The following ethnographic and folkloric analysis of American exorcism practices post-1998 centers on four Catholic priest-exorcists currently active in the United States. After a brief commentary regarding the place of Satanism within contemporary Catholic imagination, this article posits that the Catholic Church’s recent institutional support of its office of exorcist must not be viewed separately from its discursive fear of Satanic cults and larger narratives of religious declension. The current era of exorcism practice in America is chiefly characterized as a response to the media sensationalism surrounding not only prior cases of demonic possession but also of Satanic ritual abuse. Moreover, beyond these explicit issues of religious competition (e.g., Catholics versus Satanic conspirators), the current era of exorcism practice is also implicitly characterized by the changing belief systems of contemporary Catholics. Thus, this article ultimately concerns issues related to religious modernization, the apotropaic use of established religious tradition, popular entertainment and the mediatization of contemporary exorcism cases, institutionalized training curricula and the spaces allowing ritual improvisation, and the vernacular religious consumption of unregulated paranormal concepts that possess no clear analogues within official Church theology.
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