Exorcism in The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church revised the Rite of Exorcism in January 1999, though the traditional Rite of Exorcism in Latin is allowed as an option. The ritual assumes that possessed persons retain their free will, though the demon may hold control over their physical body, and involves prayers, blessings, and invocations with the use of the document Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications.
Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the Church, can be exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) enjoined: “Superstition ought not to be confounded with religion, however much their history may be interwoven, nor magic, however white it may be, with a legitimate religious rite.” Things listed in the Roman Ritual as being indicators of possible demonic possession include: speaking foreign or ancient languages of which the possessed has no prior knowledge; supernatural abilities and strength; knowledge of hidden or remote things which the possessed has no way of knowing; an aversion to anything holy; and profuse blasphemy and/or sacrilege.
The first official guidelines for exorcism were established in 1614, whereas grimoire were widely known and used since the Ancient period. Those guidelines were later revised by the Vatican in 1999 as the demand for exorcisms increased. In the 15th century, Catholic exorcists were both priestly and lay, since every Christian was considered as having the power to command demons and drive them out in the name of Christ. These exorcists used the Benedictine formula “Vade retro satana” (“Step back, Satan”) around this time. By the late 1960s, Roman Catholic exorcisms were seldom performed in the United States, but by the mid-1970s, popular film and literature revived interest in the ritual, with thousands claiming demonic possession. Maverick priests who belonged to fringes took advantage of the increase in demand and performed exorcisms with little or no official sanction. The exorcisms that they performed were, according to Contemporary American Religion, “clandestine, underground affairs, undertaken without the approval of the Catholic Church and without the rigorous psychological screening that the church required. In subsequent years, the Church took more aggressive action on the demon-expulsion front. The practice of exorcism without consent from the Catholic Church is what prompted the official guidelines from 1614 to be amended. The amendment established the procedure that clergy members and each individual who claims to be impacted by demonic possession must follow. This includes the rule that the potentially possessed individual must be evaluated by a medical professional before any other acts are taken. The primary reason for this action is to eliminate any suspicion of mental illness, before the next steps of the procedure are taken. Since demonic possession was extremely rare, and mental health issues are often mistaken for demonic possession, the Vatican requires that each diocese have a specially trained priest who is able to diagnose demonic possession and perform exorcisms when necessary. ” In more recent years, the number of exorcisms has increased, and all dioceses are now required by the Vatican to have a trained exorcist available as needed.
When an exorcism is needed
- Loss or lack of appetite
- Cutting, scratching, and biting of skin
- A cold feeling in the room
- Unnatural bodily postures and change in the person’s face and body
- The possessed losing control of their normal personality and entering into a frenzy or rage, and/or attacking others
- Change in the person’s voice
- Supernatural physical strength not subject to the person’s build or age
- Speaking or understanding another language which they had never learned before
- Knowledge of things that are distant or hidden
- Prediction of future events (sometimes through dreams)
- Levitation and moving of objects / things
- Expelling of objects / things
- Intense hatred and violent reaction toward all religious objects or items
- Antipathy towards entering a church, speaking Jesus’ name or hearing scripture.
Process of the exorcism
In the process of an exorcism the person possessed may be restrained so that they do not harm themselves or any person present. The exorcist then prays and commands for the demons to retreat. The Catholic Priest recites certain prayers the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Athanasian Creed. Exorcists follow procedures listed in the ritual of the exorcism revised by the Vatican in 1999. Seasoned exorcists use the Rituale Romanum as a starting point, not always following the prescribed formula exactly. The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained describes that an exorcism was a confrontation and not simply a prayer and once it has begun it has to finish no matter how long it takes. If the exorcist stops the rite, then the demon will pursue him which is why the process being finished is so essential. After the exorcism has been finished the person possessed feels a “kind of release of guilt and feels reborn and freed of sin.” Not all exorcisms are successful the first time; it could take days, weeks, or months of constant prayer and exorcisms.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia