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The Theological Battle

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  • The Theological Battle over the Rite of Exorcism, Cinderella of the New Rituale RomanumManfred Hauke

    I. IntroductIon

    The New Rite: Cinderella or Media Star?

    The six-year tenure of Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estvez as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments [CDW] brought to completion the revision of the official liturgical books of the Roman Rite which the Second Vatican Council had mandated. If we were to classify the liturgical books that appeared in the Medina years according to the reactions which they elicited in the secular media, the most noted work undoubtedly would be the new rite of exorcism. For the liberal mainstream in western countries, it was often presented as a deplorable concession to a medieval practice

    This article is an expansion of an address delivered at the international conference Sacrificium laudis: The Medina Years (996-00), hosted by the Research Institute for Catholic Liturgy at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, MI, 8-0 October 005.

    Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium [henceforth SC] , in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. , Trent-Vatican II, ed. and trans. Norman P. Tanner (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 990) 85: In order that the Christian people can more surely obtain the abundance of graces in the liturgy, the church wishes to make strenuous efforts at a general reform of the liturgy itself. Moreover, in the course of this renewal, the texts and rites must be organised so as to express more clearly the holy things which they represent, and so that thus the Christian people, insofar as this is possible, will be able to understand these things easily, and to enter into them through a celebration that is expressive of their full meaning, is effective, involving, and the communitys own.

    De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam, editio typica (Vatican City: Vatican Press, 999) [henceforth Ex 999] and ibid., editio typica emendata (Vatican City: Vatican Press, 004) [henceforth Ex 004]. Citations from De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam follow the emended version of 004 rather than the typical edition of 999, unless otherwise stated, since minor changes have been introduced to the text.

    Antiphon 0. (006): -69

  • that is senseless in the modern world.4 When Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estvez presented this new liturgical book in the Vatican Press Hall on 6 January 999,5 the event took even some prominent liturgical specialists by surprise. Manfred Probst, for instance, called the news surprising and noted: As far as I know, at least in the last ten years there has been no discussion in the liturgical commission of the German Bishops Conference about this topic.6

    In any case, there had been a long preparation. In the decree promulgating the new rite on November 998, Cardinal Medina recalls the Second Vatican Councils Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium of 96. The council had projected a revision of the sacramentals along two guidelines: active participation of the faithful and attention to the needs of our time.8 The immedi-ate preparation of the new ritual De exorcismis began ten years before its publication.9 In 990, the CDW sent a liturgical text ad interim to the national episcopal conferences and also consulted some special-ists under the seal of strict confidentiality.0 According to Cardinal

    4 See, for example, Manfred Probst and Klemens Richter, Exorzismus oder Liturgie zur Befreiung vom Bsen (Mnster: Aschendorff, 00) 9.

    5 Jorge Arturo Medina Estvez, Il rito degli esorcismi, . See also the English summary of the presentation and the discussion in the Vatican Press Hall in Zenit (6 Feb 999), titled Prefect for Divine Worship on the New Rite of Exorcism.

    6 Manfred Probst, Der groe Exorzismus ein schwieriger Teil des Rituale Romanum, Liturgisches Jahrbuch 49 (999) 4-6, here 4.

    Ex 999, p. . 8 SC 9: Sacramentalia recognoscantur, ratione habita normae

    primariae de conscia, actuosa et facili participatione fidelium, et attentis nostrorum temporum necessitatibus.

    9 See Medina Estvez, Il rito degli esorcismi. According to Nicola Giampietro, Il rinnovamento del rito degli esorcismi, Notitiae 5 (999) 64-6, here 0 [first appeared in: Rivista di Pastorale Liturgica (999) -84], the preparation took 5 years: Il lavoro costato quindici anni.... By this calculation, therefore, it would have begun in 984.

    0 See Probst and Richter, Exorzismus oder Liturgie, . The draft, with the title De exorcismis: ritus ad interim, was dated 4 June 990 according to Gabriele Amorth, The New Rite of Exorcism is Ineffective Against the Evil One, 30 Days (June 000) . On this draft of the rite of exorcism and the discussion concerning it, see Ren Laurentin, Il demonio mito o realt? (Milan: Massimo, 995) 0-; the original French edition is Le dmon: mythe ou ralit? (Paris: Fayard, 995). According to Franz Kohlschein, Der Exorzismus ein zwiespltiges, doch aktuelles Erbe der Kirche? Klerusblatt 8.8 (00) 9-8, here 80, another draft titled De exorcismis maioribus et cura pastorali obsessorum was produced in 99.

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    Medina, the new rite needed many studies, revisions, adaptations and modifications with various consultations of the episcopal confer-ences, after an analysis by the Ordinary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Of the various parts of the Rituale Romanum, first promulgated in 64, the revision of the section on exorcism was the last to be undertaken, with the result that a Roman exorcist amusingly dubbed it the Cinderella of the Rituale. But has this Cinderella, like her namesake of fairy tale fame, been adorned with new splendor?

    One year after the appearance of the new rite, Anthony Ward, editor of Ephemerides liturgicae, noted: It is rather surprising that so far there have appeared in the specialized journals relatively few com-mentaries on this Rite and almost none that go beyond an initial pre-sentation. While some books have appeared, it is still true that the publications, seen as a whole, have been rather sparse thus far.4

    Medina Estvez, Il rito degli esorcismi, my translation. Gabriele Amorth, Un esorcista racconta (Rome: Dehoniane, 990)

    8. Editors, De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam, Ephemerides

    liturgicae [henceforth EL] 4 (000) . 4 See, in chronological order, Giuseppe Ferrara, Il nuovo Rituale

    degli esorcismi: strumento della signoria di Cristo, Notitiae 5 (999) -; Giampietro, Il rinnovamento del rito; Manfred Probst, Der groe Exorzismus; Ulrich Niemann, Exorzismus und/oder Therapie? Stimmen der Zeit 4 (999) 8-84; Anthony Ward, The Psalm Collects of the New Rite of Exorcism, EL 4 (000) 0-0; Achille M. Triacca, Spirito Santo ed esorcismo: in margine al recente Rituale, EL 4 (000) 4-69; idem, Esorcismo, in Liturgia, ed. Domenico Sartore et al. (Cinisello Balsamo: Edizioni San Paolo, 00) -5; Gabriele Amorth, Exorzisten und Psychiater, trans. Reinhold Ortner (Stein am Rhein: Christiana, 00), Italian edition: Esorcisti e psichiatri (Bologna: Dehoniane, 004); idem, Letter of 9 August 000, reported in Andrea Gemma, Io, vescovo esorcista (Milan: Mondadori, 00) 64-; Kohlschein, Der Exorzismus ein zwiespltiges; Probst and Richter, Exorzismus oder Liturgie; Manlio Sodi, ed., Tra maleficio, patologie e possessione diabolica: teologia e pastorale dellesorcismo (Padua: Messaggero, 00), the contributions of which appeared first in Rivista liturgica 8 (000); Patrick Dondelinger, review of Probst and Richter, Exorzismus oder Liturgie, in Theologische Revue 99 (00) 98-40; Ute Leimgruber, Kein Abschied vom Teufel: eine Untersuchung zur gegenwrtigen Rede vom Teufel im Volk Gottes (Mnster: LIT, 004) 69-6; Gabriele Nanni, Il dito di Dio e il potere di Satana: lesorcismo (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 004, reprint 005); Klemens Richter, Liturgie zur Befreiung vom Bsen statt Exorzismus, in Exorzismus oder Therapie? Anstze zur Befreiung vom Bsen, ed. Ulrich Niemann and Marion Wagner (Regensburg: Pustet, 005) 94-0; Ulrich Niemann et al., Stellungnahme zum Thema Das Bse und die Befreiung vom Bsen, -4; Istituto Sacerdos, ed., Esorcismo e preghiera di liberazione (Rome:


  • 5

    On the other hand, the faithful and the secular public generally have expressed considerable interest in this phenomenon. Publica-tions about angels and demons abound, even though many of these are to be regarded correctly as belonging rather to the realm of the esoteric and the New Age.5 Numerous problems derive from spirit-ism, satanism and magic practices. According to recent inquiries, in Italy alone more than ,000 magicians were consulted in the last five years by roughly ten million persons, that is, by nearly twenty percent of the population.6 Stimulated by television shows, every kind of occultism is on the rise in the western world. In the 980s, there were about twenty exorcists in Italy and fifteen in France; their number has increased to more than 00 in Italy and about 00 in France. Until now, nevertheless, it seems that the challenge from the occultist constituency within neopaganism has been underesti-mated by ecclesiastical personnel. Contrary to the expectations of its publishers, the Latin ritual De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam quickly sold out.8

    Exorcism or Prayer for Liberation from Evil?Neglect of the Lords command to practice exorcism is often the re-sult of embarrassment on the part of many theologians over demonic possession and exorcism. Certain currents have even dismissed the very existence of Satan and evil spirits. Possession is often explained away in psychological or parapsychological terms. The unease of these theologians is evident in a book by two German liturgists, Manfred Probst and Kle

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