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Titles and Descriptions of Satan from the Rite of Exorcism and What They Have to Teach Us

September 7, 2015

blog-9-7-2015In the realm of demonology there is a cautious balance to maintain. Sadly, an exorcist must usually inflict pain upon demons in order to drive them out. This is done through the prayers of the Rite of Exorcism and through other things recommended by the rite such as the use of holy water, the use of relics, the touch of a stole, and the use of the Holy Cross.

And yet the exorcist must be careful not to hate demons or harbor unjust anger toward them. For in so doing, they would have him; he would be drawn into their territory. If they can get him to hate and to have vengeful anger then they have made him to be like themselves; he is theirs, little better than they save for the possibility that he can still repent.

Hence the exorcist and any who would pray for deliverance from demons for themselves or others, do well to stay inside the norms of the Church and Scripture. These norms warn and set limits for those who would confront demons, lest they stray by pride or anger.

What are some of these norms? Here are just a few, but they are properly cautionary to be sure.

  1. A lay person should never undertake to drive out demons except by the following simple formula: “I command you, all evil spirits to leave me at once in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.” At no time should a lay person ever engage a demon in conversation, ask questions, or in any way seek information.
  2. The same holds true for priests who engage in minor exorcisms. While they are permitted to use more elaborate imprecatory prayer found in the Manual of Minor Exorcisms, priests are not to go beyond the commands therein. They are not to ask questions or to demand names or signs from demons.
  3. Only appointed exorcists, delegated by the bishop, may or should inquire of the names and numbers of demons, their time of entry, why they possessed the individual, their rank, and so forth. The rite makes clear that only necessary questions should be asked. Other impertinent information is both unnecessary and harmful.
  4. Within the formal Rite of Exorcism, an exorcist does well to stick to the formulas, expressions, and norms of the rite. Banter, insulting language, and toe-to-toe debate are to be avoided. Good exorcists indicate that returning to the prayers of the rite is essential when demons seek to engage in debate, ridicule, and diversionary talk. Obmutesce pater mendacii (Be silent, father of lies) is a quick command from the rite to order the demons to be silent, and it is a good way to refuse to enter into pointless conversation or ridicule.

Scripture attests to the need to refrain from reviling demons:

For Even Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a reviling judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

Further, hate and ridicule of any person (angelic or human) whom God has created is an ungodly attitude. Scripture says,

For you O Lord love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate (Wisdom 11:24).

Therefore anyone who confronts demons or suffers their oppression is warned that hatred and unjust anger, reviling and ridiculing, is no way to fight them, for if we do so we become like them.

That said, exorcists and priests must often use strong language approved by the minor and major prayers of exorcism, most of which are drawn from Scripture or Sacred Tradition.

Consider, for example, the following rebuke of Satan from Scripture:

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the lake of fire (Is 14:12-15).

These verses speak truth. They do not revile; they say what happened and they point to Lucifer’s prideful fall.

The Rite of Exorcism has collected many descriptions from Scripture and Tradition. They are not intended to ridicule or revile, but rather to remind Satan of who and what he has chosen to become. They remind him of his pride, his destruction by God’s justice, his ultimate fate, and the many ways he seeks to harm us. Consider, then, some of the “titles” and descriptions of Satan drawn from both the old and new rites of exorcism:

Enemy of the faith

Foe of the human race

Carrier of death

Robber of life

Shirker of justice

Root of evil

Fomenter of vice

Seducer of men

Traitor of the nations

Instigator of envy

Font of avarice

Source of discord

Exciter of sorrows

Transgressor

Seducer full of deceit and lies

Enemy of virtue

Persecutor of the innocent

Horrible dragon

Prince of accursed murder

Author of incest

Leader of sacrilege

Teacher of all negative action

Teacher of heretics

Inventor of every obscenity

Hateful one

Scourge

Unclean spirit

Every satanic power  

Every assault of the infernal adversary  

Legions congregations and diabolical sects

Evil dragon

Diabolical legion

Inventor and teacher of every lie

Enemy of man’s salvation

Prince of this world

Deceiver of the human race

Ancient foe of mankind

Father of lies

Evil dragon

Cunning serpent 

All you powers of darkness

Get thee gone, Satan! 

I have compiled a pdf of these in both Latin and English here: Titles of Satan from the Rite of Exorcism.

Thus, whether driving out Satan in a major exorcism or seeking to expel his oppression in a minor exorcism, all are cautioned not to stray from the understandings and descriptions of Satan that the Church provides in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Again, the reason for this is that Satan seeks to draw us into his world of hatred and revilement. Do not go there in your thoughts and surely not in your heart.

It may be hard to accept, but God does not hate Satan. God does not hate even the worst of sinners. Surely justice requires God to recognize the final disposition of a person (angelic or human). Some are justly permitted to live apart from God’s kingdom in a hellacious parallel universe; that is their choice. But God does not hate fallen angels or fallen humans. God is Love and Love does not hate—and neither should we.

We ought to be sober about what sin has done to demons, fallen angels who were once glorious. But now, through the ugly disfigurement of sin, they are in darkness and are horribly contrary to the glory for which they were made. They are to be pitied and kept at a distance. They will not change (for angels choose once and for all). Their lies are to be resisted. Though they can still appear as lightsome, it is only for a time and then their terrifying state of horror and darkness roars forth.

Do not be deceived. But do not hate, either. Be sober, watchful, and distant from the once-glorious fallen angels we rightly call demons.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Vee W. says:

    Thank you Father. I am working with a man is under demon oppression and I needed to read your blog entry tonight as I pray seeking aide, with God’s will before I return to work tomorrow.

    Pray for me.

  2. Teresa says:

    I’m a bit confused. I read somewhere recently a Catholic lady wrote she was told by her priest that lay people should not be ordering demons around. To do so could invite demonic problems. Are there instances where using “I command you, all evil spirits to leave me at once in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.” would not be a good idea and is there a difference between a Catholic using something like that against a demon and a Protestant? I ask because before I was born, I think it would’ve been ’69 or’ 70, my Protestant parents went to visit my aunt who was being oppressed by an evil spirit after she visited a fortune teller. Both my parents told me they could feel the evil in her apartment. They prayed and ordered the demon out in Jesus name and felt it move into the hallway and could feel that it was hovering out there. When they left with my older sister and got into their car it followed them into the car and shot out of the back window. They said the glass was outside the car on the trunk so they knew it came from the inside. Without going into very long details, my sister and I have thought for a very long time that our parents unwittingly have brought something demonic upon our family from ordering this spirit around. Our family, particularly my siblings and myself have all continuously gone through things above and beyond what seems to be the normal compared to other families some of it has even touched on the supernatural. I tried emailing my own priest and he has not responded back in several months. If we are correct in our assumption, how do we get rid of this evil? I am the only Catholic in my entire family. I am disabled and unable to get to Mass very often. Our father died four months ago and it seems as if things for some reason have gotten worse since then. Could you please point me in the right direction Monsignor.

    • edraCRUZ says:

      You are right when you say that we are not allowed to command devils or demons. But since Monsignor Pope who prescribes us to say that command of, “I command you, all evil spirits to leave me at once in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord”, we have on good authority that he knows what he is talking about. If I may add make a good general confession to your confessor and if you can, fast for a whole day or more on bread and water before you say the command, it will even be more effective. You could also say, “…leave me and my family at once and I rebuke you… go to the foot of the Cross.” You will notice that it is in the Power of The Name of JESUS and by The Blood of JESUS that you are doing this, not by our power. Muster all the Love of GOD in your heart before commanding, for these entities flee from the Love of GOD. For this is not our fight, it is HIS. GOD Bless you and your family, Teresa. We will pray for you. Please pray the prayer and make a novena to St. Michael, the Archangel. If you can find a healing priest who can do healing of the family tree, do so. Since you cannot come to The Holy Mass, please try to have a cable that subscribe to EWTN, this station broadcast The Mass four times a day for that day.

      • Catharine says:

        Father is 100% correct in that no lay person, and no Protestant, whether layperson or minister, should ever, under any circumstances, attempt an exorcism, and he sets forth pretty succinctly why.
        However, any Catholic layperson (or anyone whatsoevr) can at any time and place, in any situation or circumstance, pray for deliverance. In the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”) it says, “deliver us from evil.” This prayer comes from Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.
        I have a fairly similar situation to yours in that our condo unit has had an evil spirit inhabiting it; I only became aware of it after returning to the Catholic faith in 1992 after a 22 year absence. This is a very overwhelming even presence, which does lots of typical things such as start up fights, stir up trouble, engage in poltergeist activity, etc.
        Also, I come from a large family and virtually all of them have abandoned the Catholic faith. It has proven extraordinarily difficult to get them to come back; a few will make a half-hearted stab at it and then give up after a few weeks or months.
        In my opinion, the best thing you can possibly do is (1) keep yourself in the state of sanctifying grace, (2) go to Mass and Holy Communion as often as your circumstances will permit, (3) pray your heart out, every single day, as much as you possibly can, for your own family members and for all others similarly situated. We have had so much division & feuding in my family that I brought up to a Franciscan priest the trouble I was having praying for certain (lots!) of family members by name on a daily basis. He told me to write out a list of their names and to pray for them daily that way. I now incorporate this into my Morning Offering, and offer all of my “dailies,” i.e., prayers, works, joys, sufferings, etc., for them. That they will convert either now, at any point along the time line of life, or at least be granted the grace of final repentance/final penitence at or near the time of death.
        This worked for my mother–she had refused to set foot in a Caholic church for many years prior to her death, but within 2 hours of her death, she “came to” out of a deep coma of several days’ duration, in full command of her faculties, and was extremely overwhelmed to find young priest standing over her, giving her the last rites! Apparently, she did accept & cooperate with the grace of final repentance (I have some further experiences confirming this, but this is outside this thread).
        Please, do not stop praying & offering for this intention, and for all others on this planet who could use the same, or similar graces. We have no idea now how many people we will help to be saved, but we will know for sure at our own particular judgment.
        Also, remember that the Blessed Virgin said at Fatima, that many souls wind up in Hell for no other reason than that they have no one to pray and offer for them.

        • Catharine says:

          Teresa,
          One more thing: That satanic presence can indeed be simply terrifying. Most of the people I know, will simply slink away and refuse to confront it & fight it, which is not a good idea.
          By refusing to let it intimidate you, (and especially refusing to let it become your Lord and Master, instead of Our Lord Jesus Christ), you are working out your own salvation, and helping serve as a channel of grace, light and virtue to others as well.
          Back in the 1990’s, I listened to some cassette tapes by one Father John O’Connor, O.P., who was a rosary family crusade priest very active in Michigan & Wisconsin. He said something I agree with, which is that many of the discusions about Satan, the devils and Hell can be somewhat academic & difficult to understand fully: the great torment caused by eternal separation from God, hellfire (even when immediately after death, it is only our souls which are in Hell, as our bodies are in the grave).
          Father O’Connor said that the one thing which scared him the most about possible final damnation, and kept him on the straight & narrow, was the fact that in Hell you will be eternally the slave of Satan, will have to do Satan’s horrible will every second, and that there will be no appeal from, no escape. He said (and I agree fully) that after having seen people’s lives ruined by Satan and his evil activities, there is no thought more terrifying than that of winding up under his control for all eternity.
          Please keep praying and offering for all of your loved ones, and for all others similarly situated.
          Final-final note: I have noticed that after some intense prayer, a brief but furious “uptick” of Satanic activity (usually poltergeist stuff) means that the prayers have worked to some good effect.

  3. Robert_Caritas says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,
    A holy monk once told me that, on the basis that the psalmist speaks in several places of hating the enemies of God, we are to have these feelings for evil spirits and sin – since they are the enemies of God. In you opinion is this wrong?
    In Christ,
    Robert_Caritas

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      I think it is. “Hate” in the Old Testament is used in the Jewish sense such as when the Lord says we must “hate” our spouse, children even our very lives and love him. But this is not an invitation to malicious hated but a Jewish way of saying you must love me more than anyone or anything.

  4. Richard Sequeira says:

    This is a very good article . I have been in healing and deliverance ( exorcisms ) since 1978 . Then I used to give back up prayer to the priest who was the Exorcist . God in His great love and mercy gave the gift of prayer, knowledge , discernment , fortitude and great grace to fight the enemy . Since 2010 , after we did a special seminar under the late Fr. Rufus Pereira , I was given special permission to do exorcisms. In the name of Jesus Christ and through the power of God , I have delivered many people from evil spirits , and demons . I have exorcised some demons who are worshiped as gods and goddesses in India and Asia . All praise , honour , glory be to God the Father , Son and Holy Spirit . Thanks to Our blessed mother Marys prayers and also the prayers and intercession of the Angels and Saints . When I am casting them out they scream , Hand of Jesus ! Long haired Mans close friend, The son of the Lady .

  5. Nick says:

    I’d like to offer some advice regarding exorcism:

    1. Exorcisms are confidential, so don’t believe any account of an exorcism without ecclesiastical authentication (i.e., the Church both saying the exorcism happened and providing evidence of what happened during the exorcism)
    2. Demonic manifestations (demons giving their names and other info) are not private revelations, so don’t believe they shed light upon Public Revelation (i.e., demonology, what persons are in Hell, the Antichrist, etc.)
    3. Jesus did not perform Exorcisms to amaze, please, or deceive people, but to signify Who He Is and what He intended to do and to exemplify and enable charity, so that we might obey the Norms which He has granted His Church
    4. Do not be over-righteous in your thirst for Justice, but overcome your anger and concupiscence with Mercy and Grace. Do not hate possessed people, which includes the Antichrist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-lO1_QngSI

  6. JP says:

    I have some questions Father. A minor confusion on my part;

    Your statement “It may be hard to accept, but God does not hate Satan. God does not hate even the worst of sinners. Surely justice requires God to recognize the final disposition of a person (angelic or human). Some are justly permitted to live apart from God’s kingdom in a hellacious parallel universe; that is their choice. But God does not hate fallen angels or fallen humans. God is Love and Love does not hate—and neither should we.”

    Doesn’t mesh with the following statements taken from the bible.

    Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
    Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
    Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
    Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
    Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

    (from this website: https://carm.org/does-god-hate-anyone)

    A lot of peolpe say that the old testament doesn’t apply to us and I don’t want that answer, since it isn’t true and Jesus said that not one letter of the law would pass away. I would rather have a more clear answer that makes those two facts reconcile. I would rather have a complete answer. God bless you Father! Thanks for your article and your time.

    -JP

  7. Shawn Marshall says:

    “Hostage to the Devil” by Malachi Martin S.J.
    5 modern day exorcisms in the USA.
    Most comprehensive and detailed account of exorcism I am aware of.
    Many souls cannot finish reading the book as the personality of Evil is beyond frightening.
    Many cautions are given. Much explication is given also. Two great lessons; one must give ‘permission’ to become possessed, Evil insinuates itself quite slowly and subtly when necessary.
    See also M Scott Peck books “People of the Lie” & “Glimpses of the Devil…”.
    I think he did a failed exorcism, putting himself place of Christ.
    Msgr Pope – I hope you do not dismiss these books.

  8. Catharine says:

    Father, thank you for this very excellent article. Please keep treating these difficult topics, as it is very difficult to get good teaching on them nowadays.
    Many people appear to deny the existence of Satan altogether, apparently as the easy/sleazy way out of having to take on the very difficult matter of taking up one’s cross & working out one’s salvation on a daily basis. However, as St. Paul say, today is a very good time to convert!

  9. Catharine says:

    Father,
    This devil (the one in our condo) intruded into my thoughts with some frequency in the early days when I first came back to the Church. He told me that if I would only abandon the state of sanctifying grace and acknowledge him as my Lord and Master, my life woudl become so much better. I would have all of the money, friends, sex, clients, etc., I wanted, and my entire life would pass like a pleasant dream.
    However, if I persisted in this seriously living out my faith business I was never going to have an easy time of it. I would never quite fit in anywhere and would always be seen as an “oddball.”
    I remember retorting, “and death? When then?” at which point it went silent.
    Father, where does one draw the line with this? It seems like the evil spirit is always trying to draw one out, to get one engaged in interesting arguments & discussions, etc.
    I must say, that the evil spirit in our condo, and its level of activity, is nowadays but a pale shadow of what it was 20 years ago. However, even though much weaker nowadays, it simply will not give up, but keeps trying in sneaky little ways to make its presence felt, etc. My husband (who is somewhat disabled) explodes in rage whenever I suggest getting a priest in to bless the condo. Should I simply keep on keeping on with abundant prayers & offerings? Is there anything else I can try–I would really like that thing to be gone once & for all.

  10. Craig says:

    Venerable Sheen also spoke of what he saw as a most powerful pray against Lucifer and the devils:

    “I call upon Your Holy Name, Jesus; Your Most Precious Blood; and Our Lady’s intercession.” I would humbly add Saint Joseph, Terror of Demons, protect us!