Roman Catholic bishops hosted an event ending yesterday that taught priests how to perform exorcisms. It's been reported that 56 bishops and 66 priests attended.
From a story filed on Friday:
The two-day training, starting Friday in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
"Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult," DiNardo said in a phone interview. "The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite."
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference, said only a tiny number of U.S. priests have enough training and knowledge to perform an exorcism. Dioceses nationwide have been relying solely on these clergy, who have been overwhelmed with requests to evaluate claims. The Rev. James LeBar, who was the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York under the late Cardinal John O'Connor, had faced a similar level of demand, traveling the country in response to the many requests for his expertise.
Paprocki told the New York Times that cases requiring intervention are few in number, while the demand for evaluation is quite high, stressing those priests so trained to discern and act.
“Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one,” [Paprocki] said... “It’s only used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.
“But it’s rare, it’s extraordinary, so the use of exorcism is also rare and extraordinary,” he said. “But we have to be prepared.”
The Episcopal Church itself has little to say on the subject, at least in a formal sense. Tucked between "A Public Service of Healing" and "Burial of One Who Does Not Profess the Christian Faith" in the Book of Occasional Services, one finds two quick paragraphs:
The practice of expelling evil spirits by means of prayer and set formulas derives its authority from the Lord himself who identified these acts as signs of his messiahship. Very early in the life of the Church the development and exercise of such rites were reserved to the bishop, at whose discretion they might be delegated to selected presbyters and others deemed competent.
In accordance with this established tradition, those who find themselves in need of such a ministry should make the fact known to the bishop, through their parish priest, in order that the bishop may determine whether exorcism is needed, who is to perform the rite, and what prayers or other formularies are to be used.
A Winter 2001 Anglican Theological Review article by Linda Malia noted the distinction - i.e., the amount of information available in the states vis-à-vis the level of interest in the subject.
One can't help but wonder at the reason for the disparity between this clearly documented ongoing interest and involvement in the subject of exorcism on the part of the Church of England and the contrasting silence regarding the subject on the other side of the Atlantic. However, closer examination will reveal that the answer lies in a complex sequence of events which include the aftermath of two World Wars and a cultural revolution, as well as a horrifying and bizarre murder in a quiet Yorkshire town which would bring the subject of exorcism in Great Britain to the attention not only of the media, but eventually of Parliament itself.