In An Exorcist Tells His Story, the Chief Exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth categorizes demonic activity into ordinary and extraordinary. The former is simply temptation, while the latter is broken down into the six main categories listed below. Fr. Amorth’s work strives to remind everyone – especially priests and bishops – that demonic activity is real, and those suffering under its effects should be able to find help within Holy Mother Church. He calls upon the Church to restore the Office of the Exorcist to every diocese, and he reminds the faithful that the best defense against the demonic is the sacramental life.

 

1. External Physical Pain Caused by Satan:

As its name suggestions, demonic activity can manifest as physical pain. Fr. Amorth points to Saint John of the Cross, the Cure of Ars, and Padre Pio as historical examples of those who suffered physical beatings and torment by demons. However, since this “external form of persecution does not affect the soul,” it is understood that “there has never been the need for an exorcism, only for prayers.”

2. Demonic Possession:

“This occurs when Satan takes full possession of the body (not the soul); he speaks and acts without the knowledge or consent of the victim, who therefore is morally blameless.” In reference to the question, is there a stereotypical possession or referential model, Fr. Amorth advises the following, “to fix a set ‘model’ for demonic possession would be a serious mistake; the affliction runs the gamut of symptoms and severity.”

3. Diabolical Oppression:

“There is no possession, loss of consciousness, or involuntary action and word,” just severe to mild events that plague the individual. Fr. Amorth points to Job’s severe afflictions and St. Paul’s thorn in his flesh (II Cor 12:7). Whereas “possession is rare,” Fr. Amorth reveals that he and his fellow exorcists “run into a great number oif people who have been struck by the devil in their health, jobs, or relationships.”

Detail of painting depicting Harrowing of Hell

Harrowing of Hell

4. Diabolic Obsession:

“Symptoms include sudden attacks, at times ongoing, of obsessive thoughts, sometimes even rationally absurd, but of such nature that the victim is unable to free himself.” Moreover, “the obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, desperation, and attempts at suicide. Almost always obsession influences dreams.”

5. Diabolic Infestation:

“Infestations affect houses, things, or animals.”

6. Diabolical Subjugation, or Dependence:

Fr. Amorth explains, “people fall into this form of evil when thy voluntarily submit to Satan. The two most common forms of dependence are the blood pact with the devil and the consecration to Satan.”