top of page
  • Writer's pictureJ. Basil Dannebohm

The narcissistic novelty (and danger) of celebrity exorcists

By J. Basil Dannebohm

“Wisdom will save you from being devoured by wolves.

and goodness will save you from becoming one.”

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia

Jeremy Basil Dannebohm
J. Basil Dannebohm

Since the launch of EWTN, a popular Roman Catholic television station headquartered in Alabama, celebrity priests have been a strange phenomenon in the Roman Catholic Church. The latest fad, however, is perhaps even more alarming: celebrity priests with no ecclesial supervision.

Regardless of your opinion of bishops, a fact remains: Jesus supervised and trained His apostles for their future missions. Likewise, His apostles trained and supervised their successors. One apostle went rogue: Judas Iscariot. And while he started out as one of the twelve, we know the rest of the story of how his life unfolded. It is evident, therefore, that no priest should go without the supervision of ecclesial authority. It's dangerous for the priest and reckless of the bishop to allow this trend to occur. Just like Judas, many of these priests believe what they say and do is for the welfare of the people. In fact, more often than not, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sadly, this movement has spawned an even more dangerous persona: celebrity exorcists.

Most of the propaganda spewed by these so-called exorcists is blatantly contrary to nearly every Catholic teaching on the matter – both so called “traditional” and “post-conciliar” alike. Nevertheless, these "exorcists" make good money off of the fears and lack of catechesis of their viciously devoted fans.

Fr. Chad Ripperger, a contradictory celebrity exorcist.

To be clear: even the most basic form of catechesis notes that Roman Catholic laity should never dabble in so-called “deliverance prayers.” Yet one celebrity exorcist in particular peddles several books on the subject. This same “exorcist” is unable to look people in the eyes when speaking to them, he is unable to produce a single witness or recipient of his exorcisms, he claims to have conversations with demons (Side note: this, according to entry level Roman Catholic seminary education, is strictly forbidden. In his earlier interviews, he even said so. Lately, however, his memory must be fuzzy because he shares story after story of his conversations with demons), he severed ties his religious community to “found” a new religious order, and he solicits funds for his deceptive lifestyle at various speaking engagements.

This begs the question: If Roman Catholic laity shouldn’t be dabbling in exorcisms and deliverance prayers, why does this so-called exorcist peddle books on the matter?

Well … because he’s a fake.

What's worse is that he's a fake going largely unchecked by any ecclesial authority, thus allowing him to spew whatever nonsense he chooses without any consequence other than the potential long-term damage of vulnerable souls.

"But how can this be?" Is the inevitable question of his fan base. "He preaches the Gospel and arms his follows in the fight against evil."

Like I said, the laity should never be in the business of "fighting evil." Therein lies your first indication of a fraud.

I came across an outstanding comment recently that read:

Satan is a master theologian. He’s talked with God, interacted with God, believes in God’s existence, and knows more about God’s attributes and abilities than most. And yet, Satan doesn’t love God. Knowledge about God does not equal faith in God.”

Capitalizing off of fear is a weapon in his arsenal that Satan loves to leverage. Perhaps this is why the phrase, "Be not afraid" is mentioned in the bible over 300 times. You can be certain that there are plenty of wolves wearing sheep's clothing that lurk among faithful Christians using fear to slowly and methodically swallow up souls. For as St. Paisios tells us, “Evil walks with small steps. If it were to come all at once, we would not be deceived.”

I mean, let’s be honest, deception is the entire business model of narcissism, which is the very fuel that flames the star-power of most celebrity priests.

Occupying one's time with so-called deliverance prayers distracts our attention from God and opens the door for the father of lies to enter our minds, the place where fear dwells. As Elder Thaddeus noted, “Whatever our thoughts are occupied with, that reflects the kind of life we lead.”

When our hearts are distracted from God, our minds become clouded with dangerous notions. Many of these notions have inspired the lifestyle lead by much of the rad-trad movement that seems to have gained momentum in the Roman Catholic Church. It's no coincidence that such a movement picked up steam at precisely the same time as rogue celebrity priests began leveraging social media to build their "virtual flocks."

St. Paisios reminds us, “Just as the enemy, before going on the offensive with the infantry, will use the air force to bomb the fortifications and destroy them, in the same way the devil will first bomb a person with thoughts and then attack him directly. He will not attack until he has managed to break down the man's thoughts, because a person can defend himself with good thoughts, which are his basic protective trenches.”

As radicalism clouds good thoughts, the protective trenches St. Paisios speaks of become flooded with so-called self-righteous anger which, though aimed at pleasing God, is instead an assault on one's sense of reason. Such an assault is sent straight from the devil. Thus, it can be said that these self-righteous crusades being waged as of late are nothing more than stumbling stones on the path to our eternal salvation.

In the book, Wounded by Love (pages 135 and 136), St. Porphyrios tells us:

There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love. There are many who chose the hard path and ‘shed blood in order to receive Spirit’ until they attained great virtue. I find the shorter and safer route is the path with love. This is the path that you, too, should follow.

That is, you can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church.

Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear. The same holds for our passions and our weaknesses. Do not fight them, but transform them into strengths by showing disdain for evil.

When our thoughts are being influenced by these bogus celebrity exorcists to focus on absurd preventative measures against the father of lies, they are distracted from the only true preventative measure: the unconditional love of Jesus Christ and the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos. In Wounded by Love (page 135), St. Porphyrios goes on to say, “You won’t become saints by hounding after evil. Look towards Christ and He will save you.”

The mind is the devil's playground.

Hence, it's a good rule of thumb to stay clear of celebrity priests who prowl about the internet preying on the fears of vulnerable souls. Sadly, multiple studies have indicated that most Roman Catholics are so weak in even rudimentary knowledge of their faith. Perhaps a lack of catechesis would explain why so many among their faithful are inclined to seek out wolves wearing sheep’s clothing in order to fill a spiritual void that results from a milquetoast parish priest.

The sheeple of weak faith would do well to spend less time caught up in the latest self-righteous online crusade and spend more time imploring God to enlighten their minds and alarm their hearts against huckster celebrity exorcists. May they instead focus their spiritual life entirely on the goodness of God and place their hope in Him.

For as St. John Maximovitch said, “Nothing is fearful for the person whose hope is in God. He does not fear men who work evil.”

bottom of page