MEXICO CITY, SEPT. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Evaluating what are real cases of Satanic possession take serious discernment, says the exorcist of the Archdiocese of Mexico.
Father Pedro Mendoza Pantoja was one of the organizers of Mexico’s first National Meeting of Exorcists and Auxiliaries of Liberation, held recently at the headquarters of the bishops’ conference.
Father Mendoza Pantoja coordinates the work of eight exorcists in his archdiocese. He spoke of his work with ZENIT. Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: Many, perhaps even believers, deny that there can be people who are possessed by the devil. They think, rather, that it is a question of psychological or psychiatric problems. How does an exorcist distinguish between cases of possession and disturbances of another nature?
Father Mendoza Pantoja: Canon law and the new exorcisms ritual itself, as well as the Catechism of the universal Church, establish that, before carrying out a major exorcism, there must be discernment: whether it is a question of a real possession or a simple diabolical obsession or oppression, making use also of the previous advice of doctors and psychiatrists so that they can give their diagnosis, the priest always being the one who must ultimately decide because, in addition, the ritual of exorcisms indicates which are the signs that can tell us or lead us to suspect a real diabolical possession: to speak or understand unknown languages as if they were one’s own; to reveal hidden or distant things; to manifest strength beyond one’s age or physical condition, to vehemently separate oneself from God, aversion to the most holy name of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints, to sacred images, places and objects.
Q: For many people, however, these cases of diabolical possession seem rather like Hollywood film stories. It seems that the devil’s strategy is to make one believe he does not exist. As an exorcist, do you think this is true?
Father Mendoza Pantoja: In fact, as I see it, Satan uses several strategies to separate us from God.
What the devil is interested in is to confuse us, either by making us believe that he does not exist and that, as he doesn’t exist, neither do hell and heaven and so we need not be afraid of being far from God.
Moreover, he manifests himself instead with oppressions and obsessions to torment terribly those who have opened the doors to him, so that they will be afraid of him and not try to close the doors to him and trust him.
This is how we can explain Satanic worship and holy death to obtain power, his favor and protection. Satan is the father of lies and deceit.
Q: All ministries in the Church are a grace of God and a service to brothers. Do you yourself perceive the ministry of exorcist as a grace for your life?
Father Mendoza Pantoja: My whole life is a grace from God: my baptism the gift that makes me a child of God, member of the Church, and co-heir with Christ of his glory; the priestly ministry, the gift that enables me to participate in his redemption and his work of salvation and service to my brothers.
The ministry of exorcist is also a gift of his grace and mercy, which in my littleness, insignificance and limitations, enables me to experience, as his instrument, his liberating and salvific power in the service of my brothers, which encourages me and impels me to adhere to him ever more to participate in his victory and, with it, in his glory.
Q: What is the service of the exorcist to the Church and to your brothers like? In other words, is there a case you can tell us about in which your ministry of exorcist enabled you to experience in fullness your vocation as man and priest?
Father Mendoza Pantoja: There are many cases in which, practicing the prayer of liberation — over the past 24 years, also when I was not yet an exorcist — I have seen the power in which God makes us priests participants in the service of our suffering brothers. The therapy of faith with the prayer of healing, liberation, and forgiveness, with which one succeeds in something that is impossible and not within the reach of medical and psychological science.
Now, as an exorcist for the past six years, I have attended several cases of diabolical oppressions and obsessions. Tormented and already despairing people, who after having gone to all kinds of specialists, quacks and medicine men, have worsened their situation.
They think they are diabolically possessed and ask anxiously for exorcism. In some cases, there have been signs that have led me to suspect a diabolical presence or possession and, even without being certain, to carry out the so-called diagnostic exorcism, that is, imperative prayer, to succeed in making them enter a peace and tranquility without going so far as to have a full solemn exorcism, it being enough to continue with the prayer of liberation.
It has been a great satisfaction to succeed in the liberation of my brothers, through the service of my humble ministry, by the power of the prayer of intercession and to see the growth of their faith, thanks to an evangelization and catechesis that leads to their conversion, the renewal of their faith, and their fuller adherence to the Lord, and to see them continue their lives full of love and confidence in God.
Q: What should a person do who thinks he is a victim of diabolical possession or who knows someone who might be in that situation?
Father Mendoza Pantoja: He must go to his parish priest and make a good confession so that, in the first instance, that priest can take care of him.
If his parish priest discovers that there is a demonic influence but no signs of diabolical possession, he must pray with him supported by a liberation team and insert him in a group of evangelization or growth in the faith or in some parish ministry.
If the parish priest perceives signs that make him suspect a diabolical possession or does not feel able to address the problem, he must then be directed to the exorcist of his diocese or the nearest exorcist. He must never go to medicine men or make use of magical cures.