Sunday, April 21, 2013

Summary on Catholic Rite of Exorcism

by Mike Chapman

This article is for those who may be interested in learning a bit about the Roman Ritual - the Roman Catholic Rite of Exorcism. This practice of formal exorcism goes back to the earliest days of the Church, and is centered on Christ's own exorcisms and the authority He gave to the Apostles to cast out demons and devils. The rite and prayers that were practiced for centuries evolved over time and was standardized for the first time in 1614. This Rite of Exorcism is now widely referred to as the 1614 Rite of Exorcism. This particular exorcism rite was part of the overall Roman Ritual of that year, as the Roman Ritual itself contains many Rites of the Church, not just the Rite of Exorcism.

This 1614 version of the Rite of Exorcism consists of two parts - Part 1 consists of a series of introductory notes that explain how an exorcist is to undertake the exorcism. It also includes notes on what the realities are of demonic possession, and other such things - such as the qualifications of the priest or bishop who is conducting such a solemn rite. Part 2 is the exorcism rite itself, which starts with the Litany of the Saints. 

To this version (the 1614 version), a Part 3 was added in 1890, which was written by Pope Leo XIII, who personally wrote the longer prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Many of you know and pray the shorter version of this prayer. The story of Pope Leo's vision and immediate writing of that St. Michael prayer is extremely interesting, and readers should research that story. The 1614 Rite underwent minor revisions in both 1925 and in 1952. Of course, the original version is in Latin. 

A very nicely done English version is widely available (which I have and have studied intensely) and was first published by the Bruce Publishing Company. It was subsequently published by Preserving Christian Publications, Inc. of Booneville, NY, and was translated and edited by the Rev. Philip T. Weller. If interested in getting your own copy, the volume you want is Volume II (2) of the Roman Ritual, and contains Christian Burial rites, Reserved Blessings, as well as the Rite of Exorcism. It IS indeed the 1614 version, as of 1952 - thus it contains the added Part 3 of 1890, and the slight revisions of 1925 and 1952. What is nice about this version is that the Latin is included on the left side of the page, and the English on the right.

In 1998, the Rite underwent complete revision in both text and format, as a result of Vatican II. It in fact, was the very last of the Roman Ritual revisions that occurred as a result of Vatican II. It was slightly revised again in 2000. The new 1998 Rite (De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam - editio typica 1999) has been criticized by some exorcists and demonologists as being weaker than its earlier 1614 counterpart. However, upon studying the new Rite itself, as well as reading one exorcist's analysis of it and corresponding to another to get his take, I am convinced the criticism is not warranted. Although there are a couple of substantive criticisms that have to do with the Rite itself, the beef has more to do with how the new Rite came about, than anything else. It IS effective, according to one exorcist that wrote me. For American exorcists, it currently must be spoken in Latin, because no official English translation has been promulgated. That is now said to be in the works.

Interestingly, a statement put out by the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith the day after the new Rite was promulgated stipulated that the 1614 Rite of Exorcism may continue to be used, with one qualification. This means an exorcist is not bound to the 1998 (new) version, he can choose to use the earlier 1614 version. However, he must have his Bishop request permission to do this from the Vatican Congregation that oversees liturgical rites. Also, of course, the rule for conducting the exorcism itself still holds - that it must only be done with permission of the diocesan Bishop or local ordinary - and only after proper investigation.

By the way, all of this refers to what is called a "public" or "formal" exorcism - called a "solemn" exorcism. These are only done in the most serious cases. Praying over someone or some place, is called a minor or private exorcism, and permission is not needed by the local ordinary or Bishop to do these. Protestants also have a term for exorcisms - called "deliverances." It should be made clear that a public or solemn exorcism is only properly done by a Catholic priest or Bishop with permission, and using the Rite of Exorcism - either the 1614 version or the 1998 version. All other "exorcisms" (broad term) are properly called deliverances or minor exorcisms. The word "exorcism" itself means to "adjure" or "to put under oath" - or to bind to an oath. An exorcism puts Satan - or the demons - under oath in a formal way, and binds them.

I hope this has been informative, and if you are interested in learning more, consult the sources below.

Roman Ritual (1952) of the 1614 version - Weller
New Rite of Exorcism, 1998 De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam - editio typica 1999
Exorcism and the Church Militant, by Rev. T. Euteneuer
Correspondence with a mandated Exorcist in the U.S.

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