On occasion, yours truly receives, well, we’ll call them questions, from those who do illegitimate and dangerous things in regard to exorcism, and are upset with the advice to follow the teaching and discipline of the Church which I provide in the exorcism series found on the sidebar of the http://holysoulshermitage.com blog. As a response to the latest round of inquiries (sparked, I’m surprised to see, by controversies on an apologetic site or two), I respond with another addition to the exorcism series, this very post, which fisks two documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
- Instruction on Prayers for Healing (14 December 2000)
- Inde ab aliquot annis (29 September 1985)
The Instruction of 14 December 2000 was approved by the ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and shown to and approved by Pope John Paul II. This document cites Inde ab aliquot annis, which was also signed by Cardinal Ratzinger while Prefect of the CDF under John Paul II.
Why you should read this post: Because we’ll be seeing lots more exorcism stuff going on what with all the new exorcists coming on board. This will help you keep your wits about you, knowing what the Church actually says about such things amidst all the self-appointed authorities who are so disobedient to the Church (though claiming obedience all along). Let’s take a look at what the Church actually says:
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
INSTRUCTION ON PRAYERS FOR HEALING
[Let's skip right to the disciplinary norms:]
Art. 1 – It is licit for every member of the faithful to pray to God for healing. When this is organized in a church or other sacred place, it is appropriate that such prayers be led by an ordained minister. [Since the distinction is about the place in which this happens, the logic is that it would be inappropriate for those who are not ordained to lead organized prayer for healing in a church or other sacred place.]
Art. 2 – Prayers for healing are considered to be liturgical if they are part of the liturgical books approved by the Church’s competent authority; otherwise, they are non-liturgical.
Art. 3 – § 1. Liturgical prayers for healing are celebrated according to the rite prescribed in the Ordo benedictionis infirmorum of the Rituale Romanum (28) and with the proper sacred vestments indicated therein.
§ 2. In conformity with what is stated in the Praenotanda, V., De aptationibus quae Conferentiae Episcoporum competunt (29) of the same Rituale Romanum, Conferences of Bishops may introduce those adaptations to the Rite of Blessings of the Sick which are held to be pastorally useful or possibly necessary, after prior review by the Apostolic See.
Art. 4 – § 1. The Diocesan Bishop has the right to issue norms for his particular Church regarding liturgical services of healing, following can. 838 § 4.
§ 2. Those who prepare liturgical services of healing must follow these norms in the celebration of such services.
§ 3. Permission to hold such services must be explicitly given, even if they are organized by Bishops or Cardinals, or include such as participants. Given a just and proportionate reason, the Diocesan Bishop has the right to forbid even the participation of an individual Bishop. [This, of course, has historical reference to the one time Archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, who was forbidden to participate in such things in the Archdiocese of Milan. He's no longer Catholic.]
Art. 5 – § 1. Non-liturgical prayers for healing are distinct from liturgical celebrations, as gatherings for prayer or for reading of the word of God; these also fall under the vigilance of the local Ordinary in accordance with can. 839 § 2. [In other words, there has been so very much abuse that this had to be reiterated. Indeed, the cry is, "We can do whatever we want!" is very frequently to be heard, just as Satan's cry of "Non serviam!" (I will not serve!) is likewise frequently heard.]
§ 2. Confusion between such free non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided. [In fact, I've never even once seen anything that was not confused. Have you? I mean, I'm sure it happens somewhere. Many people through the decades have tried to get me into contact with this or that healing priest. I forget their names. If they do things in a legitimate way, great! But let's keep reading the present instruction...]
§ 3. Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, above all on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place. [Jesus doesn't like hysteria. Really, He doesn't.]
Art. 6 – The use of means of communication (in particular, television) in connection with prayers for healing, falls under the vigilance of the Diocesan Bishop in conformity with can. 823 and the norms established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Instruction of March 30, 1992.(30)
Art. 7 – § 1. Without prejudice to what is established above in art. 3 or to the celebrations for the sick provided in the Church’s liturgical books, prayers for healing – whether liturgical or non-liturgical – must not be introduced into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [Wow. There. They said it. Totally cool. This happened All. The. Time.]
§ 2. In the celebrations referred to § 1, one may include special prayer intentions for the healing of the sick in the general intercessions or prayers of the faithful, when this is permitted.
Art. 8 – § 1. The ministry of exorcism must be exercised in strict dependence on the Diocesan Bishop, and in keeping with [1.]the norm of can. 1172 [which I'll try to present in another post with a document I presented to some 150 exorcists many years ago], [2.], the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of September 29, 1985,(31) [which we will fisk below], and [3.] the Rituale Romanum (32) [which will need its own series to fisk!].
§ 2. The prayers of exorcism contained in the Rituale Romanum must remain separate from healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical. [Get it? It's not to be done.]
§ 3. It is absolutely forbidden to insert such prayers of exorcism into the celebration of the Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours. [And no matter how clear this is said, there will be people who will try to find loopholes. Read it: "Absolutely forbidden." It is absolutely wrong. Nefas est!].
Art. 9 – Those who direct healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical, are to strive to maintain a climate of peaceful devotion in the assembly and to exercise the necessary prudence if healings should take place among those present; when the celebration is over, any testimony can be collected with honesty and accuracy, and submitted to the proper ecclesiastical authority. [One might find examples of the correct way of doing this in Lourdes.]
Art. 10 – Authoritative intervention by the Diocesan Bishop is proper and necessary when abuses are verified in liturgical or non-liturgical healing services, or when there is obvious scandal among the community of the faithful, or when there is a serious lack of observance of liturgical or disciplinary norms. [Great!],
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Instruction, adopted in Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 14, 2000, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
+ Joseph Card. RATZINGER
+ Tarcisio BERTONE, S.D.B. Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Letter to Ordinaries regarding norms on Exorcism
INDE AB ALIQUOT ANNIS — 29 September 1985
Your most Reverend Excellency,
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of prayer groups in the Church aimed at seeking deliverance from the influence of demons, while not actually engaging in real exorcisms. These meetings are led by lay people, even when a priest is present.
As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been asked how one should view these facts, this Dicastery considers it necessary to inform Bishops of the following response:
1. Canon 1172 of the Code of Canon Law states that no one can legitimately perform exorcisms over the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local Ordinary (§ 1), and states that this permission should be granted by the local Ordinary only to priests who are endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life (§ 2). Bishops are therefore strongly advised to stipulate that these norms be observed.
2. From these prescriptions it follows that it is not even licit that the faithful use the formula of exorcism against Satan and the fallen angels, extracted from the one published by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII, and even less that they use the integral text of this exorcism. Bishops should take care to warn the faithful, if necessary, of this. ["the faithful" -- this speaks to individuals. The next paragraph speaks to groups. But in this paragraph 2 one sees that individuals even privately are totally forbidden to use the exorcism prayer from Leo XIII or anything extracted from it. That's clear and strong. Disobey and you will get yourself in trouble. Disobedience is a sign of Satan's presence.]
3. Finally, for the same reasons, Bishops are asked to be vigilant so that – even in cases that do not concern true demonic possession – those who are without the due faculty may not conduct meetings during which invocations, to obtain release, are uttered in which demons are questioned directly and their identity sought to be known. [In other words, one isn't to go anywhere near anything dealing with the demonic, even if one is a priest, but without the required express mandate for exorcism from the bishop.]
Drawing attention to these norms, however, should in no way distance the faithful from praying that, as Jesus taught us, they may be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:13). [Exactly right. One may ask our Heavenly Father to rebuke Satan, as did Saint Michael himself. And this is how Jesus, the very Son of the Living God, told us all how to pray. Why is it that people think Jesus' advice should be despised as worthless, or think themselves better than Saint Michael? I think that many have been misled, and that many think that they have to have power by way of doing exoricms, even to the point of disobeying the Church to do this. But disobedience is the territory of Satan.] Finally, Pastors may take this opportunity to recall what the Tradition of the Church teaches concerning the role proper to the sacraments and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Angels and Saints in the Christian’s spiritual battle against evil spirits. [Indeed, Confession is so very important.]
I take the opportunity to express my deepest respects,
Your most esteemed in Christ,
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
At this point, some quote Father Amorth (an old friend), citing some very wrong advice, wrong in that he flies directly against the instructions of Holy Mother Church. Some are intent on making him a hero to the effect that they can dishonor him by using him to disobey the Church. That would be just so wrong. He says, wrongly, in An Exorcist: More Stories, 189-90, that…
official exorcisms are not allowed; they are reserved exclusively for the exorcist. The same holds true for the exorcism of Leo XIII, even though it is now part of the public domain. The private use of such exorcisms is another matter; at least, this is how I understand the above-cited document.
“At least, this is how I understand…” he says tentatively. Uh-huh.
The document, instead, is extremely clear and strong. There is no ambiguity. No loopholes. If you disobey, you get what you deserve for your disobedience. Why disobey? So that you can feel empowered because you yourself command Satan? Is that what Jesus told you to do in the “Our Father”? No? Is that what the Church constantly warns you not to do? Yes?
Nevertheless, some find an author from way back in the day, that is, before the legislation in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and before the Instruction and Note fisked above. Whatever. Are you going to hold one individual priest over against the present legislation and direction of Holy Mother Church. You get what you deserve for your disobedience. Disobedience is so sad, so arrogant, so — how to say it — lonely, for one is no longer listening to Holy Mother Church, nor to Jesus, the Head of that Church. Sad indeed.
And some still insist on doing exorcisms during the Sacrament of Confession, which is not only unreasonable, risking the breaking of the seal of confession, but demeans the sacrament, utilizing it for something much less important than the very forgiveness of sins. The first Instruction presented above absolutely forbids this. But some, with a true mania, insist throughout the years, that Saint Alphonsus thought that this was O.K., but they never provide a citation, or show how that was merely a suggestion to do a deprecatory exorcism, that is, one by way of request to Jesus, such as at the end of the Our Father: Deliver us from the Evil one. Moreover, even if Saint Alphonsus meant a direct command to Satan, that great saint would be the very first to desire to be corrected by Holy Mother Church.