ROME, Italy (CNA)—Exorcism is not an obscure practice shrouded in darkness, but a ministry filled with light, peace and joy, according to a new guide for Catholic exorcists.
“When implemented in situations of real diabolical possession and according to the norms established by the Church—inspired by genuine faith and necessary prudence—[exorcism] manifests its salvific, positive character, characterized by a living experience of purity, light and peace,” Father Francesco Bamonte wrote in the book’s introduction.
“The ‘dominant note,’ we could say, is made up of joy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus to those who welcome his Word with confidence,” he continued.
Father Bamonte is the president of the International Association of Exorcists (AIE), which prepared the new book with the approval of the Congregation for Clergy and with contributions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship.
“Guidelines for the Ministry of Exorcism: In Light of the Current Ritual” was published in Italian in May. The AIE told CNA that an English language edition is currently under review by the Congregation for Clergy and the association expects it to be available by the end of 2020 or in early 2021.
The book is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject of exorcism, but was written as a tool for exorcist priests or priests in formation to be exorcists.
It can also be used by bishops’ conferences and dioceses to help facilitate discernment “in cases of faithful who consider themselves in need of the ministry of exorcists, since this type of request is increasing,” Father Bamonte said.
In the book’s preface, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, said that “the exorcist cannot proceed at his own discretion, since he works within the framework of an official mission that makes him in some way representative of Christ and the Church.”
“The ministry of the exorcist is particularly delicate,” he says. “Exposed to multiple dangers, it requires special prudence, the result not only of right intention and goodwill, but also of a suitable specific preparation, which the exorcist is obliged to receive to adequately carry out his office.”
There is a “notable increase” in fascination with exorcism in the Western world, especially with demonic possession and the role of the Catholic exorcist “in the demanding task of freeing from it,” Father Bamonte pointed out.
“In some cultural circles, a peremptory description of Catholic exorcism continues as if it were a rough, violent reality, almost as obscure as the practice of magic, which we want to oppose, but, lastly, ending up putting it on the same level as occult practices,” he said.
The priest said it was impossible to understand this ministry without belief in Jesus and his Church.
“Pretending to understand Catholic exorcism without having a living faith in Christ and what he, in the revelation given to the Church, teaches us about Satan and the demonic world, is like wanting to deal with second degree equations without knowing the four basic operations of mathematics and their properties,” he stated.
This is why it is necessary “to always go back to the sources of our ministry,” he continued, “which does not arise at all from the fear of witches, from the desire to oppose magic or from the will to impose a specific religious vision at the expense of other different conceptions about God and the world, but solely and only from what Jesus said and from what he first did, giving the apostles and their successors the mission to continue his own work.”
The International Association of Exorcists includes around 800 exorcist members around the world. It was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of exorcists, led by Father Gabriel Amorth, who died in 2016. The association was formally recognized by the Vatican in 2014.