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Exorcism

Views and Points
Abp. Oscar V. Cruz

 

Oscar V. Cruz, DDEvery now and then, the word “Exorcism” is heard here and there, i.e., a relatively rare agendum usually associated with getting rid of the “Devil’s Possession” of someone–be this an adult or a minor. So came to fore the word “Exorcist”, viz. , someone who precisely exorcises an individual or group of individuals together in order to drive away or get rid of the evil spirit possessing or having control over the latter–speaking strangely and strangely acting as well. It is worth remembering that an Exorcist can be bogus in the same way that a devil’s possession of this or those persons can also be but an illusion–if not a downright delusion. But then, it is but proper and right to take note of the following more practical norms and concrete observations in order to know certain fundamentals particularly about the one exorcised as well as the one exorcising:

The person said or perceived to be in need of exorcism, viz., to be released from the dominion and command of the evil spirit, should be first established as altogether free of any of the following more common factors. The individual concerned is definitely not but suffering from any mental disorder or any psychological disturbance – much less but pretending to be controlled by the devil in order to get the attention of others. Furthermore, the noted verbal and/or behavioral malady is not curable by mere medical interventions, be this ordinary or special in nature. Devil’s possession wherefore in rightful need of exorcism is definitely not but a curiosity, an interesting if not an entertaining event. There is man, there is demonic spirit and there is the latter in odious command of the former in verbal expressions and behavioral manifestations.

Yes, Exorcism is a recognized practice in the Church in the same way that there are duly designated Exorcists therein–to this date and time. But just as exorcism is rather rare, so it is that Exorcists–with proper spiritual and specialized formation for the purpose–are rather few. The truth is that Christ Himself had recourse to exorcism as recorded by the Evangelist St. Mark, Chapter 8. No wonder then that the Universal Church Legislative Norms or the Code of Canon Law itself has a formal and specific provision on exorcism expressly mandating the following: “No one may legitimately perform exorcisms upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and expressed permission from the Local Ordinary. The Local Ordinary is to give this permission only to a Priest who has the piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life.” (Canon 1171, pars. 1 and 2, CIC)

As above expressly provided by Canon Law, one of the key requirements categorically demanded of an officially designated Exorcist is “knowledge”. Translation: It is not enough that the Priest concerned is pious, prudent, and holy. It is furthermore expressly required that he underwent the required formation in terms of really knowing the “What?”, the “Why?”, and the “How?” of the Ministry of Exorcism. So it is that ignorance and gullibility are big liabilities in just anybody assuming the Office of an Exorcist – someone waging a spiritual war precisely against the evil spirit. So stands the not only reasonable but also necessary warning: Let no one – a Priest in particular – ever fool around with the evil spirit, with the devil, with demonic possession through pretentious “Exorcism”.

Demonic possession happens. Exorcism is needed. But to fool around with the Devil and/or to play the fool in driving it away–this is not simply ridiculous but preposterous, not merely dangerous but taboo as well.

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