The New Rite of Exorcism: A Potent Weapon Is Weakened

April 2010By Thomas J. Euteneuer

The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of Virginia-based Human Life International, which has affiliates and partners in 87 countries around the world. A trained exorcist, Fr. Euteneuer has been authorized to perform the ancient rite in several dioceses in the U.S.

LINK: Human Life International

The Catholic Church has a gift that no other church, Christian or otherwise, can even imagine having — namely, a written exorcism ritual. This little book makes the Devil shake in his boots! As one who uses the ritual, I know how much of a tour de force it is against the power of evil. That being said, the exorcism ritual is not what it was in its glory days.

Although the Second Vatican Council authorized the revision of all liturgical books, it is hard to believe that the Council envisioned the radical changes made to such an important weapon of the Church militant as the 1614 exorcism ritual, known as De exorcizandis obsessis a dae­monio ("On Exorcising Those Obsessed by a Demon"). Its 1999 revision is titled De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam ("On Exorcisms and Other Supplications"). Even the change in title signals a change in focus: The 1614 ritual is about freeing those obsessed by demons; the 1999 revision is about prayers and supplications. I am sure the Devil is happy to have the focus diverted from breaking his power to pious prayers.

I do not say this for effect. I say it because it is true. It appears as if someone took a knife to the old ritual and then, when all the pieces were cut up and lying in a pile, discarded some and cobbled the rest together in a new order and called it a "revision." It is no surprise, as Fr. Gabriele Amorth noted in his 1999 book An Exorcist Tells His Story, that the revision was conducted without the input of a single practicing exorcist.

Before proceeding to some specifics, it is important to mention something fundamental to the discussion of any liturgical document: Liturgical texts are the Church's texts, and as bad as their revisions may be, they still have spiritual power because they are the official prayers of the Church. Objectively speaking, they exercise a spiritual power that no individual has.

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Well, what did you expect? This is simply parallel to what has happened with the other 'revised' liturgical rites produced after Vatican II. I recommend the reading of Lauren Pristas's work on this topic. It would be interesting to compare the effects of saying a novus ordo mass for the deliverance of a person from possession and the effect of saying the 'extraordinary form'. I am in no doubt about what the comparison would reveal. Posted by: jlamont
April 08, 2010 03:14 AM EDT
I am extremely grateful that a Priest such as Fr. Euteneuer is willingly to speak frankly and logically about the new rite of exorcism. It is encouraging that he does not treat the revision as if it practically came down from on high and there can be no lack of prudence in its construction (as the Novus Ordo is treated by some Catholics).

Of course lines like this and others: “In contrast, the new ritual gives the impression of a hodgepodge of prayers that someone tampered with just for the sake of making changes” reminds one of the manner in which the Novus Ordo Mass was revised as well.
Posted by: Brennan
April 16, 2010 03:02 PM EDT
Could also be those making changes weren't too sure this exorcism rite was relevant to our enlightened modern times. Posted by: Henry Patrick
May 05, 2010 04:30 PM EDT
Two teachers including the dept. head of a Catholic high school at which I worked didn't believe in the existence of the devil as a personal entity. Evil was some kind of vague tendency away from the good.
These folk had grad degrees in theology or religious
studies (I don't know the difference). One was from
Chicago, the other from New York. So, I gather these ideas are pervasive teachings in Catholic institutions. Could they not also be shared by people in higher places of teaching like Rome?
Posted by: Henry Patrick
May 05, 2010 05:33 PM EDT
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