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From an interview with Fr. Gary Thomas, official exorcist of San Jose, California

For Part I of the interview, see "Hollywood, US Bishops Spotlight "The Rite" (Part 1)." If you can get past your revulsion at the thought of yet another Hollywood portrayal of exorcism, you might want to read at least the following portion of Fr. Thomas' responses. What he says is very important and singularly relevant to our times.

ZENIT: How necessary is a ministry of exorcism in our country these days? Are these cases of demonic possession very frequent?

Father Thomas: The ministry is essential.

It is not because we are having so many cases of demonic possession. What we are seeing -- speaking from my experience -- is that we are all, not just the exorcists, but priests in general, having a lot more people coming to us about matters that are of this realm. Many of the issues people are coming with are actually not demonic; they are more related to mental health.

Sometimes people ask, "Why now?" And I say, because now there are more Catholics who are involved in paganism and idolatry, so there are a lot of people who are opening a lot of doors to the diabolical.

The occult is all about power. Now the occult is not synonymous with the Satanic, but it is a doorway.

There are also more and more Catholics, and people in general, now in this country who are involved in New Age things. With the opening of doorways to the New Age and the occult, you do not know what is behind that door; you do not know what you are tapping into most of the time.

So, are there more cases of possession? In five years, I've exorcised five people, whom I do believe had a demonic attachment. And I've prayed over others who also I think have a demonic attachment, but I've not done exorcisms with them.

But what is becoming very rampant is that more and more people are involved in pagan idolatry. Some of it is structured and formal, and some of it is not.

This is coupled with issues that have to do with sexual abuse; 80% of the people who come to me have been sexually abused. That is a soul wound, and a doorway for a demon.

If the soul wounds are coupled with either heavy drug use, heavy sexual perversions, sexual abuse or physical abuse, usually by a parent, a sibling or an extended family member, it becomes a recipe for an invitation for a demon.

It is not like demons just show up. You have to invite them in, or someone else invites them in for you.

If a person has been sexual abused it does not mean that they are going to have a demonic attachment. What I am saying is that when people have been sexually abused they become incredibly vulnerable to that possibility.

Then if they get involved in matters that have to do with paganism and idolatry, like the occult or things of the Satanic, the bar goes way up, the chances go up. Because demons are always looking for human beings who either have no relationships or a variety of broken relationships.

Considering the incredible damage the Satanic powers have accomplished in the world in the last few centuries, culminating in the mass atrocities of the 20th century and the widespread sex abuse of minors by priests in the second half of the 20th century, combined with the explosion of interest in the occult and New Age during this period, it is no wonder that the Church is taking a new interest in the activity of the demonic and that more and more cases of demonic possession are showing up.

What worries me is that this coincides with a great diminution in the power of the local Church to combat it. Unlike prior periods, only 25% of Catholics attend Mass regularly here in the U.S., and the numbers are even lower throughout most of Europe. There is much greater skepticism in the world today regarding both demonic and sacramental power, and considering the explosion of sexual perversion and corruption in the 20th century and beyond, I find this both deeply ironic and terribly worrisome.

I'm also very worried about the trends of recent times in which the religious, priests and nuns in particular, have fallen prey to New Age nonsense. Fr. Mitch Pacwa wrote an important book on this topic almost 20 years ago, Catholics and the New Age: How Good People Are Being Drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram, and the Age of Aquarius. To me, it goes far to explain the implosion of religious vocations in the U.S. as well as the abandonment of fundamental Catholic principles by so many who remained in religious orders. It helps to explain, as well, why so many of our bishops seem to be acting as though they're treading on egg shells whenever any controversial topic comes up in conversation, or worse in some instances, actually contribute to the controversies through New Age thoughts of their own.

Even my own seminary training was not entirely purified of Jungian psychology. Even though Jung was a notorious spiritist, and his psychology largely reflects dualistic thinking, he remains very popular among some academics even in seminaries to this day. Some of this is relatively harmless if its put in the proper context, but unfortunately, that context is often missing entirely.

I greatly appreciate Zenit's interview. There is a very important note of hope for individuals in the final part of this interview.

If you have a life that involves God -- and for a Catholic if you have a sacramental life that involves the Eucharist and reconciliation with regularity -- and your life is lived in the spirit of the will of God and the providence of God, you do not have any serious consideration to be concerned about.