Can't get a Catholic exorcism in Kansas City? James Vivian is here to help 

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Vivian knows that most churches wouldn't accept the idea of holding down a woman to save her soul. He knows that most don't want to discuss exorcism at all.

"Kansas City is a preacher's graveyard," he says. "The ones that tell the truth have a real hard time of making it anywhere. A lot of pastors don't want what I do in the pulpit because they're afraid if people get saved, they'll think they don't need to come to church anymore. And when they stop coming, they stop donating money."

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has one priest trained to do exorcisms, but a spokesman refuses to identify him.

"I have been explicitly told not to give out this man's identity and information because of the large number of people who think they're demonically possessed," Monsignor Bradley Offutt tells The Pitch. "He's a good man who wants to help, but if he gets 500 calls a week, he can't begin to live and do his job."

The Catholic Church is experiencing a renewed interest in exorcism. In February, The Washington Post reported that the Vatican and European clergy were supporting an attempt to build a center in Poland dedicated to exorcisms. This followed reports that an informal campaign to train more exorcists began under Pope John Paul II, when the Vatican formally updated the rite and publicly backed its legitimacy in 1999, and has continued under Pope Benedict XVI.

"In the vast, vast majority of cases, these people are suffering mental illness," Offutt says of the troubled souls who seek a Catholic exorcism in Kansas City. "I can't say over the phone, 'Have you taken your medicine today?' but I will ask if they're under the care of a physician because we need to go that route first."

Even if a caller is able to get a consultation with the exorcist, the church may demand further psychological and medical tests. If doctors find the exorcism candidate to be in good health, the church has additional benchmarks for possession, such as speaking in a dead language, demonstrating superhuman strength or performing impossible contortions.

"These things do happen, but it is extraordinarily rare to see a case of legitimate demonic possession," Offutt says. "I've been a priest for 22 years. I can say it does happen, but I've never personally seen one."

The Catholic review process can go on for months. Meanwhile, there's been a surge in Pentecostals willing to face the devil.

"I used to get a few calls a month, mostly from people who weren't Catholic," Offutt says. "In the last few months, I haven't had any. I have a feeling it's because of people like this [Vivian]. People are stepping into the void."

Vivian can handle the problem much more quickly, but he needs help.


On a day in early March, Vivian has rented out a conference room at a mall in Wichita.

He's expecting to meet a small group of people who want to be trained to expel dark spirits. Six people are here now. One is Etta, who had a warlock problem until she met Vivian. (Vivian suspects that his spells were responsible for Etta's recent fertility after years of failed attempts at conception. "Her son looks just like the warlock," he says.) Among the three other women are a local preacher and a woman in a leopard-print blouse with a piled-up hairdo, who doesn't speak during the class. There's also a couple Vivian has met before, with concerns about what might be living in them: Mario is a one-time boxer who could have protected himself better (his right eye is dead and milky white after too many punches caused a detached retina, and his flattened nose curves lazily into a center dent); his girlfriend Linda's mother won't stop playing with tarot cards.

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