In this interview with an exorcist from Switzerland, we're told the devil isn't everywhere—but don't go looking for him either, just in case.
Is one exorcism enough to free a possessed person?
It’s extremely difficult. Usually, many exorcisms are needed.
Does it work like therapy?
Yes. Exorcism is a sacramental, not a sacrament. A sacrament is effective in and of itself. If I give someone absolution in confession, at that moment, truly, his or her sins are forgiven. Exorcism, on the contrary, is efficient to the extent of the holiness of the priest, of the faith of the person being exorcised, and that of the whole Church.
What is the difference between exorcism and prayers of liberation?
Both have the same objective: they seek the liberation of the person from the influence of evil or from possession. Exorcism is actually a ministry within the Church which the bishop confers on some priests. It can only be exercised by priests, not by lay people, and only by those who have the explicit permission of the bishop. A prayer of liberation, on the contrary, can be done by anyone, man or woman, layman or priest, by virtue of being Christian, because Christ said, “Anyone who believes in me shall cast out demons.”
An exorcism is also a direct order given to the devil, whereas a prayer of liberation is a supplication to God or the Virgin Mary for them to intervene.
How many of the people who have turned to you were really possessed?
Very, very few.
So why are people so afraid?
Among the people who come to me, I can distinguish three kinds of cases: those truly possessed, those not possessed, and problematic cases. The first and the second are the easiest: you know that you are dealing with someone who is truly possessed because they manifest the four signs, and because when you say the prayers the person goes into a trance and reacts in a way that the exorcist recognizes. This can be faked, but it is very difficult.
In the second case, with experience as a priest and confessor, you understand when there are spiritual or psychological problems, and when you can exclude demonic influence.
The problem is when you find someone who seems truly possessed—because of deep traumas accompanied by risky behaviors, such as spiritualistic sessions or going to a tarot card reader—but isn’t actually possessed.
I met a young woman who was raped by a supposed Latin American warlock whose eye she had caught. One day he gave her a drugged cup of coffee and raped her; she was conscious, but unable to react. This terrible trauma made her think she was possessed by the devil through the drugs and the violence she had suffered.
I believed that she was truly possessed. However, when I prayed and imposed my hands on her during the exorcism, she never went into a trance, and there was no sign of other phenomena. I understood, therefore, that the cause lay elsewhere. This is why some of the medical and and psychological profiles that could be in play in these situations are explained during the course for exorcists.