Vincent Lampert, Exorcism: The Battle Against Satan and his Demons (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2020), 176pp.
Since the majority of the literature on exorcism by practising exorcists is still written in Italian, it is helpful to have a perspective on exorcism from a practising North American exorcist in the form of Fr Vincent Lampert’s Exorcism: The Battle Against Satan and his Demons, which is published in Emmaus Road’s ‘Living Faith’ series which encourages Catholics to reflect on and equip themselves in the Catholic faith. Lampert’s book serves as an introduction to the ministry of the exorcist, written for those who may have no knowledge of the subject at all (as well as tackling some of the many misconceptions surrounding the role of an exorcist, and the routine sensationalisation of this ministry).
Lampert, the exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is an experienced exorcist who recounts his path to becoming a diocesan exorcist (including his initial reluctance). Lampert deals with basic issues in demonology such as the reality and identity of the devil and demons and delineates his view on the scope of the devil’s activity. The book then moves on to examine the rite of exorcism itself, including a detailed commentary on Jesus’ exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark’s Gospel.
The book is not solely theoretical, and its practical dimension includes an explanation of the US Bishops’ Conference’s approach to exorcism, and that of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Lampert reproduces the questionnaire he asks people to fill in when they approach him requesting the help of an exorcist, which is designed not only to distinguish between mental illness and demonic affliction but also to determine the possible reason why someone has become the subject of demonic attack. As Lampert observes, exorcists in many countries where exorcism is accepted as part of everyday life would not screen those approaching them in this way, but the US bishops place a strong emphasis on discerning between the psychiatric and spiritual dimensions. Lampert includes advice for ordinary parish priests who are not exorcists and a guide to ‘Best Practices to Fend Off the Devil’ as well as suitable prayers for the use of the faithful.
Lampert shows a strong degree of confidence in the power of exorcism and urges a focus on the power of Christ rather than the feats by which, he says, demons attempt to impress and overawe human beings. To this extent, Lampert is pragmatic and sees exorcism as a fairly straightforward process, although the list of activities Lampert believes may lead a person to become open to demonic influence is very long indeed, including everything from horoscopes to yoga.
From the researcher’s point of view, the book’s chief interest (in addition to the views of an authorised exorcist) is the detail Lampert goes into regarding his procedure as an exorcist. As an introductory and explanatory text, the book does not dwell on anecdotes of exorcism like Gabriele Amorth’s An Exorcist Tells His Story, but rather seeks to set the ministry of exorcism within the broader context of Catholic life. Lampert’s intent is, as far as possible, to ‘normalise’ exorcism (or, at least, to disabuse readers of the notion that it is something strange and unusual, even if there is a sliding scale of demonic vexation that might feature alarming demonic possessions at the more extreme end. The book is a straightforward explanation of how an exorcist operates in a North American context and, as such, a valuable insight into an often misunderstood ministry.