Wherein Fr. Z comments on a @RorateCaeli post about priests, permissions and exorcism prayers. Then @fatherz rants.

Dunstan 1 - Devil 0

Dunstan 1 – Devil 0

At Rorate there is a post especially for priests about the proper and improper use of the exorcism prayers in the older Rituale Romanum.  It’s a good service.

After providing images of a 2009 letter from the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” with responses to questions  (back in the day we got answers to dubia), about deacons blessing with the older Rituale (sort of important, but … not really), they got down to the far more important issue: the danger to priests (or others) which can result from using the restricted exorcism prayers without the proper permission.

The Rorate post adds a anonymous (alas) note about how sins and playing with things like oujia boards can open the door to entrance by demons.   The writer correctly states – and this is accurate and salutary – that demons are legalistic.  Therefore, if a priest uses these restricted prayers without permission, he could be opening the door to the demons attacking him!   I often warn lay people in these electronic pages to avoid getting at all into these matters, these texts.  Avoid them!  If even a priest – having the character imposed by orders – without a permission can get into trouble, how much more lay people?

Some explanation is in order:

The traditional rite of exorcism is found in the traditional Rituale Romanum.

Summorum Pontificum 9, §1 allows the use of the Ritual in force in 1962, that is, the 1952 edition, which was the last official edition prior to 1962. Universae Ecclesiae 35, a document explaining the implementation of SP, says that the Ritual can be used in its entirety. That means that the rites for Exorcism can be used.  HOWEVER… these rites were restricted to bishops and those to priests to whom the ordinary gave permission.  They still are.  Always have been.

The rites of exorcism are found in Title XI of the 1952 Rituale. Title XI is in 3 chapters.
1. De exorcizandis obsessis a daemonio – An introductory chapter which explains exorcisms, etc. It doesn’t contain rites of exorcism.
2. Ritus exorcizandi obsessos a daemonio – This rite may be pronounced only by bishops and and by priests who have authorization from the Ordinary (keep in mind that that are different kinds of “ordinaries” – a Vicar General is an “Ordinary”). The rite includes the litany, long prayers with signs of the Cross, readings from Scripture, the Athanasian Creed, psalms, etc.  If I wanted to drive the devil out of some Jesuit, I would use this prayer, with the permission of the local bishop or ordinary.
3. Exorcismus in satanam et angelos apostaticos – This prayer – for driving the infesting enemy from people and from places – can be used by bishops and by priests who have authorization from the Ordinary. It consists of a prayer to St. Michael, a couple of exorcism prayers, etc.  For example, if I wanted to exorcise the offices of the Fishwrap I would use this prayer with permission from the local bishop or vicar general (unless the bishop restricted this to himself in KC).

In each case, a priest must have permission.  Any bishop can use them pretty much anywhere.

It was very good that Rorate posted on this.  Hopefully priests will read the post and take it seriously.  Dealing with demons is not a game of bean bag.   They are angelic beings, restrained in large part by God, but angelic nonetheless.

The Rorate post’s comment, however, may go astray on a point.   The writer seems to imply that the 2009 PCED letter (the “protocol”) might have changed something.  After commenting that some priest used the Ch. 3 of Title XI with good effects for some time apparently without specific permission, and that that was recommended in a book which had an imprimatur by Card. Pell, (emphases added):

this protocol makes it clear that it is now unquestionably at least a material disobedience each and every time any priest in the world uses this prayer without the proper permissions. And certainly every devil in the world is well aware of this.”

This is a small matter, but Card. Pell’s book couldn’t have given any permission to use Ch. 3 and I don’t believe there was ever a question about whether or not a priest could use ch. 3 without permission.  If Summorum Pontificum gave permission to use the entire Rituale, it did not thereby remove the restrictions on exorcisms.

Therefore, the 2009 PCED letter did not once again place restrictions on the use of those prayers.  The restrictions were always there.  Period.  It was always wrong and even dangerous for the aforementioned priest to use either ch. 2 or 3 without the permission of the ordinary, before SP and after.

That said, it is true that demons know the law and that they are legalistic.   That’s a good point in the Rorate post.  This is one of the reasons why the Church’s traditional exorcism prayers are seemingly repetitive when breaking demonic bonds.  Demons claim rights to be where they are, because they were invoked or invited by curses or “spells” or through objects and sins, etc.  Once there, they attach like leeches and get legalistic.  The prayers of the Church systematically break their claims and eradicate them and expel them.

And they really hate Latin.

Demons get so legalistic that they will mock priests whose Latin isn’t very good.  That’s why I made this post HERE.

Folks, I’m not making this stuff up.

If after Vatican II the Church’s shepherds stopped talking about sin and its consequences, that doesn’t mean that sin stopped having consequences.

Demons can infest places and things and people like vermin or ringworm or parasites and they are decidedly unhelpful for everyone around.

Don’t kid yourselves.   This is one reason why in our traditional practices as Catholics we use lots of sacramentals, we say prayers before meals asking God to bless our food, etc.  We had – have – blessings for everyday things, tools, foods, common and important places (homes or perhaps sick rooms).  We have blessings and rites for feasts and changes of seasons.  All these practices wove us as individuals into the rich fabric of the Church’s life in the practice of the virtue of religious, and braided us all together in our rites and our identity together with our forebears and descendants.

We are our rites!  Change them, drop them, denigrate them… there are consequences.

Holy Church is the greatest expert on humanity there has every been.  Through centuries of experience she developed what is good for us and WHAT WORKED.  These things can slowly change and shift over time, but they do so slowly.  Human beings don’t really change over the millennia.  Circumstances do, but even then not too much.  So, when the Church figured it out, making sudden changes to… everything, I guess, was consequential.

In the creeds we recite, we say that we believe in things that are “invisible”.  That means the angelic realm, with its good and holy angels who are our friends and guardians as we as the fallen angels, who are demons and who desire our spiritual isolation from God and ultimate torment.  There are hierarchies of angels, good and bad.  Some are vastly more powerful than others, each one being his own species, as different from each other as a giraffe from a spiny hedgehog.  But all angels transcend our human nature.  Thanks be to God we have our Church with sacramentals and even more mighty sacraments.  We have angels and the restraining will of God over all the forces of Hell.

This is why I never fool around with rites for blessings and sacramentals.  I use the older Rituale, with its permitted exorcisms in Latin and clear intentions.

Finally, listen up!

The rite of exorcism is just a sacramental.   Confession and the Eucharist are sacraments and are immensely powerful.   If you are having problems of some kind and suspect demonic involvement, make plans to make a good Holy Communion, examine your conscience and…



Some priests have written to ask for the aforementioned recordings. One of them wrote,

I am a Priest of ___ I have just been appointed Exorcist for ___. I offer the TLM regularly but but Latin doesn’t come easily for me. I would appreciate you sending me your recordings. I intend using the old ritual in this ministry. As one priestly wag commented: “The only reason the demon would leave when the new prayers are used is out of boredom.”

LOL! Thanks, Father, for the chuckle.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tamranthor says:

    Not only do priests not preach about sin, they will look at you as if you were crazy if speak about the demonic. I know I was not properly taught about the way evil can find a person, place or thing. It leaves one with the impression that evil, demons and hell are just some fever-dream nightmare foisted upon us by the ignorant rubes of the “dark ages.”

    But, those preach “God loves you, draw a flower,” are not doing anyone a service or keeping anyone out of hell.

    While laity cannot and should not delve into exorcism, it would be nice to have a rundown of things we can and should do to protect ourselves. Confession–absolutely. Communion–frequently. Prayer, and specific types of prayer–unceasing. The practice of virtue, etc.

  2. rdb says:

    What would a priest in the SSPX need to do? I’m assuming they need the permission of the local ordinary and that the permission of the bishops of the SSPX would not suffice.

    [SSPX priests need the permission of the local ordinary. The SSPX bishops cannot grant permission to a priest to used chapters 2 & 3.]

  3. pseudomodo says:

    I’m with tamranthor on this.

    I have been praying the St. Michael prayer for some time now. Is this a legitimate prayer for laity to pray or is it reserved because it has been used at mass?

    [“The St. Michael Prayer” … there are several. Some should be prayed only by bishops and priests. Others can be prayed by anyone… and should be! Often!]

  4. Charles E Flynn says:

    I wonder if the demons started hating Latin when the Church adopted it, or if they hated its use by ordinary people in the ancient world.

  5. Fr_Andrew says:

    Three things:

    (1) It’s always important to remember the power the priest exercises in the confessional is a far greater power than an exorcism. As much as we might be

    (2) The various versions of the long St. Michael prayer (not the one from the Leonine prayers), are
    the Exorcismus in satanam et angelos apostaticos. You often find these with certain parts in brackets “for priests only.” Among the traditional crowd this prayer is popular and often reprinted, but should not be said by the laity, under any circumstances, and at least not publicly by even priests, without Ordinary permission.

    (3) Regarding the SSPX it seems possible (since without any public documentation, the Superior General in 2015 confirmed that ordinations were privately declared licit by the Holy See even without dismissorial letters, and he and other members were approved to lead several ecclesiastical trials for members without seeing public documentation), that there might exist some kind of legal situation for such things, seeing as if they were in a proper canonical situation, any Major Superior could give such permission, and is the legal equivalent of an Ordinary.

    I would agree that the SSPX bishop do not claim to have any Ordinary power, so could not give permission, but perhaps the Superior General or Major Superiors could (if there is such explicit or tacit permission from Rome)

    I have no knowledge of that, but given it’s not exactly a black-and-white relationship right know, I’m not sure we could definitively make a call either way.

    I am sure any formal canonical status would resolve that, but the last 10 years on that subject haven’t exactly been like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Just my two (or three) cents.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    There is surely some information that is useful for any person to know. A while back I read that demons cannot hear your thoughts even though they may guess your thoughts from observable indications and actions. Here I read that demons are legalistic and insist they have a basis for a right to be where they are which rang true to me. Another thing is that you are not smarter than a demon.

  7. GregB says:

    On the EWTN show “On Location” they had a presentation by Demonologist Adam Blai. He made many of the same points that you do. He said that the demons are legalistic. He also said that exorcism is not something to be played with, and should only be done by a Church authorized exorcist. In light of all the current bashing of legalism by progressives, I found the statement about the demons being legalistic to be very interesting.

    [In other words, antinomian libs are allies of demons.]

  8. gracie says:

    “And they really hate Latin”.

    Would anyone know if demons also hate Greek? Greek is one of the original two languages of the Church and presumably is spoken by at least some of the Eastern Rite Churches. Are their exorcisms in Greek or does it have to be in Latin and would Greek be as effective?

  9. dwengerpriest says:

    So I assume this means that, for example, a Vicar General would not need any permissions to carry out any of these exorcisms, unless the diocesan bishop has specifically restricted this?

    [This depends entirely on the local ordinary, if the diocesan bishop or administrator, etc. However, I can’t imagine that any Vicar General who has the opportunity to consult would not, first, obtain permission.]

  10. Chuck Ludd says:

    This is an excellent post. I was once conversing with a bishop who had performed a very public exorcism and he noted that exorcism had a type of legal character. I didn’t understand what he meant and was puzzling over the comment, but he is someone I greatly respect and trust so I didn’t think he was wrong I just found the comment puzzling. Your post has solved my confusion.

  11. SKAY says:

    I always learn something new from your posts, Father Z.
    Thank you.

  12. Fr. Aaron Sandbothe says:

    All of the apostolic Churches, Western, Eastern, and Oriental have rites of exorcism. Of course a Syriac priest would use Syriac for his exorcisms and a Coptic priest would use Coptic and so on. The rites of exorcism in the Eastern and Oriental tradition are often quite beautiful and striking in imagery.

  13. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    I am confused. In 1972 V2 did away with minor orders. Which were porter reader exorcist and acolyte. Since they are no more how are N.O. priests ordained to the office of exorcism ? The way I see it V2 stripped the power from priests to do exorcisms [Yes, you are confused. V2 has nothing to do with this and priests do have the power to exorcise.]

  14. Lorra says:

    Even though a person frequents the sacraments and in the state of sanctifying grace, is it possible that demons can infest a home if they live with someone who hasn’t been to confession in decades? [Yes. That can happen even if everyone in the house are able to maintain the state of grace for long periods. It could be something happened there in the past. It is good to have the priest come and bless your home.]

    It’s true demons are legalistic. I remember reading about an exorcism that took place in the 1940’s and the demon was chiding the priest about him not having permission to do something: “…why should we obey someone who is disobedient?”

  15. Matt R says:

    RC tends to not understand how the PCED works or what it has actually pronounced.

    As far as diaconal blessings go, another problem is that the Collectio Romanum is largely the 1964 edition, which is not only unhelpful insofar as the use of Latin goes, because it is all in parallel columns, but there are very few reserved blessings, most reservations having been lifted, which was not the case in 1962.

  16. gracie says:

    Fr. Sandbothe,

    Thanks for replying. It would be interesting to do a comparison of the prayers of the exorcisms of various Rites. Pope John Paul II said there were two lungs in the Church and we must breathe with both of them but – if that means we should be exposed to the different Rites within our Church – I don’t see that happening much . I suspect the Eastern Rites know more about us than we know about them.

    [I resent that disparaging comment.]

  17. Father this subject is confusing, thank you for this helpful post.
    Fr. Nicey-nice who speaks various words of exorcism without proper permission can cause the victim more trouble and anguish than if he’d left the victim alone. A real exorcist must be called to fix that, and undoing the damage can take very long.
    I remember words to this effect in a priest’s blog who had been called in to undo severe damage done to a victim of demonic attack/possession after interference by a weak priest ‘exorcised’ although untrained and unauthorized.
    Yes we need more exorcists terribly – Fr. Malachi Martin stated that possessions had exploded in recent years and so many more souls are suffering.
    But caution.
    This good priest made the observation that being “nice” and wanting to help isn’t enough for a priest to be effective. All priests really do need explicit delegation of authority from the bishop to exorcise.
    All power comes from the bishop – a priest can do nothing without it. A priest can only do, in every area of his ordained power, what is delegated from the bishop. Authority and obedience – what a mystery nowadays.
    Where the bishop is, there is the Church.

    [One could, I suppose come up with situations of emergency in which a priest should act. However, things being as they are today, with communications abilities as they are, there is hardly to be imagined a situation in which a priest could consult with proper authority. I just hope that when The Persecution begins, and the clergy have to get moving or get arrested, the last thing the bishop does as they are breaking his door in after a rapid clandestine consecration of a couple bishops, is to give blanket permission to his priests to exorcise and impart reserved blessings.]

  18. netproportions says:

    Is Fr. Ripperger’s “Deliverence Prayers For Use By The Laity” a good resource for the laity? Are these safe to use?

    [I haven’t seen it.]

  19. Titus says:

    As far as diaconal blessings go, another problem is that the Collectio Romanum is largely the 1964 edition, which is not only unhelpful insofar as the use of Latin goes, because it is all in parallel columns, but there are very few reserved blessings, most reservations having been lifted, which was not the case in 1962.

    There is a lot of ambiguity buried in this post. [Ummm… I think you are not talking to me, Fr. Z. So, when you address something to someone, make sure their name is the first thing you type.] First, there is no book (of which I have ever heard) titled Collectio Romanum. The master liturgical book containing the official texts for blessings and most non-pontifical ceremonies and sacraments was, up until the 1970s, known as the Rituale Romanum. Excerpts from the Rituale compiled for a particular region and presented in light of applicable local indults and permissions were titled Collectio Rituum. (Perhaps there was a Collectio Rituum for the diocese of Rome that went by the name Collectio Romanum, but I have never heard of such a book, and it would not serve much practical purpose for an American.)

    In the U.S., there are two relevant “Collectios.” The one you want is the 1961 Collectio Rituum. It was published under the auspices of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (predecessor to the USCCB, which still owns the copyright). It contains (a) the Latin texts from the 1952 Editio Typico of the Rituale Romanum and (b) English translations (along with rubrics showing where English was permitted and where it was not) approved for liturgical use in the U.S.

    The Collectio you are most likely to find, by contrast, is the 1964, which contains English translations for (I believe) all of the texts and was never given a recognitio. Based on the plain text of Summorum pontificum and the interpretation of everyone I’ve seen, that book is not actually approved for liturgical use anywhere. The 1964 is often on ebay. The 1961 is very hard to find (the same is true of a number of books that were prepared from it, titled things like Parish Ritual).

    There is also, of course, Fr. Weller’s three-volume Latin-English Rituale Romanum, which is widely available. I forget (and do not have it at hand) whether that is the 1952 or 1946(?) E.T., but the English translations are Fr. Weller’s alone and are not approved for liturgical use.

    * * *

    For something somewhat different, I distinctly recall reading somewhere that the reservations reflected in the 1952 Rituale (e.g., only Dominicans get to bless rosaries) had been abrogated. Was that perhaps the source of any confusion over whether or not the ordinary’s permission was still required to say those exorcisms?

    [Some good observations here. I think there may be priests out there who unaware of the unofficial nature of Weller’s translations.]

  20. Titus says:

    There is a lot of ambiguity buried in this post. [Ummm… I think you are not talking to me, Fr. Z. So, when you address something to someone, make sure their name is the first thing you type.]

    Mea culpa. Yes, my prior comment was based on “Matt R’s” comment that was excerpted at the top of the comment. I indeed should have put a “Matt R said,” or some such words, in there at the outset.

  21. JesusFreak84 says:

    Lorra’s comment certainly applies to this house, but blessing the house is off the table; I’m 33, but I’m still “just a kid” in terms of authority. Even if a priest was willing to bless the house over the objections of my parents and younger sisters, I wouldn’t feel comfortable causing that explosive argument that would probably end in my eviction…

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