A priest asks about exorcisms

From a priest:

I am a young priest in the Diocese of ….. A number of months ago you posted from a conference on exorcism you attended in Tulsa. In one of those posts you said something to the effect that there are things bishops and priests need to know. That comment has been rattling around in my mind since I read it. Also, situations occasionally come to my attention and I don’t really know how to deal with them. I went to the Josephinum and we were taught precisely zero about this stuff. Do you have any resources to which you could direct me ?

If you cite this email, please remove any identifiers. Thank you for your blog, your witness, and your priesthood.

It is not a surprise that you didn’t hear much about this.


Exorcists say that “problems” are on the rise.

They also say that Latin is best, but… “Get it right”… because the demon corrects bad Latin.

FATHERS... do you want me to read in toto the whole rite in Latin and make the recording available?

I would make it available ONLY to bishops and priests.  That would be handled on a one to one basis after proving that you are who you claim to be.  No debate.  No exceptions.  No “But Father….!”  Period.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Is Exorcism a Sacrament of sort? I’m quite sure about how it works, what it does. Is it just a way of praying for someone that is possessed?

    A little help on this matter would be much appreciated :)

    [It is a sacramental, not a sacrament. Thus, GO TO CONFESSION regularly. That’s a mighty mighty sacrament.]

  2. disco says:

    “The demon corrects bad latin” is the scariest thing I’ve read in years.

  3. padredana says:

    I don’t think the recording is a good idea. The Rite of Exorcism should only be used by those who know what they are doing and are properly authorized by their Bishop. It is VERY dangerous to wade into the waters of confronting the evil one alone and without proper training and authorization. Those who are authorized have resources such the recording you are suggesting already available to them.

    [I didn’t say I would give it to lay people. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t give it to lay people even if they begged. Only priests or bishops would get the recording. Period.]

  4. PhilipNeri says:

    Fr. Z., please do not read the Rite of Exorcism on-line. . .computers the world over will spew green-pea soup and levitate.

    Thank you, Fr. Philip Neri, OP

    [Yes… that’s would be alarming.]

  5. Basher says:

    This is such a troubling topic. The letter writer appears to be in the majority, never having been taught anything about this. This leaves him to, unfortunately, learn things the hard way after ordination. It seems that a guide for new priests, to know when and when not to call in the pros, would be helpful. There’s always lots of talk about Fr. Amorth’s book, but Fr. Amorth resides in a more mystical place (figuratively speaking…and I guess literally too) and it is difficult to get people in the USA to take him seriously (and his book is definitely not a “how to”). Maybe some diocese already have a training guide to recognizing serious situations, but apparently some do not.

  6. Choirmaster says:

    “…the demon corrects bad Latin.”

    Titivillus, call your office!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. Father:

    I know many times our faithful will question this, but: the prudence of the Church to be rather closed-mouth about these matters is justified.

    There is something about these subjects that excites a certain fascination. The fascination many feel about the workings of evil beings is bad enough, when stimulated by secular entertainment or writings; but there, at least, one has caution, because it is secular. When people approach sacred sources with the same fascination, it can have bad effects, precisely because people are less guarded: we’re talking about sacred ritual and church teaching, so what’s the harm?

    The harm is that our own motives are not always what they need to be. Every appetite ought not to be fed.

    My advice is not to put it out for general consumption.

    [I agree completely. Priests and bishops ONLY.]

  8. LarryW2LJ says:

    disco says:

    “The demon corrects bad latin” is the scariest thing I’ve read in years.”

    Agreed. Priests who take on the duties of excorcism have my highest admiration, respect and regard (and prayers). I know of one priest who has – and all the stuff in our lives, all the stuff we see is nothing compared to what he has seen and dealt with. That is true spiritual warfare, the battle between good and evil, the real nitty gritty, and it is totally, absolutley real.

    Not that I was given any details, but you could just tell from his demeanor. To the casual observer, he’s an extremely affable, easy going, yet very pious man. When he briefly mentions to us that he has a “job to do” and asks for prayers, (only a few know what he’s talking about) you can see the change in his demeanor. Talk about being a “Soldier for Christ”? – these guys are the Special Ops.

  9. iPadre says:

    I don’t think any seminary has taught about exorcism, the reality of the devil or the need to do spiritual battle in maaaaany years. A word to the un-named priest. Read a lot of good, Catholic books on exorcism and spiritual warfare, go to confession frequently and never miss saying your daily Mass. Pray the St. Michael prayer throughout the day and use privately the minor exorcism when you sense trouble brewing. I have seen too many good priests taken down by “the grappin,” as St. John Vianney called him.

    Read books by Fr. Gabriel Amorth, Fr. Fortea and Carrado Balducci to name a few. “Put on the armor of God.”

  10. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Commenters, please remember that Fr. Z is remarkably level-headed. He wouldn’t rashly post the audio where it would be available to all and sundry. I’m confident he was talking about making a recording that he would make available on request to priests, likely after receiving satisfactory evidence of their good standing.

  11. charismatictrad says:

    In my immediate family, we have had to deal with quite a bit of spiritual warfare and I will say that it is WAY TO HARD to find an exorcist. I think the Church is right in keeping them on the DL, but the difficulty is that many priests don’t even know who their diocesan exorcist is OR IF THEY EVEN HAVE ONE. I’m sorry, but every priest in the diocese should at least be able to direct you to where you need to go to find one. The evil one is having a hay-day in these times. I watched a video with Fr. Amorth in it and they interviewed a satanist and he said that what he’s doing isn’t bad because there is no such thing as bad or good: it is all relative. So, there you have it. Would the devil rather be seen and scary, convince people he’s good, or just convince people he doesn’t exist? Clearly, the latter.

  12. Choirmaster says:

    @Fr Martin Fox:

    I agree, but is this not a bit of a tight-rope walk? After all, some knowledge must be shared to prevent ignorance. It also helps us lay-folk to have the right ideas about how all this works so that we can ask for help from the right people if the need should arise. It also helps to get this information directly from the Church rather than from popular misconception or from Hollywood.

    I think that anyone who feeds their fascination with the likes of, say, Fr. Amorth, will come away much the better for it since he and many others promote the ordinary means (i.e. the Sacraments) as the first, best defense against the Enemy. It also helps to dispel some of the more “fantastic” imagery from the mind, reminding us that the Enemy usually attacks us in more ordinary, and therefore more insidious, ways.

    I believe it’s also important to publish this information, in some manner, so that we can see that the Church is seriously continuing the work of our Lord and the Apostles in “casting out demons”; to promote the use among the faithful of the classic, anti-demonic sacramentals such as holy water, blessed salt, and the St. Michael prayer; and to sternly warn against the danger of occult magic and superstition.

    [Some knowledge is good yes. Curiosity must be discouraged.]

  13. Basher says:

    Fr. Fox said:

    “I know many times our faithful will question this, but: the prudence of the Church to be rather closed-mouth about these matters is justified.”

    Fr., the questioner is a priest…is the Church also supposed to be closed-mouthed about this to her priests? That seems wrong. Please illuminate me. Thx. [Not now. Thanks.]

  14. Priam1184 says:

    I am neither a priest nor an exorcist but I will confess that in moments of extreme temptation an Ave Maria and the St. Michael prayer in Latin do seem to scare the pants off whatever devil or demon is plaguing me and send them packing if I can collect my mind enough to remember to pray them.

  15. FrJohn says:

    We priests need all the help we can get for doing well that for which we are authorized to do. Still, I agree with not putting such things “out there” for general public consumption. Fr. Z, if you can do this and make it available only to fellow priests, then please do so. [That’s a “yes” vote.]

  16. Priam1184 says:

    I would also like to point out that I feel that the society of the entire Western world is possessed and badly in need of an exorcism if that is possible or some rite like the Church did in the great old days when entire nations were converted.

  17. Howdy! I too ask that you not record the rite as it will be too tempting to be misused. I also am seeking more information regarding this area of expertise, of which little was taught in seminary other than send the person to the bishop and don’t use the prayers without permission from the bishop. Could you recommend some resources for myself and brother priests that have no formal training in dealing with demonic possession? Thank you and Mary pray for us all!

  18. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    What Fr. Fox said. In spades.
    And be very careful about reading anything by Fr. Amorth: http://www.canonlaw.info/a_amorth.htm

  19. I’ve closed the combox. I’ve deleted some comments.

    Priests and bishops can drop me a line about this. If you are not a priest or a bishop, don’t bother writing me about the issue of a recording.

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