Thursday, January 19, 2017

Devil may care

For reference, here's Lieberman's background:

LIEBERMAN: I’ve never believed in ghosts or that stuff, but I’ve had a couple of cases, one in particular that really just gave me pause. This was a young girl, in her 20s, from a Catholic family in Brooklyn, and she was referred to me with schizophrenia, and she definitely had bizarre and psychotic-like behavior, disorganized thinking, disturbed attention, hallucinations, but it wasn’t classic schizophrenic phenomenology. And she responded to nothing,” he added with emphasis. “Usually you get some response. But there was no response. We started to do family therapy. All of a sudden, some strange things started happening, accidents, hearing things. I wasn’t thinking anything of it, but this unfolded over months. One night, I went to see her and then conferred with a colleague, and afterwards I went home, and there was a kind of a blue light in the house, and all of a sudden I had this piercing pain in my head, and I called my colleague, and she had the same thing, and this was really weird. The girl’s family was prone to superstition, and they may have mentioned demon possession or something like that, but I obviously didn’t believe it, but when this happened I just got completely freaked out. It wasn’t a psychiatric disorder—you want to call it a spiritual possession, but somehow, like in The Exorcist, we were the enemy. This was basically a battle between the doctors and whatever it was that afflicted the individual.

ME: Do you completely disregard the idea of possession?

LIEBERMAN: No. There was no way I could explain what happened. Intellectually, I might have said it’s possible, but this was an example that added credence.


  1. Steve - why do you think Catholic priests seem to be able to engage with the supernatural? Is it because some priests are saved, despite their bad theology? Why would demons listen to them?

    1. Good question. Several issues:

      i) Yes, I do think some Catholic priests are true believers. Indeed, given how pervasive modernism is in the contemporarily Catholic church, to be an exorcist pretty much selects for someone who believes in the supernatural. I daresay that puts them in the distinct minority. (Not that belief in the supernatural is the same thing as saving faith.)

      ii) We need to distinguish between possession and exorcism. By that I mean, distinguish the evidence for possession (or occultic phenomena generally) from the evidence for a successful exorcism. Absent follow-up studies, we don't know how successful these exorcisms were in terms of permanent deliverance.

      iii) It may be less about demons listening to a priest than God having mercy on the demoniac. Likewise, less about demons listening to a priest than submitting to God via the instrumentality of a human agent.

    2. Steve - Thank you for your reply. I concur with i) and note that ii) is difficult to ascertain, given the lack of follow-up data. I think a humble exorcist would agree with iii) personally, although Catholic theology does erroneously teach that the priest is changed, ontologically, at his moment of ordination into something otherworldly. Thus why a defrocked priest never ceases to be a priest, etc.

      It's possible even that some demons might pretend to submit to the priest in order to lure people into believing Catholic dogma, based on the evidence of exorcisms. Sounds like a 'conspiracy theory', but we ARE talking about demons after all!