Father Paolo Carlin, 54 years old, is a capuchin friar, from Rome, exorcist of the diocese of Faenza since 2014, a member and the coordinator for Italy of the International Association of Exorcists. He just published a book, “De obsessis care“, ed. S. Paul, in which he speaks of his experience. In Terris interviewed him.
Father Carlin, we have gone from a culture that inculcated the fear of the devil, which was cited in almost every sermon, to his underestimation, almost as if the devil is a medieval heritage, a tale to frighten children. It is really like that? How do you explain it?
“The reality of the devil is the one of an angel: beyond whatever you can say about him, he is still a spiritual personal being, as witnessed by the Gospels from which the same magisterium of the Church has taken up this truth. But he is a fallen angel, and then a tempter, a deceiver, no longer the bearer of light and truth but of falsehood and deceit. He is the biggest liar. It is therefore normal that his main daily action is to make us believe that he does not exist. Beyond the consideration that one may have of him, in any case he is there, he really exists and we exorcists we see him concretely when, once unmasked, he reveals himself with all his obscenity and wickedness. It does not depend on the culture and on the mentality or on philosophies. Talking or not about him may depend on a certain sensitivity but the Scripture testifies it. Jesus was the first exorcist, he came to help man to fight the Enemy”.
Halloween, horror films, texts of songs with implicit or explicit demoniac references. Sometimes they seem harmless entertainment but what risks do they actually hide?
“All satanic actions always appear beautiful, harmless, even desirable or useful. Certainly there are realities, choices that man can make that are access doors, more or less evident, to an “extraordinary” action in the life of a person. Halloween is one of those festivities that recalls a pagan sphere, therefore a devotion to the spirits and when we talk of spirits and energies we enter into a magical, esoteric and sometimes even occult logic, we open the door to the Evil One. But there are also realities that are less evident but that lead to esotericism as horror or magic films: I have in my mind Harry Potter, Twilight or some television series”.
Even Harry Potter has a dangerous esoteric vein?
“It is all about magic… and magic is never good. You want to use powers and spirits that are not part of the faculties of man, we enter in the preternatural context and then we acquire a logic, a way of thinking that are superstitious; man seeks a power beyond his own nature and this is an act of pride that attracts the Enemy. It is a rebellion towards God that instead tells us ‘In your human nature I give you my help provided that you recognise your limits’. And here I open a parenthesis”.
“People accuse the Church of being against the progress of man. It is not true, provided that science remains within the scope of human nature. If we try to have powers and faculties which are not natural, let us ask ourselves: where does this power come from?”
The recent cases of theft of consecrated Hosts have unfortunately highlighted again a tremendous phenomenon like the one of the black masses. What do you think?
“It is one of the proof that Satan exists. If he did not exist, what would be their use? The aim is precisely to bring disregard to the consecrated Host but also to adore Lucifer, in direct contrast to the Christian faith and to the work of Jesus. They are not worshippers of a ghost, they are people who have deliberately chosen evil, to adore the evil spiritual being. These profaned Hosts are used precisely to make rites against those of the Church. The satanists have symbolisms, signs, rituals but all opposite to the ones of the Church, aimed to offend God and to adore the Evil One who is not omnipotent. Whoever adore him obtains the faculties that he wants to but he pays dearly, with life, because Satan has a single purpose: to destroy man, to prevent him from reaching the eternal life, because he is jealous.
How do you recognize a demoniac possession, how to distinguish it from psychiatric pathologies?
“We are always talking about possession but in reality, there are also the obsessions, recurring thoughts, distinct from obsessive psychiatric thoughts, but that are highly depressive, which lead to suicide. In this case, medical assistance is also essential in order to distinguish them. Then there are vexations, which are veritable scourges on the body, on the health: marks, scratches, bruising, beatings, as it happened to Padre Pio, even incurable diseases. The possessions are those that are more sensational, but once the signs are identified it indicates that the enemy has been discovered. The temptation that make one take choices that corrupts the soul with sin, is more dangerous. Otherwise the devil can take possession of the body but not of the soul: he is like a dog tied to a chain, sin stretches the chain while we must do everything to stay far”.
What are the signs of possession?
“The Church recognizes basically four signs: the aversion to the sacred; the knowledge of hidden things, sometimes the future, sometimes things known only to a person and to God; the pronunciation of unknown languages, never spoken, even dead, like Sanskrit or the ancient Hebrew or Latin; and an extraordinary strength that goes beyond the physical natural possibility. Sometimes are not present all four together and it is up to the discernment of the exorcist, also with the help of doctors, to understand if it is diabolic possession, special attack of the Evil One, or psychic reality”.
Are there frequent cases of possession? Can you tell some episode?
“What is frequent is especially a profound ignorance of the relationship with God. The fertile ground for the enemy to grow is precisely the ignorance of the faith, in which he insinuates the uncertainty of the future, the doubt on the help of God and so it becomes easy to pass to the ‘do it yourself’ in solving the problems when Jesus instead invites us to entrust ourselves to the Father. Therefore, the majority of people that are attacked are the people who live in disorder, who live the emotional relationships in a bad way, with situations of family hatred. But there are also cases, heavier, of people who have made choices that consciously open the doors to the Evil One: resorting to sorcerers, fortune-teller, magicians, even witches (that unfortunately are there, with good peace of those who accuse the Church of medievalism), means asking preternatural performances to Satan: knowing the future, how the work is going, love, voting… or, especially among young people, doing games by consulting the deceased or using apps on their mobile phone by transforming it into the medium. These are doors that are freely open and that the Enemy then uses to ask for the payment: physical and spiritual death. But ultimately, I would say that the cases of possession are quite rare while those of obsession and especially vexation are much more frequent, and increasing”.
How and why one becomes an exorcist? Is there a specific training? In particular, what is the sense of the recent course held at the Regina Apostolorum?
“One does not become exorcists for personal choice, indeed, stay away from those who have become for this reason, there is the risk of a hidden egocentrism. It is a service that the Church requires and the Bishop chooses on the basis of the requirements of canon 1172 of canon law: proven piety and faith, balance, moral rectitude. As regards to the training, unfortunately after Vatican II in seminars the course on angels and demons disappeared, then the priests are formed without knowing who they are. This is why the course at the Regina Apostolorum, unique in its kind, now at international level (this year there were 300 participants from 42 countries), which attests the renewed interest in this topic. Unfortunately, there is a lack in seminaries and we, as an international association, we are trying to raise the awareness of all the diocese in order to restore an appropriate study”.
It may seem trivial, but what are the weapons of the Christian to keep Satan away?
“I like to respond with terms of St. Paul. The Apostle says ‘Wear the helmet of the word of God that protects the mind, the will, the intelligence from the assaults of the enemy, made of doubt, fear, anxiety, confusion and disorder. The repeated and constant listening of the word of God makes us recognize the temptations and protects us from taking choices against God and the neighbour. Then there is the sword of prayer. It is the weapon, in the constancy of the use (I think about the Rosary, the eucharistic adoration, the devotions like the Via Crucis), which represents the continuous dialog with God. These two things prepare the armour which are the sacraments, the direct action of God in my life, in particular with the regular attendance of Confession and of the Eucharist. The last piece of the armour in this spiritual battle is the shield of faith, which protects us from the fiery darts of the Enemy”.
And which are instead the weapons and the rites of the exorcist?
“First of all faith in the one God and Lord of our lives but also the person attacked needs them because the exorcist is nothing more than the means through which the Church, with her faith and prayer, goes to strengthen those who undergo the influence of the devil. In practice, there are then the blessed water, the remembrance of the baptism, the ritual of the exorcism and the stole, indicating the belonging to the Church of God against which the gates of hell shall not prevail”.
In your function, have you ever been afraid? Have you ever had experiences of physical combat with the devil, for example like Padre Pio?
“The fighter is not the exorcist, but the person attacked. Unfortunately, in the imaginary there are the scenes of the films but it is not like that. It is faith which is needed to remove the enemy, together with prayers. Maybe the exorcist experiences even him attacks by the Evil One, because he is in the first line. But we are all tempted, then we need to have the light of the Gospel to remove the temptations and not fall into the trap of sin. No one is excluded, the Exorcist is not a highlander and certainly not a magician”.