Article By Kathryn Johnston - Photography by screenshot
Dublin priest repeats homophobic endorsement of exorcism by Pope Francis in Pride Month
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a line from the 1973 movie, The Exorcist.
But in a recent edition of the Irish Catholic, the biggest selling religious paper in Ireland, Father Pat Collins from Dublin pleaded with Irish Bishops for more exorcists across the country to answer the need to deal...with what people believe to be demonic possession and other evil goings on.
This year's London Pride was an outstanding success. And the 2022 Dublin Pride: just as successful.
And the first Belfast Pride since the start of the pandemic on Saturday 30 July promises to attract more crowds than ever before.
So is it just a bizarre coincidence that the Dublin-based exorcist priest should use June and July, traditional Pride months in the UK and Ireland, to answer what he says is an urgent need for deliverance ministry.
To paraphrase The Exorcist (the movie that is) "What an excellent time for an exorcism."
For many, talk of exorcisms for those possessed by demons is simply that: the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. But of course The Exorcist itself was based on a true story.
As Karl Marx said, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce".
Or in Mark Twain's take on this quote, "History may not repeat itself. But it rhymes".
The elderly priest, whose parish is in the wealthy Dublin suburb of Blackrock, has form.
Last year he blamed the covid pandemic on Irish people turning away from God.
And four years ago Fr Collins said that he believed Irish people have turned away from God.
This is a common belief in Ireland, which has its roots as far back as 1979, when Pope John Paul II on his visit here warned that the devil was luring Ireland away from its catholic roots.
"A tsunami of evil is threatening to overwhelm us" in contemporary Ireland, Fr Collins later warned.
Many in the media have interpreted this "tsunami of evil" - in Father Collins' words - as including the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2015, the referendum which liberalised divorce laws and the fact that Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland) Leo Varadkar, who will take up the post of Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland) in December this year, is an openly gay man.
Figures released by the Irish Central Statistics Office in 2017 showed a 73% increase in the number of non-believers.
And as the number of self-identified Catholics continued to drop, 20 to 39-year-olds accounted for 45% of those in the non-religious group.
Fr Pat Collins said at the time that he believed this was due to a "mistaken" decision to stop praying to St Michael the Archangel at the end of Masses.
He added that if the prayers to the saint were re-introduced, "devilish influences" would be seen off.
Adam Murray pictured above right, an LGBTQIA+ activist, commented:
"Many LGBTQIA+ people are themselves people of faith playing an active role in their religious communities, it's not an issue of LGBTQIA+ versus faith, it's not that at all. The problem is that religious belief cannot continue to be used to justify the abuse and bullying of people because they don't fit an idea of 'normal' when it comes to who they love, or how they identify."
Writing in the Irish Catholic, Father Collins, a priest in the Vincentian Order, told the paper that there was an urgent need for "deliverance ministry".
Deliverance ministry is the term given to prayer for people who are distressed and wish to heal emotional wounds, including those caused by "evil spirits".
Fr Pat Collins told The Irish Catholic that he is inundated almost daily with desperate people seeking his help to deal with what they believe to be demonic possession and other evil goings on.
Deliverance ministry is also by far the most common current type of "conversion therapy", whether in the Catholic or Protestant faiths in Ireland.
A draft conversion therapy ban is due to be presented before the House of Commons this autumn, but it would only cover the LGB element and activists point out that it is all about the T as well.
And on 15 July, it was announced that plans to ban conversion therapy in Northern Ireland have become the latest victim of the Stormont crisis.
Back in April of 2021, MLAs (Members of the NI Legislative Assembly) voted in favour of making the practice illegal. However, communities minister Deirdre Hargey has now said legislation to do so cannot be progressed without a functioning Executive.
In February of this year, Ms Hargey said, in response to an oral Assembly question from Alliance's Andrew Muir one of Stormont's three openly gay MLAs that developing a comprehensive and robust' ban would take time.
Ms Hargey was asked, via a written Assembly question this week, when she will publish the legislation to ban conversion therapy here.
She replied: "One of the serious consequences to the continued absence of a functioning Executive is that no new primary legislation can be progressed."
Andrew Muir hit out at the delay.
"So-called 'conversion therapy' is an extremely harmful practice that can cause lasting psychological damage to those subjected to it," he said.
"Over a year since the Assembly agreed a motion calling for a ban, it's extremely disappointing no consultation has yet commenced on proposals to outlaw the practice.
We cannot afford to wait a day longer to ban conversion therapy and end the harm done."
Many across the UK and Ireland, including Amnesty International, are already campaigning for the ban to be extended to cover trans and non-binary people.
Adam Murray added:
"While efforts are underway to implement a full ban on so-called 'conversion therapy' across the UK and Ireland, thankfully a majority of both populations support banning the barbaric practice. Studies show the practice leads to negative health outcomes for those subjected to it, including instances of self-harm and suicide. Conversion therapy has no place in a modern, civilized society."
Father Collins, perversely, believes that "strange occurrences" and even "demonic possession" shows the need for Church leaders to appoint a team of exorcists to cope with what he sees as a rising tide of evil in the country.
The priest said he is "baffled" that Irish bishops are not taking more action to appoint priests to deal with everything from people claiming ghostly encounters, being pulled from their beds, and even full-blown possession.
He added that it is clear in the Bible that exorcism is central in the ministry of Jesus, and that he wondered if clergy in the modern-day Church still believe that there are evil spirits adding "I suspect they don't".
In the past, exorcism was among the methods used in "conversion therapies". Nowadays, the most common form of conversion therapy is intensive religious counselling.
Unlike exorcism, which is conducted by priests given special permission from the Catholic church, deliverance ministry is prayer for people who are distressed and wish to heal emotional wounds, including those purportedly caused by evil spirits.
Collins said Irish bishops recognised the need. "The demand is much greater than the supply."
After falling out of favour in recent years, exorcists appear to be making a comeback in Ireland in response to growing demand.
At least three Catholic priests in the Republic have recently been taught how to perform the ancient ritual on people who believe they have been possessed by demonic spirits, according to a Church spokesman.
And not only in Ireland. Exorcism is a growing phenomenon worldwide
Even Pope Francis, often regarded as a liberal Pontiff, has regularly reminded followers that Satan's presence is real, that his mission is to turn the faithful away from Christ through temptation, saying that this "infects communities". This has been a theme in many of the homilies throughout his Papacy.
And indeed, Fr Collins notes that Pope Francis gave formal recognition to the International Association of Exorcists in 2014, which is a group of 250 exorcists spread across 30 countries.
Fr Collins has written an open letter to the hierarchy in which he says he has observed a growing apostasy within the Church. He writes: "As this has happened, there has been increasing evidence of the malicious activity of the evil one."
"I can't judge from my own subjective experience because people see on the internet that I'm supposed to be an exorcist so I get an inordinate number of calls from people, and emails, all I can say is I have that reputation, but it's only in recent years that the demand has risen exponentially," he said.
The last words go to LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Murray.
"Every credible medical and psychological body on earth affirms that being LGBTQIA+ is a function of human diversity within the realm of sexual orientation and gender identity. Any religious organisation or representative claiming that it is in fact somehow linked to black magic or evil spirits is simply living in the wrong century."
Should you wish a consultation, Father Pat Collins can be contacted here.