Official N.Y. Exorcist Sees The Exorcist As Correct Portrayal Of Manifestation
By Michael H. Brown
There is the temptation to see him as in the movie: dressed in black, Holy Water and stole and prayer book at the ready, standing in front of a mist-enshrouded house. Wasn't that the image in The Exorcist?
Most of the time, Father James LeBar, one of three official exorcists in the New York Archdiocese, and based near Poughkeepsie, is at a desk working at a psychiatric hospital, or conducting other priestly tasks. But when he's called, he goes where he is needed to cast away the devil and his demons in the time-honored fashion -- indeed, very much like in the movie, he says.
"The Exorcist is about the most accurate portrayal of what can happen at an exorcism that I have ever seen," Father LeBar told Spirit Daily yesterday. "There were some Hollywood embellishments, to be sure -- but the story itself was correct, except that they changed it from a boy to a girl to protect the identity."
We have written about that before. Indeed, three years ago, we interviewed one of the priests involved in the case that spawned the blockbuster movie [see past story]. Is there more of a need for exorcism and deliverance than there was when the movie was released, or, say, twenty years ago?
"Yes," says Father LeBar after contemplating the question for a moment. "I think it's a number of things. Since there wasn't much attention paid to these problems for years, they built up. Some of the problem has been caused by society, some is from other problems. But perhaps now, with the proliferation of public evil, people are looking at things differently."
Is the Church addressing issues more than it did back in the 1970s and 1980s? "I think so," says Father LeBar. "I get calls from bishops now and again to help." He comments that there was one year that 25 exorcisms had to be conducted in the archdiocese, while, another year, there were only two.
Are all the people who need full-blown exorcism ministered to? We'd have to say that's highly unlikely. In our experience, deliverance is necessary more frequently than is addressed. But that's our opinion. "The charts would be erratic," says Father LeBar. "Because many dioceses don't have an exorcist, sometimes they call me and when the bishop gives me permission I go and help other bishops somewhere else."
The old ritual called for the priest to fast three days, but that's no longer a rule. Fasting helps because there can be intense manifestations. Father LeBar says he has seen phenomena similar to what was portrayed in The Exorcist. "In one situation I was dealing with a girl sitting on a chair a few feet from me and the next thing I knew she was six inches from my face," he recalls. "She had moved three or four feet across the room and there were no marks on the floor to show that the chair had been dragged across the rug."
Father LeBar says evil spirits react strongly to the Name of Jesus, and to the Archangel Michael. "Besides those, the demon does not like to hear the name of the Blessed Virgin. There are strong reactions. Sometimes there are no reactions from the devil because he is trying to make you go away; we invoke all the saints in the litany of saints at the beginning and usually there's not much reaction there. But in the prayer itself when we pray the Rosary or invoke the intercession of Blessed Mary to help us, this invariably gets some kind of reaction, and St. Michael sometimes and I invoked St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, several times. The devil was not happy with that."
Father LeBar says he has not read the Harry Potter books and so has no discernment of what effect they can have, but the exorcist says that he now finds many children in need of deliverance. "There are more, yes," he comments -- adding that at times a demonic presence will follow a family's genealogical line. But it's tough to predict who and when the devil will attack. "I have had cases where the children of families have been attacked and times when they were not involved at all in the same family. There's no set pattern. The devil would not let us make a pattern."
Why him? Why was Father LeBar, originally from The Bronx, chosen as an exorcist?
"Who knows," replies the priest, who is now 66. "In 1973 I joined the Office of Communications for the archdiocese and one of the tasks given me was to look into the cult problem -- Unification Church, Hare Krisna, all that -- and around 1987 and 1988, there began to be inquiries about devil worship and satanism.
"And so that came into my sphere and we looked into it and determined that there were satanic cults and people who dabbled in it and possession by the devil.
"In 1988 and 1989 I had the first cases. With Cardinal [John] O'Connor's help, we were able to help the people, and finally a few years later, he decided that we needed our own exorcists. I was appointed along with four others."
Now there are three. There have been criticisms that some dioceses have none -- that the intellectualization of the Church has quashed belief in the devil in certain regions. But Father LeBar says he hasn't had problems with bishops. "For the most part they have been very helpful and cooperative when a case appears in a diocese," he says. "Sometimes they call me, sometimes they appoint somebody themselves. I have never been turned down flat by any bishop."
Is there a distinction, we asked, between demonic and satanic possession?
They are basically the same thing, asserts the expert. And this is the time of year, leading up to Halloween, that there is special activity. There is also an upswing, he says, on other satanic holidays.
Do curses exist? Yes, he says. People can call down evil on somebody else. But just as quickly, we can dismiss those curses in the Name of Jesus.
No demon, no matter how melodramatic -- no matter how prone to Hollywood -- can rise above that Name.
See also: When under spiritual attack, love is the defense & Spiritual warfare books in the bookstore
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