ROME, FEB. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A new course on “Satanism, Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation” is offering the clergy formation on guiding souls in contact with the occult or magic.
In this interview with ZENIT, Giuseppe Ferrari, secretary of the Group of Research and Information on the Sects (GRIS) of Italy, commented on the objects of the course, which began this week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.
Q: You are one of the initiators of this course. How was it conceived and what are its objectives?
Ferrari: In my capacity as national secretary of GRIS, I had the opportunity a year ago to talk with a priest of the Diocese of Imola here in Italy, who told me about the difficulties priests have when dealing with the problems of people who have somehow entered into contact with the realm of the occult and magic and want to get out, or those who feel in some way that they are the object of demonic action.
My interview with that priest made me reflect, and I thought that the problem could only be addressed effectively with a profound and interdisciplinary formation of priests, at the university level, thus filling a pastoral gap that is increasingly evident.
The main objective of the course is to form and inform an appropriate number of priests, even if afterward they do not become exorcists, in how to analyze requests for help, how to respond, and how to determine when the intervention of an exorcist is necessary.
To this first objective, we can add the formation of doctors, psychologists and jurists, bringing them up-to-date on topics that concern their profession.
Q: What are the issues the course will address?
Ferrari: The course is divided into seven thematic areas distributed over seven days, with a total of 28 hours. If the final exam is passed, one obtains two university credits.
Anthropological, phenomenological and sociological aspects are addressed; biblical, historical and spiritual aspects; liturgical aspects; scientific aspects — medical, psychological and natural; juridical and legal aspects; exorcists’ testimonies.
Without going into details of the program, it is possible to say that the course will study exorcism in depth, not only its theoretical foundations, but also the rite and testimonies of some exorcists with regards to specific cases.
Q: What, in particular, can be the contribution of priests?
Ferrari: The first aspect to consider is that of vocation. A priest who does not have a profound and genuine vocation will never be able to be an authentic and authoritative spiritual guide for the community entrusted to him.
A second aspect is that of formation. This task, by which priests learn to distinguish and reject philosophical, doctrinal, theological and historical errors and those of biblical misinterpretation, constitutes a duty that cannot be deferred, as the sects are spreading in the Catholic realm, taking advantage not only of people’s needs and aspirations, but also falsifying history, manipulating and erroneously interpreting sacred Scripture, introducing unacceptable theological theses, debatable doctrines, and rash philosophical theses.
The new apologetics must not cause clashes but be open to profound, lucid and flexible dialogue. It must be able to relate to the different disciplines: theological, philosophical, historical, scientific, economic, artistic, etc., and project the truth to illuminate the different human problems and offer the man of today solid reasons for Christian hope.
To offer future priests a balanced and profound theological, moral and spiritual formation will serve to avoid, or at least reduce considerably, the risk of having presbyters who are seduced by risky theological speculations, or liturgical and pastoral experimentations with undeniably syncretistic connotations.
Therefore, it is good to recall that the Church is in ever greater need of holy priests, not of priests who preach ambiguous theological theses and strange liturgical and pastoral practices, because only holy priests are able to renew the Church, giving her new sap and new vigor, and the capacity to indicate the necessary impulses to initiate the correct responses to the different challenges of contemporary society.
Lastly, [in this] situation, which the spread of magic and superstitious religiosity has contributed to generate, is the ever more urgent need for priests to impart blessings, to cancel the negative effects of alleged curses, or to exercise the ministry of exorcism on those allegedly possessed by the devil.
The requests are increasingly numerous and create notable problems for the clergy and dioceses, as in these areas priestly formation has been very lacking or nonexistent lately. It is also opportune to fill this gap.
One of the best ways to proceed is not only to appoint an exorcist — who would then be overwhelmed by requests to which he could not respond — or a diocesan commission made up of experts in some fields — for example, in addition to the theological-pastoral, the medical and psychological — but above all to form in this specific area a great number of priests. As I said at the beginning, this is the main objective of the course.