Demonic Possession in the modern world
The idea of a malevolent diabolical force having power over the physical body sounds almost medieval in nature when put in perspective with our modern age world, but in reality it does occur in modern times all to often. With items such as the Ouija boards and other occult type paraphernalia becoming more and more accessible, many people young and old and from all walks of life are getting involved with the subject which was not so easily accessed in the past as it is now. With this accessibility one can only imagine what the future will bring for these unfortunate souls, who unknowingly put themselves in harms way of a force that they do not realize cannot be controlled and will ultimately control them in the end.
There are many types of mental and physical anomalies that can resemble demonic possession. For that reason it is always standard procedure prior to exorcism to have a medical and psychological evaluation performed on the person affected. This evaluation would be done by a medical doctor and psychiatrist, to rule out any possibility of physical or mental conditions or anomalies that may have been over looked in the questioning prior. The risk of not knowing that someone suffers from an MPD (multiple personality disorder), a schizophrenic problem or some other mental or physical ailment is extremely dangerous for everyone involved, especially the client. Caution is always to be practiced, even if exorcism is not an option for the person at that particular time.
Obsession, oppression and possession
Evil spirits operate in different ways. A particular form is diabolical obsession. This the first initial contact between victim and the demonic where in the demon will gain a stronghold through recognition given it by the victim. But diabolical obsession is not the primary way the demon exerts its influence.
Oppression has sensational features in which the demon in a certain ways takes over the physical powers of the person. However, the demon cannot control the persons free will and thus cannot cause the person to sin. Nevertheless, the physical violence and dehumanization that the demon exerts over the obsessed person is an inducement to sin, and this is what the demon seeks for absolute and total possession of this poor individual of whom we speak.
In the evaluation of a person who claims to be possessed certain criteria have to be met. The person has to show at least some signs of possession as it is written in the ( cf. Code of cannon law 1172 ). The ritual of exorcism indicates various criteria and signs which allow us to reach with prudent conviction that we are dealing with diabolical possession. These following signs are a guide for the person doing the evaluation:
Manifestations of the demonic in the possessed
(1) Extraordinary strength, male or female.
(2) The knowledge of hidden things.
(3) Levitation and or bilocation of person.
(4) Physical anomalies such as burns,cuts or bruises.
(5) Speaking in languages not known to person.
(6) Extreme aversion to God, saints or holy objects.
These are only a few of the outward manifestations of demonic possession. There are dozens more which are taken into account before a final diagnoses is reached. It is only then that the authorized exorcist, with the permission of the bishop, can perform the solemn rite of exorcism. This process may take up to a few weeks or a few months depending on the case and on how many times these rites need to be prescribed.
Possession according to the degree
Possession of the first degree:
Mysteriously, the demon can sometimes invade the psyche of a human being, taking the control of his or or her body and his or her intentions. The phenomenon lasts until he or she is not annulled by the exorcism, or for established periods previously. In this degree of possession the demon is latent; he or she limits him to alter the attitudes of the possessed one. By his or her reactions to the sacred, it instills in them feelings of desperation and depression.
Possession of the second degree:
At this degree changes of voice manifest in the possessed, also preternatural phenomenon such as glossolalia, levitation and pirocinesi ( power to set on fire distance objects ) may occur. Holy water also can produce sores on the body of the possessed.
Possession of the third degree:
degree the malignant spirit (or spirits) have taken such dominion over the person
as to even alter horribly his or her somatic lines ( relating to bodily
changes ) his or her odor, and temperature. This is the most arduous case, and
it usually requires numerous exorcisms for the definitive liberation. In effect,
the difference among the last three gradations is only a fine line; the range
between one degree to the other is without imperceptible change.
(Malficio) of occult practices to intentionally cause malignancy, injury and or possession.
Anytime a case is to be evaluated for further treatment and a psychological problem has already been ruled out, the person evaluating the victim has to take into consideration the possibility of malice from a physical source intent to induce spiritual, psychological or physical malignancy.
VARIOUS TYPES OF MALEFICIO
According to the purpose
Amatory: To favor destroying a relationship of love between two people.
Poisonous: By some physical evil, socially, economically or in personal relationships.
Ligament: To create impediments to the movements or to the relationship of things.
Transference: Transferring: to a person the torments done to a doll or to a photo, etc.
Putrefaction: By inferring deadly evil or inducing a subject material to the putrefaction.
Possession: To introduce a diabolic presence in the victim and to indirectly cause possession.
According to the way:
Directly: Contact with the victim through a physical object (for instance, making someone eat or drink something "maleficiato" or "invoiced").
Indirect: Acting through the finished malefic action on an object that represents the victim (Ex: Curse doll).
According to the operation:
For fracture: With pins, nails, hammer, stung, fire, ice, etc.
For knotting or binding: With drawstrings, knots, bridles, ribbons, bands, etc.
For putrefaction: Burying the object or the animal-symbol after having it "invoiced"
For curse: Directly on the person or on photo, or on a symbol of it.
For destruction with the fire: The practice of burning an object on which the essence of of the victim is transferred (animism), ideally to get, in this, a form of malfice through consumption more so relating to that of "putrefaction" mentioned already in the above.
For satanic rite: A black mass, done for the purpose to harm someone.
According to the means:
With invoices: (Ex: pins, bones of corpses, blood, menstrual blood, animal parts etc).
With objects malefic:
(Ex: (gifts) pillows, dolls, clocks, talisman, painting, letter, etc).
Cottage City, Maryland 1949
This exorcism involved a 14 year old boy in 1949, and is the very same one that years later author William Peter Blatty would base his novel "The Exorcist" upon. It is probably one of the most famous cases of demonic possession in modern times.
Below is the actual 1949 newspaper article written by Bill Brinkley of the Washington Post, giving the alleged location of the family as being Mt. Rainier, Maryland. This was the reporter's second of two articles; the first was written six months earlier.
The true story begins in January of 1949 and involves a 14-year-old boy named Robbie who lived with his parents and grandmother in Cottage City, Maryland. Robbie is very close to his aunt who visits the family frequently from St. Louis, Missouri. She is a medium and sparks Robbies interests in this practice, and teaches him how to use the Ouija board.
The aunt dies suddenly in January of 1949; after her death Robbie still continues to use the Ouija board. He begins using it more frequently to communicate with what he believes to be his deceased aunt and other spirits. Strange phenomena begins to occur around January 10, 1949 and Robbies personality begins to change drastically and without explanation.
Towards the end of January, the family reports hearing inexplicable noises and voices in the walls whenever the boy is in the house. But when he'd leave, the strange sounds would stop. The boy also became emotionally disturbed and complained that his bed was moving on its own and objects were observed flying across the room, including a picture of Christ which was thrown from a wall.
Seeking first the help of a physician and then a psychiatrist, the boy's parents were left disappointed. Neither professionals were able to offer any assistance or explanation for what was occurring to the boy. The parents then turned to their Lutheran minister for spiritual guidance, but he also told them there was nothing he could do. Evidently recognizing the presence of something supernatural and very evil, he recommended the family contact the Catholic Church for help. Upon Pastor Schulzes recommendation, the family contacted Fr. Hughes S.J, a local Catholic priest.
Robbie and his parents visited Father Hughes S.J of St. James Catholic Church in Mt. Rainier. While interviewing Robbie, Father Hughes S.J saw the telephone and other objects in his office move by themselves. Robbie also cast obscene and blasphemous remarks at him in a strange, diabolical voice. The room became eerily frigid. Father Hughes S.J was convinced that Robbie was possessed. After reviewing the facts of the case and the medical evidence, Cardinal OBoyle authorizes an exorcism.
Robbie is admitted to Georgetown Hospital, where Father Hughes S.J began the ritual of exorcism. The boy became violent, spitting and projectile vomiting. He shouts obscenities and blasphemies at Father Hughes S.J. Although restrained to the bed, Robbie brakes loose and wrenches out a metal spring with which he slashes Father Hughes S.J from his left shoulder to wrist. The wound requires over 100 stitches. Robbie seems calm after this attack, not remembering the ordeal. He is then released and sent home.
One night as Robbie is changing for bed, he screams. A bloody word had been scratched on his chest, "Louis". His mother asked if this meant, "St. Louis," and another bloody word appeared, "yes."
Soon after, the family travels to visit their cousin in St. Louis, Missouri. The same strange phenomena begins to happen. The cousin, a student at St. Louis University, speaks with one of her priest professors, a Father Bishop, S.J., about the situation. Father Bishop S.J. then contacts one of his close friends, Father Bowdern, S.J., the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church.
The two priests and a young Jesuit interview Robbie on March 9, 1949. They noticed scratches on his chest. They hear scraping sounds in the room, and see a large bookcase move and turn around by itself and a stool move across the floor. Robbies bed shakes as he lays on it. He shouts blasphemies and obscenities at them also. The priests know without a doubt that they are in the presence of evil.
They petitioned Cardinal Ritter for permission to perform an exorcism. After reviewing all of the evidence including medical and psychiatric exams, he grants permission on March 16, 1949.
As the priests begin the Rites of Exorcism, Robbie becomes very violent as his bed shakes up and down. On his chest appear bloody scratches with the words hell and devil, and even an image of Satan. Robbie spits at the priests with incredible accuracy as he shouts more obscenities and blasphemies, with intermittent fiendish laughter. At this point the demon announces to the exorcists that it will not leave until the boy speaks two particular words, and it states and it "will never let the boy speak them - ever".
For his own safety the boy is brought to the Alexian Brothers Hospital and placed in the psychiatric ward. Father Bowdern S.J continues to perform the exorcism. With the familys consent, Robbie is baptized a Catholic. When Father Bowdern S.J tries to give him First Holy Communion, Robbie five times spits out the Sacred Host; they then paused to say the Rosary, and Robbie finally receives the Holy Eucharist.
On April 18, 1949, Easter Monday, the exorcism comes to a climax. As Father Bowdern continues the ritual, the demon recognizes the presence of St. Michael the Archangel and with the help of the angel the boy is finally able to speak those words that the demon said would never be spoken - "Christus Domini". With that the demon is finally expelled from Robbie. At this time the sound of a large explosion is heard throughout the hospital.
After this whole ordeal, Robbie remembers nothing of the diabolical phenomena, except for the vision of St. Michael.
Klingenburgh, Germany 1968
Another famous case of demonic possession occurring in modern times but not as well known is the case of Annelies Michel.
Let me start out by saying that I have no doubt in my mind this girl was indeed possessed. And how do I know this? Although I was not personally involved with this case, there were over forty audio recording that were made during the actual exorcisms of Annielies between 1975 and 1976. I did have a unique opportunity to acquire some of them and have been able to study some of these exorcism recordings personally, and If you the reader were able to hear even 15 minutes of these recordings, you too would also be convinced that this girl was under diabolical attack.
August 8, 1976 Newspaper article written by Craig R.Whitney of The New York Times.
Annelies Michel was born on September 21,1952 to parents Josef and Anna Michel in Klingenburg, Germany. Brought up in a devout Roman Catholic family, Anneliese starts out in life normally until 1968. During the fall of 1968 Annelies suffers a "seizure" after which she is examined and diagnosed by a neurologist. Her parents are told she has (Grand Mal) type "Epilepsy".
In 1970 after a long stay at Germany's Wurzburgh Psychiatric Hospital, she is finally released to go home with her parents. At this point she is suffering from extreme depression do to her disability, and she begins to notice strange things occurring while in prayer. In her own words, " I saw faces that would look at me grimacing and snarling"; voices would also be heard by Anneliese telling her she would "stew in hell".
By now it is 1973 and the demonic attacks along with the depression are getting so strong that Anneliese stops seeking psychiatric treatment at the clinic, as she feels treatment is of no use. Along with her family she seeks the council of the Roman Catholic Church.
After meeting with church officials Annelies is told to continue with psychiatric treatment, but is put under the supervision of Fr. Ernest Alt. After close examination by Fr. Ernest Alt he is finally convinced of demonic possession, and asks for the church officials to give permission for the Rites of Exorcism to be initiated. His request is rejected on the grounds of insufficient proof of possession. But unfortunately by this time Anneliese is suffering from full possession. With fits of rage she would mutilate herself and destroy any holy objects nearby.
Finally, in 1975 permission is granted by the Bishop of Wurzburgh for exorcism. Fr. Ernest Alt and Fr. Arnold Renz are assigned to perform the Rites of Exorcism. From September 1975 to July of 1976 these rites were performed once a week, sometimes even twice, and all manner of demonic chaos would and did occur. This included the superhuman strength in which Anneliese exhibited during possession, sometimes taking up to three to four men to restrain her from hurting herself or the exorcists.
During these sessions unearthly voices would also be heard. Sometimes up to five or six voices would be heard during the exorcisms. One disturbing fact is that the demon was causing Anneliese to avoid any type of food all during the exorcism and now physically it was creating a very dangerous physical situation for her.
By June of 1976 Anneliese is suffering from malnutrition and has contracted pneumonia, being so ill it is hard for her to even carry on. On July 1, 1976, the last day of the exorcism, the demonic spirit in control of Anneliese says to the exorcists "beg for absolution". She then collapses and is brought to her bed.
That night her final words would be,"Mother, I'm afraid ". The next day July 7, 1976 at twelve o'clock noon Anneliese Michel died.
Personally, I feel all who were involved with this case should have been looking
after her physical well being along with her spiritual well being. In my opinion,
no one should be a part of or conduct anything in the field of religious demonology
or exorcism without being trained properly, and to have experience in this subject
matter is critical for everyone's safety.
The Rituale Romanum
(Instructions and rules involving Exorcism )
In this next section you will see for yourself the actual ritual from the Rituale Romanum ( Roman Ritual ) and get a basic idea of what is involved, as it was written prior to 1952 this ritual is originally written entirely in Latin
Possession is not lightly
or be taken for granted. Each case is to be carefully examined and great caution
is to be used in distinguishing genuine possession from certain psychological
and physical disorders.
The priest who undertakes the office should be himself a holy man, of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble, and he should prepare for the work by special acts of devotion and mortification, particularly by prayer and a fasting (Matthew 17:20).
He should avoid in the course of the rite everything that savors of superstition, and should leave the medical aspects of the case to qualified physicians.
He should admonish the possessed, in so far as the latter is capable, to dispose himself for the exorcism by prayer, fasting, confession, and communion, and while the rite is in progress to excite within himself a lively faith in God's goodness, and a patient resignation to His holy will.
The exorcism should take place in the church or some other sacred place, if convenient; but if on account of sickness or for other legitimate reasons, it takes place in a private house, witnesses (preferably members of the family) should be present: this is specially enjoined, as a measure of precaution, in case the subject is a woman.
All idle and curious questioning of the demon should be avoided, and the prayers and aspirations should be read with great faith, humility, and fervor, and with a consciousness of power and authority.
The Blessed Sacrament is not to be brought near the body of the obsessed during exorcism for fear of possible irreverence; but the crucifix, holy water, and, where available, relics of the saints are to be employed.
If expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained at once, the rite should be repeated, if need be, several times.
The exorcist should be vested in surplice, and violet stole.
The "New" rite of exorcism
Certain reformations have been made over the last few hundred years to the ritual itself, the last being made in 1952. But not until the 1990's was a commission of Vatican theologians and liturgists put together to come up with a new manual of exorcism. A new 90-page set of instructions, De Exorcismus et Supplicantionibus Quibustam. It was presented in October of 1998. In the eyes of the Vatican this replaces the old procedures established in 1614 by Pope Paul V.
(De Exorcismus et supplicationibus quibusdam)
( Below are a few articles that were released during the 1999 issuing of the new rite.)
Catholic World News January
VATICAN RELEASES NEW RITE FOR EXORCISM
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The Devil exists. That unpopular reality is brought into sharp focus by the promulgation of a new rite of exorcism for the Catholic Church.
De Exorcismus et supplicationibus quibusdam, approved by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1998, was formally released by the Vatican on January 26. The document sets out a new and precise liturgical form for the rite of exorcism. The 84-page form, introduced by the Congregation Divine Worship, was published entirely in Latin; the episcopal conferences of different nations may now prepare their own versions in the vernacular languages.
This new Vatican document clearly recognizes both the existence of the Devil and the reality of diabolical possession. In a short introduction, the document calls attention to the existence of both "angelic creatures" and others "called demons, who are opposed to God." Since the influence of the demonic can become apparent in people, places, or things, the document continues, the Church "has prayed, and continues to pray, that men will be freed from the snares of the Devil."
The new rite confirms "the victory of Christ and the power of the Church over the demons." It points to the rites in the Christian tradition: the "minor exorcism" of catechumens prior to their baptism and the major exorcisms conducted according to this ritual. The latter are designed to "drive out demons, or bring freedom from demonic influence, through the spiritual authority which Jesus confided in his Church."
The liturgical ritual itself is centered on supplicatory prayers, asking for God's help, and "imperative" prayers addressed directly to the Devil, commanding him to depart. The prayers are to be said as the exorcist lays his hand on the individual, and are part of an overall ritual which includes specific blessings and sprinklings with holy water. The ritual also includes the litany of the saints, the reading of the Psalms and the Gospel, and a proclamation of faith which may be either the familiar Creed or a simple question-and-answer ("Do you renounce Satan? I do."). The ritual concludes with the kissing of the Cross, and the final prayer, proclaiming the triumph of Christ and his Church.
The new ritual for exorcism replaces one which was promulgated as part of the Roman Ritual of 1614. The Second Vatican Council called for the revision of that Ritual, which has been accomplished in stages during the past 30 years; the rite of exorcism was the last of the new rituals to be introduced.
In introducing the new document to reporters in Rome, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that the rite has not been greatly changed from the earlier ritual. He added that while there are "very few cases" in which the rite is used, the rite of exorcism-- which can only be used under the guidance of the local bishop, and with the consent of the person suffering diabolical possession-- remains necessary because the Devil is a reality. He cautioned that while many Catholics today no longer profess belief in the Devil, that belief "is not a matter of opinion which one can accept or reject; it is an element of faith and Catholic doctrine."
Newsletter, Committee on the Liturgy
(Volume XXXV, Jan. - Feb. 1999)
New Rite of Exorcism
On January 26, 1999, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, announced that on November 22, 1998, the Solemnity of Christ the King, he had signed a decree by which a revised editio typica latina of De Exorcismis (Rite of Exorcism) was to be published. In response to article 79 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, this rite was revised to replace Chapter XII of the former Latin Roman Ritual, and will eventually be published in vernacular editions for use by the Church throughout the world. This rite may be used by priests who have been given a specific faculty to do so by the diocesan bishop.
4 February 1999
Cardinal Medina Says New Rite
Of Exorcism Similar To Old
VATICAN CITY (VIS) Jorge Arturo Cardinal Medina Estevez, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on Jan. 26th presented at the Holy See Press Office the new rite of exorcism of the Roman Book of Rites.
Cardinal Medina began by stating that the person's capacity to welcome God is "blurred by sin, and at times evil occupies the place where God wishes to dwell. For this reason, Jesus Christ came to liberate the person from the dominion of evil and sin.... Jesus Christ drove out demons and liberated people who were possessed with evil spirits to make space for Him in that person.
"Exorcism is an old and particular form of prayer which the Church uses against the power of the Devil," he continued. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1673) explains that exorcism is directed at "the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to His Church."
According to the rite of exorcism, continued the cardinal prefect, there are various criteria to know if we are dealing with demonic possession: "Speaking with a great number of words from unknown languages, or understanding them, making known things either distant or hidden, showing strength beyond one's situation, together with vehement aversion toward God, our Lady, the cross, and holy pictures."
"To perform an exorcism," he stressed, "authorization from the diocesan bishop is required, which can be given for a specific case, or rather in a general and permanent way to the priest who has the ministry of exorcist in the diocese."
Cardinal Medina said that the Roman Book of Rites contained in the last chapter the indications and liturgical text of the exorcisms, but "it had not been revised since Vatican Council II." After ten years of work, the current text was approved by the Pontiff. Once the translations of the ritual are completed in different languages, they will be submitted "for the recognition of the [Sacred] Congregation for Divine Worship."
In the current book of rites there is "the rite of exorcism itself, and "the prayers which must be publicly recited . . . when it is prudently deemed that there is an influence of Satan over places, objects, or people, without having arrived at the phase of possession itself. In addition, there is a series of prayers which the faithful must pray privately when they believe that they are subject to demonic influences."
"Exorcism has its departure point in the faith of the Church, according to which Satan and other evil spirits exist. . . . Catholic doctrine teaches us that demons are fallen angels as a result of their sin, and that they are spiritual beings with great intelligence and power."
The prefect of the congregation, recalling with The Catechism of the Catholic Church that "the power of Satan is not infinite," said however that God's allowing us to be tempted "is a great mystery."
In conclusion, he emphasized that "the harmful influence of the Devil and his evil spirits is normally exercised through deception, falsehoods, lies, and confusion. As Jesus is the Truth, the Devil is the liar par excellence. Lies have always been, right from the beginning, his preferred strategy."
In answer to a question, Cardinal Medina explained that "there is great continuity between the old and the new rites, there are no radical changes. The language is more somber and fewer adjectives are used; however, the expression of faith in the power of God to expel the Devil is the same in both cases.
A Closer Look
The New Rite of Exorcism
The Influence of the Evil One
by Father X Summer 2002
In his famous discourse of June 30, 1972, Pope Paul VI said that he
sensed "that from somewhere or other, the smoke of Satan has entered the
temple of God." Nowhere has this been more evident than in the disastrous
revision of the blessings of the Church in De Benedictionibus, the so-called
"Book of Blessings,"1 approved in 1984.
original Latin this defective book scandalously refuses to bless
objects, but only persons. The example of Christ our Lord in blessing things
(e.g., Matt. 14:19; 26:26; Mk. 6:41; 8:7; 14:22; Lk. 9:16; 24:30) obviously
carried no weight with the liturgists who wrote that book. The official
General Introduction to the Book of Blessings informs us: "At times the
Church also blesses objects and places connected with human activity or
liturgical life, or connected with piety and devotion - but always, however,
with a view to the people who use those objects and are engaged in those
places" (Praenotanda Generalia, 12). This explanation is dishonest, in that
it gives only half a reason for blessing things, and because it conceals the
fact that the book of blessings, with a few exceptions, systematically
refuses to bless things. It is a book of non-blessings. To take but one
example, the "blessing" of holy water outside of Mass contains no actual
blessing of the water. The closest thing to it is a prayer to God asking for
certain effects by the use of this water. The so-called "Prayer of blessing"
(in Latin and English) refrains from using the word "bless" even once, and
there is no Sign of the Cross made over the water. The Devil must have
laughed when that "Book of Blessings" was issued. The traditional exorcism
of water and salt, and all the other Roman Ritual's traditional prayers
against the devil and his influence were almost completely abolished. On
three occasions only is a thing blessed. These three exceptions in Latin are
for meals, church bells and cemeteries. In the American edition, the same
things appear; also chalice and paten (found in Latin in the Pontifical);
also two other places in which the alternative rite (not in the Latin) does
bless an object.2 (The blessing of holy water within Mass does contain an
actual blessing of the water.)
The treatment of blessings in the Catechism
(#1671-2) speaks of blessings of
persons, places and things. But this is belied, as I have said, by the Latin
text of De Benedictionibus, the "Book of Blessings," so called. When the
definitive Latin text of the Catechism was issued in 1997, with the
paragraph saying that the Church blesses things, a priest friend wrote to
Cardinal Ratzinger pointing out that the lex orandi and the lex credendi
were at odds, and asked a question: "Can we expect a revision of the Book of
Blessings in the light of the definitive text of the Catechism?" Of course,
this is a reversal of the traditional practice and view of things: one is
meant to pass from the Church's practice to a formulation of the Church's
faith. But, if it will do good, the reversal has become a necessity.
What lies behind this
change to the rites of blessings? Clearly, a loss of
sense of the power of the priesthood - a desire, even, to overthrow
sacerdotal mediation, to reduce the priest from an instrument of Christ,
clothed with the authority of Jesus Christ, to a mere prayer, on the same
level as that of any lay person. The retention of the title "Blessings"
means nothing: as we know, All Souls' Day is No Souls' Day, even in the
original Latin, where the word for soul (anima) has been suppressed in the
prayers of November 2.3
New Rite of Exorcism
The same mentality has been at work in the revised Rite of Exorcism,
promulgated in January 1999, De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam.4
This was intimated by the defective definition of exorcism in the 1992
Catechism at #1673, unchanged in the Latin text that came out five years
later: "When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of
Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the
Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism."
us read that definition again, with emphases added: "When the Church
asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person
or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from
his dominion, it is called exorcism." Notice the use of the word asks, and
the use of the passive voice. The text says that the Church asks for this
person or object to be protected. Asks whom? For protection by whom?
Obviously, God. So, according to this, an exorcism is: asking God to free
someone from the devil. But, despite what this text implies, an exorcism is
not a prayer to God; exorcism is a command issued to the Devil in the name
of God. The very word exorcism tells you that - exorcizo, I adjure. To
adjure, as the Oxford Dictionary defines it, is to charge or entreat someone
solemnly, as if under oath, or under the penalty of a curse. No one can
adjure God, but a minister of God can adjure a demon. The Ritual for
Exorcism of 1614 (which until January 1999 was the only officially published
text for Latin rite exorcists) does contain prefatory prayers to God to ask
that a person be delivered - but then under the subheading of "Exorcism"
itself, the exorcist orders the demon to depart. "Exorcizo te, immundissime
spiritus.in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi" - "I exorcize you, unclean
spirit.in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." He uses other imperatives
addressed to the demon, such as recede, da locum, exi, discede (withdraw,
give way, exit, depart).
The new ritual
scandalously gives the priest a choice of two forms of
exorcism, which it calls "deprecatory" and "imperative." "Deprecatory" means
a prayer to God, in this case to ask Him to deliver the demoniac.
"Imperative" means a command issued to the demon in the name of God to
depart. The imperative formula is a real exorcism, but the deprecatory form
is not an exorcism at all. A prayer is a request to God; an exorcism is a
command to a demon. The so-called "deprecatory exorcism" is simply a
petitionary prayer to God. It is not an exorcism. (If it is an exorcism,
then the final petition of the Lord's Prayer, "deliver us from evil," would
also be an exorcism!)
As with the
so-called "exorcism" in the modern Rite of Baptism, simply
placing the sub-heading Exorcism does not make what follows an exorcism.
What is extremely worrying is that, according to the new rubrics, the
deprecatory form must always be used, but the second form, the imperative,
is an optional extra. What lies behind this change? The same denigration of
the priesthood described above. It is a true Protestantization: the
reduction of the ordained priest to the level of the common priesthood. It
is the fruit of embarrassment about the visible priesthood. It is the
mentality that is at work when a priest says at the end of Mass: "May
Almighty God bless us.." When a priest does that, he is losing his identity,
and is uncomfortable about the fact that he is different, and that he can
Here is an extract from one of the new deprecatory formulas:
God, creator and defender of the human race, look upon this Your servant,
whom You did make in Your own image and call to share in Your glory.. Hear,
holy Father, the cry of the Church suppliant: let not Your child be
possessed by the father of lies; let not Your servant, whom Christ has
redeemed by His blood, to be held in the captivity of the devil; let not a
temple of Your Spirit be inhabited by the unclean spirit. Hear, O merciful
God, the prayers of the blessed Virgin Mary, whose Son, dying upon the
Cross, crushed the head of the serpent of old and entrusted all men to His
mother as sons: let the light of truth shine upon this Your servant, let the
joy of peace enter into him, let the Spirit of holiness possess him, and by
inhabiting him render him serene and pure. Hear, O Lord, the supplication of
blessed Michael the Archangel and of all the Angels ministering unto You:
God of hosts, drive back the force of the devil; God of truth and favor,
remove his deceitful wiles; God of freedom and grace, break the bonds of
iniquity. Hear, O God, lover of man's salvation.free this servant from every
As we can see, this is merely a petitionary prayer.
Here is an extract from one of the new imperative formulas:
I adjure you, Satan,
enemy of man's salvation, acknowledge the justice and
goodness of God the Father, who by just judgment has damned your pride and
envy: depart from this servant of God, whom the Lord has made in His own
image, adorned with His gifts, and has mercifully adopted as His child. I
adjure you, Satan, prince of this world, acknowledge the power and strength
of Jesus Christ, who conquered you in the desert, overcame you in the
garden, despoiled you on the Cross, and rising from the tomb, transferred
your victims to the kingdom of light.. I adjure you, Satan, deceiver of the
human race, acknowledge the Spirit of truth and grace, who repels your
snares and confounds your lies: depart from this creature of God, whom He
has signed by the heavenly seal; withdraw from this man whom God has made a
holy temple by a spiritual unction. Leave, therefore, Satan, in the name of
the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Spirit; leave through the
faith and the prayer of the Church; leave through the sign of the holy Cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
can see, this optional formula is an exorcism proper. In the former
rite, there were prayers to God asking for deliverance, but they were always
followed by exorcisms proper.
Changes to the Old Directives
to the Exorcist
Other things are of great concern in this new ritual. The Ritual of 1614
contains 21 directives for the exorcist, a magnificent distillation of the
accumulated wisdom and experience of the Church. The new preface never gets
to the point about the manner of proceeding. The former directives 4-6, 8-9,
13-17, 19-20 have no equivalent in the new ritual's preface. This means that
most (12) of the 21 are deleted. The following former directives have no
parallel in the new introduction:
In order to better test these signs [of possession], the priest should
question the demoniac after one or other exorcism as to what he feels in his
mind or body, so that in this way he can also learn which words more greatly
disturb the demons, so as then to bear down on them and repeat them all the
The priest should stay alert for tricks and deceptions that demons use to
mislead the exorcist. For they will give false answers as much as possible,
and show themselves only with difficulty, in order that the exorcist at
length become worn out and give up the exorcism; or the ill person might
appear not to be harassed by the devil.
after they appear, the demons hide and leave the body
almost free of all disturbance, so that the ill person might think he is
completely freed. But the exorcist should not stop until he sees the signs
Some demons point out an act of witchcraft which has been done [to cause
possession], by whom it was done, and the way to undo it; but the demoniac
should be careful not to have recourse to sorcerers, fortune-tellers, or
other such persons, on this account, but should go to the ministers of the
Church rather than use any superstitious or otherwise illicit means.
Sometimes the devil grants the sick person relief and permits him to
receive the Holy Eucharist so that he might seem to have departed. In short,
there are countless devices and tricks of the devil to deceive man, which
the exorcist should beware, lest he be deceived.
relics of Saints, where available, safely and properly fastened
and covered, may be reverently applied to the chest or head of the
possessed. Care must be taken that the sacred objects are not improperly
handled or harmed in any way by the demon. Because of danger of irreverence,
the Holy Eucharist should not be placed upon the head of the possessed
person or elsewhere on his body.
14. The exorcist should not engage
in a great deal of talking or ask
unnecessary or curious questions, especially concerning future or secret
matters not pertaining to his task. But he should command the unclean spirit
to be silent, except to answer his questions. Nor should he believe the
demon if he pretends to be the soul of some Saint or deceased person or a
However, there are necessary questions, for example, concerning the
number and names of the possessing spirits, the time and reason they
entered, and other things of this sort. The exorcist should restrain or
spurn the rest of the devil's nonsense, laughter and foolishness, and advise
those present, who should be few, that they must not pay attention to these
things nor question the possessed person, but rather humbly and earnestly
pray to God for him.
The exorcist should read and carry out the exorcism with strength,
authority, great faith, humility and fervor, and when he sees that the
spirit is especially tormented, then he should persist and bear down all the
more. And whenever he sees that the possessed person is being disturbed in
some part of his body, or stung, or that a swelling appears somewhere, he
should make the sign of the cross on that area and sprinkle it with holy
water which should be on hand.
17. He is also to observe at which
words the demons tremble more, and then
he should repeat these words more often. When he reaches the threatening
words, he should say them repeatedly, always increasing the punishment. If
he sees that he is making progress, he should continue for two, three, or
four hours, or even longer if he can, until he obtains the victory.
19. If he is
exorcising a woman, he should always have persons of integrity
with him to hold the possessed person while she is agitated by the demon.
These people should be close relatives of the suffering woman if possible.
Mindful of decency, the exorcist should be careful not to say or do anything
which could be an occasion of an evil thought to himself or the others.
While he is exorcising, he should use the words of Sacred Scripture
rather than his own or someone else's. He should command the demon to tell
him if he is held in that body because of some magic, or sorcerer's signs or
devices. If the possessed person has consumed things of this sort orally, he
should vomit them up. If they are elsewhere outside his body, he should
reveal where they are, and once found, they are to be burned. The possessed
person should also be advised to make known all his temptations to the
crucial directives, followed by exorcists for 385 years, have no
parallel in the new introduction.
The preface explicitly
says that lay people may not say any of the prayers
of exorcism, and repeats the old directive that exorcism is not to be
conducted in public. It adds the rule (a welcome addition) that exorcism is
not to be open to any communications media; and the exorcist and any
assistants are not to speak publicly before or after the exorcism about what
This article is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis of the new rite of
exorcism. Many of the prayers and rites are perfectly acceptable in
themselves: the new rite contains a prefatory prayer, blessing of holy
water, Litany of the Saints, a Psalm, a Gospel reading (the Prologue of St.
John, or a text in which Christ rejects the devil or expels demons),
imposition of hands over the demoniac, Profession of Faith or renewal of
Baptismal promises with renunciation of Satan; the Our Father, the Sign of
the Cross on the possessed person; and, after deliverance, the Magnificat
followed by other prayers and a blessing.
however, are the references, in the prefatory decree, to
Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II - as if the Council had called for a
revised, updated exorcism to allow full conscious participation by the
laity! The only conceivable allusion to exorcism in the Vatican II decree on
the liturgy is where it says the sacramentals will be revised - but the
clear proof that the bishops never had exorcism in mind is seen from the
reason given for revision. The one and only relevant sentence here says:
"The sacramentals are to be revised, account being taken of the primary
principle of the intelligent, actual and easy participation of the faithful"
(art. 79). Since exorcism, new and old, must be conducted away from the
faithful, the principle of intelligent, actual and easy participation is
irrelevant. Once again, the liturgical decree is cited as the basis for
something never intended.
is the use of the word instauratum (restored) in the subheading of
the title page: the new exorcism ritual is in no way a restoration. It is a
fabrication. The Latin should have read fabricatum or innovatum or maybe
preface provides for translation of the rite into myriad languages - but
what on earth for? If an exorcist does not know enough Latin to perform the
prayers in Latin, he should not be appointed to the office. The preface at
no. 13 quotes canon 1172 saying that an exorcist should be, inter alia,
"outstanding in knowledge" - but how could that be said of a priest who
cannot say or follow very simple texts and prayers in Latin? As well, given
charismatics' predilection for exorcisms and "deliverance," it is highly
imprudent to make the Church's official exorcism prayers available to all
and sundry in every language, when only a tiny proportion of priests need to
the promulgation of the new exorcism ritual, the Athanasian Creed has
now officially disappeared from any Catholic ritual. In the 1960s, its
frequency was reduced in the Breviary and finally it was abolished from it.
The rite of exorcism was the last surviving ceremony in the Church where the
Athanasian Creed was recited. Now it is gone. This is a serious loss, and
there was no good reason why it was replaced by a choice between the
Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Another innovation, but
a welcome one, in the new Ritual for Exorcism, is an
exorcism to be used for a place or thing, something not specifically present
in the former Ritual. (Herbert Thurston S.J.'s book Ghosts and Poltergeists5
has an appendix containing his English translation of an "Exorcism of a
house troubled by an evil spirit," which he found in the Appendix of an
edition of the Roman Ritual printed in Madrid in 1631, published with the
authorization of the Inquisition. Father Thurston evidently thought this was
a worthwhile ceremony to have.) This new rite for a place or thing also
requires permission from the bishop before being used. Again, however, in
this ceremony, the imperative formula, the true exorcism, is to be added,
only if the priest wishes.
Well-informed people may wonder how it is that such innovative and defective
things can be promulgated by someone like Cardinal Medina Estevez. They
wonder, too, how Cardinal Ratzinger can let certain things go on, and not
reverse them by a new document, and so on. It is important to remember that
the Sacred Congregations are composed of voting members, all of whom are
Bishops. They have plenty of advisers and experts, but only Bishops are
actual members. When the time comes for handing down a public decision,
promulgating a document, and the like, these things are put to a vote of the
members. Cardinal Ratzinger does not have single-handed and complete control
over the Holy Office, which has 21 bishop members (cf. Annuario Pontificio).
The same applies to the other Cardinal Prefects. Suppose Cardinal Medina
Estevez wanted to abolish some banal Swiss eucharistic prayers, for example.
He does not have the authority to draw up a decree abolishing them
single-handedly. The 34 bishop members of the Congregation for Divine
Worship would have to vote on it. Possibly, certain decisions require a
two-thirds majority - who knows?
to the president of the International Association of Exorcists,
Father Gabriele Amorth (30 Days, no. 6, 2001), when the new rite was ready,
Cardinals Ratzinger and Medina sought to add a provision in its introduction
authorizing the use of the previous rite. This move of theirs was rejected,
so Cardinal Medina issued a separate notification that an exorcist can use
the old rite if his bishop asks the Congregation for Divine Worship, who
will "gladly provide the requested permission" (Notitiae, vol. 35, 1999).
new rite will one day itself be subject to a true restoration, which
will restore to the obligatory texts of the exorcist the true nature of his
This new form was not accepted well by established exorcists, and because of this it was suggested at a later date that if an exorcist felt they would like to use the original Latin version they were free to do so, as long as it was under the permission of their particular diocese.
O.p Bishop Robert McKenna + and Dave Considine
Do not forget the Devil's greatest defense is that he is thought of as a myth by most people. But for those enlightend ones who know both good and evil exist, the Devil has no power to work his subtle craft. For with knowledge comes power for those who seek it pure of heart and soul, and with that knowledge one can work miracles. -Dave Considine-
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