William Friedkin, the director of the 1973 blockbuster “The Exorcist,” was granted permission to film an exorcism by Father Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, prior to his death in 2016, which will be released as a documentary this month. Although this is only a small window into the reality of the supernatural world, there has been an increase in demand for exorcists and the Vatican is trying its best to prepare priests to handle the task. In the United States, the Holy Father’s call led to the 2012 creation of the Pope Leo XIII Institute, a center dedicated to promoting “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” The academy is reinvigorating the clergy’s capacity for spiritual combat.
Since 2015, the Pope Leo XIII Institute has graduated more than a hundred. But even this is not enough to keep up with demand, U.S. Church officials warn. A sharp rise in demonic activity is being reported throughout the United States, owing to skyrocketing rates of drug and pornography addiction, as well as the general loss of faith and abandonment of religious devotion.
Before his death in 2016, Father Amorth said much the same. Satan’s influence, he noted, is more evident at certain points in time, including our own. “There is no doubt that Satan’s power is felt more keenly in periods of history when the sinfulness of the community is more evident,” he said. “For example, when I view the decadence of the Roman Empire, I can see the moral disintegration of that period in history. Now, we are at the same level of decadence. The devil is gaining ground,” the exorcist warned. “We are living in an age when faith is diminishing. If you abandon God, the devil will take His place.”
No matter how pervasive the force of evil, Christians believe not in fear-mongering, but trusting in the final victory of Christ over the enemy.