ABSTRACT

For John Bossy, the Catholic clergy’s ministry of exorcism was a hangover from the mediaeval period, ‘more relevant to the pastoral situation of the pre-Reformation … clergy than to that of the missionary priest’. Nevertheless, Bossy was obliged to acknowledge that the regular reporting of exorcisms demonstrated that the ministry was at the centre rather than the periphery of the life of a Catholic priest in England until the middle of the seventeenth century.1 Bossy’s view that exorcism disappeared at this time along with the priest’s role in pacifying feuds will be questioned in this chapter, along with his view that the Jesuits did not take exorcism any more seriously than other priests. On the contrary, there is significant evidence for exorcisms after the Civil War and time and again, the Jesuits were the moving spirits behind most exorcisms, even if they sometimes involved secular clergy as well.