In a recent interview following the death of the Catholic Church's top exorcist, two unnamed British exorcists are blaming public interest in the supernatural, including the Harry Potter books, with the recent rise in exorcism cases. Much like the late Father Gabriel Amorth, a longtime opponent of Harry Potter books and "evil yoga", the exorcists stated in a recent interview in The Times that a general weakening of faith and a "need to believe in something invisible" has led to more people than ever requesting exorcisms.
Each of the 22 dioceses in the United Kingdom has at least one exorcist (cities such as Liverpool have four on call), and all are reportedly being kept busy with exorcism requests. According to the Times interview, symptom can include "an ability to predict events or suddenly speak a new language or a sudden violent fear of holy objects, such as the case of a worshipper who found herself screaming blasphemies at a statue of the Virgin Mary". Exorcists also distinguish between cases of possession, in which the body is completely possessed by demons, and "oppression" in which people still have partial control over their bodies.
Most exorcists insist that their training helps them recognize whether the person requesting help is genuinely possessed or suffering from mental illness. According to one Liverpool exorcist however, both can co-exist since trauma can make people vulnerable to Satanic influence. "Only when it is obvious there's something other than mental illness going on would we get involved," he states. "Otherwise, I would pray with them but say 'You should go to your GP.'
One exorcist warned "Satan is always looking for people with no relationships or broken relationships. So one can be a Catholic and be baptised, and still have a demonic problem because of doors that have been opened, or that have been opened for them." Along with a fascination with the supernatural, including Harry Potter books and ouija boards, abortion, pornography, alcoholism, and a "decline in orthodox Christian faith" are all things that can make people more vulnerable to Satanic influence.
While exorcist names have traditionally been kept secret to protect them from frivolous requests, contact details are now available online. Still, there is no central database of exorcisms performed so actual statistics on how often they are performed remain unavailable. It is also unclear whether the increased media attention towards exorcists, including books, movies, and television shows, has been feeding this new demand for the rite.
One American exorcist suggests that the failure of the mental health system may be a factor as well. Though he works with a team of mental health professionals to weed out psychiatric cases, the lack of mental health services in many places means that patients need to turn to more unconventional forms of treatment.