Book Review

Hauntings, Possessions, And Exorcisms

Adam C. Blai
Emmaus Road Publishing (1 Aug 2017)
ISBN: 978-1945125591

Book CoverWhat a very balanced and well written work. What is needed to cover such subjects is common sense and there is plenty of that here. As the author repeatedly reminds us, we need to seek for natural explanations first. I have read too many books even by some famous recent exorcists that veer towards the sensational.
The author notes that the ministry of exorcism is not for the curious. It is a great act of charity to help troubled souls and clinicians who are even remotely involved will see such occasions as privileged ones when they witness good overcoming evil.

There are a number of medical disorders that need to be excluded before demonic activity is to be considered, including mental health disorders. That is why proper medical and psychological evaluations are always advisable. It goes without saying that it is not the role of anyone but the priest to determine whether demonic activities are present. Interestingly, the author does not entirely exclude the demonic even when the person presents with some degree of psychological distress: after all, such souls are likely to develop anxiety or sleep disorder or substance misuse.

The demonic world is "legalistic". This means that there are rules that need to be obeyed. This is surely why the Catholic Church alone has the ability to make this ministry robust. We need to avoid the scandals that have afflicted some non-Catholic denominations in this area. A layperson should not take on the role of an exorcist or even make use of the solemn prayers of exorcism. They are there for priests who are trained in this area and who are acting under obedience. 

After reading this work, it is clear that the best remedy to overcome demons is to flee the occasions. One should avoid any form of communication with the dead, something quite different to our Catholic practice of prayers for the dead. There should be no unhealthy interests in the paranormal, not even watching certain movies. 

What about hauntings? A good priest told me of an occasion when he called on a couple who were experiencing unusual noises in the house. All natural explanations had been excluded. The priest blessed the house and said Mass. The noises ceased. He was convinced that they had been caused by a soul in purgatory who was requesting prayers. Such an explanation would not be accepted by some Protestants.

But the opinions of the priest resonates with what is expressed in this book. The author also differentiates such hauntings from demonic hauntings. If unusual experiences are long drawn out, they may be demonic. What is needed is spiritual discernment, reason enough for laypeople not to lead on such things. Indeed, the author suggests that "the most common con game demons play is pretending to be souls of dead people." Grieving souls are also easy targets, as spiritualists know all too well.

According to the author, one of the classic ways in which demons influence souls is through a "distortion of our God-given sexuality". The author notes that demons are likely to have a large role in the pornography industry.

The writing throughout is clear and non-technical. Some of the best chapters deal with various forms of demonic activity: infestation, oppression, obsession and possession. The author notes that possession is a relatively rare occurrence and requires the expertise of a priest acting under obedience. The author also observes that it is Jesus acting  through the priest and the possessed person needs to want to be free. He needs to have a prayer life and receive the sacraments if possible. People are commonly tempted to miss out on these foundations in order to experience the extraordinary. I am reminded of a priest who once told me that the strongest exorcism is sacramental confession! Indeed, as the author notes, the best way to overcome evil is to obey God.

The book is solidly orthodox. It is a pity that the writing of Francis MacNutt is recommended under suggested reading. One or two quibbles aside, this is a very fine introduction to an important ministry, one that is likely to grow as society becomes ever more hostile to Our Lord's Kingdom.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan