Interviewed by Jude Abanseka and Ireneaus Chongwain Chia
Scary daily human rights abuses on television during deliverance sessions in some Churches has pushed us to find out more on the subject from the Archdiocesan Chaplain of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and lecturer at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, STAM, Bambui, Rev. Fr. Ernest Tubuo. Excerpts:
Exorcism and deliverance are both carried out in the Catholic Church but exorcism is a very rare phenomenon where evil forces integrally control a person. It needs a lot of discernment from various experts including a minister or a priest or a psychologist, experts in the medical field and the Christian community. All these have to ascertain that the devil completely influences the person’s mental, spiritual or psychological breakdown. So exorcism is required when the devil takes control of a person’s ability to be fully human. This is manifested by very strange phenomena like possessing extra ordinary physical force. But deliverance is based on liberating a person to live a life of full freedom in Christ. For example, somebody can be so fearful, sometimes sleeping and dreaming of being fed. Both deliverance and exorcism are integral ministries of the Catholic Church that belong to the lay faithful and ordained ministers.
The differences between these ministries in the Catholic and Pentecostal churches is that the Catholic Church has a clear sense of direction, while the Pentecostal churches are so varied that you do not know where to put your finger. Catholics rely on Church-given general norms and guidance, while the Pentecostals rely on the pastor. The focus is on a pastor and not on the source of his power who is Christ. In the Catholic Church we liberate a person to be free in Christ because only God permits, for a purpose that the individual be afflicted by evil. The person is liberated therefore to be free as the Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 395 directs. God permits the devil to torment a person so that the person can come back to Him in prayer to regain his/her dignity. Therefore the prayer of exorcism, deliverance or healing is to restore somebody’s dignity and permit that person to have a one-to-one relationship again with God.
What conditions should be met before exorcism or deliverance takes place?
The minister must be sure that it is a case of possession or of diabolic activity. Our world is so devil-conscious these days that normal but scary activities could be falsely attributed to diabolic activity. For example, normal psychological problems or even strange noises or sickness can be attributed to diabolic activity. Therefore it is imperative for thorough investigations to take place by a team which is well formed before exorcism or deliverance should take place, after the local ordinary’s expressed permission.
These sessions are usually very agitated and most often also violent since the Devil is involved. What is usually done or should be done to ensure that the human dignity of the person concerned is respected?
It is my experience that each of these cases causes a lot of pain in the family and arouses a lot of curiosity and criticisms from the public. The Church teaches in the Manual of Instruction on Prayer for Healing that it must be done in a private setting to preserve the person’s dignity and the family’s sanity. The importance is not to make of such sessions a public spectacle. The individual’s dignity is the Catholic Church’s central concern and not the minister’s popularity.
Usually a deliverance session looks like a public humiliation session with the person concerned saying things that would otherwise be considered private. In some cases people display the illnesses they are suffering from in public. Is this not a violation of privacy?
In Catholic groupings of prayer, people fall, people manifest, but you will see the difference. No camera is permitted and the person is taken apart, listened to, counselled and an appointment is given for a private follow- up. We emphasise that each person is the Temple of the Spirit and being disturbed is enough private humiliation. Therefore the Catholic Church is not party to these public shows meant to further humiliate the individual and boost the pastor’s public approval ratings.
What is the place of a public confession in the spiritual healing procession and can it be avoided or can it also be effective if it is done in private?
Public confession is not a Catholic tradition. I have seen it done and it is extremely embarrassing because my sin is a private matter between God and me in which I break my private relationship with God. Through the ministry of a priest I restore that relationship in the confessional. So public confessions for the Catholic Church are not permitted for they wound the person more and expose the person to ridicule and the healing process may be hampered. But once a person is assured, consoled and loved and God’s mercy is transmitted in the confessional, the person gets healed faster. Confession is the biggest and the most efficacious means of deliverance.
There are increasing claims of spiritual attacks today. What are the signs that someone is being or has been attacked spiritually?
I would rather say there is an increasing awareness of the devil and in 98 percent of cases, it is fear and anxiety that attack people because of what we watch on television and what people say. A simple example, somebody says he/she is being fed at night. It is true you cannot be an adult or a child and not dream of eating. So why does it become a point of anxiety? Is it because you heard somebody talk negatively about it? You get up in the morning, your stomach is not bulging, you do not feel any discomfort, but you carry the fear all around and start suspecting people. If we have more confidence in God things like these will disappear.
The greatest sign that one is being attacked is when explicitly or implicitly one’s sacramental life is being blocked and the personI starts relying on those who give prophesies, those who prescribe oils, salt and so on making him to rely more on his sacramentals than on Christ. I always tell people when the evil one presses you at night, get up, thank the evil one for getting you up and say a decade of the rosary. But once we get obsessed with having been pressed at night and start asking for holy water, anointed oil, blessed salt, scapular and all these sacramentals, we become more anxious. Sacramentals are not meant to fight the devil but to increase our relationship with God. Their wrong use makes us more fearful. If you are really attacked by the devil, there is a persistent blockage. If you see people refusing to go for Communion, refusing prayer, avoiding passing around holy places; then you know there is something wrong with them.
Must a Christian belong to a particular or seek help from a particular Church to be delivered from the Devil’s chains?
It is a very complex question, but if we go back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which I earlier quoted, we discover that the reason God allows the devil to touch us is that we should rediscover God’s love and come back to Him in love. The problem with Catholic Christians is that they need immediate solutions to their problems. I strongly discourage the movement from one church to another because this does not show the search for Christ, but the search for a cure. Every solution is found in the Catholic Church because Christians should be led to know, love and praise God constantly. The movement to these churches will not help us. Our Bishops are trying to help us set up structures that will offer care for such cases.
Though you are going to considered judge and party, what can you say about claims being made today that only a “living Church” can heal people from a spiritual problem and that traditional churches are powerless in this domain?
The church is what Christ founded on Peter, “You are the rock on which I will build my Church”. What is a living church other than that church? And it is the same Church at Mass that says, “Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world” which means Christ died and is risen again. So what is the meaning of a living church except that one church is more excited and tries to be animated than the other? Jesus says, “When you pray, do not babble, talk to your Father in Heaven”. So when someone’s babbling qualifies others as living and others as traditional, we then get confused. I can trace the origin of the Catholic Church to Peter and to Christ, historically, theologically and in faith. What is a living church? Where do they come from? When did they start or where can their roots be traced to? How did they start if not out of somebody’s will to break away from tradition?
There is an explosion of “healing churches” nowadays. Is it a new found evangelical zeal or outright dupery?
I think it is difficult to discern. I will give an example. Three years ago, a young man came to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal retreat and after that he went to Nigeria. I do not know what he did there but he later became a pastor. He came to the retreat because he had not been successful in the GCE after writing for more than seven times. His becoming a pastor is questionable. Who called him? Who chose him? Who formed him? It should be an elaborate process. When Judas sold Jesus and died, the rest of the Apostles had to choose Mathias to replace him following certain conditions. It has to be somebody who has been with them, who has witnessed the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ among those chosen and called with a particular formation having been transmitted to him. It is true there is a greater awareness of Christianity in our world today as more people have become aware of the power of Christ and fewer people are going to “ngambe” for solutions. But people use prayer to grow rich. This awareness has created a need for healing and deliverance, a need to be listened to and so on. Some of these people are real dupes, while some are genuine believers in God.
Can someone use power that does not come from God to heal? In other words, are there other sources of healing powers than that which comes from God?
Going by my experience, I would say, yes. From what the Bible says, I still say, yes, because if Jesus could be accused of having healed by the power of Beelzebul it means that at that point they recognised that an evil spirit can be used for false healing and deliverance.
What must a Christian do to remain spiritually strong or to prevent spiritual attacks?
For Catholics I would say they should attend Mass and go for confession as often as possible. They should live a life of charity, of forgiveness and of love everyday. There is nothing as good as the new way of being church in this Ecclesiastical Province that can promote unity and love in the family and the neighbourhood. These push out the devil. So if Christians can stay faithful to the Blessed Sacrament, they do not need any extraordinary prayer. With the sacraments and prayer, you are going to be fine.