Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(2) May 2021

Book Review

Exorcism. The Battle Against Satan And His Demons

by Fr. Vincent Lampert. Emmaus Road Publishing

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevasathan

Exorcism-Book-CoverThose of us who have worked in the field of mental health will have come across patients who claim to be possessed. Looking back, in my experience, they all had mental illness or other natural causes. I can only think of one case where to this day I believe that natural explanations do not suffice.

A small number of such patients were unfortunately "exorcised" by various sects, none Catholic. The Catholic Church has a balanced view of this whole area: demonic possessions can occur but they are rare. Other causes always need to be considered. And that is why this book is so brilliant. It is written by a well known exorcist. It is eminently practical. Above all, he reminds us that the best way to avoid the devil is to live a vibrant Christian life.

He clearly describes various forms of demonic activity. These include infestation, vexation, obses­sion and possession. The latter is extremely rare. The common features of possession include bodily contortion, vocal changes, changes in physical appearance, foul odours, changes in room temperature, uncontrollable screaming and, very rarely, levitation. It can be seen that some of these features are seen in people with mental illness: that is why a very careful medical assessment is needed.

The author writes that Catholic belief holds that anyone may say a minor prayer of exorcism. It is my firm belief that it would be good to restore the prayer to St Michael to be said at the end of Holy Mass, at a time when interest in the occult is grow­ing. However, a major exorcism is an official liturgical rite of the Catholic Church and can only be authorized by the bishop.

The ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ is described. It is a great pity that some "biblical scholars" dismiss this as fiction. Also, the author notes an increasing interest in the occult due to the pagan culture we live in. There is the growing problem of abuse, an area where a mental health assessment is especially needed. There is the problem of people who are "cursed" by others and people who invite the demon into their lives.

The author frequently mentions the danger of curiosity in this whole field. Those who assist the exorcist need to live an authentically Catholic life. I found this a very balanced and readable work. Highly recommended.