The experts on ‘exorcism’ are literally unbelievable

Our friend Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., shows up again in a weird little story recently in which the Vatican officially denied that Pope Francis conducted an exorcism — or at least denied that he intended to conduct an exorcism.

CNN’s Dan Merica spoke with Paprocki, noting that he is “an American expert on exorcism who organized a conference on the topic in 2010.” Paprocki:

… said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

“It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.

“I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

“Memorized.” So it’s an incantation that has to be memorized and recited verbatim to be effective. And it involves the use of magical amulets … sorry, I mean, “sacramental objects.”

How is that not magic? What Paprocki is describing is spellcasting, not prayer. And it seems to require a lot of showmanship.

Merica’s report continues:

Jesus performs a number of exorcisms in the Bible, encounters that are recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. One example: in Matthew 9:32-34, Jesus exorcises a mute shortly after healing two blind men.

“As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him,” reads the passage. “And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke.”

But whatever Jesus did in that story, it was clearly not an exorcism as Paprocki understands it. It didn’t take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It didn’t involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures or using sacramental objects. Nothing needed to be memorized.

So where did all that abracadabra hocus-pocus razzle-dazzle come from?

Merica says, “The guidelines on Catholic exorcisms, ‘De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam,’ or ‘Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications,’ are an 84-page document.”

I’m sure that “experts on exorcism” have studied and memorized most of what’s in those 84 pages. I’m also sure that none of it has anything to do with whatever it was Jesus did in Matthew’s Gospel when he restored a voice to a voiceless man.

Meanwhile, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the top exorcist in the Catholic Church and head of the “International Association of Exorcists” claims to have exorcised 160,000 demons during his career.

That claim deserves a Wilt Chamberlain-sized dose of skepticism, which Jonathan Turley provides, along with some helpful arithmetic:

Amorth now claims to have sent 160,000 demons to hell — that is over 1,818 a year or roughly 5 a day or one demon every 4.8 hours every day every week every month.

For someone so very busy, he sure manages to schedule a lot of interviews.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth needs to go to confession. For lying. And not just about the number of “exorcisms” he has performed, either, but for the decades-long con he has been running as a grifter defrauding the church and the faithful.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    Catholicism is the Dungeons and Dragons of Christianity

  • The_L1985

    And most of the character classes are gender-specific!

  • Ben English

    The math really breaks down at higher level directly along gender lines, too. Linear nuns, quadratic bishops.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Band Name of the Day: Quadratic Bishops.

  • Launcifer

    I can’t help but think that an organisation composed entirely of clerics would be… well, let’s just say it’d a bit crap, shall we?

  • Alicia

    What?? Clerics kick so much ass. They are as strong as fighters and they can do magic. If they could shape-shift too they would be invincible.

  • Launcifer

    Huh… I’m… well, I’m obviously thinking of entirely the wrong set of mechanics and probably the wrong universe as well. Thanks for the correction ;-). If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the other corner, desperately trying to ignore my brain’s attempts to turn this whole thing into a musical extravaganza.

  • JustoneK

    The Inquisiiiiition – whatta show!

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Yet another reminder of how druids really are the most powerful class.

  • Akili

    Depends what level the person is. Monks can become the most powerful fighters without any sort of weapon or protection.

    Of course now I can think about are a bunch of chubby men in brown robes and funny haircuts going around punching demons.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Monks can become powerful fighters without weapons…while in the same scenario, druids can…like polymorph into a purple worm & swallow the monk whole? Or polymorph into a griffin & maul the dude & then fly away. Or whatever.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Please, leave the caster-supremacy threads for the actual gaming forums.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Sorry, it is hard to, you know, take people like Paprocki seriously.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    What is the Warhammer 40K of Christianity?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Christianity :P.

  • Launcifer

    I wish I could like this more than once, although 40K has the issue of gods which actually exist…

  • FearlessSon

    Gods which actually exist and are all evil.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    This is why I always play Orks or Tyranids.

  • JustoneK

    Actually I’d put forth it’s modern fundiegelicalism, wherein you MUST give your life for the blood god or else. Lots of vengeance here too.

  • caryjamesbond

    “Blood for the Blood God!” is about the neatest summation of the crusades I can think of….

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    And much of the Old Testament…

    Really, it’s a good summation of any state religion.

  • Launcifer

    Makes me think some people should start checking their local cemeteries, then; who knows whether or not your pastor is secretly building his own throne of skulls down in the basement?

  • reynard61

    I’d like to nominate the National Rifle Association, although their chant tends to be “Blood for the Gun God!” Possible hetrodoxy?

  • JustoneK

    I don’t think many mahreens would disagree with the slogan.

  • Turcano

    No, that’s just a mishmash of the two parts of the chant, the second of which is “Guns for the Gun Throne!”

  • Jim Roberts

    Westboro Baptist Church.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Naw, those losers are like, not even fun to compare to any games.

  • Jim Roberts

    Maybe FATAL? Both seem to place an unusual emphasis on what people do with their asses.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    or the ultra-gross Maid: the RPG? (Link NSFW for reasons of making fun of a gross game)

  • Jim Roberts

    Yeegh, that’s a bad one.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Seems like a good fit for Phelps & co. Like creepy roleplaying games about “lolita” maids being taken advantage of, we can be totally grossed out by them but still respect the value of the right to free speech.

  • Jim Roberts

    And I can totally see Fred Phelps actually playing that game.

  • JustoneK

    what the hell did I just read

  • P J Evans

    I seem to recall that Jesus only had to tell the demons to leave, and they did. Probably he had a better command voice than Paprocki or these other incanting exorcists.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Well, you know what happens if your command voice isn’t good enough.

  • Launcifer

    What’s really weird is that, looking at the still on the thread, I can’t quite shake the feeling that this is really a Police video from the Synchronicity II era.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I thought it was from the music video of Dancing With Myself, haha.

  • hidden_urchin

    “Command voice.”

    You mean like this one?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZxHAZChcYU

  • P J Evans

    they say jump, and you don’t even ask how high before you start jumping.

  • FearlessSon

    As The Count observes, you need classical training to deliver a line like that.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    http://youtu.be/6rYhRqf757I

    (How do you embed on disqus?)

  • FearlessSon

    Just make a standard hyperlink with <a href=””> tag and put a link to a YouTube video in it. Disqus will automatically put a preview shot to the video below the message, like it does with images linked the same way.

  • Jamoche

    This, and sometimes the embedding doesn’t show up immediately, but the link will still work.

  • Stephen Oller

    And you *would* be able to exorcise someone with just a sentence? Jesus did miracles: healing the sick, curing the incurable, giving sight to the blind. His liberation of possessed people with a simple word was one of those miracles. By your logic, priests should be able to cure people just as miraculously as Jesus did.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Only if they had faith the size of a mustard seed.

  • Jim Roberts

    The apostles then. As I recall, it took Paul, who was kind of cheesed off at the time, one sentence to oust a demon. And he is the self-described least of us all.

  • phantomreader42

    Stephen Oller:

    And you *would* be able to exorcise someone with just a sentence? Jesus did miracles: healing the sick, curing the incurable, giving sight to the blind. His liberation of possessed people with a simple word was one of those miracles. By your logic, priests should be able to cure people just as miraculously as Jesus did.

    According to chapter 21 of the book of Matthew, Jesus himself said that his followers would be able to do such things, including moving mountains. Since it’s evident that this is not the case, was jesus lying? Delusional? Misquoted? Imaginary? Or should we just ignore the parts of the bible that you find inconvenient? And can you find the necessary honesty to admit that’s what you’re doing?

  • Jon Maki

    Well, in fairness to Fr. Gabriele Amorth, I believe that it’s possible* for people to be possessed by more than one demon at a time.
    After all, that was the basis for actress Jennifer Carpenter being able to make the simple act of counting to six as creepy as hell in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, as that was the number of demons who were possessing her titular character.
    So, as I’m sure Wilt must have in his sexual encounters with women – regardless of the actual number – it’s likely that the good Father got freaky with multiple demons at the same time.

    *Inasmuch as it’s possible for people to be possessed in the first place, which is to say that’s it’s actually not possible.

  • Julie

    He probably counts the demons as they leave to see how many were in there. Or maybe he asks them. But then he would have to count on them telling the truth. I don’t really know how you do demon math. Probably it’s in the book.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Perhaps they have to take an exit poll.

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    “And if I had held the crucifix like this, would you say that would have made you more likely, about as likely, or less likely to leave in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t think that you should be allowed to count exorcising multiple demons from the same person at the same time to be separate events like that, unless it’s actually harder than exorcising one.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    That’s actually what it was. This one time he exorcised 159,999 demons from this one dude. This other time he exorcised one from some other guy. Nobody really cares about frequency, though, it’s all about volume and averages and he’s just been gaming the statistics ever since.

  • Launcifer

    What no one – and I mean no one – has ever managed to work out, though, is how come all of those demons from that one guy happened to be called Steve. Don’t even get me started on the suspiciously similar voice they all seemed to use…

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    They just distract everyone by saying, “Yeah, but who made Steve?”

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    They were all named Steve? Did he exorcise them with a Millenium Rod?

  • Lori

    About the picture—I see what you did there. Nicely played.

  • FearlessSon

    Memorized.” So it’s an incantation that has to be memorized and recited verbatim to be effective. And it involves the use of magical amulets … sorry, I mean, “sacramental objects.”

    How is that not magic? What Paprocki is describing is spellcasting, not prayer. And it seems to require a lot of showmanship.

    “Expecto Patronum! I cast thee out, Dementor!”

  • Ron

    Hey, that requires very precise wand wiggling. You have to memorize it and execute it perfectly.

  • general_apathy

    “It’s Levi-O-sa. Not Levio-SAH.”

  • Michael Pullmann

    Hey, if it’s good enough for The Doctor…

  • LoneWolf343

    The more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I think the rest of the Vatican is saying: “Who does he think he is? The Pope!?”

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    See the problem with Exorcism is it requires a prestige class – it’s not that hard to get into really; you just need to have 10 ranks of Knowledge: The Planes, 7 ranks in Knowledge: Religion, be Good aligned and be able to cast Dismissal or Dispel Evil.

    Oh and you have to be sanctioned by a church, but that’s sort of a non-requirement for the pope.

    He’s probably got the Knowledge: Religion ranks, but I wouldn’t doubt he’s missing Knowledge: The Planes*, and it’s pretty clear that most priests are Experts rather than Clerics, so I sincerely doubt the pope is going to be casting Dispel Evil anytime soon.

    Well and there’s the whole alignment issue, which we won’t get into.

    *Giant Nerd Mode Engaged*

    *I’ve spent much of my life studying aircraft of various kinds, and I probably only have 5 or 6 ranks in that skill anyway… why the pope needs to know what a P-39 is to exorcise a demon is beyond me; but it’s in the rules and god doesn’t seem to be much for houserules and homebrew so…

  • FearlessSon

    You go into a detailed description of the requirements to perform an Exorcism ritual in Dungeons & Dragons, and then you feel like you need to put up a nerd tag for a brief pun about an aircraft?

    … you are probably in the right place. :)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Everything about this was made of awesome.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    “Memorized.” So it’s an incantation that has to be memorized
    and recited verbatim to be effective. And it involves the use of magical
    amulets … sorry, I mean, “sacramental objects.”

    Right, because we know that a real proper prayer is supposed to be extemporaneous to show your Real True Passionate Sincerity. Those formalized ritualistic prayers aren’t REAL prayer, they’re things those evil papists with their death cookies do when they’re worshipping false idols and not reading their bibles.

  • Amaryllis

    Which, without commenting on the substance or efficacy of an exorcism ritual, was my eye-rolling reaction to that line, also..

    But in the interest of fairness, I will note that the linked article contains a quote from a priest speaking rather disdainfully of “evangelical-style tent revival theatrics,” which are unfavorably compared to the “careful, methodical, faithful” Catholic liturgical style.

    It all depends on who’s talking, doesn’t it?

  • Launcifer

    … And now I’m imagining a celebrity deathmatch between Fr. Damien Karras and Elmer Gantry.
    Or maybe we could cut out the middle man and just plump for Clancy Brown’s character from Carnivale?

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    That’s the way Sam and Dean exorcise demons. Are you telling me Supernatural isn’t a documentary?

  • Jim Roberts

    Wow, that’s a lot of words you’re putting in our host’s mouth. did you measure to make sure they’ll all fit?

  • Ygorbla

    > “I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

    Obviously what he means is that the Pope, who is after all new to his role, can’t be more than a 6th or 7th level Cleric; it’s unreasonable to expect that he’d have a 5th level Exorcism spell memorized.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    I suppose he could use a scroll, but those can be pricey once you get into 5th level+ spells…

  • Launcifer

    Unless, of course, the bit that’s really upset Paprocki is that all the Pope really did was don his trenchcoat, light a Marlboro and tell the demon to piss off and everything else was just sleight-of-hand.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    You’d think the Vatican would have an enormous stash of Clerical scrolls in its Archives. Heck, they should have scrolls with multiple copies of Remove Disease, Neutralize Poison, and Raise Dead!

    They should have dozens of copies of the various Protection* scrolls, too. If they just brought out some Protection from Magic scrolls, they could have defeated all those witches during the Middle Ages in a jiffy. And each exorcist should be given at least one Protection from Demons scroll.

    *An entire class of magical item that didn’t survive the transition from 2nd to 3rd Edition. Basically, there were dozens of scrolls that bestowed protective benefits on the one who read them aloud, and *anyone* who was literate could use them! Some varieties also granted protection from poison, petrification, etc.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    D&D Economy is pretty broken, you couldn’t buy a 5th level scroll for all the money in the Vatican.

  • stardreamer42

    Nitpick: D&D levels count up, not down. So a 5th-level spell would be easier to learn than a 6th-level one. Exorcism might be 10th-level or better.

  • Hexep

    They do, but in 3.5, you go up a spell level every two regular levels; a 6th or 7th-level cleric would only have access to level 3 spells.

    Is that right? It’s been a long time since 3.5…

  • themunck

    Close. A 7th level cleric would’ve just gotten his level 4 spells.

  • Hexep

    Damn it, you’re right. I just checked.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Actually, the spell Exorcise is a 4th-level Cleric spell in the First Edition of D&D. It unfortunately didn’t survive the transition to Second Edition, but a 7th-level Cleric would be able to cast it.

    The casting time of the Exorcise spell is variable; it takes a minimum of one turn (10 minutes of game time). Every turn, the DM rolls percentage dice to see if the spell works. Therefore, an exorcism using this spell would indeed take at least 20 or 30 minutes, just as Bishop Paprocki said! *This* must be the incantation that he is using!

    Later editions really didn’t have rules in the Core Set for possession (except for the Magic Jar spell, which allowed wizards to project their souls into other creatures’ bodies). Demons tended to be physical creatures instead of incorporeal spirits. I believe the Third Edition supplement, Book of Vile Darkness, gave rules for demonic possession.

  • Ben English

    They should just hurry up and switch editions, like the Episcopalians. Any Episcopalian can take an Exorcise demon ritual if they have the right Feat.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Well, sure, if you want your priests to be perfect anime superheroes.

  • phantomreader42

    This has the advantage of altar boys learning kung-fu…

  • reynard61

    It’ll be interesting to know what Reverend Ref makes of this thread…

  • Isabel C.

    I was under the impression that you can do Lesser Exorcisms, but that Greater ones take a Bishop, or sanction from one? (…this may or may not be relevant to writing stuff in progress.) But I’m going from Wiki here.

  • pharoute

    Exorcisms aren’t just for Catholics anymore

  • thatotherjean

    I don’t doubt that in the early Middle Ages, when no better explanation than demon possession existed for mental illnesses, intractable pain, and various other conditions, exorcism was a useful and practical skill that sometimes actually worked. Even today, pain can be eased by practices like reiki and the administration of placebos, which have no therapeutic action in themselves, but mainly consist of paying careful attention to the patient’s troubles and DOING SOMETHING. I’m sure that a properly equipped exorcist, fully engaged in the ritual, gave as much attention to the “demon-possessed” as he ever received in his life, while doing highly impressive things on his behalf. But to pretend today that we know no more than our Medieval ancestors is simply lying, and making the Church look silly.

  • Evan

    … said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

    Yes, I agree: It’s clearly not an exorcism as most of Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s friends understand it. Next question: Is it an exorcism as Jesus, Matthew, Mark, and Luke understand it?

  • Carstonio

    In fairness, perhaps we should mention the fundamentalists who believe that listening to Slayer magically notarizes Satan’s possession of the listener’s soul.

  • stardreamer42

    Didn’t Giles exorcise a few demons here and there?

  • Ben English

    Wesley did once. It did not go very well.

  • Launcifer

    He’d have been much better off if he’d just changed his name to Roberts like his more illustrious namesake.

  • Carstonio

    Heh. I didn’t mean the Sarah Michelle Gellar and Joss Whedon type of slayer, but the one with Kerry King and Tom Araya and the late Jeff Hanneman.

  • stardreamer42

    I know, I was just being silly.

  • Wednesday

    Not the Slayer you mean, but I suspect some people think Lina Inverse needs to be exorcised. =P

    On the other hand, she also defeated her world’s equivalent of Satan by summoning the power of… well, I guess the closest Christianity-analog being to LoN would be God, but I’m not sure where that puts Ceipheed.

  • phantomreader42

    The Lord of Nightmares, being an entity of Chaos, outside the Good/Evil paradigm, doesn’t really have an analogue in christian myth, which leaves out one of the alignment dimensions.

  • MaryKaye

    When I was 28 I was reading the list of events at a Pagan festival, and noticed they were offering rites of passage into adulthood. I thought about this a while, said “My gosh, I’m a very old adolescent,” and did the rites. They were showmanship and ritual, and they were effective at making a change in my life. So I don’t knock this sort of thing. I am skeptical of physical effects of magic, but not of psychological and spiritual effects, and in many situations those are what you need.

    That said, ethical use of that kind of magic involves scrupulous honesty and integrity on the part of the one conducting the rites. To start with, you should not stand to profit from them. You should also acknowledge that the god(s) and the person make the outcome, not the ritualist. If I hadn’t been prepared to become an adult I am quite sure nothing useful would have happened, no matter how well the ritualist performed. And you have to resist the temptation to cover up your failures with showmanship or to promise more than you can deliver.

    When I was a practicing Pagan priestess I tried to build a culture in which this sort of thing could be done right. I don’t see the upper echelons of the Catholic Church doing that at all–rather the opposite–and I would not ever want them doing magic on my behalf.

  • Carstonio

    In another thread recently, I observed that movies involving Satan show his opponent as Catholicism – Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen. The consensus seemed to be that the denomination’s visual appeal works well on film..

  • Andrew Glasgow

    Obviously, the exorcists of the Catholic church are wizards, and have to consult spell books. Jesus was a sorceror, and cast spells spontaneously.

  • Launcifer

    Aah, then this must be their secret superhero theme song, yes? And the name of the band is neither blasphemous nor a Dennis Wheatley reference, but an earnest attempt to hide the fact that they’ve just revealed one of the most closely guarded truths of the Catholic church?
    Christ, but I should start writing some of this shit down…

  • Omnicrom

    Actually more likely was Jesus was a Favored Soul which is the Divine Magic equivalent of the Sorceror. It also includes Wings (to fly up into heaven) and Damage Resistance (to withstand suffering).

  • Huitzil

    You kinda have to see how silly it is to say that this exorcism is fraudulent, because even though demons exist and possess people, the way to get them out OBVIOUSLY doesn’t involve ritualized actions and talismans. Come on, man. This is a really, really, really fine distinction that you’re acting is some huge, clear cut difference. The idea of ritual and authority having spiritual power are part of Catholicism, so you’re kinda crossing over from pointing out religious hypocrisy, to just not liking specific details of other faiths that don’t have anything to do with hurting people.

    And yeah, if you think the concept of exorcism is is grift, that’s like claiming the concept of transubstantiation is a grift. It’s an article of faith. Now, the thing about this guy that you could object to but I am not seeing here is that this guy thinks that all priests should be allowed to perform exorcisms, which is a conflict with Catholic practice, that exorcists should almost never perform exorcisms. The official position, and it’s one I greatly respect as someone who doesn’t believe in their faith at all, is that almost every instance of something that people think is demonic possession is actually mental illness. Catholic exorcists are SUPPOSED to have extensive training in psychology, recognize mental illnesses, and refer people to mental health professionals or institutes as appropriate. They only perform an exorcism in the rare case that the patient has some form of mental illness that psychology has no idea what it is or how to treat it, and at that point, hell, why not try an exorcism, we’re at the “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” stage.”

    Saying that all priests need to be authorized to perform exorcisms to meet the growing demand is implicitly rejecting that idea, and saying that possession really IS everywhere, and mental illness isn’t being mistaken for it. THAT’s shit to get mad at. THAT’s what to object to, not the fact that Catholics place more value on ritual and talismans than your faith does.

  • Wednesday

    Well, given that _both_ exorcism and transubstantiation have a history of being used as a pretext for violence against people who didn’t accept the Catholic Church’s authority (and exorcism has gone on to be used by other denominations in similar ways). So I’m inclined to say it’s not entirely unreasonable to say transubstantiation is… well, not quite grift, but something with a hella problematic history.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    if you think the concept of exorcism is is grift, that’s like claiming the concept of transubstantiation is a grift

    It’s not the same at all, though. Because exorcism depends on a powerful person, normally a man given authority by the church, doing things to people who are less powerful. Transubstantiation, you can just do in your own head.

    Exorcism gives powerful people more power. It can cause extreme harm to people who are “exorcised”. Transubstantiation is just something a person can believe or not within themselves.

    Further, I’ve never heard of anyone being driven further into madness by believing in transubstantiation. Nor, in recent decades, have I heard of anyone causing harm to anyone else over transubstantiation. Exorcism, though? http://skepdic.com/exorcism.html. And it’s not just Catholics.

  • Huitzil

    You’re acting like the concept of exorcism was invented by the Evil Powerful in order to keep The Virtuous Oppressed as victims. You do know exorcisms happen when The Virtuous Oppressed ask for them, right? They say “Help us, Padre, our son / daughter / wife / husband / cousin / maid / IT guy / milkman / Flandre is possessed by demons! The church is the only group with the power and trustworthiness to help us save the person we care about!”

    And in the modern proper Catholic tradition of exorcism, the exorcist almost always says “No, this person doesn’t need an exorcism, they need psychological help,” and they only perform the exorcism if the person has some form of mental illness modern psychiatry has no idea how to treat. Providing a service to the faithful community, one that they WILL request and they WILL need and they WILL create an authority to perform them if one does not exist, but only actually pulling out the ritual when the person in question is completely beyond the ability of psychiatric science to help? That’s the most responsible way I can possibly think of to go about it. Lumping that in with tent revivals and the “let’s all be spiritual warriors” brand of hooey because you subscribe to some Marxist false-dichotomy where everyone is either a Wicked Oppressor or a Virtuous Victim is just being willfully idiotic.

  • MarkTemporis

    Tent-revival/spirit warrior types also do exorcism, though not using the Catholic rites, apparently. Protestant exorcist types tend to be way, way more unhinged than the Catholic types, who I guess are somewhat contained by their peer group’s general disdain (one hopes).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7wKfyUizGA

  • arashtorel

    No. Transubstantiation can only be done by a priest and only through specific rituals. That’s really the whole point of transubstantiation. (and the priesthood)

  • Nangleator

    I’m trying to imagine Jesus using a cross as a religious symbol.

    Wouldn’t people wonder what it was all about? And ask him about the little man on the cross? And would Jesus wink and say, “You’ll find out!”

    It doesn’t seem to work, does it?

  • caryjamesbond

    Wouldn’t people wonder what it was all about?

    Oh, I think anyone that lived within several hundred miles of the Roman empire would pick up on what a cross was, and why the little dude was hanging there, REALLY REALLY QUICKLY.

  • Nangleator

    Yes, but not understand why Jesus was waving a little model of it around at an important occasion!

  • histrogeek

    They would understand what it was, but it would be like swinging around a noose. It would almost certainly be seen as some sort of threat.

    On the other hand, lots of pre-Christian traditions used crosses (sans dude) as amulets simply because it’s an easy geometric shape.

  • Wednesday

    Technically, I think only a crucifix would have the little man on it. A cross is just a cross.

    And like Cary said, yeah, I think people living under Roman rule at the time would already know about crucifixion. Probably their bewilderment at Jesus using a cross as a symbol would be more “why are you waving around a symbol of execution and Roman oppression like it’s a good thing? Christ: what an asshole.”

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Wouldn’t people wonder what it was all about? And ask him about the
    little man on the cross? And would Jesus wink and say, “You’ll find
    out!”

    And now I want to see that done somewhere. It has to be a visual format, preferably by someone competent. So, like, it can’t be a scene in Scary Movie 27.

    Sadly, the only two scenarios I can see where this would happen are South Park and Family Guy. They’d do it too wink-and-nod for the scene in my head, though. And I’d want to see it live action, anyway.

    Really, I’m seeing Hugh Laurie as Jesus, bringing the entire gravitas of the “everyone in history is British” Western film oeuvre to the part. But he’s scruffy, like House, because he’s aged quickly, living hard and casting out demons and getting bad sunburns all the time and the like. But he’s not as hard and uncompromising and broken as House. He’s still got that twinkle in his eye and can be moved to help those who can’t help themselves because he can’t see pain and turn away.

  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    so…the Doctor, then?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Um, sure. But that means that Hugh Laurie’s going to have to be the 12th Doctor. And I’m totally on board with that.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Put into a modern setting:

    Jesus: Get back you demon!
    Apostle: Dude, why are you holding a miniature electric chair?
    Jesus *a solemn sadness in his voice*: You shall see brother; you shall see.
    Mary *whispering to the apostle who asked* Did you really have to ask that?

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Demons always give me pause.

    Take it as a given that demons exist. That’s you’re premise and you don’t question your premise (unless it leads to a contradiction in which case you reject it, but everything up to that point is based on assuming the premise to be true.)

    So, demons are real for the purposes of this exercise.

    Is redemption real?

    A demon on earth is one that has escaped the bounds of Hell and is therefore in the unique position of being in a place where saying, “I don’t want to be evil,” will not get its ass kicked. Is sending this demon back to Hell a good idea?

    Since when do Heaven and Earth have extradition treaties with Hell?

    Yes, if a demon is in someone doing bad things, or simply without permission, you want to get it out for the sake of that person, but Hell is a prison. You’re supposed to visit the least of these in prison, when was the last time you took a vacation day to pop over to Hell and give comfort to the demons? The least you can do is minister to them when they’re here on earth.

    What happened to forgiveness and grace and redemption when it comes to demons?

    Yes you help the victim first, you always help the victim first. The victim is your primary concern. That’s how it works, but shouldn’t at least one of your secondary concerns be redeeming the demon. It’s multiple victories in one if you succeed. One less entity doing evil, one more entity doing good, a saved soul (or whatever angels and demons have in their place), a happy ending.

    Sending the demon back without even trying to convert it is just sending back a an enemy soldier fully armed so it can resume the fight on a different front. But that’s not the major concern for me. The major concern is: what about redemption?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    What happened to forgiveness and grace and redemption when it comes to demons?

    Christianity gets around that by claiming that demons are fallen angels and that angels, unlike humans, were created without the capacity for free will. As such, demons lack the capacity to receive grace and redemption.

    This just pushes the problem farther down the road, however, as the obvious follow-up question is then, “So if angels don’t have free will, how did they end up rebelling?” Option A is that they did choose. Option B is that god made them do it, thereby setting into motion the creation of Hell, the Garden of Eden, the Fall, and all of that.

    Interestingly enough, even though I hung out in churches where demons came up from time to time I don’t remember ever discussing the inherent problems outlined above. Demons were simply evil and unrepentant. They were the definition of the Other. It’s almost like no one wanted to think about the implications…

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Traditional, Aristotle-infected christian theology explains that, roughly, although everyone, including angels and demons, has free will, eveyrone would just instantly make a decision and NEVER EVER CHANGE THEIR MIND EVER NO MATTER WHAT unless they had fleshy imperfections that led them to make their decision based on false or incomplete information. Since angels do not have fleshy imperfections, every decision ever angel would ever make was made at the exact moment they popped into existence, and no angel can or would ever change their minds about anything. Therefore, we may assume that every demon made the decision to rebel with complete and perfect knowledge of what they were getting into, and no matter what happens afterward, there is nothing in all of creation* that could convince a demon to change its mind and decide to be good.

    People like to suggest that the church doesn’t “want” to think about the implications of things. This rather overlooks that there was a span of about a thousand years when there wasn’t much in the way of career prospects for someone who wanted to be an intellectual other than monastic study.

    (* Technically, God could just god-smack a demon and make them be good, but He doesn’t, because a universe where God goes around magically turning demons good is a less perfect universe than one where He does not.)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    People like to suggest that the church doesn’t “want” to think about the
    implications of things. This rather overlooks that there was a span of
    about a thousand years when there wasn’t much in the way of career
    prospects for someone who wanted to be an intellectual other than
    monastic study.

    Um, speaking as the “people” who “suggested that the church doesn’t ‘want’ to think about the implications,” I’d like to point out that there’s a pretty vast difference between the Medieval monastic tradition and your average suburban megachurch. The fact that, yes, there have been and might still be people who do think about such things doesn’t mean that it’s widespread, especially considering that the monastic scholars were generally intentionally removed from the world and didn’t exactly share their thoughts and debates with the hoi polloi.

    And believe you me, I’m pretty well versed in both modern religious thought and most of the big debates of centuries past. I can tell you about the Arian Heresy, Manicheanism, and Arminianism v. Calvinism. I very rarely run into anyone talking much about demons and free will and I don’t recall ever running into the argument you’re offering. That doesn’t mean I’m claiming it’s never happened but it does mean that it’s pretty damn esoteric, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s ever been heavily promoted as a thing for the Christianity-inclined to discuss amongst themselves.

  • LoneWolf343

    I always wondered “If angels have no free will, then how did they fall?”

    The Scriptures barely talk about angels at all, and even less about their lives as a whole. There is nothing about free will, for humans or angels; it is something that the Scriptures assume naturally when it has people being punished for what they did. If they had no free will, then you can’t condemn a human any more than you could condemn a thunderstorm.

    Unless you’re a Calvinist, then well…

  • LoneWolf343

    I would say that, in the event of angels and that some of them go bad, it would really be up to them what they should do with their own kind. Remember that angels, as sometimes referenced in the scriptures, are extremely powerful and intelligent creatures that ought not to be messed with. You don’t even try the patience of the good ones; even that boy scout Gabriel had a limit. The idea that any human could “redeem” a demon would be about as absurd as a human being redeemed by a flea.

    However, it is all academic, and hangs upon whether you believe in angels in the first place.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You assume demons are a flavor of angel.

  • AnonaMiss

    …Aren’t they generally understood to be in Christianity? Fallen angels? Or is that not canon?

  • LoneWolf343

    I’m not even sure where the fallen angel idea comes from. I think it might come from an interpretation of Revelation, when the dragon took a third of the stars from the sky with his tail.

    The Bible doesn’t really say anything concrete about angels, outside of maybe “they exist,” because it isn’t that kind of book.

  • AnonaMiss

    Well yeah but Catholic canon isn’t exactly limited to the Bible.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Revelation 12 speaks of the war. Salient, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think there’s as many interpretations of demons as there are Christians who’ve taken five to think about demons.

  • LoneWolf343

    Well, if you want to get into the details of it, the word “Demon” comes from “daemon,” which is a broad term in the Greek for anything intelligent, not human and not god, dryads, satyrs, etc.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Most versions of demon theology I know of have demons as a mix of two things. The first is fallen angels. The second is all those created since the Fall. Those never were angels and were created in Hell. They have never known Heaven and never made a choice. They are demons because they were born demons.

    The Grigori generally end up in a different classification entirely. (If memory serves their prison is in Heaven, not Hell.)

    So a fallen angel isn’t necessarily a demon, and a demon isn’t necessarily a fallen angel, but the there is a definite overlap between the two and it’s a very important overlap since the non-fallen-angel demons are descended from the fallen angel demons.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Well in the course of an exorcism you’re already carrying on a conversation with them in a language they understand, which is more than a flea can do to a human.

  • LoneWolf343

    Well, that’s because humans are too dumb to speak flea.

  • JustoneK

    We lack the hypopharynx. They shouldn’t hold that against us.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Depends on the nature of demons, I think. In one of Mr. ShifterCat’s created worlds, angels and demons were created by the gods for particular purposes, and attempts to get them to act contrary to their nature will be met with, at best, confusion.

    What this means in a practical sense is that if a demon whose purpose is torment gets onto the earthly plane, there’s trouble. The demon is just doing what it was created to do; the problem is that it’s now doing that in the wrong place and to the wrong targets.

    It’s kind of like that bit in The Nightmare Before Christmas where Jack Skellington honestly believes he’s doing great at being Santa, because in Halloween-Town, screams of terror are signs of a job well-done.

  • reynard61

    So, demons are real for the purpose of this exercise exorcize.

    Fixed that for ya!

  • Stephen Oller

    I’m afraid that some of your ideas about exorcism in the Catholic Church are just incorrect. I highly recommend reading The Rite (don’t watch the movie). The Rite is half History of Exorcism, half non-fiction story of an exorcist-in-training. Literally, every other chapter talks about the teach and history of exorcism in The Church. I think it will clear up some of your misconceptions. For example, the Rite of Exorcism is not a verbatim process. The document itself is as they said, but it is not meant to be in rote fashion. Think of the document as a guide–the exorcist definitely reads from it, but is pretty free in how he goes about doing that. Furthermore, performing an exorcism is not a process with instantaneous results. It actually takes months, sometimes years in extreme cases, for the possessed to become totally liberated.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Apparently the problem here isn’t that Fred hasn’t read The Rite and needs to, the problem is that this Paprocki fellow needs to, since he was the one claiming the Pope couldn’t have possibly performed an exorcism since he hadn’t memorized the proper set of incantations.

  • Stephen Oller

    It’s not a set of incantations; it’s a prayer book.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    When you’re claiming it has to be memorized and repeated verbatim and only people who know how to do it repeatedly are qualified to get the specific results you’re not praying, you’re making an incantation. Paprocki is making those exact claims.

  • Stephen Oller

    No one has ever claimed is has to be memorized. And I never claimed it had to be repeated verbatim. There is nothing wrong with reading off written prayers.

    And, yes, absolutely, only certain people are permitted to do this. It would very unhealthy for all involved if the Catholic Church allowed just anyone to do this type of thing. When someone claims possession, it’s an extremely serious claim and is not to be handled lightly.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Man, somebody has not seen Supernatural.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    No one has ever claimed is has to be memorized.

    Paprocki, in the linked article, DID.

    Your ire should not be directed at Fred, who has not made any claims. It should be directed at Paprocki, who is talking out his ass.

  • Stephen Oller

    He simply said that the Pope did not have it memorized. He easily could’ve been referring to the idea that the Pope didn’t have a copy of The Rite on him at the time and would’ve had to have it memorized if what he did was an exorcism. He didn’t say *anything* about it having to be memorized.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    And he stated that by not having it memorized, or on hand, his rite was invalid. Learn to Brain

  • Stephen Oller

    Can you point me to where he says that? I can’t find it.

  • Alicia

    Doesn’t the article kind of imply that? He said that the Pope’s actions were not an exorcism because they did not consist of the requisite “20 or 30 minutes” of reciting prayers, reading scripture, etc. Didn’t he? What is the difference between a recitation of a prayer and an incantation?

  • Stephen Oller

    No, the article didn’t imply that. Exorcisms, like many things, usually take a certain amount of time. I’m sure you say your daily prayers in about the same amount of time. Is that an incantation? Is saying the Lord’s Prayer (a very specifically worded, pre-written prayer) an incantation? No!

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Yes it is. You may not want people to call it that, because that implies its not SOOOPER DOOPER SPESHUL RELIGIOUS STUFF and is just a belief in magic instead.

  • Alicia

    Stephen,

    This is where people are getting tripped up then. To me, there isn’t a meaningful difference between a prayer intended to produce a direct supernatural effect (such as removing a demon from a human’s body) and an incantation.

    This is not a criticism or a disparagement of prayers or incantations; I just think that the words in this context are functionally interchangeable. I could be wrong, of course.

    Can you specify the difference here?

  • Stephen Oller

    I’ve always seen an incantation as something that must be done exactly and with precision and has a specific result that should be expected. If you make a mistake, you have to start all over. Where the incantation gets it’s power from and what it’s directed to is irrelevant.

    Prayer, on the other hand, is communicating with the living God. You can’t “mess up” prayer. It’s conversation with no type of expected result. While I can see that there are similarities in a situation where an incantation is directed at a supernatural being (a god or otherwise), the difference is the requirement of precision and the expected result.

    I’ll reiterate that this is only my own understanding of what an incantation is. I’d like to avoid of battle of mere semantics, so if my definition is off, simply point me to a good definition and we’ll leave it at that.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    If a prayer is a conversation you have with God, with no expected result, why do you use it with exorcism, which is a ritual with an expected result?

  • dpolicar

    I’d like to avoid of battle of mere semantics, so if my definition is
    off, simply point me to a good definition and we’ll leave it at that.

    That’s fair. The only part of your definition I would challenge is”conversation with no type of expected result”– it seems clear that intercessory prayer, for example, doesn’t meet this standard.

    But semantics aside, I agree that there’s an important difference between “if I perform these steps correctly, I compel the system to behave in certain ways” and “there’s an agent out there who may choose to behave in certain ways if it is so disposed, and it might choose differently depending on what I do.”

  • Stephen Oller

    Thank you! That’s a much better way of wording it.

  • Alicia

    That makes sense. I understand that there can be broad differences between the two, but when talking about an exorcism there seems to be an expected result. You say the words and the demon comes out.

    That feels like an incantation to me even though it’s called a prayer here. Not all prayers are like this, of course, but exorcisms and the “imprecatory prayers” called for by a few radical American Christians feel like spellcasting.

    Other prayers of course are exactly as you describe, conversational or beseeching, but this one feels somewhat closer to incantation than conversation.

  • phantomreader42

    Stephen Oller:

    I’ve always seen an incantation as something that must be done exactly
    and with precision and has a specific result that should be expected.

    Exorcism is intended to accomplish a specific result, namely the casting out of a demon. According to the repeated quotes that you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge, exorcism requires a specific recitation, either from a book or from memory, which implies that it must be done with precision. Exactly how does exorcism not fit the description you gave above for an incantation? I’ll go on ahead and point out that “because I really, REALLY don’t want to admit that it’s an incantation” is not a valid answer.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    … said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

    “It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said,
    take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading
    scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy
    water.

    “I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

    SRSLY Dude? Scroll up 10 inches. It’s right there in the OP

  • Stephen Oller

    Look, you need to reread that quote very carefully. That quote says absolutely nothing that you’re claiming it does. He’s presenting an argument that what the Pope did was *not* an exorcism. He isn’t claiming that it was an “invalid exorcism” like you’re saying.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    not an exorcism =/= invalid exorcism????

    The results of a Catholic education, no doubt

  • Stephen Oller

    Yes, Aeryl, there *is* a difference.

    I’m done with you. It’s clear you’re not capable of intelligent discussion. There’s no discussion to be had here. I’m not going to reply to or read any more of your comments

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Explain what it is then, practically everyone else on this thread and I don’t see it.

  • arashtorel

    Car with no engine –>invalid car
    Aligator–> not a car

  • JustoneK

    The entirety of the references to Paprocki:

    Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, an American expert on exorcism who organized a conference on the topic in 2010, said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

    “It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.

    “I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

    Paprocki’s 2010 conference on exorcism was seen as a peak of interest in the ancient practice – at least in the United States. According to experts, 100 bishops and priests attended the exorcism conference held in Baltimore.

    “Since that conference, I think things have died down a little bit,” Paprocki said. “I think it kind of ebbs and flows and sometimes you get more of an interest in that than other times.”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Anything that is not a valid exorcism is an invalid exorcism. That’s what the words valid and invalid mean.

    Anything that is not an exorcism is not an exorcism, full stop. That’s what words in general mean.

    Anything that is not an exorcism is not a valid exorcism. Again, don’t trust me, look up what the words mean.

    It then follows that anything that is not an exorcism is an invalid exorcism. This post, for example, is an invalid exorcism.

    If that’s too many words, try this:

    *not* an exorcism –> not a valid exorcism == an invalid exorcism.

    All based on the definition of the words “valid”, “invalid”, and “not”.

    There’s no wiggle room. If something is not an exorcism it cannot be a valid exorcism which means it is an invalid exorcism.

  • Stephen Oller

    No. An invalid exorcism is an exorcism that doesn’t count. It’s still an exorcism, just an invalid one. The opposite of that would be a valid exorcism.

    In contrast, your post isn’t an exorcism at all–valid or invalid.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I contend that nothing is an exorcism unless a demon is actually exorcised by it. Since demons do not exist, there is no such thing as exorcism.

    …It makes at least as much sense as what you said.

  • Stephen Oller

    Your argument makes perfect sense if you believe that demons don’t exist. But that idea is completely irrelevant to this discussion. Furthermore, you’re getting into semantics.

    I’m absolutely done with this conversation. This has gone absolutely no where. No one understands what the other person is trying to say and we’re all getting more stupid because of it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The difference between ‘prayer’ and ‘incantation’ is a matter of semantics and you were perfectly happy to argue about that earlier.

  • JustoneK

    How is the demon-less context irrelevant to a discussion about exorcising demons and/or other evil spirits in the real world we’re living in?

  • JustoneK

    HELLO I am here for the long obtuse argument about semantics!
    / adjusttie

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Words mean things. No matter how hard you try to argue otherwise, words mean things.

    Invalid means “not valid” there’s nothing to it beyond that. “in-” means “not”; “-valid” means “valid”. This is not rocket science.

    An invalid exorcism is anything that is not a valid exorcism*, because that’s what “invalid” means.

    The question then becomes, “Is something that is not actually an exorcism in the first place a valid exorcism?” and if you answer, “Yes,” I may lose all faith in humanity and start repeatedly banging my head into a wall.

    If you answer anything but, “Yes,” then that means that something that is not an exorcism is an invalid exorcism.

    Words mean things. Arguments like yours give me the desire to grab a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and smack the person making the argument with it. One Volume At A Time.

    * Or, if you prefer not to split the “invalid,” anything that is a not valid exorcism, which happens to mean the same thing. (Something that is “a not pony” is something that is “not a pony”, it’s just that the first phrasing is more awkward outside of symbolic logic.)

  • Stephen Oller

    I fail to see your argument.

    That aside, how did we even get on the topic of “valid” vs “invalid” anyway? It’s not mentioned in the original post or in the article at all so there’s no reason to discuss it.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    That aside, how did we even get on the topic of “valid” vs “invalid” anyway?

    You.

    Someone named Aeryl said that according to the Bishop what the Pope did was not a valid exorcism.

    You then claimed that the Bishop said nothing of the sort stating, “He’s presenting an argument that what the Pope did was *not* an exorcism.”

    When Aeryl asked what difference there was between something that is not a valid exorcism and something that is not an exorcism* you responded by saying there is a difference, not saying what that difference is, and insulting Aeryl.

    You have since explained that something that is a invaild exorcism is not counted as an exorcism which apparently is different from something that is not an exorcism in ways you have yet to describe.**

    So, in answer to your question, you, you, you.

    It’s not mentioned in the original post or in the article at all so there’s no reason to discuss it.

    Then why are you doing it so much?

    I, personally, think that there is reason to discuss things in the comments so your continued sounding of the chord is reason enough to discuss it, but if you don’t think things brought up in the comments are worth discussing, why are you discussing it?

    * Which is a pertinent question because for most things something has to be a valid X for it to be considered an X at all. Saying something is “an invalid entry”, for example, means that it isn’t really an entry in the first place and will not be treated as an entry because it isn’t one.

    ** What is the difference between something that is not X and something that doesn’t count as X, exactly?

  • EllieMurasaki

    What is the difference between something that is not X and something that doesn’t count as X, exactly.

    For some reason I’m thinking of wooden nickels.

  • arashtorel

    Good example. A counterfeit bill IS a bill, but its invalid. A wooden hobby horse is not a bill, and is not pretending to be one.

  • dpolicar

    Saying something is “an invalid entry”, for example, means that it isn’t really an entry in the first place

    FWIW, I disagree with this as well.

    For example, I would expect a process description like “All entries will be reviewed, and invalid entries will be placed in this bag. The entries placed in this bag will then be turned into mulch.” to be accepted without difficulty by native English speakers, and if I later walk into the room, point to the bag, and ask “Are there any entries there?” I expect the answer “yes” (supposing there’s anything there at all). All of this seems inconsistent with the assertion that saying something is “an invalid entry” means it isn’t an entry in the first place.

    We seem to have very consistently different intuitions about the word “invalid.”

  • P J Evans

    I was helping to run a vote-by-mail thing one year. We had ballots that were ‘invalid’ because they weren’t correctly filled out (usually using pen instead of pencil), and we had ballots that were really invalid because of voter fraud. They’re not the same thing.

  • dpolicar

    Agreed that they aren’t the same thing, certainly.

    FWIW, my day job involves writing requirement specifications for an enterprise telecommunications usage-processing and billing system; in the course of the last decade I have spent more hours in extended discussion about various categories of invalid transactions and how they are to be differentially identified, modified, routed, aggregated, corrected, archived, and purged than I would have initially thought possible.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    What some of you appear to be grasping at is the idea of implied supplementary information. Two forms of it no less.

    On the one hand, outside of navel gazing no one is going to bring up the ideas of valid and invalid unless there’s already a claim, expressed or implied, that thing A is thing B. In this particular case thing A = what the Pope did, and thing B = an exorcism.

    So in the real world the question of whether a shoe is a vaild banana only needs to be answered if someone has implied it might be, and that’s where the second bit of implied supplementary information comes from: under what rules? There have to be some otherwise the question can’t be answered.

    arashtorel obviously has his/her nose in a dictionary and has noted that the first definition of “invalid” (to be distinguished from in-va-lid) is “not valid”. That’s… acceptable but not useful. Language changed over time and thus it is necessary to work from common usage, something arashtorel seems to understand in spite of apparently having gone to a dictionary first.

    If it’s the great banana festival’s contests on banana clothing a shoe might be a valid banana, if it’s things I want for breakfast a shoe is going to be an invaild banana even if it took first place in the contest.

    The supplementary information we have here is that there is a suggestion that what the Pope did was an exorcism, otherwise the question of whether or not the Pope preformed one would never be answered (and it has been answered) and the rules being operated under are Catholic ones.

    The very question of whether or not the Pope preformed an exorcism means that there is an existing belief that what the Pope did was (or at least might have been) used as an exorcism meaning that under arashtorel’s definition it was an invaild exorcism.

    Of course, arashtorel’s definition doesn’t make sense. arashtorel says that if my post were used as an exorcism, it was, it would be an invaild exorcism, then goes on to say, in the very next sentence, that it isn’t an invalid exorcism. The definition says it both is and isn’t and unless we’re talking quantum physics (imagine an aardvark were placed in a sealed box with a poison that would only be released if a certain radioactive particle decayed in a certain way… you know the drill) that means something is wrong here.

    But the point does remain, it is true that valid and invalid imply additional information, both a claim that the thing at least might be valid, and a set of rules for determining what that means.

    If someone says that their invalid entry into a contest should have just as much chance of winning as a valid one because the rules state that all entries carry equal weight I don’t see a lot of people having trouble with the idea that it isn’t really an entry because it didn’t follow the rules governing what constitutes a valid entry.

  • dpolicar

    OK. You win.

  • dpolicar

    Words mean things. The process whereby words come to mean what they mean is not nearly as simple as you’re pretending here.

    It is entirely consistent with the way language works if a speaker uses “frequent” to describe events that occur with a frequency no lower than F1, and “infrequent” to describe events that occur with a frequency no higher than F2, where F1 != F2.

    If you insist that “in-” means “not”, and therefore “infrequent” means “not frequent”, and if “frequent” means a frequency no lower than F1 then “infrequent” has to mean a frequency of F1 or lower, you’re just mistaken about how language works.

    It is similarly perfectly consistent with the way language works for a speaker to use “valid X” to describe one set of things S1, “invalid X” to describe a different set of things S2, and for there to exist things in the world that are in neither S1 or S2.

    A shoe is neither a valid banana, nor an invalid banana.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I am well aware of the complexity of the way that words gain their meanings and can, if you would like, regale you with the tale of how a word meaning bread guard came to be the word we know as “lord” (though not in the middle of a semantic disagreement, if you’re interested give it some time.)

    The complexity that is possible is one of the reasons that the simplicity of meaning in “valid” and “invalid” is refreshing.

    Sometimes things have complex stories behind their meanings, and sometimes things mean just what they look like they mean. “Invalid,” falls into the second category.

  • dpolicar

    I am delighted that you agree that you’re making a specific claim about “invalid” that cannot be derived from general claims about how words work. It didn’t seem that way initially.

    Having established that: I disagree with your specific claim about the word “invalid.”

    In my experience a statement like “A shoe is an invalid banana” simply isn’t equivalent to a statement like “A shoe is not a valid banana”; I would expect a significant number of native English speakers to consider the second statement true (though odd) and the first statement false (and odd).

    If you disagree with the above, I’m interested in your grounds for believing otherwise.

    If you want to narrow your claim further, such that it applies only to “invalid” as a modifier on “exorcism,” I’ll bow out here.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’m going to have to bow out of this for a while because I attempted to carry on this conversation while cooking and that was an extremely bad idea (hopefully the cookware isn’t ruined) which I now have to deal with the fallout of. Also, I feel like at any moment someone’s going to ask me to defend the claim that the alpha privative exists (at which point I will probably scream), not because it has any bearing on the conversation, but because the claims against both etymology and the current meanings of words are that deep.

  • arashtorel

    This post would certainly be an invalid exorcism were it used as an exorcism.. As it is, it is simply not an exorcism.

    Dictionaries aren’t relevant here, since this deals with the combination of words and the semantics behind their use. Appealing to dictionary definitions is an invalid argument. Which is not to say that it is not an argument.

    Clearly the guy in the OP was saying that the pope had done something that was simlar to an exorcism, he may have been casting out demons, but that it was notan “exorcism in the precise technical sense that the Catholic hierarchy uses.

  • dpolicar

    That’s just not how most people use words. If you want to claim that a shoe is an invalid banana, nothing stops you, but you won’t successfully communicate with most people.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    These are the actual words of the actual Bishop Paprocki of the actual capitol of the great state of Illinois, as spoken in the article quoted by Fred in the OP:

    “It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.

    “I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

    That, to me, looks like a man who is claiming that the exorcism rights have to be memorized and spoken in a specific way with specific talismans and if it’s not done just so then there is no exorcism to be had. As such, your claim that no one has ever said it is wrong. Your claim that you never said it had to be verbatim is correct, but Fred wasn’t writing a post about you, now was he?

    It’s especially problematic, since you’re setting your initial claim that no one ever said a thing that the OP emphatically indicates was said as the definitive statement on the subject. However, your claims about the need to memorize are not the claims in question, so making the point that you never said it is a non sequitur argument. You’re just moving the goalposts down the road from “no one ever said it,” to, “I never said it, therefore no one has ever said it or will ever said it.” The fact remains, however, that a claim was made by a supposed expert in exorcisms that such things must be performed in a specific and controlled way and that memorization is involved and that’s what the OP was about.

  • arashtorel

    He’s not saying that it needs to be memorized, hes saying that the pope was not reading aloud so either he had it memorized, or it was not an exorcism.

  • phantomreader42

    There’s not really a significant difference. Both involve repetitive sequences of speech and gesture intended to invoke supernatural power. Both fail to actually DO ANYTHING in the real world.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Am I the only one who reads that story metaphorically? That the mute wasn’t physically mute, but that he was an oppressed person and too cowed to speak for himself, and that meeting Jesus gave him the courage to speak? Because when Jesus talked about demons, I never pictured him talking about Devil’s Imps or something, but about the demons WE create and force others to suffer from.

  • Carrie Looney

    I feel like “The Exorcists!” needs to be the punch-line to a dirty running theater gag.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Exorcism is utter nonsense. We might as well be weighing women against ducks and burning them if they’re the same weight. There are no such things as demons and they cannot possess people.

    The reason I’m being so straightforward and harsh about this when I’m usually not about religious beliefs? Here’s a sampling:

    Exorcism has caused a number of real-world
    tragedies over the years, including several deaths.

    Pentecostal ministers in San Francisco
    pummeled a woman to death in 1995, as they tried to drive out her
    demons.

    In 1997, a Korean Christian woman was
    stomped to death in Glendale, Calif., and in the Bronx section of New
    York City, a 5-year-old girl died after being forced to swallow a
    mixture containing ammonia and vinegar and having her mouth taped shut.

    In 1998, a 17-year-old girl in Sayville,
    N.Y., was suffocated by her mother with a plastic bag, in an effort to
    destroy a demon inside her.

    In 2001, a 37-year old woman, Joanna Lee,
    was strangled to death in an exorcism by a Korean church minister
    working in New Zealand. The minister, Luke Lee, was found guilty of
    manslaughter.

    http://skepdic.com/exorcism.html

    There are no such things as demons. But belief in demons has caused millions of murders over the history of our species. Without it, the gynocide of the witchcraft executions in Europe would never have happened. It’s superstitious, dangerous nonsense that causes nothing but harm, and it must stop.

  • Alicia

    Ducks only weigh 1 or 2 pounds though. If we really only burned women who weighed that much, wouldn’t that push the number of murders related to witchcraft accusations down to zero?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Irl, the witchhunters cheated in all sorts of ways to get more women (and some men) to murder. Retracting pins, special sacks, ever-changing “rules”. If that had not been pure comedy, there would have been special weights making the woman seem to weigh the same as a duck.

  • Alicia

    True, but why a duck? With some of the other tests, it’s possible for someone to fail them without cheating (or being a witch of course). With the duck thing everyone passes except for premature newborns, maybe.

    What was wrong with people back then? Framing people so you can kill them, I kind of understand. Framing someone using a technique like that?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Because if you weigh a woman and she comes up the same weight as a duck, in front of witnesses, no one’s going to say “Wait a minute, maybe it’s just coincidence and there’s nothing supernatural going on here at all”

  • Alicia

    I guess that makes sense. It’s ‘refuge in audacity’, right? If I was an inquisitor and I had to come up with new, creative excuses for murder, some of them would probably be stupid. (“Um, um, OK, if she doesn’t… if she isn’t at least five times as tall as… um… let’s see, have we used chinchillas yet? OK, if she isn’t at least five times as tall as a chinchilla, she’s a sorceress. Does that sound good?”)

  • JustoneK

    Because if she weighs as much as a duck, she’s made of wood, and therefore a witch.

  • Beroli

    True, but why a duck?

    I am getting the impression you missed the Monty Python reference.

  • Jamoche

    “Now look, alright, I catch ona why a horse, why a chicken, why a this, why a that…I no catch ona why a duck.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I read recently that the overwhelming majority of those accused of witchcraft were acquitted. Just because medieval europe was a grimdark superstitious place, that doesn’t mean that your local magistrate wasn’t fully aware of the fact that the neighbor who saw you dancing with the devil has an eye on staking a claim on your fields.

    And it’s not like every human society ever hasn’t come up with an excuse to kill the socially unacceptable. Belief in demons didn’t make those men murder those women, and it’s not like anyone was going to stop being horrible to women if you didn’t give them the belief in witchcraft as justiification. We do a pretty regular job of silencing, hurting, oppressing and murdering women without it.

  • Alicia

    True, but I think the symbolism of the demon — the callously destructive, inhuman ‘other’ that can be annihilated without any qualms or recriminations — is pretty useful in that. Kind of like the whole notion of “demonizing” an enemy to make it easier to destroy them.

    I’m glad that not all of the accused witches were convicted though. I do feel that if the duck test had been applied fairly, they all would have been acquitted.

  • Guest

    I hope you folks all know the duck test was Monty Python’s satire of real witchcraft tests which were generally rigged.

  • AnonaMiss

    I continue to be baffled that nearly everyone who references the sketch leaves out the punchline, spoken by the accused herself:

    It was a fair cop.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I read recently that the overwhelming majority of those accused of witchcraft were acquitted.

    When and where?

    Also, we do not do nearly as good a job at murdering women as they did during the witch-hunting craze.

    it’s not like anyone was going to stop being horrible to women if you didn’t give them the belief in witchcraft as justiification

    I disagree completely. There is a huge difference between “being horrible to women” in the common way society (men and women both) has been throughout history, and the witch frenzy fueled by the Malleus Maleficarum and religion in Western Europe at the height of the gynocidal era. It’s like comparing the misogyny of the U.S. to the misogyny of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

    Like the Taliban, witch-hunting was a top-down decree by religious authorities. Unlike the Taliban (as far as I know), there were huge economic incentives to keep it going. It was the perfect marriage of greed and religious persecution. It was not in any way “normal”, and it could not have happened without the religious, superstitious belief in witchcraft as a real thing that involved evil beings.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    …that doesn’t mean that your local magistrate wasn’t fully aware of the fact that the neighbor who saw you dancing with the devil has an eye on staking a claim on your fields.

    ISTR reading that on many occasions, the party with an eye on someone’s land was the church itself.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I know Kit Whitfield left the community on bad terms, but she did write an excellent piece on this here: http://kitwhitfield.blogspot.ca/2009/01/exorcism-isnt-game.html

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    As the kind of person equally as likely to receive an exorcism as I am to be exorcised, I don’t feel much inclination to cater to the delicate fee-fees of a professional exorcist who feels like the most sanctified man in the priesthood is muscling in on his territory. So on the off-chance that he’s reading this, I’d really like him to explain precisely how throwing water in someone’s face, slapping them, yelling verses in their ears, pulling their hair and forcing disgusting bread in their mouths is going to make the gay go away. It doesn’t. Neither does it relieve depression. It doesn’t stop hallucinations.

    So for the love of fuck, cut it out.

    Don’t make me come up there.


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