The soaring demand for exorcisms in France has created a new industry of private exorcists, most of whom have no real qualifications and charge exorbitant prices for the ritual.
While the Catholic Church offers exorcisms for applicants deemed to be in need, they have stringent criteria aimed at weeding out people deemed to suffer from mental illness. As a result, thousands of applicants are rejected each year and an increasing number of people requesting exorcisms are turning to private exorcists instead. A recent article in the Mail Online presented interviews with some of these private exorcists to try to determine what services they are offering and who their clients are.
One of these private exorcists, a 57-year old self-proclaimed ordained priest named Jean Clement, says that he advertises his services online and charges about 270 UK pounds for each ritual. According to him, many of his clients come to him due to emotional problems or relationship issues which they feel have a supernatural cause. Due to rising demand, he now performs up to four exorcisms a week where it was only only one or two a month. Of the people who come to him for help, he stated that he has only ever turned away one person requesting an exorcism. Since many people find no relief for their symptoms following the exorcism, they often ask for additional sessions and some have reportedly paid thousands of dollars for the private exorcisms.
In that same article, Father Georges Berson, one of only two priests in Paris authorized to carry out exorcisms, states that false exorcists like Clement are preying on desperate people who would be better off seeking mental health counseling. Though legitimate exorcists don't charge a fee, the prospect of a quick cure for whatever concerns them means more potential customers than ever. Part of the problem stems from the recent influx of movies and televisions shows surrounding exorcism and the supposed supernatural forces at work.
But this soaring demand for exorcisms is hardly limited to France. In the United States, numerous evangelists and "demonologists" offer their services online and, given the lack of real regulation, these self-proclaimed exorcists are free to make grandiose claims about successful cases with little real risk of exposure. As for the Catholic Church in the United States, the number of priests trained to conduct exorcisms has risen from 12 to 50 and are still unable to keep up with demand.
The Mail Online article also interviews Father Vincent Lambert of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who blames the influx of new cases on "wavering faith" and the rise of drugs and pornography. The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game," he said, "but more people are willing to play it." In the meantime, the Catholic Church and other formal religions that offer exorcisms continue to turn away people requesting exorcism. We will likely be hearing a lot more about private exorcists in future.