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September 21 - When it premiered in the winter of 1973, "The Exorcist" scared the devil out of movie audiences. It induced fainting and vomiting. The Rev. Billy Graham called it evil.
Of course, the story's still the same. A young girl in Georgetown, Regan MacNeil, evolves from goody-goody to gruesome while her mother (Ellyn Burstyn) watches helplessly, confused and anxious for answers. As Regan's condition worsens - she starts swearing, hissing and spouting about being the Devil - doctors try and fail to discover what's wrong with her "nerves." (Blatty says audiences were often more repelled by the graphic medical test scenes than the film's supernatural horror.) With few choices left, Mom begs a priest, whose faith has been recently shaken, to exorcise the demon from her daughter.
(Newsweek Web exclusive, www.msnbc.com/news ,
October 11, 2000).
To help us decide, we contacted the Rev. James LeBar, a Catholic priest from Hyde Park, New York who regularly performs exorcisms. NEWSWEEK's Joshua Phillips spoke with him about last week's events in Rome, the ancient ritual's renaissance in the United States -and if he plans to see the movie again.
So what happened in Rome? Was there really an exorcism in the Vatican performed by the Pope?
According to the report I got from Rome, the woman had been having an exorcism by Father Gabrielle Amorth [the Pope's chief exorcist] either the day before or the morning before. And then she went into the audience, for whatever reason, and when the Pope was giving the final blessing, that apparently it was too much for the demons and they erupted. She displayed great strength and spoke in languages that she wasn't studying. Afterward, the Pope brought her into another room. He spent about half an hour with her, praying, and I'm sure he told his secretary, "Get me the exorcist book, quick!" No one told me that, so I'm not 100 percent sure it's true. The next day, one of the bishops and Father Amorth continued the exorcism on the young lady.
Were they able to complete the exorcism? No, they worked on her until she got calm and subdued. They subdued the demons for the time being. Exorcism is a process; it doesn't work just in one moment here and there. It sometimes takes a long time. The Pope was part of the process.
What will happen to the girl?
I imagine she'll have her exorcisms until the demon is driven out. Some cases take a very long time. Demons are very stubborn.
Did the Pope fail?
No. But the process is not complete and the devil didn't fully leave. He was subdued enough to let the person go to sleep.
Why wasn't the Pope able to drive out the demons, more so than any other priest?
Exorcism often times takes the services of a number of priests over a number of days.
Is this typical? In the past, have other Popes received people for exorcisms?
I can't answer that question because I don't know. Pope Paul VI spoke a great deal about exorcism, but I have never heard of any record of what he did. Most of the records of things like this are kept in the diocese or chanceries. If an exorcism doesn't happen outside of a public situation, most people wouldn't know about them.
Has the application of exorcisms changed over the time?
Basically, no. The ritual dates back to the 14th century. The last serious revision was done in 1614. We did some minor revisions in 1962 and the English language was allowed to be used at that time.
How many exorcisms are performed each year in the United States?
The only thing I can tell you is that we in New York do 25 per year. One year we had 60, but other years average about 25.
There's been a revival, right? When did that begin?
There have always been exorcisms. The '70s and '80s were kind of a low point. But they began to pick up again towards the end of the '80s.
How many have you worked on personally?
I've done about 40 now.
Have you seen anything like Linda Blair's Regan in "The Exorcist?"
Much of what's in there, I've seen. I've never seen any high levitation, though. I've never seen any spitting up of material.
What's the most extreme case you've ever seen?
I've seen the great strength. I've heard the talking in different languages. I've heard the hatred in the Devil's voice.
How can you tell if someone's possessed instead of just going through psychotic episode?
It just sort of comes to you by experience. There's not any strict form or regular thing that happens. Sometimes a person speaks a lot of things in a strange language. Other times they may be struggling and have to be restrained. Everyone's different.
You saw "The Exorcist" many years ago. What do you think of it when you first saw it?
It was positively awesome seeing the depth that the devil would go to get somebody. And it was positively awesome to see the power that God gives the priest to do the exorcism.
A re you going to see the new, uncut version?
(Newsweek at www.msnbc.com,
October 11, 2000).
Now, this priest's statements were interesting, but I sharply disagree with him on several points, especially on these two:
1. God does not give power to a priest to do "exorcisms." Deliverance from Satan and the demonic comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ Himself is the only one who has the power to deliver sinners from evil. A priest is not needed as a mediator. Christ saves directly by faith in Him.
2. I do not agree with the priest that anyone should see The Exorcist. I agree with evangelical evangelist Billy Graham on this point: the movie is "evil" - stay away from it! It is spiritual pornography and it can damage you mentally and spiritually. It is dangerous to mess around with something like this. You don't need it recorded in your brain forever.
1. The kingdom of Satan
2. The schemes of Satan
3. The unpardonable sin and Satan
"And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?"
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:11-12).
We have said that these powers are organized. "Principalities" are demons who have the oversight of nations. They would correspond to the rank of generals. "Powers" are the privates who are the demons wanting to possess human beings. The "rulers of the darkness of this world" are those demons who have charge of Satan's worldly business. "Spiritual wickedness in high places" are the demons in the heavenlies who are in charge of religion. Satan has a well-organized group, and his organization is manipulating in this world right now. (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, vol. V., p. 279).
1. In II Corinthians 4:4 we are told that he blinds "the minds of them which believe not." That's the reason Bible Christianity seems unreal to you. Your mind has been blinded by Satan.
2. In I Corinthians 7:5 we are warned, "that Satan tempt you not…" Satan tempts both the converted and the unconverted to sin. He wants you to sin against God. He wants you to miss church on Sunday and commit other sins. He is the Tempter. The Bible says, "The tempter came to him" (Matthew 4:3). The Tempter, Satan, will come to you also. He will tempt you to miss church and commit other sins.
3. Then, Satan will also snatch the word of God out of your heart:
"Then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart" (Matthew 13:19).
The words "catch away" are very strong in Greek. It says he will "take away the word" out of your heart (Luke 8:12), "lest they should believe and be saved." This is Satan's scheme: he "catches away" the sermons you hear from your mind and heart. Like "the fowls of the air," he will "devour it" (Luke 8:5). Satan is like a crow coming down and devouring grain. That's why the sermons have no effect on you. Satan devours the word out of your heart! You must listen to the sermon carefully, do your best to remember it, and act on it, or Satan will devour it right away!
4. Another scheme of Satan is to get you to lie. The Bible says, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost," to the Holy Spirit? (Acts 5:3). "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:4). Satan will move lost people like you to tell various lies. It will enter your mind to tell the Deacon that you are coming to church, but then to go somewhere else. When the driver comes for you, you aren't there. You have been influenced by Satan to lie. You "have not lied unto men, but unto God."
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…" (Romans 1:28).
"Thou wast perfect in all thy ways from the day thou wast created, till iniquity (i.e. perversion) was found in thee" (Ezekiel 28:15).
"Thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub…" (Ezekiel 28:16).
1. "Don't believe that preacher."
2. "Don't go back there to church again."
3. "You're O.K. like you are. Don't become a fanatic."
I. Satan's kingdom, Matthew 12:26; Ephesians 6:11-12;
Revelation 12:7; Ephesians 2:2.
II. Satan's schemes, Ephesians 6:11; I Corinthians 4:4;
I Corinthians 7:5; Matthew 4:3; Matthew 13:19;
Acts 5:4; I Samuel 18:9-11.
III. Satan's commitment of the unpardonable sin, Genesis 6:3;
Romans 1:28; Ezekiel 28:13-17; Isaiah 14:12-15.
IV. Satan's desire for you to commit the unpardonable sin,
Luke 8:12; Exodus 8:8,15,28,32; 9:27,34; 10:1,28-29.