Exorcisms on rise in Britian

Published February 1, 1999

General Synod of the Church of England has ordered an investigation into the increasing number of unauthorized and potentially dangerous exorcisms.

A growing number of priests in Britain have been performing exorcisms and some parishioners have claimed hundreds of people have suffered mental breakdowns as a result.

Some have claimed priests are performing exorcisms on people who are not demonized but simply suffering from depression or bereavement.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, John Perry, will chair a 12-member commission to investigate the allegations. The commission will report to the House of Bishops.

There is an official person who performs exorcisms in each diocese in Britain, but the problem stems from the fact that untrained clergy are now performing them.

No such problem appears to be happening in Canada.

In all the major cities, church staff couldn’t recall one exorcism being performed in recent memory.

In Vancouver’s Diocese of New Westminster, there are clear rules if an exorcism is requested.

The person requesting the exorcism is first referred to a qualified psychiatric and/or spiritual professional for assessment.

The bishop may appoint a diocesan priest to perform the rite of exorcism but it must never be done in secrecy. Two or more priests must be present and both require spiritual and clinical preparation.

Similar rules exist in Toronto and Montreal.

The archdeacon of Montreal, Peter Hannen, said exorcisms are “very rare” in his diocese.

If one were to be performed, it would have to be approved by the bishop, and at least two people would have to be present.

Archdeacon Hannen said it’s an area where priests “have to be awfully careful.”


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