Vatican backed exorcism threatens the mental health of the vulnerable

Vatican backed exorcism threatens the mental health of the vulnerable April 16, 2015

Currently a controversial and dangerous course on exorcism approved by the Vatican is underway at the European University of Rome.

The course is sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and organized by the Sacerdos Institute, all with the approval of Pope Francis and the Vatican.

The course runs from April 13 to 18, with reports indicating that at least 170 students are attending in order to learn how to “recognize and fight demonic possession.”

The conference is an assault on reason and science, and an insult to the intelligence. More than this, promoting the idea that demonic possession is somehow real poses an ominous threat to the mentally ill, while serving as a potent reminder of the dangers associated with religious superstition.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines exorcism as “the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice”

The belief that individuals are possessed by demons is silly and dangerous nonsense. Yet this silly nonsense can have grave implications for the mentally ill. Mental illness is real. For Pope Francis and the Vatican to embrace the ludicrous idea that people are possessed by demonic forces is to deny in part the scientific reality of mental illness, and to condemn mentally ill people to the whims and abuses of religious charlatans.

There is nothing good or life affirming by approving the medieval and superstitious practice of exorcism. Demons and evil spirits are but figments of the imagination. To pretend that exorcism is something other than cheap and tawdry religious smoke and mirrors is to take a vacation from reality.

Promoting exorcism for people experiencing real pain and suffering is at once both dishonest and unethical. By backing this tawdry course on exorcism, Pope Francis and the Vatican reject modern science, and embrace ignorant and harmful religious superstition.

(Portions of this article were previously published here)

Goya's painting of a Catholic priest performing an exorcism (Wikipedia)
Goya’s painting of a Catholic priest performing an exorcism (Wikipedia)
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