The Roman Catholic Rite of Exorcism


A ritual performed by only the Roman Catholic Church (and the Orthodox), for having the authority of the church rid the presence of evil from an individual or an object.


The role of the appointed exorcist is to return the afflicted soul back to Jesus Christ. An exorcist must be appointed by the archbishop of the Catholic. An exorcist is an ordained ministry and can not be performed by laity.

Can.  1172 1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary. 2. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a presbyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life.

An exorcist has four qualities, knowledge, piety, prudence and integrity. An exorcist is specially trained, has moral certitude, and is trained as a skeptic. The exorcit must deal with the whole person they are ministering too. The psych, spiritual and emotional. The exorcist must understand that the person didn't get possessed overnight. The spiritual sickness must be removed sometimes over a period of time. After must be provided to follow up and make sure the individual does not stray back into the patterns that led to the spiritual possession.

History of the Rite

These are notes I took from Arbishop Groeb's talk on exorcism at the SCRC Conference August 2012.

The Lord Jesus Christ is both a healer and an exorcist. In the understanding of the Catholic tradition Jesus Christ is both healer and exorcist. Jesus functioned differently in how he healed and how he exorcised spirits.

The Lord Jesus Christ passed on this ministry to the Apostles.

10 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Matthew 10:1

9 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.
Luke 9:1

160-225 AD – Tertullian of Carthage (now Tunisia, Africa), reports on the signs and wonders of exorcism. He writes, “Any Christian can drive out demons, special charism was given to anybody who was baptized in Christ.” Tertullian reports on the authority in Jesus name. Anyone who is to bring deliverance to someone is demonized must do so in the name of Jesus. Every knee will bow to the name of Jesus, Philippians 2:10. The demons know who Jesus is they know scripture. There is power in Jesus name.

300 AD - End of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century some abuses started to surface in the ministry of exorcism. The church steps in to define processes to end the conflicts. Up till now exorcism is taking place by charism through virtue of baptism (i.e., the church body). To systematize this within the church it starts an ordained order of exorcists. This begins with the 4th Council of Carthage in 398 AD. There were a 104 canons that came out of this council and one in particular, canon 7, specifically addressed the ordination of exorcism. When the exorcist was ordained, he received from the bishop a small book in which are written exorcisms. Each exorcist had to commit to memory these prayer of exorcism. They would use these to have power and lay hands those who were afflicted with demonic the possession. The order of exorcists was formalized in 398 AD. The book on exorcism that is referenced by this canon no longer exist in any written form. They have been lost by time. This council marked the beginning of the ordination of exorcists.

Over a period of a millennium, things were added to the Rite as the church deemed necessary. Various practices and elements were added to the Rite of exorcism as it was formalized. Now from just using the sacred name of Jesus, it started including passages from scripture that became part of the Rite. Holy water, breathing on the person, exaltation, and other things were added over a 1000 plus years. Things were added over time, layer by layer to the little book of prayers and the liturgy evolved.

1614 AD – first standardized form of the Rite appears in the Ritual Romano. 3 or 4 minor changes took place to the Rite between 1614 and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

1962 - The Rite is a blessing using sacraments.

1960-1980 Psychology and western reasoning replaces spirituality. Exorcism is considered to be an old superstition in the church. The devil doesn't exist anymore.

1998 - The Rite was revised one last time. This time the only change was the providing the Rite for the first time in English. It was strictly in the native language of the Catholic church, Latin.

1999 issue of the Rite.

2004 and 2005 small changes. All out of print now. Out all the revisions there has been a return to the ancient prayers.

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