The rite of exorcism

There was a rumor going around that Pope Benedict was contemplating or working on a document about exocists.  According to law, dioceses must have an appointed exorcist.  I suspect many dioceses don’t. 

There is a news item today from apcom.  My translation: 

Città del Vaticano, 28 December: The Pope is not preparing any instruction to oblige bishops to institute in every diocese a stable number of exorcists to combat the presence of Satan, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office made clear.  "There is no initiative of the Holy Father in this regard at either the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Congregation for Divine Worship", said Fr. Lombardi when asked for an explanation by journalists after this news appeared on some news outlets.

If the Holy Father isn’t asking for such a document, then perhaps he should.

On the other hand, let us not forget the role of… yes… Summorum Pontificum.

The Motu Proprio also freed up the use of the older form of the Rituale Romanum.  The rite of exorcism is part of the Rituale.

No priest may attempt an exorcism without permission from proper authority, usually the diocesan bishop.  After the production of the rather meager new rite of exorcism some years ago the older Rituale could only be used with explicit permission as well.  Now, however, it would seem reasonable that all priests who have permission to attempt exorcisms would have the free choice of either the new rite (though I can’t fathom anyone actually wanting that) or the older rite.

UPDATE: 30 Dec 07 19:29 GMT

London, December 29 (ANI): The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, has revealed that Pope Benedict XVI is setting up exorcism squads to deal with the rampant growth of Satanism.

He says that the decision in this regard has been taken in the wake of rising concerns among Church chiefs over growing worldwide interest in Satanism and the occult.

According to him, each Bishop will be provided with a group of priests who are experts in fighting demonic possession. Hundreds of priests will be trained as exorcists for the purpose, he says.

"You have to hunt high and low for a proper trained exorcist. Thanks be to God that we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head on," the Sun quoted him as telling Catholic website Petrus.

Pope Benedict XVI, who became leader of the Catholic Church in 2005, is said to be a firm believer in the existence of evil ever since he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the oldest Vatican department that deals with promoting and safeguarding Roman Catholic beliefs.

Father Amorth says the Pope had asked all the exorcists to help fight evil powers during a meeting last year.

"I remember a meeting we exorcists had with the Holy Father last year, in which he implored us to follow our mission as exorcists," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Father Amorth has also revealed that the Pope is contemplating reinstating use of the prayer said to St Michael the Archangel, which was abolished in the 1960s, because it is believed to be the prime protector against evil.

"The prayer is useful not only for priests but for lay people. For example if a lay person knows someone who is possessed and there is no exorcist available they can intervene by saying this prayer, commanding the demon to leave that person," he said. (ANI)

UPDATE: 30 Dec 07 19:36 GMT

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 29 The Vatican is denying reports it plans to install more exorcists around the world so possessed people can get help quickly.

"Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters in Rome Friday.

On Thursday, the Roman Catholic Web site Petrus said the pope planned to install more exorcists in every diocese next year and reintroduce a prayer during mass to Mark the Archangel, believed to be the prime protector against evil, The Telegraph in Britain reported Saturday.

Paolo Scarafoni, a priest at Vatican University who teaches how to recognize and expel Satan, said exorcists increasingly are in demand because devil worship has become so common, reported ANSA, the Italian news agency. "Priests are being bombarded," Scarafoni told ANSA.

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  1. danphunter1 says:

    Are you an exorcist, perchance?
    Do you happen to know if there are a greater number of demonic possesions in the United States as opposed to Italy?

  2. RBrown says:

    The only way to know the number of demonic possessions is to ask the demons . . . and they’re going to lie about it.

  3. Jacob says:

    I wrote my senior thesis paper on exorcisms for my religion degree in college. One of my source books indicated that at the time (late 90s, early 00s), dioceses were in fact slowly appointing priests as the exorcist for the diocese simply because there was such a demand for it in the US.

  4. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Fallen angels bother us, not that they could care less about us, but because they hate God who loves us. They harrass as much as they can, to make us lose the faith. God will permit this, but only for us to have an occasion by which to be strengthened in the faith. St Catherine of Siena wrote much and well about this.

    The Gospels are very concerned about reporting the spread of the Kingdom of God by way of the trouncing on the prince of this world (and his minions). The passages involving in one way or another the Evil One add up to exactly 25% for each Gospel, down to the word. I know; I’m a bit silly; I counted! 25% of the Gospel message is too much to ignore, as has been done for decades.

    Charismaniancs, who, on one level, saw this problem, but then, with arrogant disobedience, to this day, have taken the problem into their own hands, only exacerbated the problem. Any so-called “deliverance” which asks questions directly to a fallen angel, or issues commands, is an exorcism. Those, not being delegated by the bishop for an exorcism only invite the Evil One, by their disobedience, to harrass people. There are so MANY cases known to have started because of being “prayed over” by charismaniacs.

    A huge problem is when even a properly established exorcist imprudently delegates the pastoral judgment he must retain to a “team” of charismaniacs, who read the persons soul like any television screen and say whether or not the person needs an exorcism. Where are they getting their info from? Really? These “gifts”, even used for the good for years can eventually show their provenance, and this has often been with the Evil One. Such people can need exorcism themselves!

    That term “charismaniacs” may seem disrespectful, but it is not. Anyone who is militantly disobedient and who aides the Evil One, however “sincerely”, is a maniac. That’s the way it is. I am not, then, talking about all who have considered themselves to be “charismatic”.

    I applaud Fr Z for writing:

    “it would seem reasonable that all priests who have permission to attempt exorcisms would have the free choice of either the new rite (though I can’t fathom anyone actually wanting that) or the older rite.”

    However, it must be said that permission for the older was already given before 7.7.7. All an exorcist had to do was ask his bishop who would ask Rome (and immediately receive permission). Bishops who had exorcists wouldn’t mind doing this. But, Fr Z is right. What a blessing to have Summorum Pontificum. The 1614 rite is, how to say, ordinarily available! The “rules” of the 1614 version are super wise.

    Fr Z’s approach here is wonderful, for it is not romanticized. After all, exorcism is simply a sacramental of the Church, calling on the merits of Christ and the saints.

  5. Jonathan Bennett says:

    I read an article recently that said most exorcists today consider their work psycological rather then spiritual, the idea being that in some cases (extremely rare in their eyes) an exorcism can aliviate some mental problems. Many other exorcists merely reffer everyone to therapists.

    I think the issue of exorcism is swept under the rug as a sort of embarrassment by the modern Church. In the 1990s the German bishops wished to do away with it altougather. I wonder if His Holiness supports this idea or not.

  6. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Um… Johnathan Bennett… Benedict doesn’t think exorcisms such as our Lord did or that exorists (should) do now are an embarrassment to the Church, to modernists, surely, but not to the Church. As proof, look at what he wrote about this matter by way of a monitum when he was over at the CDF.

  7. Maureen says:

    Pretty clearly, there’s a lot of discernment needed about psychological problems before the exoricest should start spraying sacramentals and Latin sibilants everywhere. But it’s also fairly clear that pretending like the Devil isn’t running around is kinda silly. Whistling in the dark, in fact.

    And yes, some charismatics probably take way too much on themselves.

    However, it is worth repeating that any baptized Christian (and even non-believing non-Christians, if you believe St. Athanasius, who also recommended such folks try this, as an easy proof of Christ’s existence, against witchcraft and pagan rituals, so he must have been a fun person to walk around partially pagan Alexandria with) are perfectly capable of driving away demons by making the sign of the Cross and using the name of Jesus Christ. The beauty of this is that it’s not going to hurt anything if you’re wrong about something being demonic; it can only help. You can always go on to consult your priest if the situation proves more serious, but Christ’s name and the Sign of the Cross are pretty good first aid, by all patristic and saintly accounts.

  8. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Jonathan Bennett, unfortunately, its only in portughese at

    Maybe somebody has it in English?


    Lettera agli Ordinari riguardante le norme sugli esorcismi (Epistula Ordinariis locorum missa: in mentem normae vigentes de exorcismis revocantur), September 29, 1985
    AAS 77 (1985) 1169-1170
    Communicationes 18 (1986) 46-47; DocCath 83 (1986) 197 [Gall.]; EV 9, 1614-1617; LE 5143; Dokumenty, II, 14

  9. berenike says:

    Fr Whatsit the exorcist of Rome is very rude indeed about the new rite of exorcism – it was written by a committee not including a single exorcist, and “it doesn’t work”.

  10. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Maureen, you speak of “spraying sacramentals and Latin sibilants everywhere” even after appropriate discernment is made. You describe what is holy, done in Christ’s name, as a magical superstitious act. But you speak for the devil on this one. Why? Perhaps because an exorcism must be done by a priest and you are not a priest and you hate that? I don’t know. Your hysterical words are effectively against Christ and the Church. Why?

    For the rest, make a distinction. The Lord Himself teaches us to pray to be delivered from the Evil One. Good. We pray to God like Saint Michael, who only said: “May God rebuke you!” In other words, no direct questions or commands.

    Actually, a priest is called upon to do much more: “I rebuke you, in Christ’s name!”

  11. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Also, know that exorcism is no place for power-grabbing. It is SUCH a humbling action of Christ’s own power of charity among us. Anyone who has done or prayed at a proper exorcism know this.

    In all of this, Confession is so important,for everyone.

  12. Jonathan Bennett says:

    Fr Renzo di Lorenzo,

    Thank you for the link. I will try to find an english translation.

    I was not sure what Pope Benedict’s position on exorcism was, so thank you for telling me.

  13. Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. says:

    The devil’s greatest power is strongly manifest these days and it isn’t in the number of people possessed or the attacks of its minions on souls: it is the very denial of its existance. Embarassment of, sweeping under the rug, or desire to eliminate exorcisms all together can only come from satan, the father of lies. You cannot battle, defeat, or protect yourself from what you deny exists. Anyone who denies the existance of the devil and its minions and their ability to interfere in the lives of men is a fool and is putting their eternal salvation on the line. Every serious Catholic must confess often, communicate often, and pray daily to Our Lady and the Holy Angels. Especially pray when tempted in any way or when you feel “uncomfortable.” Pope Leo XIII didn’t require the prayer to St. Michael after low Mass on a whim: he knew exactly what he was doing.

  14. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:



    Epistula Ordinariis locorum missa
    in mentem normae vigentes de exorcismis revocantur
    Die 29 m. Septembris a. 1985 AAS p. 1169-70

    Excellentissime domine, inde ab aliquot annis, apud quosdam coetus ecclesiales, conventus ad precationes faciendas multiplicantur hoc quidem proposito, ut liberatio obtineatur ab influxu daemonum, etiamsi non de exorcismis proprie dictis agatur; qui conventus peraguntur sub ductu laicorum, etiam praesente sacerdote.

    Cum a Congregatione pro doctrina fidei quaesitum sit quid sentiendum de hisce factis, hoc dicasterium necessarium putat omnes ordinarios certiores facere de responsione quae sequitur:

    Canon 1172 Codicis Iuris Canonici declarat neminem exorcismos in obsessos proferre legitime posse, nisi ab ordinario loci peculiarem et expressam licentiam obtinuerit (1), ac determinat hanc licentiam ab ordinario loci concedendam esse tantummodo presbytero pietate, scientia, prudentia ac vitae integritate praedito (2). Episcopi igitur enixe invitantur, ut observantiam urgeant horum praescriptorum.

    Ex hisce praescriptionibus sequitur ut christifidelibus etiam non liceat adhibere formulam exorcismi contra satanam et angelos apostaticos, excerptam ex illa quae publici iuris facta est iussu summi pontificis Leonis XIII, ac multo minus adhibere textum integrum huius exorcismi. Episcopi hac de re fideles admonere curent in casu necessitatis.

    Denique, ob easdem rationes, episcopi rogantur ut vigilent ne — etiam in casibus qui, licet veram possessionem diabolicam excludant, diabolicum tamen influxum aliqualiter revelare videntur — ii qui debita potestate carent conventus moderentur, in quibus ad liberationem obtinendam precationes adhibentur, quarum decursu daemones directe interpellantur et eorum identitas cognoscere studetur.

    Harum normarum tamen enuntiatio minime christifideles abducere debet a precando ut, quemadmodum Iesus nos docuit, liberentur a malo (cf. Mt 6,13). Insuper pastores has oblata opportunitate uti poterunt, ut in mentem revocent quid Ecclesiae traditio doceat circa munus quod proprie ad sacramenta et ad Beatissimae Virginis Mariae, Angelorum Sanctorumque intercessionem spectat in christianorum etiam contra spiritus malignos spirituali certamine.

    Hanc occasionem nactus impensos aestimationis meae sunsus tibi obtestor permanens

    add.mus in Domino

    Iosephus Card. Ratzinger, Praefectus
    Albertus Bovone, a Secretis
    L. S. In Congr. pro Doctrina Fidei tab., n. 291/70


    Of course, charismaniacs go wild with this, still claiming they can do imprecatory exorcisms instead of deprecatory prayers. And that is one of the reasons why we need more exorcists than ever.

  15. Pam says:

    English anyone? I don’t know Latin.

  16. CarpeNoctem says:

    As a simple, parish priest, I concur most with Fr. di Lorenzo’s previous comment about the good of confession for everyone. At a conference some years ago, I heard an exorcist for an archdiocese here in the US say that a good confession (which I take to mean a full, integral, sacramental confession) is better than a thousand exorcisms– and this is what I tell folks who, (as any priest experiences,) every so often come up saying “I need an exorcism”. Most of the time, offering a full confession is not only effective, but it is an amazingly effective means to return a poor person to peace. (And I cannot emphasize enough how important a full confession is… not only does ‘holding back’ sins amount to sacrilige as yet another sin, but some of those particularly embarassing sins weighing in on one’s soul seem to be the very place where the evil one tends to grab onto a person.)

    Indeed, I think that I have only witnessed real oppression or obsession (lower ‘grades’ of demonic involvement) once or maybe twice… maybe… in my priesthood. It\’s more than seeing the signs and understanding one’s own response to those signs… there is an indescribable ‘sixth sense’ that I think was activated in me in that/those encounters. In these cases, priests do have recourse to various ‘minor’ forms of exorcism which do not require further permission or delegation, and which can be effective in these cases. (And if they are not effective, then obviously a referral to a delegated exorcist would be called for.)

    I probably have a long way to go before I, myself, would have the sanctity of life to go after these demons in any way approaching a major exorcism, but one should remember that all priests do have the powerful charism to bind and cast out demons through various ‘minor’ forms. I believe that this is a most important tool to take to the confessional for the priest’s own prayer before and after a session (I, for one, don’t want any demons ‘sticking to me’!), for use (silently) as a penitent is confessing some particularly troublesome sins or having trouble admitting particular sins, or for use as penance for particular sins (the St. Michael the Archangel prayer is a favorite).

  17. MikeL says:

    Apropos of this subject, I chanced on this link:

    This is from the Daily Mail, which I doubt is an even reasonable source of information about the activities of the Vatican, so NaCl may be liberally applied.

  18. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Hey CarpeNoctem: excellent encouragement to go to confession! And if I understand you correctly, your understanding of “minor” involves deprecatory prayer alone, such as is had with the Saint Michael prayer. Good. Anything more would be wrong. I wouldn’t worry so much about demons sticking to anyone! They do what they want, according to God’s permissive will.

    And note that the Church always used only one word: ossessione, for being held hostage, harrassed by the Evil One. Some of our distinctions can be a bit tendentious.

    A true story:

    A priest, hearing that the spouse of a woman may be possessed, invited satan to take possession of the woman, over whom he would then do an exorcism which he claimed would have an effect on him, with all of them being delivered in the end. He complained that he would have demons sticking to him afterwards! No wonder, for he gave permission for all those involved to be and remain possessed. This is not uncommon.

    By the way, those of you who are laughing out there, don’t forget that these people suffer more than ever, and that this priest, get this, is one of those super-famous icons of orthodoxy savior of the church types.

    We are living in dark times. This is why the Church limits the practice of exorcism to just a few. In other words, the Church knows full well, especially with something like this, that many easily make themselves the agents of the evil one.

  19. tgliang says:

    I have seen a DVD of Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, a priest asked by his bishop to study for a PhD in exorcism. I believe he is an assistant of Fr. Amorth, the chief exorcist of the Vatican. A surprising thing he said was that success in exorcism depends on the experience of the priest, and not on holiness. He mentions that even St. John of the Cross was unsuccessful. It lends credence to the fact that reliance on old formulations of exorcism prayers is important. Maybe that’s why Pope Benedict wishes the old prayers to be restored.


  20. eric says:

    My personal opinion, based on observation and experience, is that most people are naive as to the extent to which the demons have influence in people’s lives. Yes, the sacraments are extremely important and essential to the health of a Christian. But if a person has allowed a demon to take hold in one particular area of their life (for example, by engaging in consensual sin over and over again) a visit to the confessional is not going to accomplish their deliverance. People go to Mass and Confession over and over again but never change. Why? One reason is that they need deliverance.

    To dismiss members of the charismatic movement as “charismaniacs” is simplistic and uncharitable. There are many good Catholics who are “charismatic”. And many people have been helped by their prayers. As one who has (and continues) to actively participate in both traditionalist and charismatic groups (finding them to not be inconsistent because of the presence of the Holy Spirit), I would point out that there are human failings in both camps.

    The Church needs exorcists today. St. Alphonsus advised in a book on confession that priests should, when justified, perform a minor exorcism on penitents in the confessional. That was many years ago, before the advent of TV and the internet. Do you seriously think that people need exorcisms LESS today than two hundred years ago?

  21. eric says:

    Mark 16:17 — “these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils”

    This is one of the signs that identifies a Believer on Jesus Christ.

  22. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Wow, tgliang, maybe we should just forget about citing “authority” for this kind of thing. That just sets up the whole wrong dynamic.

    Can I be the infant terrible and say that this includes Amorth.

    It is MUCH BETTER to cite what our Lord Himself said about prayer and exorcism. Can you do that for us? After that, it is good to cite the legislation of the Church.

    Otherwise, we will never know WDTPRS, but will be bickering over the school to which we pretend to belong. Exorcism is all about turning to our Lord. He is our Master.

  23. tgliang says:

    Fr. Renzo, you might be reading something that I did not intend in my post. I am just a layman and not familiar with the prayers of exorcism, new or old. But, I assume all saints in heaven went through the old liturgies, and it definately shows the old liturgies work and are pleasing to God. After all, is not the Church guided by the Holy Spirit? In particular, I assume the old version calls for “I rebuke you, in Christ’s name” (Fr Renzo di Lorenzo), and not some watered down modern version.


  24. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    eric: It’s a good thing you are neither an exorcist or a confessor. It’s a shame, though, that you didn’t read my own distinction between charismatics and charismaniacs. Why not? Are you lacking in . . . . . . ? You fill in the blank, if it fits.

    Equating sin with demonic activity is just so wrong on so many different levels. But that’s exactly what you hear from the charismaniacs: “Oh spirit of fornication, I order you…” etc. Demons do what they want. They are not our psychology on the one hand, nor, on the other hand, is “the devil made me do it” rubbish any kind of legitimate excuse for what you are talking about. That would be just SUCH A CONVENIENT EXCUSE TO KEEP SINNING. Who did you say you were speaking for?

    Mother Teresa was fond of saying that we don’t simply need more priests. We need holy priests. Same for exorcists. We don’t simply need more exorcists. We need holy exorcists. If anyone rejects the authority of the Church, you know they are on the side of the Evil One. Don’t you remember what he said: “Non serviam!” “I will not serve!” Obedience is always the way to go.

  25. Habemus Papam says:

    Eric, we all for sure have been helped by the prayers of good Catholics. You choose your words carefully yet imply that the prayers of “charismatics” (inverted commas appreciated) are especially beneficial.
    Its this implied elitism/gnosticsm which is so repulsive to many Catholics. Priests are special. Laity who have been “baptised in the Spirit” (hav’nt we all) are no more special than any Catholic.
    Traditionalists are merely doing what the Church has always done. “Charismatics” are doing what was exclusive to Pentecostalists until 1967.

  26. chris K says:

    Fr. Amorth’s discussion of the new rite vs the old rite:

    The declarations contained in the New Ritual are very serious and very damaging. They are the fruit of ignorance and inexperience.

    30 Days: But wasn’t the New Ritual put together by specialists?

    Fr. Amorth: Not at all! During these last ten years, two commissions worked on the Ritual; one which was made up of cardinals and which was responsible for the Praenotanda, that is to say the initial provisions, and the other which was responsible for the prayers. I can affirm with certainty that none of the members of these commissions had ever performed an exorcism, had ever been present at an exorcism and ever possessed the slightest idea of what an exorcism is. Here lies the error, the original sin of this Ritual. Not one of those who collaborated on it was an exorcism specialist.

    and the role of then Cardinal Ratzinger in “saving” the efficaciousness of the old rite:

    Fr. Amorth: Do you want to know where it comes from? It comes from an attempt made by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and by Cardinal Medina to introduce into the Ritual an article – it was article 38 at that time – which would authorize exorcists to use the previous Ritual. It was undoubtedly a maneuver in extremis to fend off on our behalf the grave errors found in the definitive Ritual. But the two cardinals failed in their attempt. Then Cardinal Medina, who had understood what was at stake in this matter, decided to grant us this lifeline anyway and he added a separate note.

    and this very telling comment:

    Fr. Amorth: Vatican Council II had asked for certain texts to be revised. But this order was disobeyed, as there was a desire to rewrite them all from scratch. No thought was given to the possibility of making things worse rather than better. And many rites were spoiled by this mania for jettisoning everything from the past and of rebuilding everything from top to bottom, as though the Church had, until today, hoodwinked and misled us, and as though there had now finally arrived a time of great geniuses, of super-theologians, of super-biblicists, of super-liturgists, who knew how to give the Church what was sound. It is all a lie: the last Council simply asked for these texts to be revised, not to be destroyed. The Exorcism Ritual, for example, was to be revised, not rewritten. There were prayers in it which had been in use for twelve centuries. Before suppressing these ancient prayers which had proved so efficacious, one should have thought long and hard. But no! We exorcists have all tried out the new prayers in the New Ritual ad interim and we have come to realize that they are absolutely ineffectual. But the rite of baptism for children has also been spoiled. It has been so drastically overhauled that the exorcism against Satan has virtually been eliminated. This had always held a very great importance for the Church, so much so that it is called the minor exorcism. Paul VI himself publicly protested against this new rite.


  27. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:


    It’s true that the centuries old rituals have a real wisdom about them which the recent version (an example of breaking from tradition by way of committee) does not have. For instance, there is a wonderful rhythm of deprecatory and imprecatory exorcisms and prayers which the new form does not have. The old was time tested, lived. The new is cold, barely tolerant of the fact of exorcism. Check out the rules for both.

    OK on that score. But, first of all, our Lord’s words on prayer for exorcists. Then, the legislation of the Church.

  28. Habemus Papam says:

    In fact re-reading your post Eric the arrogance is so breathtaking that its easy to believe you participate in charismatic groups. A “visit to the confessional” is not going to help with consensual sins (whatever could you be referring to, I wonder?) where a prayer for deliverance, presumably being prayed over by a charismatic, will.
    The Sacrament of Penance is instituted by Our Blessed Lord and is not going to help where a Pentecostalist ritual will?! Breathtaking.

  29. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Ditto to all that, chris K! Excellent work. And that’s the kind of quoting of Amorth I like to see.

    Except the one point on baptism. There is no exorcism at all. In fact, it is a heresy in that usage of baptism, for the structure of the presentation inescapably sets up a parallel between Satan and original sin, which is just rubbish.

    But before we’re overwhelmed by the darkness, consider what led up to the new ritual: ALL IMPRECATORY EXORCISMS WERE REMOVED FROM ALL ASPECTS OF ANYTHING LEGISLATED FOR THE LITURGY FROM THE COUNCIL ONWARDS.

    In fact, even the blessing of objects, houses, etc., was not included. All blessings, instead of reclaiming any territory from the prince of this world, the devil, instead blessed only the persons involved. So many people in the USA were asking to have their rosaries blessed, etc., that the bishops were forced to ask for an indult to actually bless things. This was given.

    OK, so… lots of rubbish. Satan is still active. What did any of us expect? HOWEVER! All is not lost. We trust in our Lord, who did conquer Satan and then, death.

  30. Jay says:

    Attempts of charismatic ‘exorcisms’ or deliverance could do more damage than help – they should be forbidden, I agree with Fr Lorenzo, in particular in cases of demonic oppression/obsession when occult is involved in any way.

  31. chris K says:

    Re: the prayers for deliverance by laity and exorcism (and there certainly does seem to be the need of distinction between terms): Often those “charismaniacs” are those who are ignorant of or reject the God given anointing to exorcists and therefore do not distinguish between the powers. Yes they could be delving into a great sin of pride and can therefore be used by the evil one in their error:

    A lay person who prays for deliverance from demons offers a private prayer, calling upon the common priesthood of the faithful and the power granted by Christ to all believers,” says Father Amorth. “The priest who prays for the same purpose also recites a private prayer. Everything being equal, it is more efficacious than the first, because he calls upon his ministerial priesthood and his mandate to bless. When an exorcist administers an exorcism, the efficacy is greater still, because he is practicing a sacramental, which is a public prayer, invoking the intercessory power of the entire Church.

    “However,” adds Amorth, “let us be clear on this: The Lord takes faith into account. Therefore, a simple prayer of a lay person, even though it is private, could be more efficacious than the prayer of anyone else.”

    Father Amorth cites the example of Saint Catherine of Siena: When an exorcist could not liberate a demoniac, he would send the afflicted person to her. “Then the saint would pray and obtain liberation,” writes Amorth. “Her prayer was not an exorcism; she was neither an exorcist nor a priest. But she was a saint!”

    And there are “incomplete” exorcisms as was witnessed in the woman prayed over by Pope John Paul II who received a certain amount of relief but had to have a continuance of exorcism by Fr. Amorth. And, although Padre Pio was not an officially appointed exorcist we have the witnessed example of the young girl brought to him who was “liberated” or relieved of her suffering of some length of time. The power of holiness and faith.

    “While there is nothing to forbid the use of exorcism for all other forms of evil influence, and all exorcists do so, there are other types of interventions for minor or less severe circumstances, such as deliverance prayers.”

    At a major conference of priests and exorcists in Mexico — the first national one — a key participant, Father Mendoza Pantoja, who coordinates eight exorcists in his archdiocese (and helped organize the very event), noted in an interview with Zenit News Service that the role of casting out demons was in the hands of bishops because when Christ granted that power, it was to His apostles — not to everyone.

    “Priests help with prayer of liberation and the laity with prayer of intercession,” said Father Pantoja. “A priest who is not an official exorcist can carry out a minor exorcism, also called prayer of liberation, helped in turn by all the laity who support him in discernment and with prayers of intercession. The laity cannot recite prayers of liberation (exorcism).”

    noted an American expert, Father John Hampsch of California, to a recent inquirer. “The laity can recite prayers of deliverance (liberation), as we do in the Our Father: ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ (proper translation). What is forbidden to the laity (and also to any priest not assigned by the bishop to act as exorcist) is to recite the official prayers of exorcism for cases of demonic possession. In less serious cases, like those of obsession, oppression, only deliverance, or ‘minor exorcism,’ it is permitted by both priest and laity, based on Mark 16:17. The bottom line is anyone can pray a healing prayer of deliverance for themselves and others — and the Lord’s Prayer in its closing sentence is precisely one way of doing that.”

  32. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Major, minor, public, private, Latin, vernacular, deliverance, liberation, serious, not so serious, etc., etc., etc.

    Everyone has different definitions. Better to go on the current legislation. Cutting to the quick:

    1. ANY question or command given to a devil is an exorcism that is only legitimately able to rendered by a priest-exorcist.

    2. Any other prayer can be done by anyone.

    It’s really that simple. And I agree wholeheartedly that, again, none of this is power-grabbing, and the LOrd respects those who are His own, priest or not. Those who are not priest-exorcists should not think they are someone alone (especially when there is no exorcist). Instead, the Lord listens to our prayers, but always in the way that is best for our eternal salvation. Great saints, including Saint Paul, Saint Pio, Saint John Vianney, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (Bethlehem OCD), were harrassed by Satan. Again, Saint Catherine speaks eloquently of the Lord’s permissive will in this regard. She’s really great.

  33. Curious says:

    I am very curious about the order of the Intercessors of the Lamb from Omaha, Nebraska regarding exorcisms and their casting out of demons, which they do as easily as popping pimples. At a workshop in our parish a little over a year ago, one of them spoke about infants possessed in the womb and a certain “casting out” prayer recited in triplicate. What is that all about?

  34. Jason says:

    I have a question about exorcisms. The Priest commands the demon in the name of Christ (at least in the movies). If the Priest does speak by Our Lord’s authority, why doesn’t the demon leave immediately? Why is there a struggle? If Our Lord tells someone to do something, isn’t his word immediately effected?

  35. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Father Z:

    The National Catholic Register had a recent article about secular exorcisms, performed by therapists. It talks about releasing spirits gently:

    (I’m not a fan of this publication, BTW)

  36. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Jason, good question about the disobedience of demons during an exorcism.

    There are many reasons for this, but the most important one to remember is that a Sacramental calls on the merits of Christ and the Church. “Calls on” is way different that what happens in a Sacrament, which works by fact of the work worked, so to speak. In other words, as our Lord indicates, prayer is necessary.

    This is important to recognize. Many people attending an exorcism believe everthing the demon says because 1. he’s a demon [!] and 2. he’s undergoing an exorcism. Demons will lie until they are worn down and forced to go. See the great comment of RBrown far above.

  37. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Dear Massachusetts Catholic, perhaps you mean NCR stand for National Catholic REPORTER?

  38. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Dear Fr. Renzo,

    Guess that is what it stands for:-)

  39. eric says:

    Curious — here is the website for the Intercessors of the Lamb.

  40. Curious says:

    Thanks, Eric. But the website doesn’t explain their obsession with casting out demons and this infant-while-in-the-womb-exorcism business.

  41. Jay says:

    Curious, I believe the possession of the infant in the womb is possible if the mother or father of the child are directly or indirectly involved in the occult, new age practices etc. It can be also, sad to say, caused by malicious actions of those who nourish hateful feelings against parents, or by occult person commissioned by those who wish them evil. Needless to say – it can only happen with God’s permission. Complicated, but possible.

  42. Jay says:

    Massachusetts Catholic, I have read the link to NCR about secular ‘exorcisms’ and it sound a bit like New age. There can be no spirits ‘attached’ to earthly things like drug or alcohol, we know what happens after death, the first judgment, hell, purgatory or heaven and wait for the second judgment. This point of view is not Catholic. BTW can we imagine begging demon to kindly leave the place or person…they would have a good laugh. If any ‘deliverances’ described in this article actually happen it can be due to demonic deception. My husband is psychiatrist and it is not very uncommon that they sometimes ask exorcists for help to patients with resistant to drugs ‘illness’ but they are still exorcists.

  43. Father J says:

    Thank you all for this very interesting debate. It is surprisingly reassuring to read that so many others around the world have the same belief as I that the Evil One is still among us! Special thanks to Fr Z for posting this topic too!

  44. seph says:

    On the subject of exorcism and confession, under what circumstances would a priest say an exorcism prayer after absolution? I had a short prayer (along the lines of ‘Depart from her, unclean spirit…’) said over me once, and while I’ve been told it’s not unusual, I’ve been curious about it since then.

  45. chris K says:


    Curious, I believe the possession of the infant in the womb is possible if the mother or father of the child are directly or indirectly involved in the occult, new age practices etc.

    Amorth shares that there is ordinary demonic activity called temptation and extraordinary activity
    taking 6 forms…………..(6) subjugation/dependence [possession where consent has been given by self or parent, such as through blood pacts and consecration to Satan].

    I know, through an acquaintancem of a young woman, possessed through being offered as an infant by her occult involved parents to satan in satanic ceremonies.

  46. eft says:

    Jonathan Bennett, Fr Renzo di Lorenzo, etc…

    “Maybe somebody has it in English?”

    Not an official translation, but perhaps useful:
    click Language Tools
    scroll down to Translate a webpage
    into the http:// field paste
    select Portuguese to English
    click Translate

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