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Catholic Culture Resources

That impromptu exorcism again

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 22, 2013

Yesterday I remarked on the apparent inability of some Vatican reporters to distinguish between an exorcism and a blessing. Only later did I come across this priceless headline in the English tabloid, The Sun:

Exorcism? Pope Francis caught on video performing strange ritual on fan

Exorcism might fairly be called a “strange” ritual, in the sense that it is unfamiliar to most people. But again, what the photos actually show is not a strange ritual but a simple blessing.

Maybe the Pope was praying that the afflicted young man might be freed from some sort of spiritual bondage. We don’t know. But look at the faces of the other people in the photos. Do they look as if they’re experiencing something extraordinary? No.

Pumping drama into the story, the Sun reports: “The Pontiff then grips the top of the subject’s head firmly and is seen pushing him down into his wheelchair.” Take another good look at the photo. Is that how you would stand, if you wanted leverage so that you could push down firmly? No.

One more thing. Notice that in that Sun headline, the young man in the wheelchair is identified as a “fan”—as if the Pope is a pop star, and a papal audience is a performance akin to a concert or a ballgame. But if a reporter or headline-writer turned in such a clueless description of a concert or a ballgame, even at the Sun the editor would laugh out loud.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: unum - Feb. 23, 2018 4:23 PM ET USA

    Phil, Thank you for the powerful reminder that Lent is not just about fasting and abstinence. I have printed that picture to remind me that Lent is first about prayer. It is about prayer for others who are hurting, asking God to both ease their burdens and to inspire us to ease the burdens of others. It is also about prayer. Prayer for ourselves, that we become more aware of the needs of others, and prayer for those who need His help and support.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Feb. 23, 2018 3:59 PM ET USA

    What critics of prayer miss is that prayer is a response to God's grace. That means God has already decided how to address a problem before the 1st human makes the 1st response (tho speaking of God in time terms is incorrect). Prayer is proof that God hasn't abandoned us to our sin&sorrow. But here's what I want to know. We got to where we are because of the ascendancy of liberalism. Where was the god of liberalism when the consequences of that liberalism fired from the hand of an 18yr old?

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Feb. 23, 2018 3:52 PM ET USA