National Catholic Register


Haunted Hospital’s Exorcism

BY Tom Hoopes

| Posted 1/31/09 at 11:00 AM


Tomorrow’s Gospel is all about exorcisms. So is yesterday’s Derby, UK, news.

“Hospital managers have called in an exorcist after shaken workers complained they are being terrified by a ghost,” Tom Wells reports in a story that first appeared in UK’s The Sun.

A source told the reporter: “Several have seen a male figure cloaked from head to toe in black darting between rooms and through walls – especially in departments near the morgue.

One said: “There have been dozens of sightings over recent weeks and people are scared witless.”

The story quotes from an e-mail that went to all staff from a manager: “I’m not sure how many of you are aware that some members of staff have reported seeing a ghost.

“I’m taking it seriously as the last thing I want is staff feeling uneasy at work.”

She said the hospital “is going to arrange for someone from the cathedral to exorcise the department.”

Church teaching is silent on ghosts. Which leaves open the possibility that Hamlet is right when he tells Horatio that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

But it isn’t silent on exorcism. Says the Catechism (No. 1673):

“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.

“In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church.

“Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”

I take heart in what a papal translator once told me: “The devil is a kindergartner compared to Jesus and Mary.”

— Tom Hoopes