Exorcism madness

Everyone loves a good exorcism story!

Or at least a story about exorcists. Catholic News Service reported a few days ago that the U.S. Bishops Conference was holding a two-day meeting to train bishops and priests as potential exorcists. Then the NYPost picked it up and everyone picked it up.

The fascination with exorcists is easy to understand. Everyone remembers how scared they were when they first saw the movie (I know I do).

And, let’s face it, the notion of a priest expelling the devil from a human being can be hard to jive with our modern, high-tech, science-loving culture. Doesn’t Apple have an APP to rid one of the devil?

But the Catholic Church is quite serious about exorcisms, as the calling of this conference shows. 56 bishops and 66 priests were signed up for the conference, which was to take place Friday and Saturday. (I haven’t been able to find any coverage of the conference.)

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, told CNS that the 5 or 6 exorcists in the U.S. are in big demand. But full exorcisms are rare, he said, and not as dramatic as what Linda Blair went through.

He said: “We, because of Hollywood, have this kind of exaggerated sense of not only a very dramatic kind of possession, but also a very dramatic kind of exorcism. It ties in with our culture of quick fixes: You do it once and person is going to be liberated.”

Why do I have a feeling that some director out there is thinking “Hmmm, maybe it’s time for a remake. Maybe Miley Cyrus is looking for something to help her get past that whole Hannah Montana phase.”

Or, perhaps, there is a reality TV show out there. “Next on E: Get Me an Exorcist!”

Did you know that William O’Malley, a Jesuit and professor at Fordham Prep, played Father Dyer in the movie. “Shooting this film was like being a kid in the sandlot who gets invited to join the Yankees for a year,” he said a few years ago.

It’s Dolan vs. O’Brien (and 8 others) for Bishops Conference presidency

It will be a different kind of Election Day (or weekend) when the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference elects new officers Nov. 15-18.

The bishops will elect a new president and vice president from a slate of 10 candidates, including one Archbishop Timothy Dolan from New York and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the top guy in Baltimore who happens to hail from these parts.

O’Brien was once considered at top candidate to become archbishop of New York. Instead, he got Baltimore and a couple of other guys were named to NY. That’s him in White Plains in 2005, when he was still archbishop for the military services.

Now O’Brien and Dolan will square off head-to-head (sort of), along with some other big names, like the always interesting Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

It’s always struck me as odd that the Bishops Conference holds semi-public elections. I think it’s fair to say that the Catholic Church likes to keep its’ bishops in the best possible light. But after the elections are held, several candidates can’t help coming out as, well…losers.

Many other organizations, of course, happen to choose their leaders the same way.

You wonder what kind of politicking goes on.

How does it all work? According to a release: “Conference by-laws provide that the election of the president will take place first from among the list of 10 candidates. Following the election of the president with at least 50 percent of the vote, the vice president is elected from the remaining nine candidates. In either election, if a candidate fails to win over 50 percent of the vote, a second vote is taken. If a third vote is necessary, only two names appear on the ballot.”

The bishops will also elect chairmen of six committees. In each case, there are two nominees. So one will win and one…won’t.

In the race to head the committee on International Justice and Peace, O’Brien will face off against Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

The bishops will meet at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott. Sessions.