Editor's Note: Father Mike Driscoll was recently interviewed on Register Radio. Listen here.
Demons, Deliverance and Discernment
Separating Fact From Fiction About the Spirit World
By Father Mike Driscoll
Catholic Answers Press, 2015
199 pages, $14.95
To order: shop.catholic.com
The subject of exorcism has received much exposure from firsthand accounts by leading exorcists. Now, Father Mike Driscoll breaks ground by offering the first book that gives practical advice on how to determine whether an individual is demon-possessed or suffering from a mental disorder.
Father Driscoll is unique in his presentation of the spirit world, as he does so not from years of experience as a renowned exorcist, but as a priest with a doctorate in counseling. He chooses to focus on a rational, biblically based view of exorcism. He does not deny the existence of demons or demonic possession; in fact, he follows official Church teaching strictly and never sways from it. However, he does offer many words of caution to people who see the devil as the source of every illness or abnormal behavior. It is true that a demon can cause physical harm such as a mental disorder, but Father Driscoll argues that these cases are few in number. He urges priests and others to use the Church’s criteria in discerning whether an individual is demon-possessed or in need of proper medical attention.
The Church gives us a checklist of four outward signs that must be present in order to declare a soul is “possessed.” Father Driscoll explains that an individual needs to meet the following criteria: “speaking or understanding a formerly unknown language, infused knowledge of future or hidden events and the manifestation of physical powers outside of nature.” The fourth sign of demon possession is “a negative reaction to the sacred.” These four signs serve as a “litmus test” that gives an exorcist what he needs to confirm that a person does not just have a mental disorder, but is being tormented by a demon.
In addition to going through a step-by-step account of the Rite of Exorcism, Father Driscoll clarifies what the Church teaches when it comes to “deliverance ministry.” He traces the origins of this popular movement to Pentecostalism and warns the Catholic laity not to be too interested in driving out demons. Father Driscoll suggests that the best defense against the ordinary attacks of the devil is not a set of deliverance prayers that the Church has not approved, but a strong and consistent prayer life rooted in the sacraments. Overall, Father Driscoll writes an account of the demonic that does not give you nightmares and instead gives you a truthful look into a hidden world that our modern world claims does not exist. While at times the book can feel repetitive, it is easy to read and gives sound theological teaching in an accessible way.
This book deserves to be on the shelf of every priest, deacon and seminarian — or anyone else who needs clarification regarding the spirit world. It sheds light on a topic that few understand but many should.
Philip Kosloski writes