“The greatest sin is that people have lost a sense of sin… There is going to be a lot of need for exorcisms in the near future,” said some of the priest participants at the SACBC Exorcism Workshop that took place from 15 – 18 August 2022, at the Lumko Institute, Benoni in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg.
The workshop was led by Bishop Edward Risi, the Chairperson of the Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy, and Culture. Bishop Risi welcomed the participants from various dioceses of the conference starting the programme with a presentation of angelology. The second day of the workshop had four session where they dealt with; A journey through the rite of exorcism by Bishop Robert Mphiwe, What to have done before an exorcism by Fr. Graham Bower, When not to resort to the rite of exorcism, also by Fr. Bower, Open discussion and question, and lastly, Circumstances which open a person to possession.
It was on the third day that in the first session the priests shared on what has happened since their last meeting, and in this session a lot of observation came through. Among other things it was noted by some priests that there are not enough priests who are exorcists and some dioceses some dioceses don’t even have one. And added to that there is still an element of parish work to be considered as well. The importance of the sacrament of reconciliation in deliverance and exorcism ministry was also mentioned in that there is a lot of healing in this sacrament. It was noted that this sacrament of reconciliation has to be part of the ministry of deliverance and exorcism. One participant said sometimes it is all it takes (confession) to deliver a person but people seem to have lost the sense of sin. “The greatest sin is that people have lost a sense of sin,” said the priest.
Still on the issue of not having enough exorcist a concern was raised that the challenge of having members of religious congregations as exorcist is that the superior may take them away to another place almost at any time. Another challenge noted was that many local priests are young and inexperienced. “In my diocese we never really had an exorcism,” said one priest, adding that there is going to be a lot of need for exorcisms in the near future given what is happening in the society now.
A need to persevere was also advised noting that there is a need for a support system to persevere in this ministry. As another piece of advice another priest said when people come with issues it is good to listen carefully to their story to detect bondages in their lives. This was mentioned partly because one participant had said there is a challenge from brother priests because they some don’t even make investigation to know what the problem is. “Sometimes it’s something that needs only prayers of deliverance.”
The attending priests were remined that there is a need to remember always they are in the ministry of the church and it is God who heals in the Church, and remember that they need the authority of the bishop, and proper preparation. As for the people receiving the service of this ministry it is important to note the contrition of a person, a sincere desire to change one’s life. Otherwise the person will not be rid of the evil spirit. The importance of the sacramental life of the Church cannot be understated according to one of the priests participants.
Still on the issue of support the importance of the bishop and his support was raised several times. It was pointed out that bishops have to properly appoint priests and equip them because a lot hinges on the bishop and his support. But also the participants noted the need and importance of support groups for the ministry.
There was a deliberation of a long-term proper formation for exorcists, including the formation of every priest especially on the ministry of deliverance. It was suggested that part of the formation in the seminary has to be on deliverance because most people who think are possessed don’t really need exorcism but just prayers of deliverance. The importance of exorcists having a spiritual director and confessor came up as well. The financial support on the part of the exorcist, especially on long travels, was raised so that money does not become an obstacle. It was noted that it would also help a lot to have a system of reporting cases or exorcism so that trends can be detected.
This session on the second day also included watching an interview of Fr. Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, done by Tucker Carlson of Fox News. The interview touches areas like how people become possessed, perfect possession, multiple demons, demonic oppression being a ‘gift of God’. In the interview Fr. Lampert notes that the devil typically attacks in four stages, Fr. Lampert explained: first through deception, then division, followed by diversion – or attempts to substitute something for God – and finally discouragement or despair.
Fr. Lampert observed that many today live by three guiding principles: “You may do whatever you wish, no one has the right to command you, and you’re the god of yourself.” He then warned that, “Now, you can live that way if you want, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences, and one of the consequences of that mentality can be that people will encounter the demonic in their life.”
The issue of ubungoma was also raised among the discussions before and after watching the interview with one priest saying the question of ubungoma is a worrying one because there are even children as young as 6 years being made to believe they must become izangoma. Also, in the discussion post-interview it was observed that it is important to know the different kind of occult groups and how they practice because there are groups that disguise behind good religious practices and people get fooled into thinking it is good.
Also present at the workshop was the Bishop of Tzaneen, Bishop Joao Rodrigues.