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Posted on Friday, September 17 - 2004

" The devil and his demons can indeed possess an individual. The New Testament presents several stories of diabolical possession and our Lord’s exorcism of the demons. For instance, Jesus exorcized the demons (who identify themselves as "legion") of Gerasa. The possessed man was so s..."

The devil and his demons can indeed possess an individual. The New Testament presents several stories of diabolical possession and our Lord’s exorcism of the demons. For instance, Jesus exorcized the demons (who identify themselves as "legion") of Gerasa. The possessed man was so strong he was able to pull apart the chains that bound him and smash them. In the end, the demons entered the swine and destroyed them (Confer Mk 5:1-20). In each of the exorcism stories, we see Christ triumphantly vanquishing the devil and his demons. Christ also empowered the Apostles to cast out demons in His name: "Then He summoned His twelve disciples and gave themauthority to expel unclean spirits and to cure sickness and disease of every kind" (Mt 10:1).

The practice of exorcism is recorded in the writings of the early Church Fathers, including St. Justin Martyr (d. 165), Tertullian (d. 230) and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386). Over the course of the centuries, the Church has well documented cases of possession and exorcism, including the one which was the basis of the original "Exorcist" movie (although neither Hollywood nor the book was faithful to the facts). Given this brief Biblical and historical foundation, we can better examine the issue. Father Jordan Aumann, O.P., a noted professor of spiritual theology, offers the following definition: "Diabolical possession is a phenomenon inwhich the devil invades the body of a living person and moves the faculties and organs as if he were manipulating a body of his own. The devil truly resides within the body of the unfortunate victim, and he operates in it and treats it as his own property. Those who suffer this despotic invasion are said to be possessed" (Spiritual Theology, 408). However, the soul cannot be entered or overcome and thus remains free; in a sense, the soul — really the person — is like in a state of suspended animation. Pope Benedict XIV in his teaching "De servorum Dei beatificatione, et beatorum canonizatione" stated, "Demons, in the individuals whom they possess, are like motors within the bodies which they move, but in such a way that they impressno. ...


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