I’d like Father Serpa to tackle this one, if at all possible.
A recent viewing of the classic horror film The Exorcist got me thinking seriously about the subject of exorcism, specifically within the Catholic Church (*The Exorcist *is very Catholic). After a little online digging I discovered that the film’s main character, Father Merrin (played by Max Von Sydow), was actually based on a couple of real guys: one being the Jesuit scientist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the other a St. Louis priest by the name of William S. Bowdern. Now, it’s easy to see the Teilhard de Chardin inspiration – Father Merrin is an archaeologist – but I’d never heard of this Father Bowdern. After a little more digging, I found out that in the late 1940’s, Bowdern and some fellow St. Louis Jesuits apparently performed an actual exorcism on a young boy believed to be possessed by evil spirits. Wild!
I’m curious; was this practice at one time a common occurrence? Even in, say, the early 20th century? Do exorcisms by Catholic clergy still happen today? Is it true that the Catholic Church has an official “Rite of Exorcism”?
Basically, what’s the Church’s position on this spooky issue?