The following is a rough summary and transcript of an interview I held with Gavin Canavan on Exorcism and Diabolic Oppression. The research of Canavan provides fascinating insights into the realm of Angiology, a topic too often distorted by Hollywood and the mainstream media. We hope to prevent a summary of the facts, although any post of this length can hardly be authoritative. Book and Spade neither endorse or dismisses the research presented by those we interview. Rather it is our intention merely to present a brief understanding of spiritual warfare and all available evidence so that you, the reader, can make up your own mind. We have arranged our discussion in the form of a transcript. Due to the great length of the interview words and passages at times had to be abridged and summarized. However, Gavin and I believe that the following information, presented below, provides an initial window into the Churches teaching on Angiology and demonology, as expressed by the Catacism and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. For those interested in a lengthier discussion of the following matters, please feel free to read Father Gary Thomas’ detailed book on the subject entitled The Rite, the Making of a Modern Exorcist. I would also suggest visiting E.W.T.N where you shall find further resources.
1. How would you define exorcism?
“I am not an exorcist for one. I am a Lay Person in communion with Catholic clergy and laity to investigate the properties of those associated with demonic oppression and possession. Exorcism is reserved for the office of the priest, and even then he must be appointed by the bishop. One should note that exorcism, like all formal rites of the church, is intended as rites of healing. The goal is to liberate an afflicted person- not to create a spectacle. In our Post- Christian age, our world has increasingly ignored the reality of an objective Good, namely the person of Christ himself and by extension, the existence of a genuine evil. Many who are interested in this field often make a strong error in assuming that evil is an opposite force to good, as though we were dualists upon a chessboard evenly pitched between white and black pieces. Nothing and I repeat nothing could be farther from the truth. Satan is a fallen angel. He is not a lesser God, no matter how hard he would want you to believe he is. Some of the church fathers see him as a hound upon a leash. The one holding the leash is God, and while he does not want you, the individual soul, to creep near to this dangerous hound, he respects your free will to do so. When we enter into mortal sin, we step nearer to this hound and so we place ourselves in grave, grave peril. By receiving the sacraments and the graces provided through Christ's Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, one is placed far from the reaches of this enemy.”
2. Which have been your greatest experiences with diabolic oppression, obsession and or possession? If you could define these terms also for our readership it may be most helpful.
“Most demonic haunting will usually present itself in three different stages or manifestations. These manifestations take three forms sometimes called infestation, oppression, and possession. Oppression and obsession are quite similar, whereas Demonic manifestation may generally occur when one’s home or residence is haunted by a malevolent spirit. By this, we mean to say that these spiritual beings or entities never walked the earth as children of Adam. Whey is what Aquinas would call pure spirits, possessing no body. However, there is scriptural evidence to suggest that they occationally take physical form or shape. Their identity is evident from the Old and New Testaments, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and from the authoritative teaching of the Church fathers. They are fallen Angels and the further they fell from God and grace the darker and more evil they have become. Forsaking the right road, for all their vast intelligence they became fools, preferring rebellion over service. The enemy’s anthem is “My will be done.” The Lords’ servants counter this tyranny and false egotism with the cry, “Thy will be done.” Speaking of obsession, however, we should draw a distinction. The fallen angels have access to our imaginations or memories, at least according to the Angelic Doctor, Aquinas. Yet they do not possess direct access to our will. This is crucial because one could be bombarded by diabolic influence but resist these temptations by means of frequent use of the sacraments, prayer, and fasting. In this sense, possession is inherently more dramatic than oppression. For in possession, the individual in question has almost entirely been eclipsed. Their will, at times, will be violated and their body will seemingly be inhabited by the forces of the enemy. Scripture records that the body is the temple of God. Yet if we defile this temple, naturally, we open doors for the enemy to have greater influence. I speak not only of sexual sins but also of idolatry. Idolatry can be committed when one consults mediums and other non-orthodox practices that do not pay proper reverence to God, the true creator almighty. When we place outsell vest or any lesser good above the primary good of God, we are due for a complete mess. If we place our trust in false teachers or spirits, not in league with God, if we step beyond the safety of the magisterium and the dogmas of the faith, we swiftly stumble headlong into ruin. Fortunately, the mercy of the Lord is greater than the mercy of men. For if the Lord was more prone to wrath and to exact the law which states, “An eye for an eye,” we would all soon be drowned in supernatural terror. Yet the Lord has provided us his own body, upon the cross and through the Eucharist, and by these instruments of grace, we shall surely overcome.”
3. Could you clarify for us some characteristics of diabolic influence in the home?
“I have encountered cases in which strange smells have appeared from no natural source, in which disembodied voices have been heard. I have encountered tapping noises within the home, and even full manifestations, although these are quite rare.”
4. Do you have a particular case you would like to share?
“Sure. In one specific case, I visited a young mother who had many paranormal activities happening in her home. She was at the stage where she was on the verge of a breakdown. She had suffered greatly for a number of months and was finding it extremely difficult to lead a normal life. She was seeing dark shadows in her home and hearing noises and tapping sounds throughout her home. Waking up to dark shadows standing over her bed. She had taken part in using the Ouija board and had contacted a dreadful spirit on one particular night. She opened a gate. She could not close it on her own authority. She sought help and was at a grave loss. She had also taken part in paranormal investigations. This all started as she had given up her free will to follow after mediums and other forms of the occult. Not knowing the dangers she was placing herself or her family in she had taken part in these activities purely for fun. Once meeting her it was clear that she was very scared and feared for her life and the life of her son. Deliverances and healing prayers were performed on this lady and her home. After visiting the home on more than one occasion I finally had to call in the Exorcist priest to exorcise her home as things were getting out of control for this young woman. She has made a clear choice. She has seen the hand of good and the hand of evil. She has chosen now the better part and put aside the path of darkness. She is now a woman of grace, or at least last time I examined the case. She will stay far away from the Occult now. We must place our trust in Christ Jesus first and foremost. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father unless it is through him.”
5. What should one do in such cases?
“One should contact ones’ local Parish and call upon a priest to bless the home. A priest, however, can only perform a formal exorcism unless he has perdition from his Bishop. If a priest were to perform any Rite without the Bishops’ authorization than the priest in question may be in peril, as his authority rests on the apostolic nature of his office. This being said house- blessing are common and should occur regularly. I would also highly suggest regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, generally known as Confession. People ask me all the time, why should I go and confess my sins to a priest? The answer is simple. Christ promised his apostles that they would have the authority to forgive sins. When you go and hear the words “I absolve you” from a priest in direct succession to the apostolic tradition,
Back to the twelve who walked with Christ, you have surety that your sins are forgiven. If your sins are forgiven, mortal and venial, then the enemy has no legal right over you.”
6. Would you suggest any other methods of protection?
“Augustine once said, if my memory serves me, he who prays shall be saved. Prayer is not simply a subjective internal activity. It is the act of humbling one's mind, body, and soul to the father. It is an act of loving union between yourself and the creator of heaven and of earth. If you require anything, and if you truly possess a need that has not been answered, scripture tells us that the believer shall be heard. Now, the Lord is all-knowing and therefore, I shall not say to you that he shall answer all of your requests. If he did, believe me when I tell you, the fruits of your life may not grow at all. A healthy garden must be watered, not drowned if the seeds of everlasting truth are to grow. The same is true with prayer. We speak too much in prayer at times. Too often we do not spend time with our Lord in silence, before the tabernacle. Too often we do not listen. Yes, pray your rosary. It is your weapon. Our Lady desires you to do this daily. Yes wear your scapular and recite the Little Office for your salvation. But whatever you do, remember that you are speaking to a person. You are not speaking to an abstraction. You are addressing the one who already knows, the one who already understands, and the one who loves you even more than you could ever love yourself. For he shed his blood for you and your transgressions on the cross. Cast your cares on him and at the foot of the cross. For it is written in the Word, “It is finished.” In some translations, I have read “It is completed or it is consummated.” We are called to the Supper of the Lamb. Let us keep the feast joyfully and realize that we are participants in this mystery, beyond all time and space. Our Lord is a healing Lord. We must trust in him, and not become overly hung up on our temptations. Our life here may be a war with principalities and powers. But we are destined for the New Jerusalem. The grave has been defeated. We should have no cause for fear, unless we stray, and even should we stray, we have an advocate with the father who has become both our judge and our divine savior. He saves us from the sin of Adam and of Eve which we have all partaken of by washes us clean in his blood of sacrifice, by anointing us in his Holy Spirit, and by watering us for a harvest through the sacrament of Baptism. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we discover the way to heaven, our homeland and the homeland itself, united in a single person.”