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By Joshua Gill

Demand for exorcisms is on the rise in both the U.K. and the U.S. according to data from a new report and warnings from church leaders.

A report on mental health issues facing the church published by Theos, a U.K.-based Christian think tank, revealed that exorcism is now a “booming industry in the U.K.” and warned of the inherent harm in confusing mental health issues with demonic activity.

The rise in demand, according to the report, is directly related to an influx of immigrants with pentecostal and charismatic backgrounds — Christian denominations which deal very openly with exorcism and deliverance. Interviewees in the mental health field said in the report that “the vast majority of cases” of people requesting exorcism were actually suffering from mental health issues that required psychiatric care. Neither the church nor the report, however, denied the reality of demonic possession and the need for exorcism in certain cases.

“Jesus’ command was to heal the sick and to cast out demons,” the report reads. “The two are not synonymous. Just as for physical ailments we recommend seeking medical assistance, so it must be for mental illness. This is not to discount the possibility of demonic attacks, but it is to apply caution, in order to ensure that we are best looking after the needs of sufferers.”

Leaders in the Catholic Church noted that the increased demand for exorcisms was not localized to the U.K. but is also seen in the U.S. Catholic leaders’ assessment of the issue. The cause for the increased demand, however, is not simply an issue of immigrant culture, but was also attributed to an increase in demonic activity, according to Father Vincent Lampert, lead exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it,”  Lampert said in an interview with National Catholic Register (NCR). Among the entry points for demonic activity into someone’s life, Lampert pointed to drug use, the occult, pornography, and in more extreme cases, satanic rituals, all of which Lampert said has been increasing in use in the U.S.

The Catholic church responded to the perceived increase in demonic activity by training more exorcists and developing ministries focused on deliverance and combatting satanic influences, according to NCR. Catholic leaders founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in 2012, which provides spiritual training in exorcism and deliverance to priests, to meet the need for deliverance ministry in the U.S. The institute’s first class of 55 newly trained exorcists graduated in 2015.

The Catholic church in the U.S. became aware of the rise in demonic activity because of an increase in requests for permission to perform exorcisms from priests across the country to their respective bishops, according to Monsignor John Esseff, president of the board of directors for the institute. According to church policy, a priest must obtain permission from their bishop before performing an exorcism in order to have the authority of the church behind them when confronting the demonic. Permission is also obtained so that the church can confirm that the person in question has undergone psychiatric evaluation to rule out the possibility of mental health issues.

“As the acceptance of sin has increased, so, too, has demonic activity,” Esseff told NCR. “The bishops saw the need for more trained exorcists because so many cases were being referred from all over the country to the dioceses that had exorcists.”

Esseff stressed the need for unilateral acceptance of the reality of Satan by priests and bishops, and the importance of their role in combatting demonic evil.

“The only one that can overcome Satan is Jesus,” Esseff said. “He overcomes the kingdom of evil with light. And every priest represents Jesus. The devil does not see the priest — he sees Jesus.”

Still, while the Church of England, which is Anglican, “takes deliverance ministry very seriously,” a spokesperson for the church stressed to Christian Today “our guidelines state that particular caution needs to be exercised, especially when ministering to someone who is in a distressed or disturbed state.”

The report from Theos echoed the Church of England’s caution toward the matter of mental health and exorcism, saying that Christians confusing mental health issues for demonic attack ran “the risk of doing very serious harm.”

“Rather than focusing on limited accounts of explicit mental illness, or demonic possession, more attention ought to be paid to the ability to begin building an authentic Christian language of mental health from the perspective of sufferers,” the report concluded.

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    Hi Joshua: nice summary article. I would like to add something that is important. In other churches in various countries, including the US where I come from, the term most often used for exorcism is “deliverance”. In Mark 16:17, all Christians are called to do it, and taking authority over the demonic comes first with a covenant relationship with the triune God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The authority is really a form of delegated authority that comes from Jesus, and the demons are cast out in the name of Jesus. The authority also pre-supposes that the Christian has closed doors to sin of all kinds; and confessed and repented of all sins; and the Christian has done significant work forgiving himself, others, and even God for the past iniquity and sin he/she has committed. There are a few other steps that are important, but in essence, the Christian is now in a position to command the demonic to leave in the name of Jesus. I have seen scores of healings and deliverance sessions that have been highly effective. Christians can be trained to do this. It should be a part of all Christian churches as it was in the early Church. The Catholic Church has done a remarkably good job of alerting people to the reality of the demonic. It is no abstraction. However, the actual ministry of exorcism in the Catholic Church still operates on an “expert” model of a trained exorcist, which creates a huge gap between the need for deliverance, which is a form of God’s mercy, and the amount of people trained to do it. ALL Christians should be trained to do this. This was not an academic exercise for our family. My wife and I brought two daughters thru a horrible process of mental illness where they both were declared by doctors to be ill for their entire life. The local parish priests were not effective either. After years of searching and hospitalizations, we found Christian-based healers who actually knew what they were doing; and through an integrated medical process of medication, talk therapy, health and wellness practices, deep study of the Word of God, committing their lives to Jesus Christ as their Savior, and active spiritual warfare sessions over a period of six months, the root cause spirits underneath their clinically diagnosed mental illness were cast out. Both of them are high functioning, and holding jobs. The root cause spirits, we discovered, were part of an inherited generational “curse”, and activated to enforce the curse in the bloodline and perpetuate their destructive work. They picked on the wrong family, and as subtle as they were underneath the mental illness, we caught on their strategies and tactics over time, and they got themselves exposed. Once you know what the hell is going on (indeed), and who has authority, and how to take authority, their goose is cooked. They have to leave, in Jesus’ name. I applaud what the Catholic Church is doing, but there is very important “common ground” they need to find with effective deliverance ministers and get the body of Christ, get actual families, trained up on this and give people the actual tools and knowledge to fight back. Because people are suffering and people are dying, and healing is available and our Savior commanded us to actually be a Doer of the Word. The “expert” model is all well and good, and you should exercise appropriate cautions, BUT, it is not so “scalable” to use a tech term. ALL Christians should be educated and empowered to cast out demons when they are present as a possible underlying cause. My own children and even grandchildren know how to do this now, and we are educated and empowered Christians, we are very balanced and practical people, and the enemy has a much harder time deceiving us and tempting us, etc. etc. You could say my two daughters are “walking miracles” according the psychiatrists, or you could say we found root causes and gave them the right “treatment”. Problem solved when you deal with actual causes.