The Evangelization Station

Best Catholic Links

Search this Site




Mailing List

Pray for Pope Francis

Scroll down for topics

100+ Important Documents in United States History


Apostolic Fathers of the Church

Articles Worth Your Time

 Biographies & Writings of Notable Catholics

Catholic Apologetics

Catholic Calendar

Catholic News Commentary by Michael Voris, S.T.B.

Catholic Perspectives

Catholic Social Teaching


Church Around the World

Small animated flag of The Holy See (State of the Vatican City) graphic for a white background

Church Contacts

  Church Documents

Church History

Church Law

Church Teaching


Doctors of the Church



(Death, Heaven, Purgatory, Hell)

Essays on Science


Fathers of the Church

Free Catholic Pamphlets

 Heresies and Falsehoods

How to Vote Catholic

Let There Be Light

Q & A on the Catholic Faith

Links to Churches and Religions

Links to Newspapers, Radio and Television

Links to Recommended Sites

Links to Specialized Agencies

Links to specialized Catholic News services


General Instruction of the Roman Missal


Marriage & the Family

Modern Martyrs

Mexican Martyrdom

Moral Theology


Pope John Paul II's

Theology of the Body

Movie Reviews (USCCB)

New Age


Parish Bulletin Inserts

Political Issues

Prayer and Devotions



Hope after Abortion

Project Rachel


Help & Information for Men


Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults




The Golden Legend


Vocation Links & Articles


What the Cardinals believe...

World Religions

Pope John Paul II

In Memoriam

John Paul II


Pope Benedict XVI

In Celebration

Visits to this site



Are all exorcisms forbidden? The old moral theologians distinguished exorcism of a possessed person, which they called "solemn"; this is certainly restricted to an episcopally authorized exorcist. Then there are "simple" exorcisms, not indeed of a possessed person, but of, for example, catechumens. Those who have permission to use the traditional Roman Rite of Baptism certainly command the devil to "beat it". Or again, if one were experiencing an extraordinary temptation by the devil, he is not allowed to say, "go to hell" to the devil? I don't think Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly forbade all exorcisms, but only those of possessed persons. Comments?

I recently saw an interview with the President of Franciscan University at Stubenville, Fr. Scanlon, who seemed to think that simple exorcisms in cases of oppression and obsession were permitted.

In fact he made an interesting point that I had never heard before about confessors traditionally being encouraged to perform exorcisms as part of the rite of penance in cases of obsession.


Now exorcism, by definition, puts the devil under the pain of a law he must carry through (for instance, to depart). Every direct command and only a direct command to the devil is properly called an exorcism.

There is imprecatory exorcism, which is a direct command to the devil, something which might be called a solemn exorcism no matter how short or improvised or discreet. Formal examples include the ritual of exorcism of 1614 still in force to this day, as well as that of Leo XIII, as well as the one in the pre-Vatican II ritual of baptism, etc. Anyone authorized to perform this latter ritual of baptism is authorized to perform the exorcism present in that ritual. Solemn, major, public, official exorcism of the Church is a sacramental which necessitates a duly authorized priest. This involves imprecation, that is, a direct command to the devil given in the name of Jesus and the Church to depart from a person, place, or object. Such a command, that is, any such command, be it improvised or from a ritual, no matter how short or long, is by its very nature exorcism. Remember that Jesus Himself was extremely restrictive in his choice of exorcists.

There is also deprecatory exorcism, which is an intercessory prayer directed to God, the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, et alii, that they themselves command the devil instead of us, something which might be called a simple exorcism no matter how long or traditional or public. Deprecatory exorcism, is, strictly speaking, not an exorcism at all since there is no direct command to the devil involved. Formal examples include "exorcisms" of the new ritual of baptism, of the RCIA, the last petition of the Lord's Prayer, etc.

All are encouraged to participate in deprecatory "exorcism", ordained or not, authorized or not, when necessary, but always, always in the name of Jesus and the Church. (Cf. the Lord's Prayer.) No commands are to be given. But without authorization, all, including priests, are forbidden to perform imprecatory exorcisms. Minor, private, simple "exorcism" is necessarily restricted to deprecation, that is, intercessory prayer. This is true no matter the antiquity, length, or author.

I suggest that this is the type of "exorcism" to which the St. Alphonsus Liguori was referring concerning the usage of exorcism within the confessional. But even if this were not the case, remember that although the changing prudential judgment of the Church on the correct implementation of the sacramental of exorcism changes through the years according to the signs of the times, this does not make either St. Alphonsus a heretic or the present Magisterium heretical. Analogously, the implementation of the Novus Ordo does not make Pio V a heretic nor the present Magisterium of the Church heretical.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "traditional freedom of the faithful."I hope it does not mean the liberal flaunting of Church authority to do what one thinks best. The law of the Church (CIC 1172) is written in a manner which is "invalidating" and "incapacitating." Restrictions are to be interpreted strictly, which in this case means that imprecation is left to authorized priests. See the Church's own official interpretation in Inde ab aliquot annis (Die 29 m. Septembris a. 1985).

This is the present law of the Church and the present official interpretation. The mind of the legislator is clear according to legislated norms of interpretation. Some feel the prudential judgment of the Church to be inadaquate, both those who are more traditional and those who are more charismatic. The present law is indeed extremely restrictive. So was Jesus in this matter. There are reasons for this. Anyone performing any imprecatory exorcism without authorization is in extreme danger. I canít emphasize this more. If one plays with fire, one WILL GET BURNT!

Electronic Copyright © 2000 EWTN
All Rights Reserved



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved