An Exorcist Tells His Story
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Publication Date: 1999-03-01
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Vincent: Book of the week. Because it’s October, An Exorcist Tells His Story, by Fr. Amorth. And we also have An Exorcist: More Stories, and yet another book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic by Fr. Amorth. I like these books, especially for October. There are a lot of important takeaways from these books. First off, I feel they are especially important in an age that simply does not recognize. Here you’re dealing with priests who sort of check in day in and day out, and they’re faced with evil. They actually treat evil, like it’s real.
Charles: Which means trying not to be a part of it themselves.
Vincent: Right! So one of the biggest takeaways that Fr. Amorth talks about is the power of confession, which was so surprising to me. It was probably one of the most surprising things of the book where he says that the rite of exorcism is so exalted, when really confession is exponentially more powerful. And that struck me so hard. I go to confession so much more ever since I discovered that. That just really invigorates you to know that.
Now they say that Fr. Amorth went to the Novus Ordo, is that correct?
Charles: Yeah, I guess.
Vincent: Now it’s interesting because his stuff is in lock step with Fr. Ripperger’s. And it makes sense, right? Because it’s like “Wow, this doctor that treats the flu; he discovered all the same remedies as this other doctor who also treats the flu.” So too for exorcists.
Charles: One of the interesting things is that under JP2, they came up with a new rite of exorcism, and Amorth didn’t like it.
Vincent: Yeah, I heard Fr. Ripperger’s take on that too. He said the old rite is more effective except in a very small amount of cases. I forgot why.
Charles: Probably people were possessed by dead liberal priests.
Vincent: Maybe. So it’s interesting because one of the things I feel that both of them do is, they treat diabolic influence universally whether it’s temptation or possession. Just like possession, temptation is another way the devil is trying to get control of you, except it’s far more frequent. So both of these priests are going to change your perspective on spiritual warfare. Temptation is a battle, so the more you succumb to temptation, the more the devil gets control of you. It might not be possession, but the more you give in to temptation, the more you become like the demon that has been assigned to you. How do you like that?
Charles: That’s pretty awful.
Vincent: Yeah. So this gets your mind in special places about liberating yourself from sin. Because that’s what it is: liberation. So in the words of Mother Angelica: “Get to confession you bunch of sinners!”
Charles: Yeah, there’s no doubt about that.
Vincent: And since we’re talking about exorcists, I always like your story about when you’ve talked to the Sri Lankan exorcist. Can you tell that for everyone?
Charles: Well sure. He’s dead now. Fr. Flavian, was a Claretian. He was an exorcist for the archdiocese of LA. He had a very pleasant way of speaking, a very amusing man. I remember him saying to me “You know in my country of Sri Lanka, we have many possessions. Devil worship everywhere. It’s terrible. In this country, nothing like. I perform only 8 exorcisms last year.”
And I’m looking at him and thinking “Only eight?”
He said “You have to go on what is called the ‘Black Fast’. Forty days with nothing but bread and water. Because if you come in to see the devil and you have eaten, he will say ‘What are you, some holy man with your belly all filled with food?’ The important of the fast cannot be underestimated.”
And I said “Gee, can you describe anything you’ve seen?”
And he said “Well yes. The last one I did on a particular occasion was in Long Beach California. I went into the apartment, and the little girl was spinning under the table like a top.”
And I’m telling it and it’s funny, but when he said it, there wasn’t the slightest bit of humor. It was just deadpan a matter of fact. And he said to me “Of course, if any of the witness have unconfessed mortal sins on their souls, the demon will happily call them out and explain exactly what they were. This can be most embarrassing.”
I’m sure it was. And of course it was observation of exorcisms that completely changed Malachi Martin. He began his book Hostage to the Devil with the idea that he was going to debunk exorcisms and possession. Well, that’s not what happened. As he said when he started the book, he was a garden variety liberal Jesuit, and when he ended the book, he had his eyes opened. He had not been a wonderful person before that time, I can tell you, but, it had a huge effect on him.
Vincent: So it shows the power of confession. It shows that confession is doing something very real: it’s blocking the demon from seeing what’s going on. He’s losing his grip on you when you go to confession.
Charles: It’s true. The more you go, the less power he has. The same is true for Communions you make, having confessed.
Gabriele Amorth was an Italian Roman Catholic priest and an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome who claimed to have performed tens of thousands of exorcisms. Amorth authored two books specifically on exorcism. The two books An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories are not official Roman Catholic documents, rather personal accounts of his office as Exorcist. The books use witness accounts and personal experience as evidence. The two books include references to official Roman Catholic teachings on demonology, however the main emphasis is on Amorth's experience as an exorcist. Both include references to the diagnosis and treatment of spiritual problems. The books briefly cover the topics of demonic contraction and curses.
In the introduction, Father Amorth openly states that this book is not intended to demonstrate truths such as the existence of demons, the reality of demonic possession, and the power to expel demons, because those truths have already been revealed and are constantly taught by the Magisterium. Instead, Amorth wrote this book to serve as guidelines for other exorcists because it’s so hard to become learned in this area, largely because there is no longer any master/apprentice type of learning process.
I had two key takeaways from the book, which I’m not sure Fr. Amorth intended:
By seeing accounts of the tangible effects of witchcraft, in a weird way, it strengthens your faith in the sacraments, in that these aren't just empty rituals that are being performed, there is a deep, substantial impact on the participants. By demonstrating and showcasing the spiritual powers of evil, in a strange way it also reaffirms the spiritual powers of good which were handed down through the Apostolic succession of the priesthood through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the book is that it makes you reflect how your own life is similar to that of those who are possessed. Like them, Satan’s influence also ebbs and flows with you, based on how frequently you receive the sacraments, pray, and make an effort to lead a good Christian life.