13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
THE DEVIL MADE ME READ IT!,
This review is from: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (Hardcover)
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This book works in three different ways. First off, its a biography of the priest who goes to Italy, to learn how to be an exorcist. Second, it offers a very humanistic view of the cultural phenomena of demonic posession in modern Italy, and third, it examines the theological perspectives of the Catholic church and its connection to modern exorcism. It succeeds on each level, tho I wouldnt think it has as much of the heavy duty modern catholic theology, if produced purely for the clergy. The first part of the book tells how Father Gary Thomas becomes sellected by his bishop, to move to Rome for a year, to take part in a symposium on demonic posession, and also, to apprentice under a working exorcist. Since the book is written from Fr. Thomas' point of view (tho in third person), it's more engaging on an emotional level. Since we see demonic posession in what seem to be normal, everyday people of all ages and walks of life, we easily identify with the posessed, so we're less likely to either intellectualize the suffering of the posessed, or the horror of the exorcists who face these hellish angels.
I was fascinated by the theology of the book. Apparently, demonic posession is believed by two types of churches in modern America. First, fundamentalist churches believe that all kinds of common behavior can be demonically produced, ie, colds, car accidents, addiction, interest in heavy metal music, etc. If this is your point of view, i'd steer clear of this book. Because THE RITE is written from the Catholic perspective of Posession. Altho posession goes all the way back to the beginning of the Christian religion, when Jesus delivered many suffering people from devils, after the advent of modern science, and espeically psychology, exorcism has been an embarrassment to the catholic church. THE RITE made clear, that before an excorcism may be preformed, first a psychiatrist, then a doctor must look for scientific rational explinations. After that, the priest "tests" the spirit. If there is no underlying psychosis, or hysterical conversion, or epilypsy, or brain tumor, etc, and if the exorcist beleives that a demon is in the person, and if the bishop ALLOWS the rite, then an exorcism can proceed. In the Italian culture, excorcism is as common as capichino. It's widely believed that curses, unsuccessful abortion attempts, messing around with the occult, etc, are all precursors to demonic pocession. Some people go to exorcists every month, or week, for years, where the exorcist provides COMFORT, instead of a complete cures. Father Gary, watches an old pro preform the ROMAN RITE on all sorts of people, who have reactions ranging from yawning, to the full blown "Linda Blair" freak outs. (Altho strong reactions are VERY rare.) We also meet Father Amouth, who wrote "An Exorcist Tells his Story", and believes that ALL bishops need an exorcist in their dioceses. The rational behind this resurrenge in Exorcism, is the huge growth of interest in Wicca, Satanism, the Occult, and other dark practices, in the USA and western Europe. These dark, demonic interests have lead to behavior, that the Catholic church NEEDs to address. If Father Amouth's suggestion is to be followed, then a LOT of exorcists are going to need to be trained, and apprenticed, to deal with the PASTORIAL CONCERNS of the Catholic community, even if it does seem mideaval to the modern mind. My first reaction to the book was, "Is this a put on? Do modern educated people actually beleive in REAL demonic possession?" Having read the book, i have to admit, demon posession is real, if your faith is based on Christ's teachings. But it also seems to be a cultural element in the phenomina, and an element not unlike faith healing. But the best books leave you with questions, as well as information anyway. Its not only the catholic church, and the fundamentalists who accept the doctrine of demonic posession. Anglican priests like Dr. Craig Isaacs, (who's also a psychiatrist) see disease as illness of body, mind and spirit. The body is cured by medical doctors, the mind by psychologists, and the spirit by priests trained driving out demons.
If the scientific, and theological content of the book is to be doubted, you only need to turn to the back of the book, where the author places over 40 pages of footnotes to the book, and a selective bibliography that runs 10 pages, including an INDEX! So, this is not your NATIONAL ENQUIRE type sensationalist book about DEVIL BOY INHABITS BEARDED LADY. So, this book should appeal to many. First off, catholics, and those in the catholic ministry, who are interested in having their theological preconceptions about demonic posession reevaluated. Second, anyone investigating the phenomenia of demonic posession, perhaps compairing the modern day catholic view, with simular phenomina in indiginous African religions, still seen today in Haiti, for example. Christian psychologists who deal with patients that believe they have a devil within them, may gleen a little backround information, perhaps breaking the delusion of their patient, or even asking themselves if they DO see signs of the demonic in some. On the other hand, a fundamentalist church member, might feel offended by some of the material here. Also, if you believe you might have committed the "unforgiveable sin" (a VERY common delusion of the psychotic), i would steer clear of this book. No one who may be harmed by this information psycholgically, or spiritually, should get into this book. Naturally, those with a normal curiousity about such things, would find this book very interesting, not filled with techical theological or psychological terminolgy. THE RITE is a fascinating book filled with sociological insight, human interest, and modern insight on a cultural phenomina found THRUOUT THE WORLD....that human beings can be posessed by demonic powers. Even the most suspicious about posession, may find themselves coming away from the book believing it may be more t han superstition. Posession isnt just for Hollywood or the middle ages any more. Here's a very good book, to find out WHY.