Exorcism, a Roman Catholic Tradition

Vatican City, 3rd March 2006: This week the Vatican’s Head Exorcist, 74-year old Father Amorth, repeated his condemnation of the Harry Potter books. Amorth said: “You
start with Harry Potter, who seems to be a friendly wizard, but you end up with the
Devil. There is absolutely no doubt that the Prince of Darkness is concealed behind
these books.” In his opinion the young readers who delve into Harry Potter become
fascinated by magic. “And from there it is but a small step to Satanism and the Devil.”

1 - Don Gabriële Amorth
This Gabriële Amorth is no minor personage. A priest for 57 years (in 2011), he is the
number-one exorcist in the Roman Catholic Church. In Rome alone there are six such
exorcists. He is moreover honorary president for life of the International Association of
Exorcists, an organisation he helped set up. (1) He had never studied exorcism seriously
when, on 6th June 1986 he was appointed by Cardinal Ugo Poletti as assistant to Don
Candido Amantini, a prominent exorcist, who taught him the tricks of the trade. One of
the first rules is to assume that the patient is suffering from an ordinary physical or mental
disturbance. “In my service as exorcist I have helped tens of thousands of people, but only
a few hundred were true cases of demonic possession”, Amorth relates. Which is why
every exorcist is assisted by a team of doctors and psychologists in order to keep his
practice of healing – for that is what it amounts to – on the right track. Both approaches go
very well hand in hand – this is called psycho-pastoral help – since a mental disturbance
can accompany a form of possession. Without question there are doctors who refer people
to an exorcist, though I do not know the names of any of them. The aim is not to bully the


Devil but to cure the patients, to alleviate their suffering and to lead them to the true
freedom of God’s children. This latter assumes that it is mainly a task involving conversion and at least of a deepening of faith.

2 - Exorcism, an extremely specific term
The practice of exorcism has deep roots in the Catholic tradition. The word comes from
the Greek verb exorcisein, with the original meaning of ‘to question emphatically’ or ‘to
oblige to swear’, ‘to adjure’. Jesus himself was exorcised – asked expressly to do
something – in Matthew 26:63, when the High Priest insisted: “I ‘adjure’ You by the
living God to tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.” The term occurs as a noun,
with the meaning of ‘exorcist’ that we recognise, in Acts 19:13. After the Second Vatican
Council the term (and function) was reserved to the office of priest in the Catholic Church
and only a bishop was allowed to appoint an exorcist. Without exorcist no exorcism.
Roman Catholic theology, when referring to the practice by a non-priest, speaks of driving
out or expelling (the Devil) and the liberation from or protection against evil influences
related to demonism. Nobody is guaranteed free from the Devil’s traps. Because of this
reality – a disturbing one to say the least – the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:13) contains a prayer
for driving out the Devil: “Our Father, who art in heaven (…) deliver us from the Evil
(One)”. (2) There is yet another similar prayer that was introduced in the Catholic Church
in 1886, thanks to Pope Leo XIII. One morning, during his office of thanksgiving, he was
fixed by something, perhaps a vision or an inspiration. After some time the Pope stood up,
determined, and wrote down the following: “Holy Archangel Michael, defend us in the
struggle, be our protector against the attacks and tricks of the Devil. We humbly beg you
to have God make him feel his power. And you, prince of the heavenly hosts, drive back
into Hell by the Divine power Satan and the other evil spirits that go round the world
spreading the destruction of souls. Amen.” There must, of course, be no question of a
magic formula. (Acts 19:13-16) More is required. Take a look at Ephesians 6:10-18,
where the apostle speaks of the spiritual armoury.

3 - The Protestant tradition
I was asked by a Protestant magazine in the Netherlands, under the auspices of “Christians
for Israel”, to give an overview of the practice of exorcism in the Roman Catholic Church
since exorcism has always had a role in that institution – although admittedly it has been
pushed further into the background in the last three centuries until it scarcely existed any
longer by the 19th century. Some fifty years ago it made a cautious comeback. Calvin
(1509-1564) for his part failed to include the expulsion of the Devil in his doctrines and
spoke of his rejection of the practice in the Roman Catholic Church, a practice which – it
has to be said – contained in his time a number of un-Christian elements that had slipped
in during the Middle Ages. Calvin’s rejection may perhaps explain why the practice of
driving out devils and the dissolution of demonic powers has always met with fierce
resistance in prominent Protestant circles, despite the fact that it is definitely a biblical
given. Now the wind would seem to be changing. At the start of his mission Luther maintained no more than the small exorcism used in the ceremony of baptism, whose use goes
back to the early 3rd century. (3) An exception to this ecclesiastical attitude can be found in
the Lutheran preacher Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880), who practised healing by
prayer and worked in the Black Forest region of Germany. (4) He was deeply involved in
driving out the demons from – among others – the well-known girl Gottliebin Dittus.
Some regard this incident as the start of the use of this practice in Pentecostal groups and
by charismatics. In 1995 there was a remarkable case in the Netherlands of a young mother, documented in the December issue of “De Heilsfontein”, a Pentecostal evangelisation magazine that was always filled with stories of conversions. This unmistakeable case
of the expulsion of a demon was remarkable because the occasion that led to the expulsion


was originally intended as a normal pastoral job in the taking care of church members. At
the start of the meeting the minister had no premonition about possession and definitely
none about demonic expulsion. What happened was remarkable too because things went
so quickly. After the evil spirit had been expelled the preacher gave a good piece of
advice: “The devil does not release his prey just like that. Now you must fill yourself with
the things of God and occupy yourself with them!”

4 - Increase in interest in the occult
Because of the popularity of everything to do with
the occult, either directly or indirectly, and the urge
to jump in with both feet, a growing group of
people have become entangled in demonism in all
its forms and gradations. The fascination for the
occult is the logical consequence of the loss of faith.
We, society, have only ourselves to blame. Our
experience of belief has become like so much dishwater, ready to be flushed away. We need new
water and a new detergent, on offer for free – by the
Blood of the Lamb.
The rage seems to have started in the 1970s with the
Uri Geller
publicity circus surrounding the spoon-bending Uri
Geller, sixth child of a family whose older brothers and sisters had all been removed by
abortion. This is not an insignificant detail since repetition of such a horrendous act opens
the door to demonic influences. Stubborn persistence in serious sin is like a permanent
invitation to the Evil One to enter – which is not to say that this is always the cause
leading to possession. Why someone should become possessed remains a puzzle. The
Catholic Church ensures that the accusing finger is not pointed as though the possessed is
always responsible for his sad condition. But things have been otherwise in the past! But
that the increasing demonic bonds in our society cannot be seen as separate from the
legally sanctioned immorality – yes, that is as plain as the nose on your face. (5) Indeed,
occult bondage represents the normal state of affairs (yes, you are reading it correctly) that
can be undone only when the social fabric is focused on God. In its simplest form this
means centring life on the values given to us in the Ten Commandments. As witnessed by
the writings of Tertullian (ca. 160 – ca. 225) exorcism in the early Church was also
applied to social life – thus not only to individuals who, then as now, were afflicted with
idolatry and unwholesome influences. For, says Paul, “It is not against flesh and blood
that we enter the lists; we have to do with the princedoms and powers, with those who
have mastery over the world in these dark days, with malign influences in an order higher
than ours.” (Eph. 6:12) It would be interesting to pursue this study further.
As from the end of 2010 Maria Divine Mercy (a pseudonym for an Irish lady) announced
through messages from Jesus the imminent arrival of The Warning, known also as The
Inner Light, already predicted fifty years earlier to four little children of the Spanish
hamlet Garabandal. In the message of November 6th, 2011 Maria Divine Mercy told on
account of demonic possession:
«« Many people talk about demonic possession as if it is easy to identify. So many of
My children are possessed by Satan. They do not have to be seen thrashing about for
a demonic presence to be in place. Once possessed children, it is very difficult to drag
yourself away. These unfortunate children will, through the cunning and
manipulative infestation of the Evil One then infect other souls. And so it continues.
Evil is usually presented as being good. It will be hard to discern except for this.
The behaviour and deeds of an infested soul will never be humble in nature. They


will never be generous of heart. They may seem generous but there will always be a
catch. This catch will always be about making demands on you which do not sit
comfortably. (…)
Think of Satan and his evil works as an infectious disease. Take every precaution
to avoid coming into contact with those who carry the disease. Should you know that
you have no choice then arm yourself with Holy Water, the Blessed Crucifix and a
St Benedictine Medal. They will keep these demons at arm’s length. These are the
times children you must surround you and your home with blessed objects which are
blessed. Many are embarrassed to be seen with such things for fear they will be
laughed at. These will offer you protection in your home and are a great comfort
during prayer. Remember the demon lives not just in Hell but has now firmly
established his reign on earth. Prayer is the only thing that terrifies him and
renders him impotent. »»

5 - Much demand for exorcists
The lid is off the shaft leading to the abyss (Ap. 9:2) and the demand for exorcism is rising
correspondingly. In 1985 Italy counted twenty Church-appointed exorcists. Now there are
more than three hundred. But that is Italy. According to Gabriële Amorth, “There is a
great demand for exorcists but the bishops prefer not to appoint them. Many countries –
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal and
Spain – have no Catholic exorcists, and of the
hundred exorcists (nominated by bishops) in
France only five believe in the Devil and practise exorcism. All the others send their clients
immediately to a psychiatrist. This is all a real
scandal.” (6) At present in the Netherlands (in
2006) there are three exorcists, appointed by
the bishops, at work. In line with instructions
issuing from the Vatican no publicity is given
to this fact because of the fear of creating a
sensation. It is to be hoped that anyone applyOn the back of the Saint Benedict Medal
ing to the diocese for an exorcist’s help will be
is shown “V R S N S M V - S M Q L I V B”,
referred. Such is not of itself the case, not even
the initials of exorcism: “Vade retro Satana!
in a country like Italy.
Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae
libas. Ipse venena bibas!”

Father Amadeus of the Trappist monastery in
Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your
Tegelen, a man equally well known in Protevanities! What you offer me is evil.
stant circles, was called to his reward in 2003.
Drink the poison yourself !
One of his famous sayings was: “I myself do
not perform exorcisms: there is but one exorcist and that is Jesus.” He was known for his tolerant attitude to those who did not share
his ideas and had little trouble collaborating with Protestants – and they much appreciated
him. A remarkable fact is the way in which he came to his service. In the period when Uri
Geller was all the rage, he came into contact with the charismatic renewal movement in
the Netherlands.
«« It was instant recognition (writes Peter de Bruijne in his interview) (7) for
Johannes van der Staaij – the monk’s lay name – had already had various exceptional
God-experiences before entering the monastic life in September 1945. But it was only
after meeting such people as Father van Dam (8) and other spiritual leaders in the
charismatic movement that the latent God-given gifts he had received became truly
active. Amadeus sighed: “There are very few priests these days who know that they
have received an exceptional mission and authority from God to cure people and to
free them from demonic powers. And even if they do know it, they fail to use that


authority. Meanwhile Satan goes around ferociously tying people to himself and
devouring them. I am terribly concerned about the weakness shown by the Church
and about the ease with which exorcism is dismissed as something belonging to the
past. I believe in the official office of exorcist given to us at the priestly ordination.
But I also believe in the priesthood of all believers. And that means that in principle
every Christian can be used in the fight against demons.” »»
This attitude matches up with the final chapter of Mark’s gospel, where Jesus states that
believers can be recognised from their power to expel demons. With regard to the attitude
shown by priests, Gabriële Amorth adds the following: “Normally priests have very little
belief in the exceptional activities of Satan. If a bishop suggests that they should perform
an exorcism, they show fear, as if thinking: ‘If I leave the Devil alone, he’ll leave me alone
too’. But that is wrong. The more we fight against Satan, the more afraid of us he will
become.” (9) And that is precisely the reason why we should see as a positive development the fact that true exorcists are showing a growing tendency to work with lay people
from the charismatic movement – who are also given an active role to play. Father Rufus
Berea of Bombay has set up an association for exorcists and lay people to assist in cases
where an episcopal mandate is not given, an initiative that cannot be said to please the
church hierarchy.

6 - A little exorcism will never do any harm
Opinions about exorcism are divided within the Catholic Church. In 1999 the Vatican
published a new manual stating that no exorcism may be performed unless there is
certainty that the Evil One is involved. Amorth thinks this is ridiculous: “It is only
through exorcism that the demons reveal themselves. An unneeded exorcism will never do


any harm.” In one of his books he writes that in the case of some slight doubt his fellowexorcists agree with him that mumbling a little and making a brief prayer of exorcism in
Latin will, if applicable, not fail to work in the sense of obtaining more certainty, while the
person for whom the prayer is said will not become unnecessarily anxious. It is only
during a major exorcism, which can sometimes last for hours, that certainty grows, even if
only because the patient witnesses to the benevolent consequences of the ritual. Whatever
may be the case, sooner or later the sneaky spirit will be obliged to reveal its true nature…
and then things can get rough! Father Barrajon, member of the Legionaries of Christ,
states that although there can be a prior moral certainty of possession, there is no absolute
rule of thumb because, he says: (10)
«« Evil always conceals itself. It often lies and will not name its name. Frans
Rosennzweig once said that a name is not noise and smoke, as Goethe named it, but
word and fire.
The name of Jesus means ‘God saves’. Isaac, Jacob – all these names have a special meaning. And they always say something about who the person is. When I say
my name, I also say: this is me. No demon will ever want to say his own name. And
when his name is expressed, he is ‘ordered with great authority’ (exorciso): “Go
away! Get out, in the Name of Jesus!” »»

The Pentagram, symbol of the devil

It is the Name of Jesus against his name. It is worth mentioning here that the exorcism formulae used in the early Church are based on the very words of Jesus or Paul, those words
being enriched with references to episodes taken from the life of Jesus. It is a wonderful
closure and an impressive moment when, at the end, a prayer is uttered according to Isaiah
45:23: “That is why God has raised him to such a height, given him that name that is
greater than any other name; so that everything in heaven and on earth and under the
earth must bend the knee before the name of Jesus.” (Ph. 2:9-10) Then the prophet Isaiah
says: “Behold, all those who were incensed against You, shall be ashamed and disgraced.” (Is. 41:16)

7 - Tortured to death during a routine job
Exorcism practised with the slogan “if it fails to work at least it does no harm”, refers of
course only to that carried out by a Roman Catholic priest. With this in mind, Amorth
distances himself from excesses that occur now and then. There are tragic cases, such as


occurred in 1995 when people belonging to a so-called Pentecostal congregation beat a
woman to death during an expulsion ritual. In 1998 it would appear that a Korean mother
strangled her daughter in an attempt to drive out the girl’s evil spirit (who had the evil
spirit?), and still recently, in 2005, a friendly looking Romanian Orthodox priest tortured a
nun to death on a cross in what he called a routine job (!) Which is not to say that there are
never any dramas in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1978 there was the infamous affair
involving the young German woman, Anneliese Michel of Klingenberg am Main, who
died during the sixty-seventh exorcism – according to the medical report: as a result of
“extreme physical effort comparable to that which concentration camp victims suffered in
the Second World War”. (11) The official reaction was disgraceful: with a couple of quick
lies and administrative tricks Bishop Josef Stangl (who was to die within twelve months)
swept it all under the carpet. Both priests, Arnold Renz and Ernst Alt, who had been
appointed to the task by the bishop, were sentenced to six months in prison for having
ignored the signs of exhaustion that accompanied the pneumonia and high fever, while
Anneliese had lost a great deal of weight. It is precisely to prevent this kind of excess that
the “International Association of Exorcists” was established.

8 - Satan’s smoke has penetrated the Church
On 29th June 1972 Pope Paul VI caused a minor
scandal by speaking openly about the Devil. He
stated literally: “I have the impression that the
smoke of Satan has penetrated the Church of God
through a few cracks.” This was in direct opposition to the spirit of optimism induced by the Second Vatican Council. The Catholic journalists regarded his statement as a regrettable return to primitive mediaeval superstitions. In their ignorance
they failed to realise that it was a return much further back in history – to Genesis, when Adam and
Eve were tempted by the serpent. On 15th NovemPope Paul VI
ber of the same year the Pope embroidered further
on the theme during a general audience. On this occasion he addressed the crowd as
follows: “What is the Church’s greatest concern today? Do not be surprised by our answer, which you could think simplistic, even shallow or unreal: one of the greatest concerns consists in defending ourselves against the evil that we call the Devil.” After giving
a further account of a magnificently orchestrated creation in which Man has been given a
privileged task, the Pope stated that something else was at play in direct opposition,
something he called a dark influence and an enemy, the Devil. For: “Evil is not merely a
lack of something: it is in fact a living being – spiritual, perverse and perverting. A terrible, mysterious and fearsome reality! Those who refuse to recognise his existence, or
turn him into an autonomous principle, move away from the Biblical doctrine of the
Church.” And further: “We know that we are (born) of God, and yet the whole world
about us lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) The Pope was very serious
about it, because five years later, on October 13, 1977, he reiterated: “The darkness of
Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels
within the Church.”
By way of the final task he had set for the Council, on 15th May 2001 the new rite of exorcism was presented to the world. Don Amorth saw in the new rite sufficient reason to call
to mind once again the words of Paul VI about the smoke of Satan that had penetrated the
Church. (12) Not all that surprising, since the manner in which the rite had been put
together surpasses all imagination. During the Council each commission was assisted by


specialists, a practice continued after the Council ended in 1965, in order to carry out the
tasks allotted by the Council. And if there was one field in which expertise was required,
then it was here. But, unfortunately, such was not the case. None of the cardinals or others
involved in drawing up the new rite of exorcism had ever conducted an exorcism – nor
even attended one. Amorth explained that any suggestions put forward by exorcists came
up against a wall of lack of understanding, of ridicule and of irritation. The Devil’s tactic –
that of making people believe that he does not exist – had worked superbly well. Amorth
says: “This explains why the new rite is ridiculous, an unbelievable obstacle in our work
against the Devil.” It all started in 1990, when the interim rite was published and, as is
customary, was distributed world-wide with a request for commentary within two years,
thereby taking account of those working in the field. At the time Amorth put together a
working party of eighteen exorcists, all with wide experience. They immediately praised
the first chapter of the new rite in which the theological foundation was laid. This had, in
fact, been missing from the 1614 rite promulgated by Pope Paul V. “But the practical
part” says Amorth “showed with great clarity that the makers of the rite had no idea what
they were talking about. So then we patiently provided a commentary on all the articles
and sent it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was received in a cool and
businesslike way. Its effect was zero.” The 1614 rite is largely based on prayers going
back to the 8th century that had proved their worth time and time again. The new prayers
were tested by Amorth and his colleagues and turned out to have no effect for the purpose
for which they had been designed. Fortunately at the last minute a lifebelt was thrown.
The then head of the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” was Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Together with Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez he
attempted to introduce an article (then no. 38) stating that it was permitted to continue to
use the old rite. The suggestion was shot down, at which point Cardinal Medina, who
apparently understood what was at stake, added to the 84-page edition of the new rite of
exorcism that fell under his authority a note stating that the old rite was still valid. The
interview on which I base my story ends with the following question put by Stefano Paci:
“Are you ever afraid of the Devil?” Amorth: “Afraid of that beast? He is the one who
should be afraid because I work in the Name of the Lord of the world. He is merely God’s
Hubert Luns
[published in “Profetisch Perspectief”, autumn 2006 – No 52]
[published in “Positief”, June 2007 – No 373]

See movie “Exorcism with explanation from priest”
See movie “Real Exorcism of Anneliese Michel”
See movie “Real Russian exorcism footage”

(1) Some will wonder about Don Amorth’s Marian theology and thus doubt the truth of
his mission. I give him the word in an interview he gave to Father Dario Dodig in July
2002. Dodig’s last question was: “Would you like to give us a piece of advice?” whereupon
Amorth answered: “Mary’s testament, her last words recorded in the Gospel, were
spoken at the marriage feast of Cana: ‘Do everything He tells you’. Our Lady always
leads to Jesus. That is her main concern: that we should put the words of Jesus into
(2) The (Dutch) Statenvertaling version of the Bible has in the Lord’s Prayer “verlos ons
van den boze” (“deliver us from the evil one”). The King James Version likewise speaks of
“the evil one”. But in the French translation we find (the incorrect) “du mal”, (= “from
evil”) while it should be “du malin” (“from the evil one”).
(3) The small exorcism immediately preceding baptism is a brief ceremony and can be
regarded as a pure formality to break the last remains of the demonic bonds before the


adult convert proceeds to the dawn of a new life in Jesus Christ. In the past there was also
clearly a form of exorcism in infant baptism, but after the Roman Catholic rites had been
reformed following the last Council, the formula was greatly attenuated.
(4) Some of Blumhardt’s books can still be purchased, such as: “Dein Glaube hat dir
geholfen. Die Heilung von Kranken durch Glaubensgebet”, and “Sieg über die Hölle”.
(5) As signs of occult bondage within society, I look to the statistics on suicide, drug abuse
and sales of anti-depressants – so I look out for signs that indicate despair, dull and
hopeless sombreness, unspeakable, that smother all belief in a loving God.
(6) Interview with Father Gabriële Amorth in 30Giorni, 29-06-2001, by Stefano Maria
(7) Interview with Father Amadeus in Opwekking Magazine, June 2001, by Peter de
(8) W.C. van Dam, who lived in the Rotterdam area, was known for his book "Demonen
eruit, in Jezus' Naam!" (1974) [Demons get out, in the Name of Jesus!] – published by Kok
in Kampen (ISBN 90 242 0335 X).
(9) Interview with Father Gabriële Amorth in The Sunday Telegraph, 29-10-2000, by
Gyles Brandreth.
(10) Interview with Father Pedro Barrajon L. C. in Die Welt, 2-12-2005, by Paul Badde.
(11) a) According to Dr. Felicitas D. Goodman, in her book “The Exorcism of Anneliese
Michel” # 1981, it is quite possible that Anneliese died from the side effects of Tegretol
prescribed by her doctor. The active component is carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug
that is also prescribed during a manic phase. Once the treatment stops, as happened with
Anneliese, an epileptic condition can arise with fever and insufficient oxygen transport to
the body. The epileptic condition, of which we can speak here, is characterised by a continual series of epileptic convulsions. Anneliese showed all these symptoms. Using her
exceptional expertise in altered states of consciousness (for which she established the
Cuyamungue Institute in 1978) Dr. Goodman did some solid research into the facts and
background of the Klingenberg affair (as it became known) and she had access to all the
dossiers available. She is firmly convinced that the two priests were wrongfully sentenced
on the grounds of the conviction of the judges and experts that possession is a mental
disease and corresponds to no demonic reality at all. To know more about Dr. Goodman
and her work, visit www.ritualbodypostures.com.
b) Personally I believe that Anneliese was not killed by demons nor by the ritual of
exorcism but that God allowed her to die because she, safe in Christ’s sufferings on the
Cross, had offered herself as a sacrificial soul for Germany and that God had seen fit to
graciously accept her offer of sacrifice. This is, of course, no more than a personal opinion,
but by adopting it I am following an imporatnt group of interested parties. It would not
surprise me if some day the Klingenberg case is investigated by the Church again.
c) The history of the Klingenberg affair inspired a major film: “The Exorcism of Emily
Rose”. The film concentrates on the question of whether a particular priest is guilty of the
death of a girl possessed by demons. A sound recording made during one of Anneliese’s
exorcisms and used during the trial of the two priests is played during the film.
(12) Interview with Father Gabriële Amorth in 30Giorni, 29-06-2001, by Stefano Maria


- 10 -

Was Cho Seung-Hui Possessed? (April 2007)
Written by Reverend Thomas Euteneuer, President of the anti-abortion
movement “Human Life International”.
Seung-Hui Cho, twenty-three years old, murdered 32 defenseless people and wounded
25 others in a shooting orgy known as the “Virginia Tech massacre”. This took place on
April 16, 2007 at the campus of Virginia Tech University. Cho killed himself when the
police breached the doors of the academic building where he had shot most of his victims. Cho was a South Korean with permanent resident status in the United States and
a senior university student in the English major at Virginia Tech.

There were howls of laughter when Fox News published an article raising the question of whether the devil may have influenced Cho SeungHui to commit the Virginia Tech massacre. Fox just reported the comments of various Christian leaders on the subject and did not intend to
settle the question, but the cynicism of the godless media and society
was predictable and to be expected. Since the devil doesn’t exist - they
say - how could anyone be so irresponsible as to try to explain away
Cho’s deed by recourse to the spiritual?

Well, first let me say that, as a Catholic priest, I have seen and worked with my
share of possessed and obsessed individuals. It’s entirely possible for someone to
be at once responsible for his own acts and totally under the influence of the devil
in committing them. In this case, Cho pulled the trigger, but the devil was the
author of the deed. Does not Jesus call him “a murderer from the beginning” ?
The devil is the prime mover of all evil
in the world, but human beings freely
cooperate with him in their evil decisions. No one gets off the hook of responsibility by blaming the devil, but we
can't say that the devil is a detached
observer to crimes like this.
The evil work that Cho perpetrated
bears the classic marks of a possession
that he cooperated in. Four clear signs
of serious demonic influence were evident in his life and virtually assured
that he would commit some kind of
Cho Seung-Hui
heinous crime against humanity in
time. These are the devil’s tactics for the destruction of body and soul: isolate,
distort, excite, plot - and then kill.
First, it is not always clear ‘how’ a demon enters someone, but it is sure that ‘once’
a demon enters a person, that demon bends all his efforts of mind and will to
overtake his host’s life and make it his own. Isolation is the best technique. By all
accounts, Cho was an isolated loner whose belonging to his demon was very far
advanced. He had no friends to speak of, no significant associates or relationships
and certainly no religious practice.

- 11 -

Second, with time and permission, the demon totally perverts all the person’s
mental processes in order to translate them into demon-think. Cho's writings
leading up to the crime, and Cho’s now-famous video manifesto, all exhibited
signs that the process of demonic perversion of mind and values was complete.
He was verbally fantasizing in front of his classmates and teachers about killing
people in the most horrible ways. In the end he even blasphemously claimed to be
dying like Jesus Christ for the sins of others: this is perverse thinking in the
Third, a crime of this immensity cannot be accomplished without someone’s total
emotional commitment. After reprogramming a person’s thought patterns, the
demon excites his passions to do what he wants. Others have very credibly
explained how Cho’s pathetic
video images, imitating the
Korean flick “Old Boy” (a revenge story), were evidence of
his heightened emotions spurred by violent images. He even
ranted in imitation of the Columbine High School killers
Harris and Klebold (who killed
thirteen) evidently in solidarity
for the deed he was about to
commit. In other words, it’s
very difficult to sustain such an
emotional intensity, about the
evil he planned and carried
VirginiaTech students, family and friends
out, without some direct force
gather on campus for a vigil
multiplier. Graphic images provided it.
Finally, he plotted like all demons – from Satan to the perpetrators of the World
Trade Center attacks : He bought guns and ammo, he planned the date and times
and places of the murders, and he even went regularly at night to work out at the
campus gym in order to look more closely at the particulars of the scene, which all
fits the characteristics of a mass murderer.
The devil must have been very happy to witness his prey blast his brains out after
perpetrating the bloody murders of thirty two innocents. That is the ultimate
victory for the devil.
As sad as the physical deaths of innocent people are, perhaps the saddest element
of the story is the likely loss of Cho Seung-Hui’s immortal soul by this demonic
action. The rabbis used to say that the angels weep at the loss of a soul that God
created to share in his eternal blessedness; I am sure the angels are weeping now.
Let us all commend the innocent victims of this crime, their families and the
possessed perpetrator to the Mercy of God and then re-commit ourselves to
proclaiming Christ and His victory over so that none of God’s children will ever be
In Christ,

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