<i>60 Minutes II</i> The Exorcists

Exorcism Making A Comeback Among Catholics

Why would a church in New Mexico end the year 2001 by burning Harry Potter books?

Because they believe young readers might be attracted by the witchcraft and the work of the devil.

It's not such an uncommon belief that real devils, actual demons, are present as never before. The Catholic Church, the biggest church in the Western world, has set out to take action by increasing its emphasis on the ancient rite used to beat the devil: exorcism.

In New York City, there are now four full-time Catholic exorcists and last year, the Chicago Diocese for the first time, appointed an official exorcist.

But it isn't happening without controversy, and nobody has been caught up in that controversy more than a gentle-looking man of God who is getting the Vatican very angry.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is the Catholic Church's most public and most prolific exorcist. Born in Zambia and living in Rome since 1968, Archbishop Milingo had made it his mission to see that Satan is exposed.

The devil, Archbishop Milingo tells 60 Minutes II correspondent Carol Marin, is everywhere: “He is trying to go around and look for someone to devour.”

When all else fails, the faithful who fear they are possessed flock to Milingo for help. He says he is doing what Jesus did - exorcising the devil. The Vatican isn't so sure. When 60 Minutes II cameras caught up with Milingo, the only thing he asked was that some of his followers not be identified.

Asked how he knows it‘s the devil responsible for one woman’s problems, as opposed to schizophrenia, for instance, he says, “It’s different because the person is not at all himself” and can’t control the activities of normal life.

But Archbishop Milingo is in danger of being cast away, not by the devil but by his own church. It turns out that the Roman Catholic Church itself is caught in a devil of a dilemma - it wants attention paid to exorcism but wants it performed in secret and according to strict rules. The Church believes that Milingo's kind of exorcisms are closer to sorcery than Scripture. So it first ordered Milingo not to say Mass or perform exorcisms in any church in Rome. Later, that was revised to not in any church in Italy.

But Milingo continued to say Mass and exorcise Satan in buildings other than churches both at home and around the world.

“What I think is that, because the churches themselves have not been sufficiently spiritual and using the power of God, they haven't themselves been permeated through how they are alive with God,” Milingo says.

Father Gil Ostdiek, a professor at Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, has been chosen by the Vatican to translate from Latin to English its newly revised rite of exorcism.

Unchanged are rules broken by Milingo: to have all exorcisms approved by a higher-up, to be done in private and to follow precise Scriptual wording.

As Father Ostdiek poiits out, the wording is: “Begone, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man's salvation. Stoop beneath the all-powerful hand of God; tremble and flee when we invoke the holy and terrible name of Jesus, this name which causes hell to tremble. this name to which virtuous powers and dominations of heaven are humbly submissive, this name which the Cherubim and Seraphim praise unceasingly, repeating ‘Holy, holy, holy.”

The prayers have a ferocity to them, he says. “It says the Most High commands you, God commands you, the Holy Spirit commands you, Christ commands you.”

Rome's renewed emphasis on exorcism is being felt well beyond Vatican City, most notably in Chicago where the appointment of an exorcist, the first in 160 years, has drawn attention and debate. Following the practice of the Catholic Church, the identity of the Chicago exorcist is a secret. But because this is the 21st century, not the 15th, the exorcist has a spokesman, Father Robert Barron.

Father Barron has been chosen by the Archdiocese to give the official line about exorcism and the devil, and he says the identity of the exorcist is concealed because revealing it “would open it to sensationalism.”

Father Barron says driving out the devil in America is a rare event. He says exorcisms are only done as a last resort and that Chicago's new exorcist has only done one so far. In every case, the exorcist must find four types of behavior. Surprisingly, Father Barron says the movie "The Exorcist" is a fairly reliable guide to what church officials look for in possession:

Exorcists look for someone who exhibits a real supernatural or superhuman strength, a fierce reaction to holy things, hidden knowledge and use of languages that the person normally would have no access to.

“Those are four of the classical criteria to determine whether we're dealing with demonic possession, or just a psychiatric-disorder,” Father Barron says.

Tim Unsworth is one of many devout Catholics who believes that devils and demons do not actually exist but are only metaphors for evil. “Nine times out of 10 any good Catholic possessed person would be just as well off with a good Jewish psychiatrist, in my judgment,” he says.

Unsworth is a former clergyman and now a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. He says Catholic clergy are very uncomfortable and even angry with this renewal of exorcism.

“I have a feeling that the Church is growing more and more conservative,” he says, “and conservatism, in my judgment at least, means, among other things, a terrible fear of sin and evil. Now suddenly, we have a full-time exorcist living secretly like a Maytag repairman, ready to be called in when needed.”

Father Tony Gittens has his own doubts and discomfort about the use of exorcism, but as a theologian and anthropologist, he thinks he can explain its resurgence.

“An exorcism, think, is trying to answer in as practical a way as possible the most unanswerable questions of life, which is: Why evil? Where evil? And who evil?” Gittens says.

Father Gittens says modern man tends to think he is in control but exorcism “is suggesting to us that we are not in control, but that there is a way for us to address problems that heretofore we've buried.“

While modern advances have solved many problems, he says, “We haven't solved the most important and the most intractable: evil, death, sickness, innocent people suffering.

The revival of exorcism is not just causing controversy within Catholic clergy; it is a conflict for Pope John Paul II himself. He knows there has been a surge of Milingo-type exorcisms around the world. Though the Pope has tried to strictly control how exorcism is performed, he has fueled the revival by allowing the appointment of more exorcists than any pope in modern history. When another famous exorcist in Rome, Father Gariele Amorth said the devil was behind Harry Potter, enticing children with mysticism and evil, the Pope said nothing.

But early last year, the Vatican decided where to draw the line. They etched it so Archbishop Milingo couldn't miss it. They ordered him to stop what he was doing, anywhere, anytime.

Last April, the archbishop struck back. He got the Vatican's attention – along with the rest of the world's, when he was married in a mass wedding conducted by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Rev. Moon had introduced the 71-year-old archbishop to his 43-year-old bride two days earlier.

In August, the Pope, perhaps because of the Archbishop's large following in Africa, did not excommunicate him but ordered him to renounce his marriage and Rev. Moon's church. The man who has stared down the devil couldn't stare down the Pope. Milingo agreed to leave his bride and return to his vows.

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