has to land on the bishop's desk," declared the Dublin exorcist.
The Catholic communications office has suggested the Church in Ireland has a sufficient number of exorcists to meet the country's needs.
"Exorcisms are very rare, and this office has not been made aware of any cases of 'exorcism' in Ireland in recent years," it said in a statement.
But Fr. Collins is not alone in his concerns. The exorcist deficit is provoking concern among committed Catholics throughout the Church.
In June, Fr. Francesco Bamonte, chairman of the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), sounded the alarm over deficiencies in the training of seminarians. Speaking before the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome, he warned of grave consequences if clergy are not trained to recognize and counter manifestations of the diabolical.
Catholic seminaries and theological facilities are paying "scant attention" to "the real existence, substance and nature of the demonic world," Fr. Bamonte noted, and some professors even deny its very existence.
That such men are given charge over the spiritual, pastoral and theological formation of seminarians, he said, is "extremely worrying."
Surveying the collapse of morality across the West, in 2004 Pope St. John Paul II warned the decline of faith was opening doors to a new surge of demonic activity. To combat this, he recommended every diocese appoint its own resident exorcist.
In the United States, the Holy Father's call spurred bishops to foster exorcism education and training for their priests. From this in 2012 came the Pope Leo XIII Institute, a center dedicated to promoting "the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil." In 2004, only a dozen or so exorcists existed across the United States. In 2015, the Institute graduated its first class of 55 exorcists, followed by another 52 in 2017.
But, U.S. Church officials warn, even this is not enough. A sharp rise in demonic activity is being reported throughout the country, owing to mushrooming drug and pornography addiction, the explosion in occult activity and other mortal sins.
According to Fr. Vincent Lampert, an exorcist in the archdiocese of Indianapolis, society's present condition is a natural result of its drift away from God. "The decline in faith," he declared, referencing Scripture, "goes hand in hand with the rise in evil."
Before his death in 2016, top Rome exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth said much the same. Satan's influence, Fr. Amorth noted, is more evident at certain points in time, including the present age:
[T]here is no doubt that Satan's power is felt more keenly in periods of history when the sinfulness of the community is more evident. For example, when I view the decadence of the Roman Empire, I can see the moral disintegration of that period in history. Now, we are at the same level of decadence, partly as a result of the misuse of the mass media (which are not evil in themselves) and partly because of Western consumerism and materialism, which have poisoned our society.
Fr. Collins concurs. "There is a morbid interest in evil spirits in society," he observed. "It's interesting as people lose faith in God, they are increasing their interest in the devil ... it is horrible, it is pure darkness."
"I would say to bishops, 'Woe to you that neglect the spiritual care of the people'," the Irish exorcist added.