Whether or not you are a believer in demonic possession, the story of Father Jose Antonio Fortea, a real life exorcist, is fascinating. His experiences in exorcism are detailed in his books and reveal a frightening side of life that he discovered to be very common.
Real Life Exorcist: Father Jose Antonio Fortea
Father Fortea is a real life exorcist, parish priest and author of Interview With an Exorcist, an insider's view into demonic possession and exorcism. Father Fortea has been practicing the rite for the Catholic Church for over twenty years.
A Graduate Thesis Leads to the First Case
LTK: Father Fortea, how did you first get involved with performing exorcisms?
JF: I had recently finished a two to three-year thesis at Navarre University in Spain. Not long afterwards, the Bishop was presented with a case, and turned to me because of my proven knowledge on the subject. Another case appeared after this one, and I was actually surprised that two cases appeared within a year and a half. After my first book was completed, many people started calling, and I realized that the problem was much more common than I originally thought. But at the time of this first case, I was the only exorcist in Spain. and there were no other priests available. I actually would have rather not taken the case because my future expectations and work was otherwise, and to be honest, I really didn't want to. So, the first case was sent to me by my pastor. After a year or two, there was a second case. It was only after my first book that many more cases began presenting themselves.
LTK: When did you first decide to write a book on exorcism?
JF: Based on my original thesis, I felt that the subject should be in the hands of the people, so that they could get help. Back when I first became involved in this particular field, no one knew about it. When you spoke about it, no one really understood the subject. In the United States, for example, there were only four exorcists. The Church was only beginning to name exorcists. There was an unpublished book in Spain at the time, but none other on the subject. However, things changed dramatically over the next ten years, and people were starting to complain how there was just no help for people. In the U.S. there were only four exorcists, in Italy about three, in Spain there were none and in France perhaps one. In Germany there was no one.
Educating the Public
LTK: What do you think changed all of that?
JF: What really changed everything is that Father Gabriele Amorth began to speak publicly about the topic of demonic possession and appeared everywhere. Within five years, changes were clearly starting. It's very clear that many priests have changed their ideas. If you asked a priest in the '80s or '90s, they would have very liberal ideas. Finally, they have recognized that perhaps there is something more than the theories about possession provided in their books. What happens when someone comes forward and asks their priest to pray for them, is that the people start to talk amongst themselves, and more people are willing to come forward and call for help. This took place more and more once Father Gabriel started speaking throughout Italy. When I saw what he was accomplishing, I decided to do the same thing in Latin America.
Possession or Mental Disorder?
LTK: Out of all of the people who come forward, what percentage of them have you found simply need psychological help and are not really possessed?
JF: Many people think that the people who call in believing they are possessed are crazy. That is not true. Most people who call are coming to the priest for advice and counseling for problems they've had. Most are completely normal people. The rest of the people, maybe 25 or 30 percent, doubt that it is demonic. It's a real fear. Something strange has happened to them, but they are not crazy.
LTK: Do you have a way of separating out people who may simply be suffering psychologically?
JF: They need to come to my parish, and I interview them. I determine whether they are mentally healthy, and I pray for them regardless. When I see their reaction to prayer, that is how I determine if it is demonic in nature. Only praying can give you an answer.
Verifying Demonic Possession
LTK: Of the cases you've seen personally, what percentage would you say are authentically possessed?
JF: From all of the people that come to us, perhaps 50 percent don't claim they are possessed, and they are not. Of the rest, there are maybe less than 1 percent that are really possessed. That doesn't mean that other people aren't suffering from anything related to the world of spirits. Many people suffer from demons, but don't suffer from possession.
LTK: How can you know a person is truly possessed?
JF: There are certain phenomenon that we know of, a pattern, that you simply don't see on TV or in the movies. But we can recognize that, and we can also recognize people improving with prayer. We've had cases where psychologists are given a demonic case and they simply don't know what to do.
Two Cases of Demonic Possession
LTK: Could you provide an example of such a case?
JF: Yes. A nine-year-old child, a lovely child, said that she saw a horrible demon at home, and afterwards she was crying all of the time. They had to carry the child to the doctor. They put the child in a University hospital staffed with psychiatrists. The child was there for a week without any improvement. The psychiatrists told the parents that they didn't know what was happening to the child. After another week, brain scans all showed that she was healthy, so they decided to contact a priest. I was called in, and when I saw her I asked her for her name in Latin. She told the people in the room that I was asking for her name. That was a test because the child didn't speak Latin yet understood. I told the doctors, "She has been in the hospital for weeks - we're going to go for a walk in the morning". So they carried her to my parish. She was completely well that day, and in another 24 hours she was at home. She never suffered again. Over the following year she returned to my parish many times as a parishioner and is a wonderful young lady. That was a clear case that there was no other reason for the supposed "sickness".
LTK: During your exorcisms, are there ever any associated strange or unexplainable phenomenon that you've witnessed with your own eyes?
JF: Phenomenon? No. What I've witnessed sometimes, though not always, is the ability to speak in other languages, great strength, knowledge of things impossible for them to know, and levitation twice.
LTK: You saw levitation occur?
JF: I had my eyes closed, praying, when it occurred, but others who were present saw the levitation twice.
LTK: What was the most convincing case you've experienced?
JF: The most convincing case is that of Marta, now a famous case and one that hasn't yet finished. That was the case where levitation occurred twice, and many other strange phenomenon. The case was made famous because, to my dismay, they introduced a hidden camera and broadcast it on TV. I am convinced by the case because I asked her something that she couldn't possibly know, and she said the name of a person in reply. Another time I told her, in Latin, to say the 22nd Psalm. She began to reply in Spanish, with a fully memorized version of the Psalm. Not even the Bishops, or the Pope himself, could memorize the entire Bible, word for word, and repeat entire sections on request.
LTK: What would you have to say to any LoveToKnow readers who feel that they could be experiencing these sorts of things in their own lives?
JF: We have to distinguish between ordinary temptation from extraordinary phenomenon. Many people believe in demons, or that they are experiencing something. If it's ordinary temptation, they need to pray and increase their spiritual lives. If they suffer from something extraordinary, they need to call their diocese and ask for the priest that specializes in this field. If there is no priest at the diocese, they need to ask for the name of the nearest diocese with a priest who is specialized. But they should never, ever go to a person in the yellow pages who asks for money or answer any ads about any research or experiments.
LTK: Thank you Father Fortea for your time tonight in sharing this fascinating work with the readers of LoveToKnow.
JF: It is my pleasure. Have a very pleasant night, and God bless.