diane_vera (diane_vera) wrote,

Catholic exorcism and NYPD "experts on occult crimes"???

I recently came across the news story Updated: Vatican steps back from Discovery's 'Exorcist Files' by T.L. Stanley, Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2011, according to which:

"Aside from the priests, experts like Richard Gallagher, a faculty member at Columbia University's Psychoanalytic Institute, will be part of "The Exorcist Files." So will psychiatrists, theologians and New York Police Department experts on occult crimes. The series doesn't have a host, per se, but Adam Blai, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic demonologist, is a guide through the episodes."

The New York City Police Department has "experts on occult crimes"??? I'd sure like to know who they are and how they came by their alleged expertise. Historically, people who have billed themselves as "experts on occult crimes" have been, in most cases, Christians with an ax to grind against alternative religions and subcultures, regarding them all as demon-inspired. The linking of "experts on occult crimes" with exorcism is not a good sign.

It's worth keeping an eye out for anything having to do with Catholic exorcism in New York -- as well as Pentecostal and new-Apostolic "Deliverance Ministries," of course.

Some who's who of Catholic exorcism here in the U.S.A.

On Talk To Action recently, I wrote a post titled "Exorcism and religious intolerance," which details some of the history of the recent Catholic exorcism revival. People mentioned in that post include:

  • Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, of Springfield, Ill., organizer of a recent private conference on exorcism for U.S. bishops on exorcism, held Nov. 12-13, 2010. He is quoted as mentioning the participation of Catholic charismatic deliverance teams in most of today's Catholic exorcisms.
  • Father Gary Thomas, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga, Calif.. on whose experiences the movie The Rite was loosely based. He is quoted as saying that "any new age activities," or dabbling in witchcraft, "immediately disqualifies" the practitioner from running for public office!
  • Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, a now-disgraced former exorcist and former president of the anti-abortion group Human Life International, ordered by his bishop to leave public ministry due to a sex scandal.

None of the above people are in New York. However, several years ago, I recall reading that the New York arch-diocese had a total of four exorcists, including James J. LeBar, all of whom were said to be kept quite busy.

I can't find that statistic offhand, but I just now found the following CBS news story about LeBar from over 10 years ago: A Roman Catholic Exorcist On The Job, New York, Sept. 21, 2000. Some of the things LeBar said in that article sound rather far-fetched, but I'm intrigued by how he accounted for the rise in demand for exorcism: "In the last few years with the charismatic people and the evangelicals 'rousing up' the Devil here and there, there has been a great increase in the number of people seeking to be relieved of the devil that they may have had for 15 or 20 years in addition to people newly bothered." Like Bishop Paprocki's statement I quoted earlier, this would seem to be another indication that (at least here in the U.S.A.), Catholic exorcism is primarily a Catholic Charismatic thing.

LeBar was also alleged to have been an "expert on Satanism and cults," though I haven't yet dug up any details of his claims about same.

Searching in Google News for "exorcism New York," I came across Bishops' upcoming exorcism conference responds to queries about rite by Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, via Catholic Courier (no date visible, but refers to the exorcism conference of Nov. 12-13, 2010).

According to this story: "Speakers include Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston-Galveston, who will discuss the scriptural basis of evil. Father Dennis McManus, an assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, and Father Jeffrey Grob, pastor of St. Celestine Church in Elmwood Park, Ill., also will lead sessions."

Searching for more information about the New Yorker, Father Dennis McManus, I found Avila to Host Interfaith Dialogue Meeting, The Catholic Key, Kansas City, no date visible. This story is not about exorcism, but mentions Father Dennis McManus, who is identified as "chief theologian to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York."

Rev. Jeffrey Grob, of the Chicago archdiocese, is a familiar name to me. Years before he became an exorcist, he was already giving far-fetched "expert testimony" about the alleged Satanic ritual symbolism involved in a murder allegedly committed by a fellow priest. See my page about Father Gerald Robinson in Toledo, Ohio (U.S.A.).

Anyhow, Grob is featured in the news story Chicago-area Catholic priest exorcist says devil is real by Diane Krieger Spivak, Lake County Sun-Times, Jan 29, 2011. Here, Rev. Jeffrey Grob is described as "one of two exorcists in the Chicago area." According to this news story, "In 1999 the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed its first exorcist since the diocese was formed in 1842. Grob is only the second exorcist in a diocese of more than 2 million Catholics."

This article also mentions one Rev. Michael Heimer: "Diocese of Gary Bishop Dale Melczek said before any exorcism rite is considered the diocese refers requests to the Rev. Michael Heimer, stationed in eastern LaPorte County. While not an appointed exorcist, Heimer has studied exorcism for 20 years and has for more than a decade been called to assist in cases of suspected supernatural events."

The earlier-mentioned Bishop Paprocki is also affiliated with the Chicago archdiocese. According to the news story Paprocki seeks more sophisticated approach to exorcism in U.S. by Steven Spearie, The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), Jan 15, 2011: "Paprocki, who is also a civil lawyer, was the portal for inquiries when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Chicago archdiocese. (In the Catholic Church, priests must have the approval of the bishop to perform a major exorcism.) That role in the Springfield diocese is being filled by the Rev. Carl Kemme, who serves as vicar general, and one of three priests from the Springfield diocese who attended the Baltimore conference."

More about New York's Father Dennis McManus can be found in a news story about another Catholic exorcism conference, this one at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago, in 2008: The cure for what ails your soul, The Ottawa Citizen, April 5, 2008, on Canada.com. I have not yet found anything to indicate whether McManus is, himself, an apppointed exorcist, or whether he is just a theologian.

This news story also says: "Francis Cardinal George, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will lead the opening mass, giving the conference at Mundelein Seminary his legitimacy as well as his blessings." It also contains the following very interesting bit of history:

Pentecostalism, a passionate belief emphasizing heart over head, swept Christianity in the 1980s. In the Catholic church, this charismatic movement dusted off the exorcistic prayers and started using them in group meetings, until the controversial Zambian archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was virtually conducting mass exorcisms in public.

Rome cracked down. Only priests could perform exorcisms, only in private, sombre ceremonies, and only with a bishop's permission.

But it would seem that lay Catholic Charismatic groups are still allowed to participate in exorcisms as part of a "deliverance team," according to Bishop Thomas Paprocki as paraphrased in the National Catholic Register story A Nation and Its Demons, January 29, 2010.

P.S.: Here is the Skeptical Inquirer's review of the book American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael Cuneo, who is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Fordham University. (I do NOT agree with Cuneo's belief that the exorcism trend of the past several decades was started primarily by the movie The Exorcist. Maybe that's true in the Catholic world, but, among many Protestant evangelicals (and not just Pentecostals/charismatics), "casting out demons" was already a familiar concept before The Exorcist came out. Even in the Catholic world, I suspect that the Catholic Charismatics would have started an exorcism trend even without any encouragement from Hollywood.)

P.S., February 9, 2011: For those readers who are members of the LiveJournal Community Dark Christianity (for opponents of Christian dominionism), a moderator has just now let through my thread Assemblies of God and Catholic charismatics? in which I asked about the relationship between the Assemblies of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination) and the Catholic Charismatic renewal movement. There have been some very informative replies.
Tags: anti-occultism, anti-satanism, catholic, crime, exorcism, new york city, pentecostal, satanic panic

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