Exorcist bishop called in to purge demons from Welsh souls
Exorcising demons from possessed souls and removing poltergeists from Welsh homes are two of the more unusual jobs taken on by the Bishop of Monmouth.
The Church in Wales cleric told Wales on Sunday that specially trained priests are being recruited by families too afraid to stay in their homes because they are haunted by evil spirits.
Bishop of Monmouth, Dominic Walker, is a trained exorcist and said clergy across his diocese deal with two or three cases of “property possession” at any one time.
More often than not both problems can be solved by saying a few prayers or blessings or holding a requiem mass.
But occasionally a full exorcism must be held.
The bishop, who is a senior figure within the Church in Wales, has a special interest in the ministry of deliverance – a term used to describe the process by which a person, believed to be under the control of an evil supernatural entity, is set free.
And during his 35 years with the church he said he has performed countless acts of deliverance along with six exorcisms.
According to the bishop, the practice of deliverance is more likely to involve a person with a psychiatric problem who believes they see evil spirits whereas the art of exorcism involves “real demonic forces”.
In both cases he said the church works closely with psychiatrists to ensure the people involved are given the best possible care.
Only a handful of priests across the country are qualified to carry out an exorcism and in order to do so they must first seek permission from their bishop.
“When people turn to us for help they’re normally fairly desperate,” Bishop Walker said.
“Our clergy are very good because we usually always have two or three cases on the go in the diocese at any one time.
“Most priests will go throughout the whole of their ministry without ever carrying out a full exorcism or being asked to.
“But we all get people saying ‘we’ve got a ghost, we’ve got poltergeist activity, I feel there’s a presence in my house which I don’t like’ and people get very disturbed.
“In fact I’m advising a priest at the moment whose got a family who just want to move.
“They want to sell up and get out because they feel they’ve got some sort of presence in their home.”
And surprisingly, Bishop Walker said the people most likely to seek help from the church are those who are not particularly religious.
“Sometimes there are people who say ‘before this happened to me I didn’t believe in ghosts and I don’t want to believe but I can’t deny what is happening’,” he said.
The frequency of church-led exorcisms fell dramatically at the start of the 20th Century as the credibility of Sigmund Freud’s and Carl Jung’s theories of analytical psychology grew.
Suddenly there was a feeling among the congregation that the apparent presence of evil spirits could be explained as psychotic behaviour, leading to the decline in demand for exorcists.
Yet in recent years, according to Bishop Walker, the Church has come to realise that exorcisms can be used alongside psychological care.
“[The Church] realised in the ‘50s and ‘60s that people were knocking on vicarage doors saying ‘I’ve got a ghost’ or ‘I’m possessed’ and the clergy didn’t know how to deal with it because they had not been trained.
“Exorcism was seen as medieval mumbo-jumbo but suddenly they realised they had to minister to these people in need.
“It’s trying to deal with the person as a whole person – the body, mind and spirit – you can’t deal with just one part,” he said.
Since then, clergy have been on the look out for parishioners who demonstrate symptoms of spirit possession – from being able to speak in different voices to having paranormal strength.
Yet even when it appears someone is possessed, Bishop Walker said the need to carry out an exorcism is very rare.
“I’ve been here [Monmouth] nine years and we haven’t carried out any exorcisms in the diocese during that time,” he said.
“In the 35 years that I’ve been involved in deliverance ministry I’ve probably carried out six exorcisms and they’ve always been as a last resort and they’ve always been with psychiatric care.”
One of the occasions Bishop Walker has had to carry out an exorcism was on a woman who found herself speaking in three different male voices.
On that instance he ruled out a personality disorder, concluding she was in fact possessed by three different spirits.
Yet not all cases of apparent possession will end up with an exorcism being performed.
“We’ve got a case at the moment in which it seems a child is attention seeking,” he said.
“The child is seeing ‘it’ as it describes it.
“[The child] is seeing something but the child knows when they go to bed that mum will come and give them attention.
“Trying to get the mother to see that this might actually simply be attention seeking though is quite difficult as she is quite convinced the child is genuinely seeing a ghost.
“Very occasionally you do get situations which you just can’t explain where people have not responded to psychotherapy, they’ve not responded to drugs, they’ve changed in personality and something appears to have taken them over.
“But when you say the prayers of deliverance, the prayers of exorcism, they suddenly make an instant recovery.”
All of Bishop Walker’s six exorcisms have been successful to varying degrees.
“Afterwards, you are always left with the question ‘what on earth have you exorcised?’” he said.
“The church is quite divided in that respect – there are some who believe there are demonic forces which you have to get rid of and they sometimes attach themselves to people and we don’t know why unless the person has deliberately invited it.
“And others who say the demons are actually from within – they are fragmented parts of our unconscious that have overwhelmed us.”
Source: Wales Online [March 25, 2012]