ASK FATHER: Why not use “Unbound” for “deliverance prayers”?

From a priest…


On your post about exorcism of a parish you mentioned in the comments not to use “Unbound”. I know people connected to this. Do you know of a good article explaining why? I interested being able to explain to my friends.

He refers to my post HERE and HERE.

I consulted a trusted exorcist about this.  He responded.

I’m unaware of any articles on the subject. But a reading of the book would tell you the following:

Although there are some important and proper elements that make up the method,

1.         Unbound is not meant as an exorcism of place

2.         Unbound speaks a lot about forgiveness, but I haven’t found a clear mention of sacramental forgiveness.

3.         It doesn’t distinguish between authority and power – not a small detail in these matters. In other words, it invites people (peers) to pray over others (peers), possibly arguing that if someone were to come to you asking for prayers of deliverance, then they give you authority over them. This is fallacious. It goes against natural law of authority. Parents have spiritual authority over their children, husbands over their wives, a priest over the faithful of his parish, and a bishop over his diocese, etc. In other words, a layman speaking tu a tu to an evil spirit sets himself up to get taken to the woodshed if an evil spirit is truly present.

If you publish something critical of Unbound, you be assured that their hyper-sensitive authors will hound you.

Yes, sometimes the hypersensitive – especially those with moral problems compounded with cowardice – do choose to hound, an anonymously.  I am not easily hounded.

I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot aspergilum.

Traditional Rituale Romanum and a priest who is capable.

That’s the way to go.

REMINDER: I have recordings of the Latin for the rites of exorcism.  They are available for priests and bishops.  That’s it.  Period.  HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ms. M-S says:

    You know, Fr. Z, just reading this post and thinking of the well-meaning and empty-headed attempts in VatTwo congregations and New Age gatherings to heal-and-deal with the demonic gives me the hardcore creeps. I don’t know if it amounts to humility, but it’s good to know your place—and stick to it.

  2. UncleBlobb says:

    I wish I could ask the exorcist: do religious priests, who are not assigned to a parish as ministers, but who live within a parish in a diocesan-affiliated monastery, and are diocesan priests also, have spiritual authority over people living within the same parish?

  3. Fr_Andrew says:

    For the exact reasons above, I think the fascination that so many seemingly traditionally-minded folks have for exorcisms, deliverance prayers or things like might itself be demonic. It is certainly not “traditional” and it smacks of imprudence and pride, and risks serious harm to souls.

    The advice given by the exorcist is spot on! Those who have not been ordained exorcists (directly or indirectly through receiving the higher order), have no business using such things. They are soldiers in Christ’s army. They get the weapons assigned to them (the Sacraments and Sacramentals, and especially the Rosary). They don’t get the heavy weapons.

    It is an unhealthy fascination. How many people are fascinated by an exorcism, yet blazé about the miracle of grace which is an absolution?

    Most imprudent is the use of exorcisms by the laity. Invariably I was finding each week in the back of my church someone leaving an English translation of the “St Michael Exorcism” with a note on the top that it may be said by the laity who simply omit the signs of the cross.

    Even the CDF said this was false and warned against it. The ritual says that bishops may use it, and priests with permission of the bishop. If a priest needs permission, why should they laity be allowed to do it?!

    Originally whoever was putting it there was probably good willed. I made the announcement several times and explained and suggested better means like Holy Water and the St Michael Prayer which are designed for the laity to use. The leaflets are appearing, several times a week now. I am more and more convinced that the devil wants the laity to use such means imprudently as a way of gaining power over them (or being taken to the woodshed).

    The laity have the Sacraments and Sacramentals. They have their standard-issue weapons. That is what God has given them, and those weapons work. A good dosing with Holy Water often does the trick.

    When it comes to the heavy-hitting: leave the special ops to those who are trained and ordained!

  4. I have never heard of this lay ministry, but it seems that Abp. Chaput has approved it in his archdiocese:

    In any case, I am nervous about lay people (and priests) becoming involved with exorcism without formal training.

  5. L. says:

    Thank you for treating this serious topic. I admit that when I saw the headline I thought I recalled a recent horror-type movie named “Unbound” and was trying to remember a prayer in Deliverance, but all I could think of was Burt Reynolds and dueling banjos.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There is a lot of bad stuff going on, and people are scared. I remember the same thing from the 1980’s and early 1970’s. St. Jude novena flyers everywhere, and some with the chain letter/threat format.

    That said, I think the other part of the equation is the evangelical “rediscovery of sacramentals” and “rediscovery of exorcism”. There are some evangelicals who come up with a mix of okay and dangerous stuff, and some Catholics are always copying them with a Catholic spin. All this deliverance prayer is part of it.

    Oh, yes, and the “rediscovery of angels and bad angels” associated with Divine Council interpretation of the Bible. I mean, one minute you are listening to podcasts about Middle Eastern archeology and the Bible, and the next minute you are hearing about some bunch of Protestant laypeople running a new, more effective form of “deliverance ministry,” complete with warnings about how other deliverance ministries are ineffective. Argh. I could not even listen, it worried me so much.

    But OTOH, understanding more about things like sacraments and sacramentals does tend to lead people toward the Church. So overall, rediscovery movements are probably positive. It is silly for Catholics to regress, instead of using our legitimate Catholic resources and sacramentals, and going to our priests for blessings, and to our diocesan exorcists for exorcism problems.

  7. Andrew says:

    Acts 19: Some … tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say; “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” [] One day the evil spirit answered them; “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. happyCatholic says:

    So, the good hearted people in my parish regularly pray over sick people who ask them to, use oils blessed by priests (like you can get from shrines like St. Pio oil) and extends hands and touch the person being prayed for and sometimes they pray in tongues. Is that ok?

    Also, our parish is hosting a three night visit of a priest who does healing services after Mass, as well as give talks, and will do exorcisms if he discerns it necessary right on the spot (He is the exorcist for the diocese of a small South American country). I am conflicted because, if I could have visited St Pio or Blessed Solanus Casey for help when they were living on this earth, I would have. At these healing services, though, there will be laypeople giving prayer support by standing behind the priest, as I understand it, and other helpers to catch those”slain in the spirit.” I am so confused about the roles the laity seem to be assuming, apparently with the approval of the priest, in these events. Yet, I have many family members who can use healing prayers that I have signed up to go, but I am getting uneasy as more details come out. My holy pastor has given permission for the event; I am not sure if he was made aware of all the specifics beforehand. Comments?


    Extending hands is a priestly rubric. The priest’s hands are consecrated, ergo sacramentals.

    Should a layman to do this it would amount to a misappropriation of authority. Why would a layman do this? One might quip, with a measure of jocularity: God is not Italian; He understands your prayer without you moving your hands.

    Checking with an exorcist, with whom I agree, it could be – at best – a manifestation of superstition for a layman to do this. At worst, it denotes a submission of oneself to another, a sort of surrender to that person and the spiritual baggage that person has. My exorcist friend says that he has had energumen come to him as a result of such well-intended but misguided practices.

    And… laymen may not apply holy oils of any sort on another.]

  9. Luminis says:

    Fr Andrew

    Would you consider praying the prayers in the Auxilium Christianorum book to be too heavy for us laity? My friend gave me a copy and I prayed it off and on to pray for the excorsists and those involved in the ministry.
    I was praying daily The Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and a different prayer every day. Thurdsay I would pray The Litany of Humility.
    As of now I stopped praying it but I would like to pray for those who are in that ministry.

  10. I have turned on comment moderation.

    Topics like this can get out of hand.

    This is really serious stuff. Fool around and you can get into huge trouble.

  11. Fr. Kelly says:

    it seems to me the warnings expressed here ought to be taken very seriously.
    Unbound ™ is being pushed hard in my diocese, over the objections of a number of holy priests. When I read the book, two disqualifying points jumped out at me. 1. the temerity with which lay people are encouraged to address demons, relying on the grace of their baptism, even without any authorization from the Church. 2. the willingness to express the Church’s means of addressing spiritual warfare falsely. (The involvement of lay people in “deliverance” ministry is urged because the Church is not doing anything/enough in this regard.) It is bad enough to take on the evil one without authority behind you. It is especially foolhardy to do so based on a falsehood. (That is his territory.

  12. Anneliese says:

    Regarding point #2 by the exorcist and the lack of sacramental forgiveness, I think the Unbound movement tends to draw a lot of Protestants. And I think that was a deliberate act by Neal Lozano and his group. It promotes “inclusivity” to those who aren’t Catholic or for those fallen away Catholics who for some reason dislike the idea of the Sacrament of Confession. I have a Protestant friend who’s a staunch Calvinist and she loves the Unbound movement and she went through serious trauma as a child (which is why I tend to see the Unbound movement as more self-help rather than old-fashioned deliverance prayers).

    If people feel the need for deliverance prayers, then Fr. Ripperer’s book would be something that’s safe. But if you’re living a virtuous life and receiving the Sacraments regularly then you’re ahead in the game.

  13. happyCatholic says:

    Thank you for your responses, Father Z. Born in 1960, I got just a smidgen of traditional Catholicism before everything went crazy. However, through much reading my whole life, I have learned as much as I could.

    I was never comfortable with laity raising their hands in “blessings” in Church, etc., and never participated because I never read of such things in the lives of the Saints that I avidly read. Now, however, with these good-hearted fellow parishioners who do these “healing” type prayers, I began to wonder if maybe I was wrong or not doing something I should. And, there is a recent Catholic book (which references “Unbound” describing pretty regularly occurring significant healings when lay people pray for the sick.

    So, as my family now has much need of physical and spiritual/emotional healings (cancer, abusive marriage for loved one, chronic diseases) this type of prayer activity is appealing. And, these laypeople seem to get “results.” Again, I know they are acting in good faith. I just didn’t know if they were right. But, they are the ones who seem to be practicing a vibrant Christianity, ie door to door evangelization, nursing home and hospital visitation — truly generously sharing their time, talent and treasure with the parish and truly wanting to bring Christ and His mother to everyone. I used to think trying to live a good Sacramental life as much as possible using traditional means is what is necessary, but with years of prayers seemingly unanswered with a few (praise God!) exceptions, I began to think maybe it’s because my grandma joined the Eastern Star (Masons) late in life or the sins of the not-too-distant ancestors (suicides, murders, immorality,etc) are partially at fault for the evils in our family and just living a “regular” Catholic devout life hasn’t been enough, that we are being demonically attacked without knowing it.

    These issues don’t really seem to be addressed in the Catholic world, so I thank you very much for doing so. I think this is an area that more guidance would be appreciated, because there is so much bad going on, as Suburban pointed out above and of course we all know.

    Also, I know the Comment moderation is on. If this comment is inappropriate and in your judgment not something that should be posted, I really apologize. Again, though, I really do thank you for the time you took to answer. Now, I have to figure out what to do. I am supposed to be helping with the healing services, have laid hands one time on a fellow parishioner at the end of a meeting who asked us to when traveling (I was really uncomfortable with the hand laying), and being asked to go door to door where sometimes praying in tongues occur. These parishioners are friends. Sigh.

  14. samwise says:

    In the days of Pius XI (his letter ” Casti Conubii”) this was doctrine: “husbands over their wives”. However, since JPIIs “Mulieris Dignitatem”, Paragraph 24, this has undergone development to where the husband and wife share authority

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