Skip to content

Matt C. Abbott: Why I wrote Pope Francis about an exorcist

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

By Matt C. Abbott
5/21/2015 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

In December 2014, I wrote Pope Francis the following brief letter-which I'm making public for the first time-about a Jesuit priest-exorcist

Here's one name I haven't heard mentioned in regard to possible canonization, yet it seems he'd be a good candidate: Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of "Robbie," the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film. The exorcism of "Robbie" took place largely in St. Louis, Mo.

Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of Robbie, the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film.

Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of Robbie, the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film.

Highlights

By Matt C. Abbott
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
5/21/2015 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Exorcist, The Exorcist, exorcism, demons, Father William Bowdern, S.J., Pope Francis, Matt C. Abbott


CHICAGO, IL (Catholic Online) -  In December 2014, I wrote Pope Francis the following brief letter-which I'm making public for the first time-about a Jesuit priest-exorcist:

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Your Holiness:

I very much appreciate and thank you for speaking out in defense of life, and for imploring us to avoid the snares of the devil.

Enclosed is a short column of mine about the exorcist Father William Bowdern, S.J., who died in 1983. He might be a good candidate for eventual canonization.

God bless you, and please keep me-I struggle with sin-and my loved ones in your prayers.

Sincerely in Christ,

Matt C. Abbott
Catholic commentator

I haven't received a response, but I figure that someone at the Vatican likely read my letter along with the enclosed column, which is reproduced below (from RenewAmerica).

--------------------------------------------

There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: 'But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness.' They do not read this, no? It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil!

And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: 'All of these (people) were not possessed; they were mentally ill.' No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil....

And we can ask ourselves the question: Do I guard myself, my heart, my feelings, my thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I guard the presence of the Holy Spirit in me? Or do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well? But if you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come. But if someone stronger comes and overcomes, he takes away the weapons in which one trusted, and he shall divide the spoil. Vigilance!

Three criteria! Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day. - Pope Francis, Oct. 11, 2013

Here's one name I haven't heard mentioned in regard to possible canonization, yet it seems he'd be a good candidate: Father William S. Bowdern, S.J.

Father Bowdern, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of "Robbie," the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film. The exorcism of "Robbie" took place largely in St. Louis, Mo.

Interestingly, Father Bowdern, who had authored a booklet titled Problems of Courtship and Marriage (1944), reportedly suffered somewhat debilitating effects from the exorcism, although it wasn't something that was publicized.

One Jesuit told me years ago that Father Bowdern had been seen stumbling down the hallway in the mornings prior to celebrating Mass. A Jesuit who witnessed this was understandably concerned, thinking it might have been alcohol-related.

He went to his superior, who told him that Father Bowdern had been involved in an exorcism, and this "stumbling" was an effect of having (successfully) performed the exorcism. After celebrating Mass, Father Bowdern was fine.

I asked two individuals who are very knowledgeable of the 1949 exorcism -Thomas B. Allen, author of the book Possessed, and Saint Louis University archivist John Waide - if they've ever heard Father Bowdern's name mentioned as a candidate for canonization. Both responded that they haven't.

At any rate, it's something to consider.

On a related note, there was an interesting interview conducted some years ago by Catholic author and journalist Michael Brown of SpiritDaily.com (SD) with Father Walter Halloran, S.J. Father Halloran, who died in 2005, was at the time of the exorcism a Jesuit scholastic and had assisted Father Bowdern for a significant portion of the exorcism.

SD: Father, how many times were you present in the exorcism sessions?

Father Halloran: I suppose every night for three weeks.

SD: Did you have any insight into the origin of the problem?

Father Halloran: In a way he was a victim to the frame of mind of the aunt (who was into spiritualism).

SD: What happened at the end? We're told the Archangel Michael manifested.

Father Halloran: I was taken off five days before the conclusion, but from what I understand there was a very loud sound, a boom - sort of like a sonic boom - and then the boy opened his eyes and said St. Michael came and that it was over. At the same time this took place there were about six or seven priests over in the college church saying their office and there was a huge boom over there and the whole church was completely lit up. Father Bowdern, who was doing the exorcism, and the boy were at the rectory. There was a very, very bright light that lit up the whole church.

SD: What were the most striking physical phenomena that you witnessed yourself during the exorcisms?

Father Halloran: I think the markings on the boy's body. I didn't think there was any way they could have been self-induced, the marks, the scratches, the words, the numbers and that sort of thing that appeared in blood red. When the evil spirit took over the child, there seemed to be nothing he could do about it. There were a couple of times when something very dangerous might have happened and he had no recollection whatsoever of anything that took place when he was in one of these sieges. And that affected me, the power that someone or something has over someone.

SD: Did you see anything fly across the room or furniture move?

Father Halloran: Yeah. The first night I was there I was kneeling at the bed on which the boy was lying and the bed started going up and down and then I just about got hit with a holy water bottle that was sitting on the dresser and came flying across the room and just missed me by an inch or two.

SD: How high was the bed going?

Father Halloran: Oh, I'd say eight inches.

Click here to read the interview in its entirety.

All in all, it's a fascinating case.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

--------------------------------------

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

---


'Help Give every Student and Teacher FREE resources for a world-class Moral Catholic Education'


Copyright 2019 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2019
Young People and the Example of Mary.
That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.


Comments


More U.S.

Covington Catholic student sues Washington Post over Nathan Phllips story Watch

Image of

Attorneys for Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann announced they filed a $250 million dollar lawsuit against the ... continue reading


California bill would remove reporting exemption for priests in confessional Watch

Image of

 A state senator in California introduced a bill Wednesday which would seek to force priests to violate the sacramental seal of ... continue reading



FREE Classes on Lent from Catholic Online School

Our Mission is to Provide a Free World Class Catholic Education for Anyone, Anywhere. Help our Mission >


Augustus Tolton one step closer to being first black American saint Watch

Image of

A Vatican committee has unanimously voted to send the sainthood cause of Father Augustus Tolton, a former runaway slave and the first ... continue reading


Ohio doctor under investigation after dozens of patient overdose deaths Watch

Image of

 A doctor at a Catholic health system in Ohio has been fired after being accused of prescribing excessive doses of drugs to at least ... continue reading


Hoya no more: Georgetown rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree Watch

Image of

Georgetown University announced on Tuesday that it would rescind the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters the school conferred on disgraced ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law. (We're a proud 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers all our resources free to students and teachers.