July 6, 2021


Can a person become possessed inadvertently?


The portrayal of posession in the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose showed the devil stalking and forcibly entering the body of a pious girl in the middle of the night almost without notice.  The film showed her totally normal one minute and totally possessed and paralyzed on the floor the next.  Thankfully, possession does not happen that way.

Unfortunately, this and other movies give the impression that the devil has certain powers over the human person that he is simply not granted by God.  The devil would like to act that way, but if God allowed the devil that kind of predatory access to the human person, no one on earth would survive! Aside from true victimization, the "standard" way the devil possesses people is through a process of subtle and perverse invitations to gain the person's free consent.  There is no inadvertent possession.  Demons usually come in through some sort of acquiescence of the human will.  Malachi Martin described this interplay between a human will and demonic intent in a full possession very well in his book Hostage to the Devil:

     [The] process of possession ran as follows.  First, the actual entry point, the pint at which Evil Spirit enters an individual and a decision, however tenuous, is made by the victim to allow entry.                 Then, a stage of erroneous judgments by the possessed in vital matters, as a direct result of the allowed presence of the possessing spirit and apparently in preparation for the next stage.  Third,           the voluntary yielding of control by the possessed person to a force or presence he clearly feels is alien to himself and as a direct result of which the possessed loses control of his will, and so of           his decisions and his actions. 

Once the third stage is secure, extended control proceeds and may potentially reach the point of completion--perfect possession.  In any individual case, these four stages will dovetail and overlap differently. And, while the process may be swift, more often it seems to take years to accomplish (...)

At every new step, and during every moment of possession, the consent of the victim is necessary, or possession cannot be successful.  The consent may be verbal, but always involves choice of action.  Once initial consent has been given, its withdrawal becomes more and more difficult as time goes on.

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer "Exorcism and the Church Militant" page 41, question 27.