An exorcist gives tools for spiritual warfare

"Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon" from "Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry," 15th century. Photo: Public Domain

Fr. Paolo Carlin is a diocesan exorcist and a member of the International Association of Exorcists. Using his firsthand knowledge and experience as an exorcist, Fr. Carlin authored An Exorcist Explains How to Heal the Possessed: And Help Souls Suffering Spiritual Crises (Sophia Institute Press, 2018), a guide to help people identify possessions and arm them with the tools to respond properly to them. Fr. Carlin spoke with Catholic Digest about his work and ways Catholics can resist the devil’s temptations.

Q: Can you tell us how you came to be a diocesan exorcist?

A: I am in charge in two dioceses: Faenza-Modigliana and Ravenna-Cervia. The bishop appoints to this delicate and important ministry in the Church a priest endowed with characteristics stipulated by canon law 1172: piety, science, and integrity of faith. The bishop also evaluates the priest’s preparation for the ministry of exorcism.

Q: What is the International Association of Exorcists?
A: The International Association of Exorcists is a private association of the faithful, endowed with canonical juridical personality, conferred by decree of the Congregation for the Clergy, mainly to serve priests who carry out the ministry of exorcism in the Church. The purposes of the association are:

  • To promote the basic formation and the subsequent permanent formation of the exorcists.
  • To encourage meetings between exorcists, especially at national and international levels, so that they may share their experiences and reflect together on the ministry conferred on them.
  • To help to integrate the exorcist ministry into the community and into the ordinary pastoral care of the local church.
  • To promote knowledge of this ministry.
  • To encourage the study of the dogmatic, biblical, liturgical, historical, pastoral, and spiritual aspects of exorcism.
  • To promote collaboration with people skilled in medicine and psychiatry who are also competent in spiritual realities.

Q: How does your work differ from that of priests who are not diocesan exorcists?

A: Every priest is an exorcist by virtue of the priestly ordination that unites him to the saving mission of Christ. To avoid abuse and error, the Church has established that only those whom the bishop deems prepared can exercise the delicate ministry of the exorcist. I am, therefore, a priest like the others.

Q: Is it difficult to tell when an exorcism may be required? For example, are these situations often confused with mental illnesses?

A: Discernment belongs to the exorcist. In some cases, there are both psychological and spiritual problems present. In any case, the exorcist uses a medical team to diagnose the person who asks him for help.

Q: Does your work ever frighten you?

A: Sometimes it surprises me. The people to whom I minister are in the hands of God, and Satan is like a chained dog: He cannot do whatever he wants, because God prevents him.

Q: Have there been any especially memorable situations that you have encountered as an exorcist?

A: Every situation is important. I was struck by a girl, who for 30 years, was treated as a psychiatric patient. With 10 months of weekly prayer meetings, she was definitively liberated by Jesus and Mary. Now she is serene, and her face is rejuvenated.

Q: Why do you think so many people question the devil’s existence?

A: Because they are ignorant. They do not know the Gospel and therefore do not know Jesus who continually talks about the devil.

Q: What are some of the spiritual weapons that can be used to combat the devil?

A: Those that Jesus gave us are these:

  • The helmet: That is, the Gospel, the word of God, which protects the mind from obsessive thoughts, depression, confusion, and fear. If Jesus, with his teachings and gestures, is present in our minds, there is no room for the enemy there. This is achieved by repeated and constant listening to the word of God every day.
  • The sword: Prayer, above all in moments of temptation, blocks the work of the enemy. Prayer is dialogue with God, Mary, and the saints. The diabolical enemy fears the rosary particularly. Prayers of thanksgiving manifest a humble heart, which rejects the pride that the enemy seeks to instigate.
  • The sacraments: These are the armor that protects soul and body. The Eucharist puts us in intimate communion with Jesus, the teacher and strength of Christians. Reconciliation, or confession, brings us closer to God. Reconciliation is more powerful than exorcism inasmuch as it is, like all the sacraments, a direct action of God in our lives, and furthermore, it exercises humility, which contrasts Satan’s pride.
  • Faith: This is the shield that rejects the temptations and extraordinary actions of the evil one. It is nourished by repeated listening to the word of God, by constant prayer, and by the frequent reception of the sacraments.

Q: Whom do you think your book will most benefit?

A: My book was designed as an aid in discernment for priests and as a guide for those affected in an extraordinary way by the enemy and for their families. In summary, in my book I try to answer the question: What should be done in these cases?

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