Malachi Martin’s exorcism snake oil

by John Grasmeier
March, 2007

Long, long ago, before human existence…
Satan, along with other conspiring angels, foments a rebellion against God. St. Michael the Archangel leads a cadre of faithful angels to a decisive victory over them, crushing the rebellion and casting Satan and his angels from heaven forever. Satan, the father of lies, becomes a mortal enemy of God. His vanquished angels become demons, condemned for eternity.

7th Century BC
A young woman named Sarah, from the city of Rages, suffers a severe possession by a demon named Asmodeus. She fasts and prays earnestly to God for either deliverance or death. The Archangel Raphael, leads Tobias to Sarah, and the two become married. Tobias casts Asmodeus from Sarah following the explicit instructions given to him by Raphael. Sarah is delivered from Asmodeus, who is then bound in the desert by Raphael.

30 – 33 AD
Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of God, casts out many demons from the afflicted. Some of the demons would immediately recognize Him as the Messiah, greatly fearing Him and thus giving testimony to Christ’s divinity and power in front of many witnesses. Christ conditionally grants the power of casting out demons to His apostles and disciples.

398 AD
The fourth council of Carthage officially calls for the ordination of exorcists in its seventh canon.

The 1917 Code of Canon is promulgated. Regarding exorcism it declares: Canon 1151 §1. No one, even if endowed with the power of exorcism, can legitimately perform and exorcism over the [possessed] unless he has obtained express and specific authorization from the Ordinary.

§2. This authorization from the Ordinary can be granted only to priests outstanding for piety, prudence, and integrity of life; such a one shall not proceed to exorcism unless, after a diligent and prudent investigation, he finds that the one to be exorcised is actually possessed by a demon.

The Roman Ritual of Exorcism is promulgated. From the text:

1. A priest — one who is expressly and particularly authorized by the Ordinary — when he intends to perform an exorcism over persons tormented by the devil, must be properly distinguished for his piety, prudence, and integrity of life. He should fulfill this devout undertaking in all constancy and humility, being utterly immune to any striving for human aggrandizement, and relying, not on his own, but on the divine power. Moreover, he ought to be of mature years, and revered not alone for his office but for his moral qualities.

Father James J. Lebar is ordained a priest in the old rite.   June, 1964 Malachi Martin abruptly vacated or is removed from his post in Rome.

June, 1965
According to the Holy See, Martin’s dispensation from the priesthood becomes documented and official. As per The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; “In 1965, Mr. Martin received a dispensation from all privileges and obligations deriving from his vows as a Jesuit and from priestly ordination.” (Prot. N. 04300/65)

Sometime in 1965
Martin moves from Paris to New York City. Manhattan, where Martin would live until his death in 1999, is in the territory of the Archdiocese of New York.

March 2, 1968
Bishop Terrence Cooke becomes Archbishop of New York.

Father James J. Lebar is given a position in the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York.

Early 1974
“The Exorcist”, a movie about the demonic possession of a young girl becomes a box office smash.

Early 1976
Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil” the supposed nonfiction story about the possession and exorcism of five Americans hits the bookshelves.

April 2, 1976
Milt Rosenberg from WGNMartin is interviewed by Milt Rosenberg of WGN in Chicago on the topic of exorcism:


Martin: What happens is a lock on the willlll, on the willlll. Much the.. with Hitler had, ahhh over his minions, much the same as Charley Manson attained over his family. And I’m sir not saying (unintelligible) were possessed, I’d want nine months to find out were they were possessed, to examine them.


…we send them to three… three doctors, and they examine you, you ah you apply. You are brought for po.. for exorcism. They go from the hair of your head to the toes of your feet and they must completely check you out. If you have kidney stones we won’t do exorcism of you. If even have herpes one, you know these cold sores? No sir. Any neurological pressure on you, anything at all of a disease, any trace of insanity in the family (although now hereditary insanity is now a moot question for psychologists), but we will not touch you, but you must be checked out. And it’s the best checkout you can have. After that we have two psychiatrists, who claim to be healthy minded atheists. Personally for me, no atheist is healthy minded. But anyway (unintelligible), but they’re very good psychiatrists. And they always set about lethally to prove that you are insane or that you have uh some neurosis or psychosis, that you have some syndrome…

Rosenberg: I gather that you’re not talking about all the standard uh diagnostic procedures used before agents of the Church finally are willing to…

Martin: Yes that…

Rosenberg: …acknowledge that they’ve got a case of…

Martin: Yes…

Rosenberg: …possession…

Martin: This is what…

Rosenberg: ….that requires the right of exorcism.

Martin: This is what we do. This is exactly… thank you Milt for the correct… that’s exactly what we do before it. It all takes about nine m…

Rosenberg: Aren’t the two psychiatrists the atheists…

Martin: Nooo but…

Rosenberg: … is that required in the manual?

Martin: We chose them for that reason so they wouldn’t be prejudiced. And they must come back ruefully and say “look he’s all yours.” Eh we can find nothing to treat. No psychiatrist will say (unintelligible) sane, mainly I think most psychiatrists are not quite sane themselves. They don’t know what normalcy is. Well the if peasants in the fields in Cypress or Palestine or England or Ireland or Arabia does know what sanity is, they have it in the belly. However, they must come back and say, “no sir, we have nothing to do with this person he’s perfectly normal in pattern and behavior”, then we try exorcism, but only at that point. Because we must exclude anything psychological, anything psychic, anything psychiatric, anything medical or physical. Then we start at doing exorcism, and that’s when the fun begins.

Rosenberg: And we’ll hear more about that fun shortly…

The 1983 Code of Canon is promulgated. Regarding exorcism it declares: Canon 1172 §1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary.

§2. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a presbyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life. January 26, ”

Bishop John J. O’Connor becomes Archbishop of New York May 24, 1986 On page 9 of the Irish Independent, a reporter reviews Martin’s latest book “Vatican.”:

Irish-born, ordained a Jesuit priest, Malachi Martin was, for six years to 1964, professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Now he is freelancing, clerically and as a writer, from New York’s Park Avenue under the business title Malachi Martin Enterprises Ltd. “I am not a clergyman.” He told a “New York Daily News” interviewer in March. “I am a priest. I don’t belong to any bishop. I don’t belong to any religious order. This gives me enormous freedom over the thousands of clerical minds who have been critical of my work.”

Father James J. Lebar performs his first exorcism. 1992 John Cardinal O’Connor appoints Father James J. Lebar as Chief Exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York.

July, 1996
In an article from Martin’s own website, Martin is described as walking through the streets of New York on his way to an apartment where he is to perform an exorcism. From the article: The dark shadows of skyscrapers are falling across New York as an elderly white-haired priest leaves the reassuring comfort of his home and heads through the streets towards the apartment block where the others are waiting. He walks quite slowly, carrying a small black case filled with the essential paraphernalia of the ritual he is about to perform. The room has been prepared to his precise instructions: cleaned, sprinkled with holy water, and stripped of movable objects. Of those now gathered inside, only the priest – his face drawn and solemn – has any idea what to expect.

Later in the article, Martin is quoted:

“I could point out places only minutes from here where black masses are being celebrated. I know of cases of human sacrifice – the sacrifice of babies. I know the people who are doing these things.”

On the frequency of his supposed duties as an exorcist:

Although Father Martin is a slender man of 75, and in delicate health, he performs at least one of these ceremonies a month. “I have never been busier,” sighs the man who visited the cell of David Berkowitz.

Near the end of the article Martin tells a story of how Satan himself visits him in his apartment while he was standing on a stool, reaching for a book. Martin claims he broke his shoulder after Satan sprang at him, knocking him from the stool.

The article also states that Martin doesn’t charge anything for exorcisms and that he only does them with the permission of his bishop.

July 14, 1996
Martin sits for an interview on “Paranet.” Regarding possession, he states that “people are possessed by Satan or Lucifer or one of the demons.”

October 18, 1996
Art BellMartin makes his first guest appearance on “Coast to Coast AM”, a radio show hosted by paranormal, UFO and conspiracy buff Art Bell. When Bell asks “How many exorcisms have you done?”, Martin replies “I’ve done thousands of minor exorcisms, and about a couple of hundred major ones.” Regarding the length of time an exorcism takes, Martin says “I’ve assisted at ones that went on for oh, seventeen weeks, we measure it in weeks, sometimes it’s only a week, sometimes it’s only hours, it depends…” Martin tells Bell that all true possession is only by demons. Bell later asks “Doctor, how frequently do you think psychiatrists who are treating patients or what percentage of their patients might indeed instead of suffering psychiatric problems be suffering some form of possession?” Martin answers “Well over fifty percent of the cases I have observed, well over fifty percent are really possessed by demons.”

January, 1998
The book “People of the Lie”, by M. Scott Peck is published. Peck, a psychiatrist who attempted exorcisms that were not authorized by the Church, befriended Martin, consulting him on the subject of demonic possession. Although the now late Peck still admired Martin at the time he wrote the book, in it, he refers to Martin as a “pathological liar” and a “leprechaun”. In a subsequent interview with Beliefnet, Peck is quoted as saying “In fact, Malachi often was a liar” and “He lied about his own identity a great deal.”

May 5, 1998
In an interview with Art Bell, Martin claims that the anti-Christ is alive. When a caller inquires of his status as a priest, he replies, “I’m not in any order, I, I, I, I’m, I, I’m, belong to a Bishop, and um, I, I have, I you know I write books and go on radio and TV, and that’s where I’m 77 retired in that sense but not retired in the active sense.”

June, 2000
Father Lebar tells Paul Burnell of the National Catholic Register that in regard to exorcism candidates, “Ten years ago I had no cases and now I have 300.” He went on to say that most cases don’t need an exorcist.

September 21, 2000
Father Lebar gives an interview to CBS News. When asked “How many exorcisms have you performed yourself?” he answers “Well, I don’t keep an exact count, but I’ve been doing it for five years now and about 20 a year, so it’s about 100.”

October 8, 2000
Father LeBar, the chief exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York gives an interview to Court TV answering questions for their online viewers. When asked “How many exorcisms have there been in the 20th century?” he answers, “It’s really hard to know. Each diocese keeps its own records. So all I can speak of is the Archdiocese of New York, and I was told that when I began this work, there hadn’t been a single one in about 30 years. When asked “How many exorcisms have you performed?” he answers “Since 1995 my team of three priests and I average about 20-25 a year.” In response to another question he talks about traveling to other dioceses to perform exorcisms, indicating that the number of exorcisms he and his team perform are not only those in the Archdiocese of New York.

October 31, 2000
Father Labar tells Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times that only 5% to 10% of all potential cases for exorcism actually warrant one.

March 9, 2006
John Grasmeier of contacts Father Lebar via telephone.

Father says that during the time he held the position of Chief Exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York, the only authorized, legitimate exorcisms would have been done by him and his team of exorcists, which numbered four or five priests at any given time. He says that he knew Malachi Martin when he was alive and the two never spoke about exorcism, except on the infrequent occasion when Martin would refer a candidate to Father Lebar. He makes it clear that at no time did Martin have anything whatsoever to do with his team. Fr. Lebar agrees to go on the record during a second telephone conversation and gives his permission for the conversation to be digitally recorded, which is has been.

On the length of time it takes for the pre-screening process of a potential exorcism candidate he says “It depends on the person, how fast they want to move and how cooperative they are and things of that sort. We’ve done something in three days, we’ve done something in three weeks. Sometimes a year, because sometimes the person gets more scared than anything else so they go away and don’t come back until later.” He confirms that only a small minority – perhaps 5%-10% – of those seeking an exorcism will actually qualify for one. When asked if a cold sore would disqualify anyone from having an exorcism he answers “no”. When asked how many exorcisms he knew of that took place in the Archdiocese of New York before he took the position of Chief Exorcist he replies “None.”

He makes it clear that every single exorcism performed must be personally approved, in writing, by the local ordinary in the territory where the exorcism is to be performed, who from 1986 to 2000 in the Archdiocese of New York was John Cardinal O’Connor. Only Father Lebar would bring a case to the Cardinal after having the candidate screened, and Father Lebar would be the only person to receive the case back from the Cardinal after approval had been granted. The only priests or persons performing the exorcism after the approval would have been Fr. Lebar and his team.

After a discussion detailing the boundaries of all seven of the dioceses in the state of New York, father says that he was, for all intents and purposes, the “go to guy” for all of them mainly because none of the other dioceses had a resident exorcist. He and his team were the only exorcists in the Archdiocese of New York, and to his knowledge the only exorcists in the entire state of New York. When asked about Malachi Martin, Father says that he had met him on several occasions, had listened to him on the radio and had read several of his books. He has no knowledge whatsoever of Martin ever taking part in any exorcism, at any time, in any way in the state of New York or anywhere else. In fact the only instances where the subject of exorcism ever arose between the Chief Exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York and self-proclaimed exorcist Malachi Martin, was on the few occasions when Martin had referred a potential candidate for exorcism to Father Lebar’s team.

In Summary:

  • Based upon Holy Scripture and tradition, the Church is exceedingly clear on who can be an exorcist and under what specific conditions exorcisms can take place. The priest must have full faculties, be of the highest moral character and have the explicit permission of the local ordinary. Further, the Archdiocese of New York had additional requirements (that each exocism be approved by the ordinary) and kept records.
  • The account given on Martin’s website that has him walking through the shadows of New York City carrying a small black bag on his way to perform an exorcism. At that time however (1996) Father Lebar was the Chief Exorcist for the Archdiocese of New York. Any and all exorcisms were performed by his team and his team alone. Each and every exorcism at that time was required to be approved personally, in writing, by John Cardinal O’Connor. Any and all recommendations for exorcisms forwarded to John Cardinal O’Connor for his approval came from Father Lebar and only from Father Lebar. Nobody but Father Lebar screened any exorcism candidates and nobody else was charged with performing an exorcism once they were approved by the Cardinal. Malachi Martin never performed, assisted at or even witnessed a single exorcism performed by Father Lebar’s team. Martin could not possibly have performed or even have been present at any legitimate exorcism in July of 1996.
  • In the article on Martin’s website where it states that all exorcisms done by him were approved “his” bishop is false. Martin lived in Manhattan, which is within of the Archdiocese of New York – hence his bishop would have been John Cardinal O’Connor. John Cardinal O’Connor never approved any exorcisms for Malachi Martin, he only approved them for the sole exorcist in the diocese – Father Lebar.
  • Father Lebar tells Court TV that when he took the position of Chief Exorcist, he was told that there hadn’t been a single exorcism done in the Archdiocese in about 30 years. He confirmed this personally with, saying that he had no knowledge of any exorcisms being performed in the Archdiocese before his appointment. Father stated that he knew of no other exorcists in the entire state of New York beside himself and his team, and that many other dioceses would use him for their exorcisms. No only could Malachi Martin not have performed any exorcisms while Fr. Lebar was Chief exorcist, but it’s implausible that Malachi Martin could have ever performed a any exorcisms in Archdiocese of New York during the time he lived there.
  • As of the time this article is written, was unable to find any independent verification whatsoever of Malachi Martin ever performing a single exorcism in any place, at any time. Any and all references to Martin being an exorcist or performing exorcisms lead back to him as the source, and all references with him as the source only surface after his book “Hostage to the Devil” was published in 1976.
  • According to the Holy See, Martin was not clergy after 1965. He was dispensed from all obligations and privileges of the priesthood. This is documented, verifiable, completely unambiguous and has a reference number. [Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 25 June 1997, Prot. N. 04300/65].[48] LINK No second or third hand account from any priest, jesuit, layperson or ANYONE ON EARTH claiming that they know or think that they know otherwise can supersede the document that sits at the earthly seat of the Catholic faith. In 1986 Martin himself is documented as saying that he’s not a “clergyman” and that he not under any bishop.

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