PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Experiences that do not easily fit into other categories

Written by PSICAN Staff Writer
Image of Canadian flag with demon creature
An in-depth look at demonology, demonic activity, and the rites of exorcism in Canada

At the time of this writing (November 2009) interest in "the Devil," and his minions seems to be at an all time high. A recent PSICAN poll, which asked our readers which paranormal topic they believe does NOT get enough attention from people (not enough books, media coverage, etc.) and should resulted in Demons and Demonology more specifically being consistently in either the number one or number two spot throughout the run of poll. Demons beat out 11-12 other options.

A strong interest in Demonology within paranormal research, and the general public is not new. In fact if you examine the history of paranormal  research in the 1970s you'll find that several ghost hunters turned their enthusiasm, and attention to the more darker subject of demons following the immense popularity of the book The Exorcist, and the famous film by the same name. Both the book, and film billed themselves as based around true events, and spawned several sequels, and copycat movies. During this same era both Rosemary's Baby and The Omen saw great popularity at the box office.

Fast forward thirty years, and pop culture has again turned heavily to demons to entertain, and frighten the horror enthusiast. The Devil In Connecticut was re-released in book format, and saw a new Hollywood film based around it. Paranormal State is a popular TV show that features demons, and demonic activity, and it too has spawned many would-be copycats including the low budget, but very popular Paranormal Activity.

The passion, and interest in demons is certainly strong, and profitable, but is that all there is to it? In order to try to get a better understanding of the topic of demons outside of pop culture we have turned to the leading authority on the subject, and that would be the Church. All of the information, knowledge opinions on demons throughout history, and including the inspiration for the pop media such as the books, tv shows, and films listed above originated with religion, and the church. You will see below how strongly Catholic dogma has actually influenced the general public's perceptions of demons, and demonic activity including non-Catholics. 

Since PSICAN is a Canadian based organization we have concentrated primarily on the Church's stance, and involvement in demons and exorcism as it relates to Canada, however there is quite a bit of generalised information that would be of interest, and relevant to all readers no matter their location.

Since Christ assured his disciples that whatever they "bind on earth" shall be considered "bound in heaven," the Church has taken it upon itself to deal directly with "demonic manifestations" on Earth. And to that end the Catholic Church has had a very long history in dealing with the Devil, and demons.
According to religious teachings Christ was an exorcist. He cast out a demon from a possessed man in favour of a herd of swine after learning the demon's name ("I am legion, and we are many"). The most important part of a church sanctioned exorcism to this day is based on that original exorcism performed by Christ. The exorcist attempts to trick the demonic entity into revealing its name so that it must come face to face with the priest as opposed to hiding inside the possessed person.

Modern theologians for the most part look at the Devil and his minions as merely a metaphor for things the church disagrees with or are seemingly bad or evil in general. However, Roman Catholic dogma states that the Devil aka Satan, Beezlebub, the Beast etc is a fallen angel whose identity is actually Lucifer the "Son Of Light." He is apparently very good at disguising himself here on Earth, and he likes to meddle in human affairs in a very bad way whenever possible.

Father Gabriele Amorth is a Roman Catholic priest and an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. In fact Fr. Amorth is the Vatican's official top exorcist, and expert on demons, and has conducted the rites of exorcisms on some 4,000 people throughout his lengthy career. He feels that it is the duty of every Bishop to appoint official exorcists so that people do not turn to self proclaimed "demonologists, and exorcists" such as the ones you may come across on the internet or through classified ads.  He feels that unless more Church sanctioned exorcists are appointed "people might turn to witches, sorcerers and people practicing black magic."  Be wary of anyone who may claim they know better than the Church, or tell people not to turn to the Church at all in these matters, and ask yourself what are the motivations of this individual or group that are making such statements.

There are official Church appointed exorcists in Europe (with the exception of France whose Bishops have stated they want "nothing to do with the ritual") as well as the United States.

Here in Canada the church has a handful of official exorcists, and additional priests whose role it is to investigate cases of alleged demonic activity as reported by the public. If you come across someone who makes claims that they work for or represent the Vatican in any way it is very easy to verify if this is true or not through the archdioceses. The Church is open, and welcoming to the public, and such queries.

Priests with the least amount of personal "sins" are elected to be exorcists based on the Vatican's guidelines. The Church states that demons will use an exorcist's own sins against them during the rites of exorcism. Someone who has sinned heavily in the past would be an ineffectual exorcist, and potentially make the situation far worse than it already is according to the Church. Therefore only those with the most minimal sins can be considered for the job. 

The Vatican guidelines also state that only a priest endowed with "piety, knowledge and prudence" carry out the rites of exorcism.

The rites of exorcism are very specific and had changed very little from the Middle Ages until 1999 when the Vatican released a revised copy of The Book Of Deliverance. During the rites of exorcism the possessed is given a crucifix to hold. The priests will then ask the possessing demons to give their names in order to command their expulsion in the name of Jesus Christ. The ritual also involves the laying on of hands and making the sign of the cross on the possessed. Appeals are made to Christ, the Holy Spirit and various saints of the Church. The priests will ask God to free the victim from possession and then ordering the devil to leave the person forever.

There are different prayers, and rites that govern "demonic influence" over places, objects and persons. The Church can also provide prayers of protection from demonic activity that can be said privately.

Church sanctioned rituals of exorcism in Canada are very rare, and with good reason. Symptoms of  medical, and psychiatric disorders such as displays of super human strength, unusual mental abilities, immunity from pain, seizures, seemingly unexplainable bruising, and welts, and spontaneous bleeding have in the not so distant past been blamed on demonic possession. This type of misdiagnoses can lead to very serious issues including the possibility of  the death of the person who has been falsely labeled as being troubled by demons.

A study conducted by Dr. George Fraser, director of the anxiety disorders clinic at the Royal Ottawa Hospital clearly demonstrated the danger of performing ritual exorcisms on people who are suffering from multiple personality disorder.

It is for these very reasons that the Church requires a full medical examination including psychiatric assessment be made by a fully qualified medical doctor who has been licensed by the government of Canada to perform medicine in this country before a priest will consider intervening. This is for the protection of the experiencer, and the Church, and it is in our opinion the only moral, and ethical way to deal with such cases.

After a full medical exam is completed the priest then must rule out ghosts or spirits of the dead as the possible cause of the paranormal activity. To attempt an exorcism on the spirit of a deceased person would be condemning them in the name of Christ, which is absolutely never to be done. The Roman Catholic Church does not take this lightly.

There are no academic papers that we could find that outline statistics on demonic activity, possession, and exorcism within Canada, but we did find reference to these being "exceedingly rare to find a true case. Even then, it is impossible to prove." We have been able to verify only two cases of Church sanctioned exorcism in Canada in the last 20 years.

Monsignor Michel Parent, Chancellor of the Montreal Archdiocese, says "that in the diocese's 157 years, there has never been cause for an exorcism. "It has always been a case of a person in need of spiritual direction or a psychological  disturbance," he says.
Msgr. Parent holds the view that "a person must make a pact with the devil before becoming possessed; otherwise, there can be no redemption."

The late Father Andrew Cuschieri a canonical consultant in the Toronto Archdiocese had assessed about 20 cases of possible demonic activity, of which only two had some indications of what he deemed a genuine demonic infestation. "I advise caution he said because there are a lot of zelantissimus idiota or zealous idiots who see the devil everywhere. "We do not deny the principle of diabolical possession. But in practice, it is tremendously difficult to reach that conclusion."

The Roman Catholic Church is not the only religion that supports beliefs in a devil and demons or has rituals of exorcism, but it has been the one to most greatly influence pop media on the subject in the 20th and 21st centuries, which is why this article concentrates most heavily on its views, and practices.

There are also several self-practicing demonologists or demon experts that can be found mostly through the internet, and a handful of books that work outside of the Church, and Church doctrines. When it comes to information from these sources it is always a good idea to question where their knowledge has been obtained from, and to use your own good judgment when assessing the validity of the information they are giving out. 

Historically in Canada there have been a handful of deaths as a direct result of non-Church sanctioned exorcisms, including those that were prosecuted as murder cases. While we felt that it was important to mention these we feel that the scope of this article is too broad to include those at this time. A fully researched article on injury, and death as a result of non Church or lay person exorcisms will hopefully be published to this website in the near future. 

Since belief in "demons or "demonic activity" is based in religious faith, and PSICAN takes a neutral, and agnostic approach to our research, and investigations we do advise those seeking further information on the devil, and demons or believe they may be experiencing demonic activity to contact the Church directly. They have centuries of experience in dealing with the supernatural, and do take the most learned, responsible, and ethical approach to the subject.

Our thanks go out to the Diocèse de Montréal, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the offices of the Archbishop, and the Chancellor of Spiritual Affairs.

Sources also include:

Canadian newspaper archives

Personal correspondence, and interviews.