Lay exorcisms

I have this one on my “to watch” list right now along with Sinister, The Shining, Annabelle, Evil Dead (2013 re-make), The Exorcist, Jessabelle, and many others.

From what I’ve heard, this one produces genuine scares. There is a scene in it though where a member of the laity procures an exorcism. I was wondering if this was legal under canon law. The film takes place in 1971. Of course, my Orthodox friend would say that it doesn’t matter whether I’m laity or not, if there’s a demon, I don’t care who banishes it back to Hell!

I was reading an FAQ page on the SSPX site which states the following:

The Church’s traditional teaching concerning the recitation of private exorcism prayers is contained in the Moral Theology manual of Dominicus Prümmer (Vol. II, §463):

It is not only clerics who can pronounce an exorcism in a private and secret manner, enjoying a special power over the devils in virtue of the order of the exorcistate, but also the laity themselves. It is in no way forbidden to the laity nor does any inconvenient arise from it. Thus we read in history how several lay persons, such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Anthony of the Desert, cast out devils.

Consequently, it is in no way inappropriate for the laity to recite the exorcism prayer of Pope Leo XIII, provided that they do so privately. It will certainly be very powerful in overcoming the temptations and evil snares of the devil.

One wonders why it is that post-Vatican II authors have scruples concerning the recitation of this magnificent prayer, stating that since the 1983 Code of Canon Law it is no longer permitted. In fact, the same rule of the necessity of permission for public exorcisms is retained (Canon 1172). There is, however, no determination concerning the private recitation of an exorcism prayer, which is consequently perfectly permissible. Of course, we all know why it is that the modern church has changed the rites of exorcism, done away with the traditional powerful prayers, and discouraged all such commands in the name of Christ against the power of evil: it is that the devil is henceforth treated more as a mythical figure than as a reality that we must deal with every day, as St. Peter teaches: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).

Thus, according to when the film takes place, the lay exorcism is perfectly legitimate.

About Emperor Thomas I

Catholic monarch of the New Roman Coalition. Consecrated to the Apostle Thomas, the Holy Martyr Sigismund, and the Holy Martyr Olaf II.
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