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Norms Governing Exorcisms

The manner in which we pray against evil, however, needs to conform to the direction we receive from the Church. When we pray against demons, we should not directly address them. Rather than saying, "We bind you, O evil spirits," we should say instead, "Lord Jesus, bind all evil spirits." Our prayer should always address God and His saints

 

For several years, in certain areas of the Church, assemblies formed to pray for liberation from the influence of demons (though they do not perform exorcisms as such) have been increasing in number. These assemblies are often led by members of the laity, even when there is a priest present.

Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been asked what is the proper attitude towards these activities, this Dicastery deems it necessary to make known to all Ordinaries the response which follows:

1. Canon 1172 of the Code of Canon Law declares that no one may licitly perform exorcisms on those who are possessed [obsessos], unless he has obtained particular and express permission from the local ordinary (section 1), and it decrees that this permission is to be granted by the Ordinary only to priests who are outstanding in piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life (section 2). Bishops are therefore strongly urged to enforce the observance of these prescriptions.

2. It follows also from these same prescriptions that Christ's faithful may not employ the formula of exorcism against Satan and the fallen angels which is excerpted from that formula made official by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII, and certainly may not use the entire text of that exorcism. Let all bishops take care to admonish the faithful about this matter whenever such instruction is required.

3. Finally, for the same reasons, Bishops are asked to guard lest those who lack the required power attempt to lead assemblies in which prayers are employed to obtain liberation from demons, and in the course of which the demons are directly disturbed and an attempt is made to determine their identity. This applies even to cases which, although they do not involve true diabolical possession, nevertheless are seen in some way to manifest diabolical influence.

[EWTN theological note: Paragraph 3 applies this prohibition to obsession (of persons) and infestation (of places). CBD]

Of course, the enunciation of these norms should not stop the faithful of Christ from praying, as Jesus taught us, that they may be freed from evil (cf. Mt 6:13). Moreover, Pastors should take this opportunity to remember what the tradition of the Church teaches about the function properly assigned to the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and the Saints, even in the spiritual battle of Christians against the evil spirits.

May I take this occasion to convey my great feelings of esteem for you, remaining

your servant in the Lord,

Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect

 

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