UPDATE: 10/31/16 10:44 a.m. Updated to correct 'Archdioceses' to the singular 'Archdiocese'
Growing up on the west side of Indianapolis, Vince Lampert was an ordinary Hoosier kid. He was raised in a strong Catholic family, he graduated from Cardinal Ritter High School in 1981, and he went to IU Bloomington to study political sciences.
After two years he transferred to St. Meinrad Seminary and began his road to priesthood.
He would have never guessed that he would end up being the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ exorcist when he was a kid.
Appointed to the position of exorcist in 2005 he has traveled to Rome to be trained at the Vatican, received requests from all over the world, and performed about 10,000 exorcisms. Exorcists are appointed by their bishop and are treated the same as any other functioning member of the Catholic church. Lampert is one of about 50 exorcists in America who are recognized by the Vatican.
There are a lot of misconceptions about exorcisms and exorcists floating around because of movies and television. Lampert says that “The Exorcist” (1973) is probably the most accurate but that exorcisms never occur at the “creepy house at the end of the street” but instead a church.
“The Devil doesn’t get to decide where he is defeated,” Lampert said.
During his training in Rome in 2006 he helped perform 40 exorcisms in three months where he witnessed someone levitate. Not all cases are as extreme as that and not all cases of “extraordinary demonic activity” are possessions.
There are four forms of demonic activity; infestation, vexation, obsession, and possession.
Infestation is the presence of evil in a location or object. Vexations are physical attacks from demons leaving cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, and letters appearing on the skin. Obsessions are mental attacks that create persistent thoughts of evil.
Possession is the least common of all demonic activity that Lampert says about 1-5,000 is a case of actual demonic possession. The Vatican provides a seven step process of determining whether or not to proceed with an exorcism.
First the afflicted must receive a psychiatric evaluation, then a physical examination, a complete history of the person to determine what was the entry point for evil (participation of black magic, worshiping the occult, even playing with a ouija board). After the examinations the exorcist will try to help the person resume their spiritual life through praying and reintegrating the person in the church. Next they look for signs of demonic possession which would be speaking and understanding a language they have no knowledge of, strength beyond their normal ability or human capabilities, an elevated perception having knowledge they shouldn’t otherwise have, and an aversion to sacred or holy objects. If all church laws are followed and carried out the exorcist will seek permission to perform the exorcism.
Most of what Lampert does is simply praying with the person and helping them return to God.
“Exorcism at its very core is a prayer. The church wants to pray with [the people who are possessed]. People get caught up in the theatrics,” Lampert said. “People are more interested in the manifestation [of evil] but should be more focused on the power of God.”
Lampert warns that letting in evil is very easy and can happen while playing with a ouija board or hunting ghosts, in fact most of the “ghosts” people encounter are actually demons.
“People can invite evil in whether directly or indirectly, something that is seen as fun and entertaining might actually be dangerous. Evil can use very subtle ways to enter our lives,” Lampert said.
While it is possible to let evil into your life Lampert says that praying is the best way to protect oneself from demonic activity. He jokes that people would rather have an extreme act help protect them instead of something as simple as praying.
“I joke that if I told someone to take a dead cat and swing it over their head at midnight in a cemetery they would ask me, ‘where do I get the cat?’” Lampert said. “But if I tell them to pray they look at me like I’m crazy.”
Lampert finds that people don’t always want to believe that they aren’t possessed by evil but are simply mentally ill. He recognizes that people seeking help might find that there is a wait time to see a psychologist even if they can overcome the stigma of mental illness.
“A lot of times people are looking for someone to listen to them. You can get in to see the priest a lot easier, I see 10-12 people a week,” Lampert said. “The key ingredient is that this is an act of charity.”
His assistant, who is also a member of the International Association of Exorcists, helps him screen inquiries for help. He receives about 20 requests a week, sometimes from all over the world and says that about half of the people seeking help aren’t Catholic.
Rev. Lampert is currently in Rome for a gathering of the International Association of Exorcists. He is also a pastor at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Brownsburg.