When priest were trained in the seminary, they were not initiated into the sacred rites of exorcism. As the recently ordained may attend a class or two on the study of angels, the performance of the rite of exorcism is reserved to veteran priests who are appointed by the local bishop.
As the Roman Ritual describes it, the priest who is to be chosen as an exorcist “ought to be of mature years, and revered not only for his office alone but for his moral qualities.”
In that case, “In order to exercise his ministry rightly, he should resort to a great deal more study of the matter.”
Where does a priest study such a topic? Is there a special “exorcism school”?
Practically, most exorcists all over the world learn from personal study, with an addition to their conversations with seasoned exorcists. This exact ministry is something that must be experienced firsthand in order to truly take hold of it.
Moreover, in the past ten years the Sacerdos Institute in Rome has held an annual course on “Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation” to help priests study this particular rite. The description of the course explains how it is “an academic and interdisciplinary research on the ministry of the exorcism and the prayer of liberation”. The course actually covers a wide range of issues: anthropological, phenomenological, social, theological, liturgical, canonical, pastoral, spiritual, medical, neuroscientific, pharmacological, symbolic, criminological, legal and juridical ones.”
ANSA simply described it as a course “designed to teach priests, psychologists, teachers, doctors and other lay people how to create a difference between a bona fide case of possession by the devil and assorted psychiatric illnesses.”
The primary part of an exorcist’s ministry is the ability to distinguish the presence of the demonic from various medical conditions. And this requires the help of psychologists and physicians who can give the priest an honest evaluation.
The rite of exorcism is never carried out until all other scientific avenues are exhausted. It is only then can the presence of demons be confirmed.
With the rise of different occult activities, exorcisms are on the rise and the need for qualified exorcists is increasing. It’s indeed a special ministry, one that is not taken lightly.