Thursday, September 27, 2012

Interview with an Exorcist: Forward Boldly Radio Show

Fr. Vincent Lampert, official exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was the guest on the Fidelis Radio show “Forward Boldly” last Saturday, with host Christine Niles. You can listen to the recording of the show here.

From the intro to the show at the link, we learn that Fr. Vincent Lampert is the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He was interviewed and quoted in Matt Baglio's book "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist ," on which the popular 2011 film starring Anthony Hopkins was based. In addition to his duties as pastor of Sts. Francis and Clare Catholic Church, Fr. Lampert has spent the past seven years helping souls overcome the demonic through his unique ministry as exorcist.

In the interview, Fr. Lampert said that he has been a priest for 21 years, and was appointed to be the exorcist of his diocese in 2005. He trained with Fr. Gary Thomas and Fr. Carmine DeFilippis in Rome, sitting in on about 40 exorcisms.  He is a full time pastor of a parish, and spends about 60% of his time dealing with requests for exorcisms. In the last year, he has had the help of an associate pastor, though, which alleviates some of the pressures of his work.

Host Christine Niles asked Fr. Lampert about the process a person goes through who seeks the help of an exorcist. Fr. Lampert said he meets with the person as soon as possible, and outlines the steps that must be taken; those steps include a mental evaluation. Often, he said, people are inclined to see this requirement as indicating that the priest doesn’t believe that they are experiencing a battle with evil. However, this is not the case; Fr. Lampert says he points out that a person who is doing battle with evil will need to be strong mentally – so it’s not just a matter of the priest “not believing” the person’s story.

Signs that a person is actually experiencing a diabolical attack include an aversion to signs of the sacred, such as the Crucifix, holy water, and/or the Bible; an ability to speak a language the person should not be able to speak; the knowledge of future events; and a physical strength beyond what would normally be expected. Fr. Lampert also indicated that when a mental evaluation has been obtained, he also asks if the mental health professional has noted anything beyond his or her scope of explanation.

Fr. Lampert also outlined five ways that the demonic typically enters a person’s life. These are: 1) involvement in the occult; 2) being dedicated to a demon; 3) having a curse placed upon one; 4) a life of hardened sin; 5) broken family relationships.

Christine asked for further explanation on each of these points. She noted that many people don’t take occult practices seriously – especially seemingly innocuous things like playing with a Ouija board. Fr. Lampert explained that the occult can be invited in either directly or indirectly; a direct invitation occurs when we know what we are doing and we choose to do it anyway. Playing with a Ouija board or consulting a psychic in a half-serious way would probably be an indirect invitation, and usually people see it as an entertainment and don’t take it seriously; nevertheless these are transgressions against the First Commandment, because essentially, these activities say that one trusts the occult more than God.  In the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus these practices are specifically condemned, and those who do so are called “disgusting in the eyes of God”. So it’s not just that the Church is saying these things are wrong, said Fr. Lampert; God Himself is saying so in his Word.

As an example of “being dedicated to a demon”, Fr. Lampert related the story of a young woman whose mother had tried to abort her. The abortion was not successful, and when the girl was born, the mother was so angry at God that she dedicated her baby to Satan in order to “get even” with God. In her teen years, the girl contacted Fr. Carmine, who worked with her to break the connection with evil that the girl had suffered under from birth; eventually she was freed from the evil influence.

Fr. Lampert’s explanation of curses was interesting as well. He said that usually people who make curses are those involved in the occult who claim to be witches or warlocks. A curse, he noted, is the opposite of a blessing; when we bless something, it’s dedicated to God, while something cursed is dedicated to Satan. Curses are effective when a person’s faith life is weak. In order to protect ourselves we need to develop a strong prayer life, and a strong sense of God as our Protector and Shield.

“One has to know that the power of God is greater than any power of evil, and I think curses are only effective when people have that lack of faith. Faith is such a key ingredient in being able to go up against the forces of evil and to realize they don’t have an impact on your life.”

He told of some business owners who thought a former employee, who was an avowed witch, had put a curse on them in their business. Fr. Lampert explained that he could come and pray against the curse, but then the “witch” could curse again. “When does the cycle stop?” he asked them. “It stops when you begin to know because of your faith that whatever she’s doing is not effective because you have the power of the presence of Christ in your life.”

Broken family relationships are the most frequent point of entry for evil that Fr. Lampert has observed. He mentioned a Biblical basis for this as well – the demoniac in Mark 5, who was possessed by Legion. After Jesus casts out the demons into the swine, the man wants to follow him, but Jesus tells him to go home to his family, trying to restore him to a proper relationship with his family. In the world of exorcism, it’s thought that perhaps the broken relationships were the entry point for the evil in his life.  Exorcism is only one component in the healing process when evil is involved; restoring right relationships is essential, too – first with God, then with family members, the church community, etc.

In preparing for an exorcism, Fr. Lampert said he prays, celebrates Mass, and receives the sacrament of confession. He also uses various sacramental, including a St. Benedict crucifix blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, holy water and blessed salt, relics, and his priestly stole (which of course indicates his office). Christine noted that famous exorcist Fr. Amorth has said that “one worthy confession is equal to a strong exorcism”; Fr. Lampert agreed, saying that the sacraments are always more powerful than sacramental. He also suggested that often people “let guilt get the best of them”. He added, “The devil thrives on guilt. By going to confession, we place our sins in the hands of God, and then the devil can’t use them against us.”

During an exorcism, Fr. Lampert says he usually enlists the aids of different people, some of whom pray in a separate place from where the exorcism takes place; others are present in the same location. He doesn’t have a “team” per se, and the participants will vary for each exorcism. The exorcism always takes place in a sacred place, such as a church or chapel.

In terms of saintly helpers, Fr. Lampert noted that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a powerful ally, a great life-line, who, as noted in Genesis 3:15, will crush the head of Satan. Fr. Lampert confirmed what Christine had heard from other sources: demons will have the audacity to curse the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but they will not curse Mary.

St. Michael, of course, is another important ally in exorcism.

Fr. Lampert also mentioned Blessed Bartolo Longo as a resource. Bartolo Longo was raised as a devout Catholic in the late 19th century; when he went to the university, he became involved in the occult and eventually became a satanic high priest. His family was able to extricate him from the occult through their prayers, and he recommitted himself to Christ. Subsequently, he dedicated his life to working with youth at the university, helping them to stay strong in their faith.

“It just shows that no one is ever completely lost to God,” observed Fr. Lampert. “Blessed Barolo Longo was once a satanic high priest, and now he’s on his way to sainthood.”

Fr. Lampert also discussed degrees of diabolical activity. At the lowest level, there is temptation, which everyone experiences; this is “ordinary” diabolical activity. “Extraordinary” diabolical activity includes: infestation, which may involve a location or an object; oppression, which is  a physical attack on the person; obsession, which is a mental attack on the person; and possession, in which the devil takes possession of the body.

Possession is rare, says Fr. Lampert, and he has only dealt with 3 authentic cases of possession in the thousands of exorcisms he has performed. He offered an explanation for why a demon want to take possession of a body: “The greatest gift of God is the Incarnation. The devil tries to mimic that by taking possession of a physical body. You might say that possession is the devil’s attempt at his own incarnation.”

A listener asked for Fr. Lampert’s opinion on the old rite of exorcism vs. the new rite. Fr. Lampert acknowledged that there is a bit of debate on that subject, but said that he has both rites, and that both carry the authority of the Church.

“The new rite is meant to place the pastoral care of those dealing with evil into the hands of every priest,” he said. “Only true cases of possession should be reserved for the exorcist. But every priest should be able to help those who believe they are up against other forces of evil.”

He explained further that there are two kinds of exorcism prayers: imperative and supplicating. The imperative prayers command the demon to leave, while the supplicating prayers ask God to bring deliverance to the afflicted person.  The new rite relies more on supplicating prayers, while the old rite is more imperative in nature. We can all pray, so we may all pray the supplicating prayers.

It is important to stick to the words of the rite, though. Fr. Lampert told of how a demon responded when another exorcist started adlibbing prayers, rather than sticking to the precise words of the Ritual: “I listen to the authority of the Church…not to you.”  In other words, it is not the authority of the priest that is important in an exorcism – it’s the Church. (Gives a whole new meaning to “say the black, do the red”, doesn’t it?!)

Is it possible and permitted to perform exorcisms for non-Catholics? Yes, says Fr. Lampert, who says that about half of those who contact him regarding exorcism are not Catholic; many are of a “Christian faith community”, but there are also some who are not Christian at all. The advice he gives after exorcism is that the Christian  maintain and strengthen his faith and his connection with his church community; for non-Christians, Fr. Lampert says that it is of course important to lead them to a relationship with Christ.

As far as Hollywood movies about exorcism, Fr. Lampert felt that the classic film – “The Exorcist” – contained a lot of realistic elements, such as changes in facial expressions, vomiting, levitation, foaming at the mouth. He himself has witnessed each of these in his own ministry. However, these dramatic effects are “parlor tricks” of the devil, he said, and are intended to shock and terrify the on-lookers.

The movie “The Rite” is “pretty good”, he said, though presents some theological issues he is not in full agreement with. “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was also “pretty true to what the Church believes” about possession and exorcism, he said.

The interview is very interesting and engaging – I highly recommend listening to it. I agree with Christine’s assessment of Fr. Lampert: he has a humble demeanor and quiet confidence in the power of God. In spite of all the intense encounters, and the horrible things he has seen and heard, it’s clear that Fr. Lampert has complete trust in the power of God. Just hearing him talk about it instills confidence in the listener.

There’s another article about Fr. Vincent Lampert here, and if you google his name you will find other information as well.


  1. It's certainly a step in the right direction for Rome to exert a push for more exorcists, but I question the effectiveness of the new Exorcism rite that was installed in 1998. The new rite has been criticized by Fr. Amorth, arguably the most famous exorcist:

    "a farce. An incredible obstacle that is likely to prevent us from acting against the demon."

    "A blunt weapon.... Efficacious prayers, prayers that had been in existence for twelve centuries, were suppressed and replaced by new ineffective prayers."

    An interesting article well-worth a read is found here:

  2. I have my doubts about that new rite, too. So much of the "new" stuff introduced after Vatican II seems so watered down. The book of blessings is another case in point. One priest I know calls it the "book of good wishes" or something like that.

  3. I think the new rite of exorcism is something like

    "Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! Please Mr. Devil! Leave this poor soul alone! Please! Please! Please! Please! Please! Please!"


    "SO! Can we talk? Please know that I respect where you're at in your faith journey. Let's see if we can find some common ground."


    "I don't want to inflict my values on you, you have the right to the dictates of your own conscience. But, if you don't mind, I'd like you to leave this poor soul, at least for now, while talk. Okay?"



  4. Good one, Terry Carroll! All we can do is laugh, I suppose. And pray.


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