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Joe wrote:

Dear Catholic Apologists,

  • How can the Catholic Church be sure that someone is suffering from diabolical possession?

Thank you.

Joe

  { How can the Catholic Church be sure that someone is suffering from diabolical possession? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Joe —

Unless one of my colleagues has an answer, this question is outside of the scope of what we could know. Most of our team consists of lay Catholics who are not priests.

All I can say from previous answers we have given is the Church goes extremely slowing in these cases because many times, rather than being a case of demonic possession, the person is suffering from some type of mental illness.

Diabolical possession can happen but we are not qualified to address the discernment process.

Sorry.

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi, Joe —

This is discerned in the exorcism process. The Church knows by many years of experience certain things that accompany demonic possession.

For example, if someone has knowledge that they couldn't possibly naturally have, or fluently speaks a language they have never studied and couldn't possibly know by natural means, those are good signs you are dealing with demonic possession. Objects levitating in the person's presence or an extreme aversion for holy and blessed objects are other clues. Some possessed people are able to distinguish between a consecrated communion host and an unconsecrated one. Sometimes strange objects will materialize inside the person. Sometimes a person's voice will change and become guttural; a woman, say, will speak with the voice of a man. Superhuman strength is another clue. Less dramatically, during an exorcism, the priest knows how demons behave and can recognize their behavior if he is well-trained.

Typically, the Church will first look to psychiatrists to rule out mental illness. If the psychiatrist cannot explain what's going on, the exorcist will look more closely at diabolical possession.

Eric

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Joe —

It is a strange question because it assumes that we have surety.

Like all things of spiritual nature there is faith involved.

Fr. Jonathan

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