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Fr Michael Shadbolt (Melbourne Catholic)

Melbourne Archdiocese’s official exorcist has reflected on his 12 years in the role at a “God and Beer” event hosted by the Knights of the Southern Cross this week. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

Fr Michael Shadbolt said that while his appointment in 2011 came as a surprise, experience has convinced him of the ongoing need for the ministry of exorcism.

“The ministry of exorcism has always existed in the Church,” Fr Shadbolt said. “It’s there in the gospels. Jesus always cast the evil spirits out.”

According to canon law, solemn exorcisms are only to be performed by priests who have been expressly authorised by their bishop to do so, and only after the person requesting exorcism has undergone a screening process to rule out mental illness.

He said that in his earliest years in the ministry, he was a bit of a “scaredy-cat”, since some of the manifestations – when the demonic forces possessing a person show themselves during the rite of exorcism – were frightening for an inexperienced novice.

Nevertheless, there are things people don’t understand about the ministry of exorcism, he said. One is that films tend to “grossly exaggerate” the kinds of manifestations that take place, “but not entirely so”.

Hollywood is “fascinated” by the manifestations, but one of the only films he has seen in recent times that gets closer to the truth is Nefarious.

Jesus was able to cast out demons instantly in the gospels, but an exorcist might need many sessions, sometimes over a period of months, before the person finds healing and deliverance.

Ultimately, the ministry of exorcism relies on the prayers in the rite. Exorcists are called “to have radical trust in Jesus,” Fr Shadbolt said. An exorcist must be calm, refrain from engaging in a dialogue with any manifesting spirits and simply keep praying. 

“The power is in the prayer. It’s the power of Jesus.”


Fr Michael Shadbolt: exorcism is ‘the power of Jesus’ (Melbourne Catholic)