“It’s almost to the extent that when the demon manifests, I almost want to yawn and say, really, that’s all you got?”
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the spooky otherworld—but what about the thoughts of a full-time exorcist?
On his podcast, The Aggressive Life, Brian Tome, senior pastor of Crossroads Church, spoke with Father Vincent Lampert, a Catholic priest and the designated exorcist of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis. They covered all the topics from possession-style movies to Father Lampert’s craziest exorcist experiences and everything in between.
You can listen to the full episode or stay here for snippets of their conversation.
(This dialogue has been edited to be in an aesthetically readable format. Enlarged font questions in bold are from Brian)
Do you believe in ghosts?
Father Vincent Lampert: “Well, it depends. Sometimes people always say something strange is happening in the house. Is it a demon, or is it that the spirit of one who has died? It’s not possible for the spirit of one who dies to manifest in this reality anymore. They cannot do that. We can reject God in this life, but when we die, there’s God. We can’t reject him. We have to face that.
So I believe that when people believe they’re seeing ghosts, it’s demons that are masquerading, perhaps as a loved one who has died, as an opportunity to get a foothold into that person’s life.”
As a man of faith, how do you think about Halloween? Is it just fun and games, or should I be wary of something more sinister?
Father Vincent Lampert: “I think the entertainment industry is an entry point for the demonic, and I would throw Halloween right in there with the entertainment industry. The devil doesn’t really care if we’ve used something as just kind of fun and entertaining. He can still use that as an indirect way to kind of get his grip into our lives and on us.
So, I think Halloween is the time when many people glorify evil. Again, they may think it’s all just fun and games, but the devil can use that as an opportunity to kind of get into people’s lives. So I think there is something very dangerous about Halloween and how it’s celebrated because many people today are, when they celebrate Halloween, I see it today, people are decorating their yards, all kinds of witches and goblins and demons, and it’s a way that people are glorifying evil.
I like your middle-of-the-road approach. I mean, children need to have fun, and we shouldn’t see the devil everywhere. We just have to make sure that our actions are not glorifying the devil or that they are not inconsistent with our Christian faith. I believe that anything that’s not consistent with our faith is something that we should root out of our lives. One of the greatest sins mentioned in the Old Testament is the sin of idolatry, and we have to make sure that we’re not allowing something, namely the devil, to take the place of God in our lives.”
What do you think about possession-style movies? Should we avoid them, or is it just mindless entertainment?
Father Vincent Lampert: “I think if one is grounded in their faith, there’s nothing wrong with watching these types of movies, but if you’re not grounded in your faith, and you watch the movies, you may become more fascinated with the devil because a lot of what Hollywood does is focus, again, on what the devil is doing. But in the ministry of exorcism, the focus should always be on what God wants to do in the life of this person. So Hollywood may be glorifying the devil, and if we’re not grounded in our faith, then we may end up indirectly doing the same thing.
I don’t watch the movies anymore because, again, I find them to be rather boring because even in an exorcism, I don’t focus on what the devil is doing. I certainly have seen all kinds of manifestations in the 18 years that I’ve done this ministry, but I’m not fascinated by what the devil is capable of doing because I know that the power of God is so much greater. It’s almost to the extent that when the demon manifests, I almost want to yawn and say, really, that’s all you got?”
Is there one of your cases in the last several months that seems to be sticking in your mind more than others that might be of interest?
Father Vincent Lampert: “I was thinking about it recently when I was meeting with a young lady who was telling me that she was possessed, and during the conversation the demon manifested and bit the woman’s lip and started bleeding and then took the woman’s hand, put it in the blood, began howling and screaming and drew a pentagram on the wall with the blood.
When she was the demon was manifesting, she was possessed, and then when someone is possessed, the demon takes control of the body, treating that body as if it were its own. So, in that case, the demon caused the woman to bite her lip, started bleeding, then stuck the hand in the blood, and then drew the pentagram on the wall.”
When you are making an assessment on if someone is possessed or if it’s mental illness or something else…what are you looking for?
Father Vincent Lampert: “I’m looking for something that’s outside of the scope of mental illness. That’s why I will use mental health professionals, a psychiatrist, for example. They can even be a non-believer because I’m not asking the psychiatrist, “Hey, do you think this person is possessed?” I will make that determination in my role as the exorcist, but I want the best possible information that I can get.
So I would ask the psychiatrist, is there something about this person’s condition that is outside of your scope of understanding? And then that may lead me to have what the church says is moral certitude, meaning beyond the doubt the person in front of me is truly possessed and they’re not dealing with a mental health issue or even a medical issue that could be trying to replicate the same conditions that we would see in someone who is possessed”.
Of the people you see who think they are possessed, what percentage do you think actually are?
Father Vincent Lampert: “I think it’s one out of every 5,000 people that I deal with are dealing with true demonic possession. It is real, it does happen, but it’s not as prevalent as everyone thinks. Oftentimes, people will self-diagnose, but it’s important to allow the minister to diagnose and to really determine what somebody may be dealing with.
We talk about possession; maybe people are dealing with infestation, the presence of evil in the location, demonic vexation, physical attacks, the demonic obsession, the mental attacks. Those are much more common than demonic possession itself.”
Besides possession, what are other ways you might experience demonic influence in our lives?
Father Vincent Lampert: “There could be a presence of evil in a location. People might be hearing noises or footsteps, lights going on and off, and that type of thing. Obsession would be the devil’s literally trying to get inside of your head. So, everything that you’re experiencing, you’re filtering through the demonic. Somebody may get fixated on the number 666, and they’re like, I just see it everywhere. I see it on a license plate, a billboard. It’s just a sign that the devil is around me. So, literally, the demon is trying to make a person feel as if they’re going insane.
I will say that most of us don’t have to worry about extraordinary demonic activity, the infestation, vexation, obsession, and possession. But all of us do need to be aware of how the devil tries to trip us up in our daily lives. So, the ordinary activity of the devil, his temptation, I say he uses a four-stage plan of attack. Deception that leads to division, which leads to diversion, which leads to discouragement, deception; the devil gets us to buy into his lives. When we do, it divides us; we’re broken, and when we’re broken, we want to put our lives back together. But when we don’t turn to God, we may turn to some addictive behavior.
That’s the diversion. Think of the Israelites in the Old Testament who created the golden calf. They found a substitute for God, and then that sense of diversion will lead to discouragement because I believe that the human person has the innate desire for God. St. Augustine, the end of the fourth, early fifth centuries, the classic line where he says, “You have created us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” And when people do not give God his rightful place in their lives, I think it ends up in discouragement. So the devil gets us to buy into the lies, it breaks us, and then we look for a diversion, and then we end up being discouraged.
To listen to the full conversation, click here.