20/20 Reports On Exorcism
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PUTTING FAITH TO THE TEST
TRUE BELIEVERS CLAIM THE DEVIL IS EVERYWHERE, AND EXORCISM IS THE KEY FOR
By Joy Ciarcia-Levy and Richard Gerdau
ABC 20/20 News
May 8, 2007
[Visit the link above to see a video clip from this report. --DS]
Litchfield, Conn. is the kind of place a lot of people might choose to raise
a family. Among its other appealing qualities, Litchfield has a
microscopically low crime rate, as in other suburban communities across
But no town can be protected from all things evil. Some time ago in this
peaceful community, wife and mother Pat Reading felt as though she were
possessed by satanic spirits. In a series of exorcisms, a local bishop tried
to free her from what they saw as the grip of the devil.
Reading's then-teenage daughter Michelle Reading witnessed her mother's
exorcism sessions first hand:
"When you see the person that you love," she said, "that gave birth to you
and took care of you and then you see her being attacked by something
invisible, so heinous and so disgusting, I mean, it really is a disgusting
situation and you will do anything to stop it."
Exorcism was a last resort for Reading. According to her daughter, Reading's
normal life was derailed by feelings that an unseen force was hitting and
shoving her and always at her side.
As Michelle described, "She'd scream, she'd jerk backward, I'd turn around
and she'd be in pain. Of course, she would panic, she would cry, she was
Family legend has it that the Reading house was possessed before the spirit
entered Reading. Family members said the home was subject to phenomena like
furniture being inexplicably tossed about and strange knocking sounds.
"She would end up with black-and-blue marks in the most bizarre places that
she wouldn't have been able to do herself," said paranormal expert John
Zaffis, who is writing a book about the Reading case titled "The Struggle
Within," which is due out later this year.
After witnessing Reading's exorcism, he said, "We have what we call soul
victims, if you will, purely innocent individuals that have never had any
exposure to paranormal stuff whatsoever, and during the course of their life
they just fall victim, in the right place at the right time, and things
could just occur. And I think that's what kind of happened with Patty."
But couldn't this be explained in medical or psychological terms?
"She was found to have no psychosis," Michelle Reading explained. "There was
nothing wrong with her. She was not a drinker. She was not an alcoholic.
Nothing like that."
"Medically, physically, everything had been ruled out and that's when a
decision had to be made," Zaffis told "20/20." "And that's when, actually,
we had the Roman Catholic Church involved."
Another woman, who asked to be identified as "Traci," also felt the presence
of the devil inside of her.
"When the demons are active in my body, I feel confused, I get paranoid. I
get tense," Traci explained.
The exorcisms performed on Traci were documented by Paulist Productions for
an upcoming documentary called "Satan Unmasked." The executive producer of
the film is the Rev. Frank Desiderio. "20/20" will follow Traci's story when
the documentary is completed. For more on Paulist Productions, click here:
"We've been following this story of this woman called Traci," Desiderio
explained. "She does have a history of drug use & but that in and of itself
does not explain everything that's going on in this woman's life."
Traci told Paulist Productions, "The first time a demon left my body, I felt
like something was literally from the inside pushing out through my chest,
and through my arms and through my throat.
"The feeling of freedom that I get is a spiritual feeling. The fear goes
away, the insecurity goes away, the pain goes away and I'm filled with
Traci, who now works as a landscaper, said she got her life back through the
efforts of exorcists who held -- and imparted -- an unshakable faith.
Across the Atlantic in Italy, the Rev. Giancarlo Gramolazzo, an exorcist,
said it is faith that saves you.
"Even in the exorcisms fighting the devil, it is faith that makes it work,
he said. "It is faith that makes sure that it is not the priest that is
working but Christ."
Gramolazzo has 30 years of experience performing exorcisms in Italy, a
country where 88 percent of the population is Catholic and exorcisms are
performed every day.
Pointing to a crucifix, he explained, "It is he who is exorcising, not me. I
loan my body. Jesus is the first exorcist. It is the Lord in the first
person who showed us that he wins against evil."
Exorcism has deep roots in the Catholic tradition, and is performed by
priests who are given special license by their bishops. Twenty years ago,
Italy had about 20 official exorcists, but today there are an estimated 300.
The number of those approved to perform the exorcism rites has grown with
Gramolazzo is one of those approved to perform the rites.
"We exorcists felt the need to come together to exchange our various
experiences and to have a common vision of how to carry out exorcisms."
'The Devil Does Not Have a Nationality'
Gramolazzo heads the International Association of Exorcists:
"An important thing we discovered," he said, "is that the devil acts in
Italy, in France, in the U.S., in Mexico, in Japan, in the same way. If I go
and exorcise someone in Japan it is the same devil I exorcise here. The
devil does not have a nationality."
Tracy Wilkinson, the Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Rome, spent years
researching exorcism in Italy for her book "The Vatican's Exorcists"
<http://tinyurl.com/2yykjh>. She was even allowed to witness an official
exorcism performed by Roman Catholic priests.
According to Wilkinson, it does require belief and it requires faith on a
very core level. "The hierarchy of the church is ambivalent about the
phenomenon of exorcism," Wilkinson said. "They recognize it can be so easily
distorted and sensationalized and abused, many priests are skeptical about
demonic possession. And yet, I found quite a few academics and psychiatrists
who allowed for the concept of demonic possession -- one who had even sent
his patient, he couldn't figure out what to do with her, he sent her to an
Staunch supporters claim that to believe in exorcism is to have a faith
complete enough to acknowledge the existence of Satan, whose legions of
devils can inhabit bodies and possess souls.
Paulist Productions traveled to Rome to interview perhaps the most famous
exorcist of our time, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth.
"For our Christian faith, it's very, very important to realize that Satan
exists," he said. "Go forth, preach the Gospel, throw out the devils and
heal the sick -- those are the commands Jesus gave to the apostles."
60,000 Exorcisms and Counting
In a rare interview Amorth explained how he has performed more than 60,000
exorcisms in his lifetime. He believes that Satan exists, and does so to
"I said to John Paul II, I meet too many bishops who do not believe in the
devil," he said. "And he answered, 'Those who do not believe in the devil,
do not believe in the Gospel.' And John Paul II also performed various
exorcisms. So he was a person who believed and the present pope, Benedict
XVI, he too really believes. And he is one of the members of the commission
that drew up the ritual for exorcisms."
The Vatican prohibits photographing any officially sanctioned Roman Catholic
exorcism, but priests who have performed them said exorcisms can look and
feel remarkably similar to the 1973 Hollywood blockbuster "The Exorcist."
Gramolazzo recounted, "There are exorcisms in which the things you see in
the film happen people who lift off the ground, people whose skin is cut,
people who vomit strange things. The first exorcism I saw of an 18-year-old
girl who had phenomena, her head rotated, her hands and her arms spun round,
cuts would suddenly appear on her skin, certainly not made by her."
While the kind of full body possessions depicted in the movie do happen,
official exorcists also note they are extremely rare. Satan, they claim, is
more likely to work in more subtle ways.
As Amorth explained, "His main activity is to tempt man to fall into sin and
away from God. Satan does everything he can to avoid being discovered. And
he's also pleased to be projected with bat wings and with hooves at his
feet, with long ears and things like that. Because by rendering him
ridiculous what people do is deny his existence."
Some are not so ready to deny the devil's existence. A 2005 online poll of
889 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive show that 61 percent of
adult Americans believe in Satan.
But even in a world they see as vulnerable to Satan's maneuverings, leading
Catholic exorcists say there is a safe haven.
"It is faith, faith, faith, only faith," said Gramolazzo.
The most well-known priests who perform the rite, like Amorth, say exorcism
is only part of a larger mission.
"It is a ministry," he said, "which is gratifying, a spiritual gratification
of bringing souls back to God."
PREVIOUS NHNE NEWS LIST ARTICLES:
VATICAN EXORCIST: HITLER & STALIN POSSESSED DEVIL (8/29/2006):
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (9/20/2005):
MONK INDICTED IN NUN'S CRUCIFIXION DEATH (6/20/2005):
PRIEST UNREPENTANT AFTER CRUCIFYING OF NUN (6/19/2005):
THE SEX DEMON OF THE ZANZIBAR SPICE ISLANDS (5/19/2005):
VATICAN OFFERS CLASSES ON SATANISM(2/18/2005):
MORE ON EXORCISM (1/18/2005):
M. SCOTT PECK: GLIMPSES OF THE DEVIL (1/18/2005):
PONTIFICAL UNIVERSITY TO TAKE ON THE DEVIL (12/9/2004):
POPE HAS PERFORMED 3 EXORCISMS TO WARD OFF DEVIL (2/19/2002):
REPORT: MOTHER TERESA HAD EXORCISM (9/6/2001):
CREATING FALSE MEMORIES, EXORCISM STYLE (10/17/2000):
ARCHDIOCESE OF CHICAGO GETS EXORCIST (9/19/2000):
DEVIL DEFEATS THE POPE IN VATICAN EXORCISM (9/10/2000):
The Catholic Encyclopedia on Exorcism:
Wikipedia on Exorcism:
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Published by David Sunfellow
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