Christian think tank warns of 'spiritual abuse' amid UK's exorcism boom

Most of the people who are exorcised actually suffer from mental health problems and are in need of psychiatric help, a Christian think tank has warned amid the current boom of the exorcism industry in the United Kingdom.

(REUTERS / Daniel Becerril)Crosses dangle from the motorcycle of Catholic priest, Adolfo Huerta, known as "Gofo", outside the rock bar "The Confessional" in Saltillo February 23, 2013.

In a report titled "Christianity and mental health: theology, activities, potential" published on July 5, Theos highlighted concerns over how exorcism is being used and what its negative effects are. The Christian think tank acknowledged the possibility that a person can be possessed by demons, but it also warned against the tendency to "over-spiritualize" everything and attribute all events to spiritual causes even though there are medical explanations, The Guardian relayed.

"Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus' great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to 'cast out demons,'" Theos said in its report. "However, there is also need for serious caution."

Theos also raised the possibility that demonic possession can overlap with mental illnesses. Still, it expressed concern that people with these issues might stop taking their medications and relapse because they were told that they could be cured with just prayer.

Ben Ryan, an evangelical chaplain, told The Guardian that the abovementioned situation could morph into a spiritual abuse, or a psychological abuse inflicted by a religious group to its own member. In light of these concerns, a spokesperson from the Church of England reiterated the importance of following its guidelines on ministering to people in a "distressed or disturbed state."

The sharp rise in the demand for exorcism is a result of the increasing number of people that get involved in Satanism and the occult, according to Italian and American Catholic experts. Valter Cascioli, a consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, said there is now a shortage of priests who are qualified to perform exorcisms because of the great demand, The Telegraph reported in September.

Speaking to La Stampa newspaper in an interview, Cascioli noted that superstitious practices are fast spreading. He said the trend could be directly caused by the devil, but did not discount the fall of faith and values as another factor contributing to the rise in the number of cases requiring exorcisms.