In 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Seducer full of deceit and lies
Enemy of virtue
Persecutor of the innocent
Prince of accursed murder
Author of incest
Leader of sacrilege
Teacher of all negative action
Teacher of heretics
Inventor of every obscenity
Every satanic power
Every assault of the infernal adversary
Legions congregations and diabolical sects
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
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.