As Halloween Approaches, an Exorcist Speaks on the Reality of Satan
An interview with a London priest who battles the devil.
On a sunlit autumn day, outside a church in central London, there stands a figure — by his dress unmistakably a Catholic priest. This priest, Father Jeremy Davies, is also an exorcist. He is at the church door awaiting someone, due to arrive shortly, in need of his ministry.
The matter-of-fact and calm manner of Father Davies belies the fact that this is a man on the front line of an ancient and ongoing spiritual battle. It is one carried out by him behind closed doors in a London church on an apparently mundane weekday afternoon. Yet within those church walls the power of the Holy Name releases people from the influence of evil, frees the oppressed from wicked spirits and, in the more extreme cases, casts out demons from the possessed.
Seemingly unperturbed by the evil that he combats, Father Davies states simply: “If God asks us to do a work, then he will protect us.” Since being ordained in 1974, this priest’s primary concern has always been, rather than his own well-being, the spiritual well-being of those who seek his help; and since 1987, that concern for others included their desire to be rid of Satanic oppression. No doubt, the concern he feels about his current “cases” is similar to that he experienced when he was working as a doctor. His desire then was to cure patients of physical illness; now, it is to rid his current patients of something even more deadly.
Since the late 1970s Father Davies has been exercising the ministry of deliverance and exorcism in the Westminster Diocese. In 2019, such is the demand for his services that he exercises that ministry every week at a central London church. He agreed to speak to the Register Oct. 9.
Portrait of an Exorcist
At one time, Father Davies was one of the few exorcists in London; now, he is one of a number. It was in 1987 that the then cardinal-archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume, asked him to become the exorcist for the diocese. Although Father Davies had at the time only limited experience of the work to be undertaken, without hesitation, he accepted his new ministry.
In some ways he was a perfect candidate. Before becoming a priest, Father Davies had trained as a medical doctor. After qualifying to practice medicine in 1968, he had practiced in remote parts of Africa, where he had encountered strange disturbances in his patients. Following his ordination in 1974, he worked as a priest in central London. Here, he encountered behavior just as disturbed in the souls entrusted to him as he had in his former patients in Africa. Father Davies remembers “all sorts” of people coming to his presbytery, some of whom he says were “possessed or troubled.” His work as a parish priest proved an introduction to a world that is now central to his priestly ministry.
Today, he no longer runs a parish. Instead, his time is largely taken up with his work as an exorcist. An octogenarian, mentally alert and still in good health, Father Davies focuses upon his work with an air of pervading calm. In fact, his demeanor still has aspects of the “bedside manner” of any good doctor. In short, he is a skilled listener and observer.
Satan Is Real
As Father Davies awaits another troubled soul, he reflects on the recent comments allegedly made by the Jesuit superior general, Father Arturo Sosa, that, seemingly, he no longer believes that Satan exists. Father Davies shakes his head: “It’s fatal to faith and salvation to disbelieve a part of Revelation. Every part of Revelation is important and essential. Belief in Satan as a fallen angel — indeed, as the leader of the fallen angels — is an essential part of divine Revelation.”
Father Davies said that such a view as that attributed to Father Sosa is “totally against the word of God and the Catholic faith. It shows just what depths people can sink to on the path of modernism.” He paused and then added: “If he really said this, he has put himself outside the communion of the Church.” Standing in the sunshine while awaiting a soul desperately in need of deliverance ministry, Father Davies added, “I would ask him [Father Sosa] how on earth he had come to this belief.”
Father Davies was speaking to the Register just weeks before Halloween. London shops are full of paraphernalia associated with that festival. Father Davies is clear that there are two major perils associated with Halloween, both equally dangerous: “They [those who ‘celebrate’ Halloween] begin by playing games, but it can lead to people disbelieving in the devil and evil spirits, and this, in turn, can lead to a loss of the Christian faith.”
He pointed out that a “levity about such matters was fatal; playing with evil under the pretext of it being untrue is to allow evil to enter.” But evil can also enter, he explains, where there exists an unhealthy interest in the occult, leading to “an intrusion of demonic influence” through a growing fascination with it. Whichever way evil gains entry, Father Davies is clear that any dabbling in the occult “doesn’t have to be deep to be deadly.” He explained that any “tolerance of occult practices is part of a terrible deception” stemming from its source, namely, the Father of Lies. There is no such thing as a “gradation” in these matters, according to the exorcist priest. All such activity he sees as sinful, and, as with any sin, it is a means by which a soul is removed ever further from the love of God.
Gateway of Sin
It is not just the occult that is a gateway for the entry of evil into the lives of those unfortunate enough to experience it, though. Father Davies cites other ways in which evil can enter and linger, ultimately destroying the soul. He said that this can occur by means of “every sin, but sins particularly bound up with the preternatural and with grave sin — such as abortion and pornography — and anything against our created nature, including in the realm of sexual morality.”
Interestingly, Father Davies still sees potential opportunities for good in the fact that Halloween has gained an ever-higher profile year by year. “Halloween is a good opportunity,” he suggests, “to teach the faith and help all of us — especially children — to understand the reality of evil and the truth of Christ and his Church.” It is the occasion, he feels, to “teach against” the festival using the word of God and the “clear teaching of the Church.” This now-omnipresent paganized holiday is the moment, he says, “to warn the world not just to avoid Halloween; it is also an opportunity to tell people about Christ.”
Illusion and Reality
Exorcists have been the stuff of media fantasy since the 1970s. The 1973 film The Exorcist was a worldwide box-office smash and established a cinematic sub-genre devoted to the subject as well as a hackneyed template for any related plot. Needless to say, most of these films concerning exorcisms have been inaccurate, sensational and wholly forgettable. But there is nothing about Father Davies that is remotely sensational or that appears out of the ordinary — as, without a glance, people pass by him on a busy London street.
Father Davies began his ministry as one of only a very few exorcists in London, and, then, there was little contact among those priests. But over the intervening three decades, this has changed. Over the years, as his ministry has grown, so too has communication between the British and the worldwide network of priests who are charged with this work. In 1990 Father Davies, along with five other priests, including Father Gabriele Amorth, founded the International Association of Catholic Exorcists. This organization holds an international conference every other year in Rome. In addition, the British-based exorcists also hold a national conference. Across London exorcists meet on a regular basis to coordinate their fight against the forces that spiritually oppress so many. The identities of diocesan exorcists are only revealed to those in need of their help. The work of these priests and the laypeople who assist them is largely hidden from the public view.
It is time for Father Davies to leave. His services are required.
As he gets ready to leave, I am reminded of what a holy priest, now long since dead, once said of the streets of London, namely that they were “full of demons.”
When this is put to him, Father Davies replies, “That’s true.”
And with that he pushed open the church door once more to enter into his ministry.
K.V. Turley is the Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.