Skip to comments.Should the Church Consider Reintroducing the Exorcism Prayers in the Rite of Baptism?
Posted on 01/08/2014 2:34:23 AM PST by markomalley
In yesterdays blog post, we examined some reports on the revised Rite of Baptism being proposed in the Church of England. Many argue, I think rightly, that the new Rite results in a watering down of many essential truths. The longer is sin nor the devil explicitly renounced. You can read more of that here: COE Waters Down Baptismal Rite??
But for our own purposes, as Roman Catholics, I think it is only fair, and worth examining that our own Rite of Baptism underwent substantial changes as of 1969. Frankly, I was unaware of how substantial the changes were until I began celebrating baptisms in the Extraordinary Form (EF), according to the norms of Summorum Pontificum. I do not celebrate a lot of these EF Baptisms, perhaps two or three year. And while I like the Ordinary Form of Baptism and celebrate it almost from memory, I also find the older form, to be moving and substantial.
Most significant among the changes in the Rite that occurred in 1969,(And what I like to concentrate on here) was the removal of the exorcisms, four in all. And these were not mild exorcisms at all! They were weighty and imperative (i.e. commanding). The devil is really given his walking papers; he is commanded in no uncertain terms that he must depart, recognizing his sentence as having been defeated by Christ who claims this child now for his own.
Critics at the time argued that the prayers seem to treat the infant as though he or she was possessed. And for this, and other reasons, the exorcisms were removed from the baptismal rites of the Church. The new right does feature a prayer that is technically referred to as an exorcism. But the prayers is so mild-mannered, really more in the form of a mere blessing, that I doubt the celebrant of baptism really thinks of it as an exorcism, (let alone any demons understand that they are being commanded to leave). Heres the current prayer that is, in the rite, referred to as the exorcism:
Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son in to the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him free from original sin, make him a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Compare that to the prayers of exorcism from the old Rites which I here reproduce in English, though in EF Baptisms I say them in Latin:
Go forth from him (her), unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit, that thou goest out and depart from this servant of God, N. For He commands Thee, accursed one, Who walked upon the sea, and stretched out His right hand to Peter about to sink. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence, and give honor to the living and true God: give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Spirit; and depart from this servant of God, N. because God and our Lord Jesus Christ hath vouchsafed to call him (her) to His holy grace and benediction and to the font of Baptism.
And this sign of the holy Cross, which we make upon his (her) forehead, do thou, accursed devil, never dare to violate. Through the same Christ our Lord
I exorcise thee, every unclean spirit, in the name of God the Father + Almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ, His Son, our Lord and Judge, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit, that thou be depart from this creature of God N, which our Lord hath deigned to call unto His holy temple, that it may be made the temple of the living God, and that the Holy Spirit may dwell therein. Through the same Christ our Lord, who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire!
It will be granted, that these are strongly worded prayers. However they are not unlike many other exorcisms that were conducted in solemn blessings, such as the blessing of salt, the blessing of water, the blessing of oil, and so forth. It was a common practice in the rites of solemn blessings to first exorcise what was to be blessed and then bless it. It involved a kind of clearing in the ground before planting the seed. Well see more of this from St. Thomas in a moment.
Should the elimination of the prayers of exorcism concern us? Not insofar as the Church has permitted it. The Sacrament is surely valid. However, from a pastoral perspective I would like to respectfully propose that we make some consideration of restoring them to some extent.
Dr. Ralph martin makes some good observations in this regard that I would like to post here along with his substantial quotes from St Thomas Aquinas:
St. Thomas, in his fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles and the Fathers, takes very seriously the reality of the devil and the need to remove his influence from the lives of candidates for baptism. One reason for the lack of proper fruitfulness in the reception of Sacraments is that the power of the devil is not dealt with. St. Thomas says: The power of the devil is restrained by prayers, blessings, and the like from hindering the sacramental effect. (see ST III, q 66, a. 10) (Dr. Ralph Martin, The Post-Christendom Sacramental Crisis and the Wisdom Thomas Aquinas. In Nova et Vetera. 11.1 pp 57-75)
Dr. Martin then cites the following quote from St. Thomas: in the Summa. :
Whoever purposes to do a work wisely, first removes the obstacles to his work; hence it is written (in Jeremiah 4:3): Break up anew your fallow ground and sow not upon thorns. Now the devil is the enemy of mans salvation, which man acquires by Baptism; and he has a certain power over man from the very fact that the latter is subject to Original, or even actual, sin. Consequently it is fitting that before Baptism the demons should be cast out by exorcisms, lest they impede mans salvation. Which expulsion is signified by the (priest) breathing (upon the person to be baptized); while the blessing, with the imposition of hands, bars the way against the return of him who was cast out . And the anointing with oil signifies mans ability to fight against the demons . (ST, III, q. 71, a. 2, Respondeo)
And thus, Dr. Martin, and of course St. Thomas Aquinas provide us with some very significant material for pastoral reflection. St. Thomas reflections not only describe the purpose of exorcisms, but also anticipate objections that were raised both then and now.
One objection is why bother exorcizing when the is about to be baptized and thereby freed of sin anyway? The question before us is certainly not the validity, or fact that the Sacrament of Baptism is received with or without the exorcisms; it is. Rather, the question is related to the fruitfulness of the sacrament once conferred.
And thus here Dr. Martin also Quotes St. Thomas in the same question (71) in the reply to the second objection which states: But sin is taken away by Baptism. Therefore men should not be exorcized before Baptism. And St. Thomas answers:
Reply to Objection 2. The power of the devil in so far as he hinders man from obtaining glory, is expelled from man by the baptismal ablution; but in so far as he hinders man from receiving the sacrament, his power is cast out by the exorcisms.
St. Thomas also adds,
Some say that the things done in the exorcism have no effect, but are mere signs. But this is clearly false; since in exorcizing, the Church uses words of command to cast out the devils power, for instance, when she says: Therefore, accursed devil, go out from him, etc. Therefore we must say that they have some effect, but, other than that of Baptism. For Baptism gives man grace unto the full remission of sins. But those things that are done in the exorcism remove the twofold impediment against the reception of saving grace. Of these, one is the outward impediment, so far as the demons strive to hinder mans salvation. And this impediment is removed by the breathings, whereby the demons power is cast out . The other impediment is within, forasmuch as, from having contracted original sin, mans sense is closed to the perception of the mysteries of salvation .. (ST, III, q. 71, a. 3, Resp)
Hence the exorcisms are aimed at improving the fruitfulness of the Sacrament, not the fact of it. Just as we can reasonably conclude that one who is not catechized before or after the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism would generally show far less fruit, so also it seems reasonable to conclude that, other things being equal, the traditional exorcisms help to ensure the fruitfulness of the sacrament that is conferred. To use St. Thomas analogy, it does this by preparing the ground, such that when the seed of new life is conferred, it can readily receive it and there is room for it to grow.
As Dr. Martin also points out in his essay, we tend to significantly under-estimate the effects of Original Sin, even in an infant. These days, parents delay baptism for weeks, months, even years. There is little sense that their infant or young child is in any sense under the power of darkness or the evil one. Most parents, even many clergy and leaders, see Original Sin is a kind of technical legal issue to be resolved, more than a massively serious problem to be dealt with as quickly and urgently as possible.
In this kind of a climate, The exorcisms listed above seem heavy-handed, and over-the-top while Original Sin seems to most people a little problem to be dealt with when all the family are in town for the nice little baptism ceremony.
Pastorally, we need to make a journey back to a more sober appreciation of the condition in which we are all born, namely in Original Sin. It is no small matter, and the evil one clearly has some doorways, and strongholds in the unbaptized.
The old exorcism prayers articulated this well, and even if some consider their wording a bit excessive and the number of them too numerous they do provide a pastoral framework of sobriety, and they also have the very real effect of helping to clear the ground, and prepare the way for the seed of New Life.
No, the infant or unbaptized person is not possessed in the formal sense of the word, but it never hurts to announce to Satan that is day is done, and give him his walking papers.
1. Obviously, as a parish priest, I am in no way authorized to alter the baptismal rite or any of the liturgies of the Church. I simply propose here a modest discussion among the faithful, (i.e. us) which may or may not bear any fruit at all.
From time to time there are changes, most of the minor that come from Rome regarding the liturgical rites of the Church. Pope Benedict most recently made a change to the baptismal rite.
I only propose that we, namely the people of God, discuss among ourselves the restoration of some or all of the old exorcism prayers. If God the Holy Spirit desires this, the discussion will grow and ultimately have some wider effects in the Church.
2. Of course one immediate solution is to use the older Extraordinary Form of Baptism which was recently permitted to be used again. But Let me be clear, I do not here, in this essay, seek to agitate for large-scale return to the extraordinary form of the sacraments. While parents are free to request this form of the sacrament from me, I do not pressure, or agitate for it. I do not even suggest it. I simply say yes if requested.I am not aware of permission to conduct that Rite in English, and hence the use of Latin remains something of a barrier. (I am aware some clergy think they can conduct EF Baptisms wholly in English. Perhaps they can show me in writing where that is so, and what is the authorized translation to use).
The ordinary forms of the rites will continue to be those used by the vast majority of the faithful. My main hope would be to initiate a discussion about the prayers of exorcism, be they optional or required, being reintroduced into the new rite of baptism.
This would be somewhat in line with Pope Benedicts desire that the Extraordinary Form, and the Ordinary Form of the liturgies have some salutary effect on one another.
3. As one who has been engaged in deliverance ministry in recent years, I have come to experience and understand the evil one is increasing his territory among many of the faithful. Deliverance prayers, to include minor exorcisms, and (with the bishops permission) major exorcism, will be something that will likely continue to grow in Church.
It is increasingly necessary for the faithful to specifically renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises. It is also increasingly essential that many of the faithful be assisted by one-another and by clergy with deliverance prayers, minor exorcisms said by clergy, to include in rare cases major exorcism.
The times in which we live make these sorts of prayers all the more necessary. It is in this context that I propose this discussion. I am indebted to Dr. Ralph Martin for his excellent article where he covers this issue and many others besides. You can read his full article here The Post-Christendom Sacramental Crisis and the Wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas
Again I merely propose simple conversation. I am a loyal son of the Church and propose no rebellion or unauthorized practices in terms of adapting the Rites. Any changes, if they ever happen would take place under the Churchs authority.
Msgr Pope ping
To me, that sounds very much as if the rite is treating the newborn child as if he were possessed by the devil. The condition of original sin is not the same as demonic possession.
It would be interesting to learn the Orthodox position on this, since (as far as I understand) they regard original sin rather differently: not as "badness dumped on top" but "sanctification not on yet."
Exorcism prayers are used a lot in the extraordinary form where one wouldn't consider them.
For example, look at salt:
P: O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living (+) God, by the true (+) God, by the holy (+) God, by the God who ordered you to be poured into the water by Elisha the prophet, so that its life-giving powers might be restored. I exorcise you so that you may become a means of salvation for believers, that you may bring health of soul and body to all who make use of you, and that you may put to flight and drive away from the places where you are sprinkled; every apparition, villainy, turn of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit; adjured by him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father (+) Almighty, and in the name of Jesus (+) Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy (+) Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplan t that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
O candles, I exorcise you in the name of God (+) the Father Almighty, in the name of Jesus (+ ) Christ his Son, our Lord, and in the name of the Holy (+) Sp irit. May God uproot and cast out from these objects, all power of the devil, all attacks of the unclean spirit, and all deceptions of Satan, so that they may bring health of mind and body to all who use them. We ask this through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.
Or St Benedict medals:
I exorcise (this medal / these medals) in the name of God, the Father Almighty, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. May God uproot and expel from (this object / these objects) all power of the adve rsary, all attacks of the devil, and all deceptions of Satan, so that (it / they) may bring health of mind and body to all who use (it / them). We make this prayer in the name of the Almighty (+) Father, of Jesus (+) Christ, his Son our Lord, and of the Holy (+) Spirit, the Paraclete. We pray also with love for our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead, and to purify the world by fire.
And so on...
The Rite of Exorcism is still an integral part of baptism in the Maronite Church.
This link seems to answer your question:
The Priest: Michael, Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?
Michael Corleone: I do renounce him.
The Priest: And all his works?
Michael Corleone: I do renounce them.
Of course they should bring them back. They never should have been taken away in the first place.
“To me, that sounds very much as if the rite is treating the newborn child as if he were possessed by the devil.”
In a sense that child is possessed by the devil since he is the prince of the world and that child has not received the grace of baptism.
Thank you both, that was informative.
The closest you see now in regards to the minor exocisms being done in regards to baptism is when it comes to the RCIA ministry, when there are adults who are coming into the Church via RCIA/baptism, and during the last 3 Sundays in Lent, called the Scrutinies.
A quick question. Thank-you in advance for your response.
Does God create new souls first before they receive the grace of baptism?
The Byzantine Rite of baptism has some pretty graphic exorcism prayers in it, IIRC.
THE SERVICE OF EXORCISM
The service of exorcism consists of prayers banishing evil spirits from the catechumen and from persons suffering physical and mental illnesses. The service of exorcism for candidates in baptism is read during the service of catechumens preceding baptism. During the blessing of the water of baptism certain phrases banishing evil are used also. Before starting the reading of the prayers of exorcism prior to baptism, the priest welcomes the candidate and blesses him:
"In Thy name, O Lord God of truth, I lay my hand upon Thy servant, who has been found worthy to seek refuge in Thy Holy Name and to be sheltered under the shadow of Thy wings. Take from him that ancient error and fill him with Thy faith and hope and love that he may know Thou Alone art true God. inscribe him in Thy book of life. May Thine Eyes ever gaze upon him in mercy. Give him joy in the works of his hands".
In this beautiful prayer the priest does not mention the banishment of evil spirits. He welcomes the candidate in the name of the Lord, asking that he dedicate himself to a spiritual life under the protection of Christ. After this prayer, three prayers of exorcism are read for every candidate, adult or infant. The three exorcism prayers for the catechumens are the same in substance, banishing the evil spirits. Following are a few excerpts from the three exorcism prayers with which the priest invokes God to banish Satan:
"Be rebuked and depart ... Be afraid, come forth, and depart from this His created image ... Depart to thy own Tartaros ..." "O Satan ... through us His unworthy servants command thee and all the power which worketh with thee to remove thyself from him who hath been sealed in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our True God....
"Banish from him (candidate) every evil and unclean spirits hidden and lurking in his heart, the spirit of error, the spirit of evil, the spirit of idolatry and all covetness ... May the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan..."
And then the candidate acknowledges his faith: "I worship Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided". The ritual order of the exorcism presupposes the willingness of the candidate, who is strengthened with the Grace of God, to avoid and ward off the temptations of the evil spirit.
These three prayers of exorcism are the familiar ones of the Church which are used in banishing the influences and temptations of Satan. In addition to these exorcism prayers at baptism, there are other prayers of exorcism for various cases.
To see what the effect of dropping most of the exorcism prayers at baptism was, let us ask ourselves this question: “Is a man baptized after 1969 more likely or less likely to revert to godlessness at some point in his life, compared to the man baptized prior to 1969?”
That would be an interesting, and perhaps surprising, study.
Reintroducing the Exorcism Prayers in the REMOVAL of odumbo would be a good test.
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As I read those prayers silently, somehow Max Von Sydow supplied the voice.
You’ve received some very accurate responses to your question TC. I hasten to point out, however, that differing concepts of the Sin of Adam/Ancestral Sin/Original Sin have little to do with dealing with demons at baptism.
Here’s a link to our Baptism rite. You’ll see that Ancestral/Original sin really doesn’t enter into it. but dealing with demons and airy and invisible specters does. We take demons very seriously, TC.
“To see what the effect of dropping most of the exorcism prayers at baptism was, let us ask ourselves this question: Is a man baptized after 1969 more likely or less likely to revert to godlessness at some point in his life, compared to the man baptized prior to 1969?”
You gotta be joking?
The sacraments function “ex opera operato”. Baptism removes the stain of original sin. The normal form is through water and the Trinitarian formula. There is NO stain or sin left and no more or less sanctifying grace given. We are all left with concupiscence but no other incantations can change how we use the grace given.(ex opere operantis)
This statement begs the question, “Do you trust the new rite?”
Yes, definitely bring them back.
There are spiritual realities involved here. Combat in the spiritual realm is a reality, and man’s nature has a spiritual component. It is absolutely necessary that the Church, speaking as the body of Christ, claim what is hers and preserve it pure and safe.
I can’t answer that question, but am grateful I received the benefit of the prayers in my case.
All unbaptized children are not necessarily possessed of the devil. But they are open to possession because of original sin. So it does no harm to use these rites.
Presumably, as Monsignor Pope says, the Sacrament of Baptism will do the job anyway, but it does no harm to include specific language in the surrounding rite.
Thank you all for the informative responses. The whole thing is much clearer now! (Everything’s clearer when it’s not 5:30 a.m.)
Dear Biggirl, I'm not quite sure what you mean by this question, but let me try to answer a bit before vlad (who will probably have a good insight to share.)
The Church teaches that a dualistic understanding of the soul and the body as strictly separate things, is mistaken. You are one person, an embodied soul; equally true, an ensouled body. One person can't, for instance, have two souls, one now and another one later. Neither can souls migrate from one person to another, as in the false doctrine of reincarnation.
The same soul you had when you were conceived in your mother's womb, is "you" born or unborn, baptized or unbaptized, in sin or in grace, in heaven or in hell! Your soul will separate from your body at death (a very unnatural thing), but will be reunited to your resurrected body on the Last Day. It's you, forever! So no, God does not create a new soul for a person being baptized--- if that's what you meant.
Msgr Pope explains about souls here, when explaining about the resurrected body,and as usual, does a great job.
It chills me to the bone to think, for instance, that most of the priests who were involved in pedophilia or pederasty in the 1970's-80's (the decades when most of these heinous, foul offenses were committed) were baptized, I suppose, in the 1940's and '50's.
Thank-you and God Bless! I learned something new today! :)
Thank-you for the link and bookmarked it. :)
I’ll take all the help I can get.
First, I proposed an empirical study. The answer could be "no difference". Where do you see anything funny?
But I believe that while the Novus Ordo rites (as well as 1969 baptism rite) are valid sacraments, this should not be an argument for Protestant style reductionism. As soon as a catechumen is baptized and reaches age of reason, deadly struggle begins between him and the Satanic forces. This is how the same source describes it:
The Grace of God protects man. He must, however, invoke God's help. Constant prayer and fasting, devoted meditation, regular Bible reading, following the two great commandments of God (love of God and love of neighbor) are the weapons of the Christian against temptation from demons. The inclination of the individual toward sinful desires, the so called consupisentia [sic], is not sin in itself; it is the weakness which needs protection; it is weakness which evil spirits try to exploit.
This is from an Orthodox site, but I don't see any difference on that with Catholicism. So, yes, I firmly believe that we should employ every weapon the Holy Church proposes for our salvation: fasting and prayer, and especially every kind of prayer of our Church for our soul.
The same of course applies to any rite, not just baptismal rite. While grace falls on everyone, it is the disposition of the soul, that is strengthened by much prayer and fasting, that allows the saving grace to work in us.
I remember a long time ago Agrarian (remember him?) wrote to me how important it was that I received the prayers and chrysmations of the Orthodox Church at baptism. And indeed — I am very happy to be Catholic — I believe my baptism deep in my infancy was the most important event in my life, and I am very grateful to my parents for bringing me to it, even despite the marginal character of their own faith.
They also received communion every day, being priests. Someone killed, or nearly killed their souls nevertheless.
All the more reason to not take our blessings for granted.
“Protestant style reductionism”
My apologies for making lite of your comments. There was nothing funny. It was uncharitable. And my answer to your question you surmised well: “no difference”
However, I see no “Protestant style reductionism” in anything from the Novus Ordo rites. My assumption was that many “traditionalists” DO see the Novus Ordo rites as “Protestant style reductionism” and that I DO have a problem with.
Rites have changed, slowly, but consistently since the beginning. That makes them NO LESS efficacious in terms of God’s grace imparted. The unfortunate thing with the human condition is that we can and do fall from grace easily.
The best preventative is living a life of virtue starting with the foundation of all laws, as you stated from the Orthodox site, “love of God and love of neighbor”. We can debate all day long the theological value of the “prayers of exorcism” within any of the rites pre-Novus Ordo, but none of that would be, IMO, of value without that foundation, which Christ commanded and has been stated over and over in scripture.(Jn 15:12, Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14, 1 Th 3:12, James 2:8)
I cannot speak for SSPX or other distinct traditionalist communities, but from my arguments with them., many quite bitter, I know that many of them agree with us on the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass. I myself attend Novus Ordo Mass with my family, although it is not a choice I would have made alone.
Now with this background established, I absolutely agree with the Traditionalist and the Orthodox that Novus Ordo Mass is reductionist: it is an attempt to get away with the minimum of ritual while still staying valid. That is very unfortunate. Man is not a spiritual being only: we are also creatures of sensual abilities. Those are very poorly fed in the Novus Ordo Mass; and indeed, not surprisingly there was such a rich opportunity for liturgical abuse embedded in the new rite. It is not an issue of validity but of the proper formation of the entire person through the liturgy; that formation is since Vatican II lacking substance.