Exorcism

The following is a presentation from Council 5207 Lecturer, John F. Meyer and his son John C. Meyer, giving some insight on the Rite of Exorcism:

Definition:

Exorcism is a prayer that falls in the category of sacramentals, that is, one of a number of sacred signs instituted by the Church "to sanctify different circumstances of life" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 351), thus varying from the seven sacraments of the Church which were instituted by Christ himself. The Sacrament of Penance forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Church, renewing Baptism and bestowing grace to fight evil and grow in virtue. As a sacramental, exorcism prepares one for the grace of the Sacrament.


Why:

There are instances when a person needs to be protected against the power of the devil or to be withdrawn from his spiritual dominion. At such times, the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ for this protection or liberation through the use of exorcism.


Scripture:

  • Mark 1:34 - “…he drove out many demons. Not permitting them to speak because they knew him.”

  • Mark 1:39 - “So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”

  • Luke 4:35 - “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, it came out of him without doing him any harm.”

  • Matthew 17:18 - “Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,[a] and from that hour the boy was cured.”

Fathers of the Church:

Several of the Fathers of the Church, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Athanasius wrote about the exorcistic practices of their day through their extant writings. From their writings we see the developments in the process of exorcism as a rite gradually took shape. In addition to the use of Jesus' name, other elements contributed to the shape of an early ritual such as the Sign of the Cross, breathing on the person's face, earnest urgings containing scripture, prayer, and fasting.


Types of Exorcisms:


Simple:

  1. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the Rite of Baptism for Children both call for minor exorcisms.

  2. The appendix of Exorcisms and Related Supplications includes a series of prayers which may be used by the faithful.

Solemn:

  • The solemn or "major exorcism," which is a rite that can only be performed by a bishop or a by priest, with the special and express permission of the local ordinary (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1172). This form is directed "at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation [of a person] from demonic possession" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1673).

Determination for Exorcism:

  • Prior to the exorcism, an assessment should occur to determine the true state of the person. Only after a thorough examination including medical, psychological, and psychiatric testing might the person be referred to the exorcist for a final determination regarding demonic possession. To be clear, the actual determination of whether a member of the faithful is genuinely possessed by the devil is made by the Church, even if individuals claim to be possessed through their own self-diagnosis or psychosis.

Signs:

Signs of demonic invasion vary depending on the type of demon and its purpose, including:

  1. Loss or lack of appetite

  2. Cutting, scratching, and biting of skin

  3. A cold feeling in the room

  4. Unnatural bodily postures and change in the person's face and body

  5. The possessed losing control of their normal personality and entering into a frenzy or rage, and/or attacking others

  6. Change in the person's voice

  7. Supernatural physical strength not subject to the person's build or age

  8. Speaking in tongues

  9. Prediction of future events (sometimes through dreams)

  10. Levitation and moving of objects / things

  11. Expelling of objects / things

  12. Intense hatred/aversion and violent reaction toward all religious objects or items

  13. Antipathy towards entering a church, speaking Jesus's name, or hearing scripture

Who may receive an Exorcism:

  1. Catholics

  2. Catechumens

  3. Non-Catholic Christians

  4. Non-Christian believers

Exorcisms:

  • Major Exorcisms: A case of genuine demonic possession

  • Minor Exorcisms: Prayers to break the influence of sin or evil in a person’s life.

Who performs Exorcisms:

  • Minor Exorcism: A designated authorized minister of the sacrament (RCIA or Baptism for Children) or blessing being celebrated. The prayers in Appendix II, "Supplications which May be Used by the Faithful Privately in Their Struggle against the Powers of Darkness" may be offered by any member of the clergy or by the lay faithful.

  • Major Exorcism: Only by a bishop or a priest who has obtained the special and express permission of the diocesan bishop.

Requirements:

  • Priest: should possess piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life. The Introduction to Exorcisms and Related Supplications further directs that the priest "has been specifically prepared for this office" (ERS, no. 13).

  • Training: Typically trained through an apprenticeship model. Recently, several programs have been established for training.

  • Where: Usually a small chapel or oratory. It should be in a place dedicated to GO (His home turf). The movie “The Exorcist” has many errors.

  • Attendees: In most cases the exorcist should not be alone.


Notable Example of an Exorcist:

Gabriele Amorth S.S.P. (1 May 1925 – 16 September 2016) was an Italian Catholic priest and exorcist of the Diocese of Rome who performed tens of thousands of exorcisms over his sixty plus years as a priest. As the appointed exorcist for the diocese of Rome, Amorth was the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican.


Information on Exorcisms from Exorcism-USCCB

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