Having just read Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuers’s new book, Exorcism and the Church Militant, one of the first things I asked him was whether he was afraid of demons. I shivered more than once reading through its short chapters, arranged as basic questions about the devil, demons, possession, and the rite of exorcism.
“Not at all,” Father answered with a smile. “God has given me the grace to remain unafraid.” When I expressed my surprise, he explained, “Demons are basically handcuffed, and they know it.”
Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons. His introduction to the demonic world happened when a family asked him for help for one of their members, and he eventually asked for permission to perform the rite of exorcism. He has been doing them ever since.
Exorcism and the Church Militant is intended, in part, as a warning to parents who allow their children to be desensitized to “the dark world” by books and films like the Harry Potter series and the vampire books of Stephanie Meyer. Father Euteneuer told me possession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards.
“Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.
Father Euteneuer emphasized this point, “Demons do not discriminate between intentions — no matter how innocent — and children lose the clear distinction between good and evil.”
What makes the occult so dangerous is the fact that it is based upon something real — the preternatural world of fallen angels, headed by Lucifer himself. Below him are the “choirs” of devils and demons who are a reverse mirror, in their fallen state, of the hierarchy of angels.
Demons play by the rules, as it were. They can only enter a person when invited, and they will leave when subjected through the rite of exorcism to the authority of the Church. “All demons understand is authority,” according to Father Euteneuer. He told me of a time he was with someone who was possessed — not intending to do an exorcism because permission had not yet been given — and the demon spoke to him saying, “The Church is not here.”
Father Euteneuer reminded me that as fallen angels, demons are smarter than any human being. “The darkest demon is smarter than I am,” he said. An exorcist must remain aware of the demon’s ability to know everything about the person they are possessing, including family members, and those who may enter the room to cast them out.
One demon attempted to negotiate with Father Euteneuer, offering to help him with his Latin if he would let him stay put. That story prompted me to ask if demons had a sense of humor. “No,” Euteneuer replied. “The demon was only trying to resist being cast out. They know what an exorcism is, what is going to happen to them.”
Possession usually involves more than one demon. Father Euteneuer explained that when “one demon gets in it will help to create more invitations to other demons.” The more powerful ones have biblical names, and he often runs into demons with the same name, as if they had a kind of demonic family name.
The possession of an individual person is a perverse imitation of the Incarnation. “They know they’ve lost the war in heaven, now they’ve come to earth and are doing all they can to exert their power and be an obstacle to heaven.” That’s why demons experience some form of pain when they are exorcised — Father Euteneuer said demons will often complain that “It burns.” They have been deprived of the satisfaction of entering a body in imitation of the Word made flesh.
By the end of my interview with Father Euteneuer, I realized my initial question about being frightened of demons had betrayed my misunderstanding of the limits of demonic power. Exorcism and the Church Militant is a book that should provide guidance to many for years to come, especially for parents who need a reminder that the occult is not innocent entertainment.