Unexplained Confidential: The Rite – The Making of a Modern Exorcist

 

“Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look but don’t touch.

Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. Ahaha. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He’s laughin’ His sick, f*ckin’ ass off! He’s a tight-ass! He’s a SADIST! He’s an absentee landlord! Worship that? NEVER!” … Al Pacino

Are these the words of the devil? Perhaps. What does the bible teach us, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, but we are all tempted as men and in 2009 sin is plentiful and available in bulk quantity to the masses.

It is definitely a power struggle between God and Satin with man’s soul as the ultimate prize. And if you think I’m talking about something from the middle ages, you haven’t read “The Rite”. Today demonic possession is more prevalent than it’s ever been and I think that’s because as a society we are more corrupted than in any other time in history.

More and more people are looking away from the church and into the darkness. HorrorNews has the distinct privilege of talking with Matt Baglio about his book and about his experiences in dealing with Exorcisms.

What inspired you to even want to write this book, “The Rite” ?

The idea for the book began when I had heard about a university-level course being offered at a Vatican-affiliated school called “Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation” that purported to train potential exorcists. As a freelance journalist living in Rome I thought it might just be a PR stunt. The only thing I knew about exorcism was what I’d seen in Hollywood films like The Exorcist and I wondered how the Catholic Church could still believe in something like exorcism in the 21st century. When I got down to the course, however, I realized that the reality of exorcism is much different from what I’d imagined. I was also very surprised to see that many of the priests who were taking the class were just as in the dark as me. Why didn’t they know stuff about demons and how the Church says a person can become possessed?

it was during the second lecture I met Father Gary Thomas, the protagonist of the book. He’d been asked by his bishop to come to Rome to study as an exorcist and was very honest about the fact that he had no idea what he was supposed to do. At that point he had yet to see any exorcisms and so I asked if I could follow him during his training. I saw it as a once-in-a-life opportunity to see what it takes to become an exorcist through the eyes of a priest just getting started.

How closely did you work with Father Gary Thomas and the Catholic Church when researching for this book?

I had Father Gary’s full cooperation for the book, including having access to his notes and journal entries. In addition I conducted several interviews with him over the course of his training and then later participated in exorcisms alongside him. I was also able to visit him once he returned home to the US, when he began performing exorcisms himself.

My whole goal in writing this book was to be as journalistic and accurate as possible. Early on I saw how most books on this topic tended to start with obvious preconceived bias—either all the world’s problems were caused by demons, or it was impossible for spiritual beings to exist. For this reason it was important to immerse myself into the research. I am a very curious person by nature and I wanted to understand the reality of what was going on. In addition to Father Gary, I spoke to just about every exorcist I could, eventually talking with around 18, including Father Gabriele Amorth, and a few others considered to be very knowledgeable who had never talked to a journalist before. Of course I also interviewed numerous medical doctors and psychiatrists as well.

I guess I’m among most of society in thinking that Exorcisms are part of history, but it appears demonic possessions are still a very real thing. How much of this type of thing is going on right under our nose ?

Exorcisms are being performed around the clock, day in and day out in just about every country on the planet. In Italy, of course, it is said that somewhere around 500,000 people see an exorcist annually. While that number is not as high in America, exorcisms are being performed in the US as well. Father Gary is currently seeing several people as are a number of other American exorcists I spoke to. In fact almost all of the American exorcists I talked to said that they are getting more and more people coming to see them all the time. It is important to note that not all of these people receive exorcisms, but a few do.

On top of this, a whole host of lay people and Christian ministers perform a sort of watered down form of exorcism called “deliverance,” which can also get pretty violent. Official Catholic exorcisms are still rare, though, thanks to the stringent rules the exorcist must follow before performing one.

Who are these people that are possessed, and what I mean by that is, are they already the weak and ill who are ripe for the picking or can this type of thing happen to me, you, and our neighbors?

One of the first things that fascinated me about exorcism was the theological aspect of the Church’s teachings on demons, and how they are said to be able to attack someone. I found it to be very elevated, almost scientific. In many traditions, demons are said to be able to possess people almost at will, and seem to represent a number of vices, such as “hate” or “anger.” I read books that even said these spirits could enter into a person while someone was being liberated, or if the exorcist actually touched the person. None of this is true in the context of the Catholic Church. I had one exorcist tell me, “It’s not a disease. You can’t catch it by living with a person who is possessed.” In this way, there are apparently no predisposed reasons for a person to become possessed. In addition, possession is not considered a sin. Exorcists say that for a person to become possessed they have to open the door, or be a victim of someone who has.

The main ways in which exorcists say people can do this are through occult ties, a curse, a life of hardened sin, and a dedication to a demon, such as through a Satanic ritual. Though exorcists are also clear that there is still some mystery to it. For instance, just because you play with a Ouija board doesn’t mean you are instantly going to become possessed. If a person uses a deck of Tarot cards repeatedly, however, or becomes dependent on them as a source of knowledge, then that might open up a doorway, say exorcists.

Every horror fan has seen the movie, The Exorcist. Do the signs in the movie hold true to what type of symptoms the possessed might display or are there things that we might not know about?

I asked many exorcists about the film and they said that theologically it is quite accurate. Linda Blair’s voice actually sounds a lot like the women that I heard exorcised. However while the symptoms displayed in the movie are said to be accurate, they are almost never seen all together in one case. I had exorcists tell me some amazing things. One said that he saw a woman’s jaw unhinge, drop down, and move over to the side of her face, making her mouth appear nine inches long. Another said he saw a woman vomit up a small black toad that was still alive. When he went to catch it, he said it fizzled away into saliva. Others have seen mysterious cuts appear and disappear on the person’s body, objects materializing and disappearing in a person’s house, strange voices speaking from thin air, levitation, you name it. But these symptoms are relatively rare, and in fact exorcism can be quite mundane. In some cases the person shows no reaction at all. Though perhaps the most common reaction is coughing.

The Ritual gives three symptoms that the exorcist is supposed to look for when deciding whether or not a person is possessed: abnormal strength, knowledge of hidden things, or the ability to speak and understand previously unknown languages. However these are really only guidelines. There are a whole host of other steps they take, including working with psychiatrists to weed out the individuals who are suffering from a mental illness.

 

I’m not sure if this is a question anyone can answer, but besides going to Sunday church services is there anything that we can do avoid the Devil ?

I had one exorcist tell me that the devil is already doing everything that he can to harm us. In other words out of sight out of mind apparently doesn’t work. But I don’t think that really changes the fundamental dynamic that if you are a Christian you believe that God is stronger than the devil. Of course that isn’t a get out of jail free card. It takes personal involvement and all comes down to the choices a person makes. After all, the Catholic Church teaches that even saints can be attacked.

I had one exorcist tell me something that I found to be very encouraging. “Don’t be afraid of the demon, be afraid of the sin.” In other words, don’t really worry all that much about demons and devils but instead focus on your own actions. Live a good and moral life.

One important thing to remember is that In the Catholic tradition, exorcism is not a one shot deal but more of a journey. It isn’t that the exorcist prays over the victim and if the demon is not cast out then the exorcism has failed. The exorcist doesn’t have any magical powers (instead the power is said to come from the prayer). In reality there’s more personal responsibility on the part of the victim to turn away from the evil and return to the good.

What else can HorrorNews readers look for when reading “The Rite” ?

The book is told through Fr. Gary’s eyes and so readers will get introduced to the world of exorcism just as Father Gary experienced it. At first things did not go as he had hoped and then eventually he saw a very dramatic case that haunted him for many months afterward. In addition, the book is a very accurate depiction of the theology on demons, meaning that readers will learn about what the Church says a demon is, what powers it has, and the ways in which it can attack a person (possession is only one way).

Too many of these kinds of books on spirits, I think, try to put things into nice little boxes (hierarchy of angels, etc.) and I don’t. Even though the exorcists I talked to are the most experienced individuals in their field, they were clear that there’s still a lot of mystery involved in exorcism, and this book reflects that mystery. I also want to stress that the book is by no means preachy or trying to push religion on people. I take a very objective and fact-based approach. As such, I also interviewed numerous psychiatrists and skeptics who had some interesting things to say about exorcism.

Where can our fans go to purchase “The Rite” ?

You can probably pick it up at your local bookstore. If not there are also various links to places on my Web site, which is www.mattbaglio.com. Otherwise Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, and Random House.

That was a chilling interview Matt. Thank you. I seriously recommend Matt’s book to anyone with an interest in Exorcisms and Demonic Possessions. If anyone has related subject matter that they would like to discuss in future editions of Unexplained Confidential, you can reach me at joyhorror@horrornews.net  .

If you would like to read more about Exorcisms, you can check out my archives from 12/2/08 and 12/31/08. Now, If you like paranormal books in general then you might be interested in this little out of the way book store that I came across, www.paranormalbooksnj.com  . Drop by and see who’s haunting who. Of course, if you want to keep in touch with all the paranormal insiders then I recommend you visit

http://www.americashauntedroadtrip.com/profile/Joyhorror  and see who’s posting what. Well, I think I’ve warn out my welcome for now but I’ll be back soon with something that will knock your head clean off your shoulders. I promise.

Later F’N’ Later,

Mike Joy

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About Mike Joy

HorrorNews.net Manager. Located in New Jersey. I've been with HNN since it's creation in 2008. Responsibilities: managing talent, acquisitions, new programs, website strategizing, celebrity interviews, public relations, the paranormal column, “Unexplained Confidential”, and more. unexplainedconfidential.blogspot.com

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