A Roman Catholic priest performs an exorcism to drive out an evil spirit or spirits. The church recognizes three different types of exorcisms. A baptismal exorcism is performed on an infant to purify it from the evil of original sin. A simple exorcism is a ritual that rids any place or thing from evil influences. A real exorcism is the one that most people are familiar with, in which a priest performs a rite of exorcism to free a human from demonic possession.
One symptom of demonic possession is when a person is suddenly able to speak and comprehend foreign languages. Another telltale sign is when a person knows about things that he or she couldn't possibly have been aware of. Unnatural physical strength is another symptom that a priest looks for. The most obvious sign that someone is in the throes of a demonic possession is a violent aversion to such Catholic symbols as the cross and the Virgin Mary.
Whenever a case of possible possession is reported, the church launches an investigation. A priest first tries to eliminate all other possible explanations for a person's unusual behavior. For example, a psychiatrist will be consulted to investigate the possibility of mental illness; a medical exam may determine if the symptoms are connected to any physical illness or disorder. A priest must also investigate the possibility that a fraud is being perpetrated. According to the church, only a very small minority of reported cases of possession turn out to be genuine. If a priest confirms that a subject is indeed demonically possessed, the next step is to report this to a bishop. The church may well authorize an official exorcism.
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