Scrutiny, Exorcism, and Christian Identity

Mention the word “exorcism” and many people’s thoughts immediately fly to horror flicks and scary stories about demonic possession. But there is another form of exorcism in Catholic liturgy that has a far wider application and significance, namely, pre-baptismal exorcism.

A very brief prayer of exorcism can be found in the Catholic rite for infant baptism. More strikingly, Catholics have a series of rather well-developed exorcistic rites that normally take place during the Sunday liturgies of the season of Lent. They are called the Scrutinies, and they come from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  They are beautiful, fascinating rites. What are we to make of them?

Perhaps, first of all, the celebration of the Scrutinies can help us to acknowledge that the “reign of Satan” is not all about high drama. Pervasive evil, and what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”—the everyday acquiescence to things that ought not be—is much, much more often the manifestation of Satan’s power from which we need Christ’s deliverance. We bring a broad range of phenomena to prayer in the Scrutinies.

I also believe that the Scrutinies have a unique role to play in the crafting of Christian identity. I’ve written about this aspect of the Scrutinies recently in an essay that was published in the January 2011 issue of Catechumenate Magazine, called “Scrutiny, Exorcism, and the Construction of the Christian Self.” The editors at LTP have kindly given their permission for us to share that article here.

P.S. Some of our readers may want to read something more general about the Scrutinies. If so, you might want to check out this. For those who wrestle with the challenge of celebrating these rites well in the parish, you are welcome to participate in a webinar hosted by TeamRCIA on Tuesday the 22nd of February (at 2 pm Eastern time) for which I’ll be the presenter.


  1. When the rite of Scrutiny was restored for modern times, the question arose as to whether or not these rites would have any meaning for people today. Modern people, having lost a sense of “enchantment,” no longer take as simple facts the existence of demons and evil spirits, as people once did (and still do) in premodern
    societies. The struggle between good and evil is conceptualized nowadays as occurring within the self, and, by extension, within social networks of human selves, not fallen angels who victimize human subjects. Modern people no longer believe in the “porous self” that may be assailed by evil spirits, and therefore needs protection. Language pertaining to Satan may be hard and pointed, but it is heard metaphorically. Such language brings to light the unmanageable qualities of human sinfulness once it has been let loose, and also points to its damaging residue—the structures of evil that we call “social sin.”

    It would be good if articles like this clearly associated themselves with the Catholic teaching on demons as something to be believed, not just as something to be understood metaphorically. Reading the article, I’m left unsure where the author stands on the Catholic teaching. It gives reasons why we might not believe it, but it never says we should believe it.

    If “modern people no longer believe” in these things, then I guess Catholics aren’t modern people:

    CCC 414 Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

    1. Samuel, your quotation omits the footnote for the discussion on a loss of enchantment by modern people. The note is to Charles Taylor’s massive discussion of modernity, A Secular Age. Taylor’s landmark book is descriptive of the big picture in ways that are deeply illuminating. He also happens to be one of the most highly regarded Roman Catholic scholars alive today. A single Catechism reference (or even several!) will not dispose of the question of how Catholics, now or in the past, view and understand the existence of evil spirits.

      1. I’m aware of Taylor’s work, though I haven’t read the book. The fact remains that the article doesn’t take a stance on the existence of demons. The Catholic Church does. Or do you deny that?

      2. Sam, give up the heresy-hunt. It’s completely out of place. Please try to engage with the issues of the post.

      3. The topic of the post was, I thought, how to understand the scrutinies.

        “What are we to make of them?”

        I’d suggest that when presented by a Church that believes in demons with “a series of rather well-developed exorcistic rites”, it’s logical to at least seriously consider that their purpose may be to exorcise demons.

        It’s not a heresy hunt to ask if the article shares the premisses of that argument. When talking about the translation issues the other day, Fr. Unterseher wrote that he thought all prayer was neccesarily metaphorical. Exposing that premise (right or wrong) has explanatory power for understanding his views. It has rather obvious implications for how you’d go about the work of translation.

        Similarly here, if you believe in the existence of demons as actual fallen angelic persons, that’s going to effect your theology of exorcism. Getting at the premisses that underly our arguments doesn’t strike me as being off topic.

      4. For what it is worth, Sam (and no disrespect intended, Rita), I do not hear your question as a “heresy hunt;” and I am certainly willing to assume that such is not your intention unless you state otherwise. I would think that exploring the premises that underlie our positions is exactly what should be attended to in careful and respectful dilaogue. Sometimes the “surface” issues carry more emotional freight… which makes it harder for us to listen to one another… while taking a close look at our unerlying convictions may reveal more in common rather than less. Of course, electronic communication may not be the best way to engage in such a dialogue….

      5. Sam, is it your contention then that Catholic teaching (its liturgical theology) requires us to believe that all unbaptized people are possessed by demons? Perhaps you do believe this, but there are many indications that this is not what the Church teaches. Non-believers are described in contemporary Church documents in many ways, but never as possessed by devils. I frankly don’t think the question is helpfully illuminated by going down that route. Furthermore, by closing down a variety of approaches prematurely, we limit our understanding of the value and importance of these rites.

      6. Furthermore, by closing down a variety of approaches prematurely, we limit our understanding of the value and importance of these rites.

        That’s exactly my point. This rites clearly have symbolic value as you’ve explored in your article. But you’ve prematurely closed down (for whatever reason) discussion of personal demons.

        The objection “Is it your contention then that Catholic teaching (its liturgical theology) requires us to believe that all unbaptized people are possessed by demons?” Isn’t original.

        S.T. IIIa.71.2:

        Objection 1. It seems that exorcism should not precede Baptism. For exorcism is ordained against energumens or those who are possessed. But not all are such like. Therefore exorcism should not precede Baptism.

        Reply to Objection 1. The energumens are so-called from “laboring inwardly” under the outward operation of the devil. And though not all that approach Baptism are troubled by him in their bodies, yet all who are not baptized are subject to the power of the demons, at least on account of the guilt of original sin.

        I don’t see what’s so problematic about a) believing in demons and b) believing that those to be baptized are under the power of demons, as e.g. St. Thomas writes. B is not much of a leap if you believe A, which is the point of citing the Catechism in regards to A.

      7. Being “under the power of” is exactly what my article is talking about. That its origin is outside the self.

      8. So if you accept all that (which still isn’t clear to me), do you see how the article is confusing? There’s this level of distancing embedded in its rhetoric. The rite “attempts” to preserve the character of an exorcism, rather than just being an exorcism. It’s full of rhetorical questions with non-obvious answers.

        You quote Béraudy saying that the purpose of excorcism is to “conjure” something and then say that it’s “not some sort of magic moment”.

        I don’t understand why we can’t speak directly about what we think the rites do and do not do? About what we do and do not believe.

      9. No, I see that you are confused, not that the article is confusing. You are looking for a cut-and-dried answer, and I am exploring a subject.

      10. Which brings me back to the point I made in the first comment. The article is for catechists about why we do an exorcism in the liturgy:

        The purpose of this essay is to consider the
        Scrutiny—what it does, and how it makes sense within the Catholic sacramental and theological worldview.

        Either the catachumens or the catechists can be the Modern people, [who] having lost a sense of “enchantment,” no longer take as simple facts the existence of demons and evil spirits, as people once did (and still do) in premodern societies.

        Isn’t it important then to provide the answer which does exist and is a true answer? There are demons. The unbaptized are under there power. The exorcism helps to free them from that power so that they can better receive the grace of baptism. Shouldn’t we point this out to catechists (and catechumens and celebrants and the rest of the faithful participating by prayer in the rite) before we speculate about the additional symbolic meaning?

        When there is an answer and we don’t provide it, it looks like we’re ignoring it on purpose.

        If someone asks me what the Eucharist is and I say “It’s a symbol of our unity,” I’ve said something true, but if I don’t also say “It’s the Body and Blood of Christ” I’ll leave my audience more confused.

      11. Looks like the commenter is acting up!

        I posted a reply to be found (for some reason) above at #8/#9.

        To speak on a separate aspect of this topic, my wife and I had our baby baptized in the traditional form over Christmas– what a lovely rite!

        The ceremony prescribed by the EF Rite of Baptism has the exorcisms done on the porch (narthex? gathering area?) of the church, and then the recipient is led into the baptistry (located at or near the entrance) by the priest, who places his stole on the baby as a representative of the Church symbolically bringing the child into the Church (mystical body and building).

        I bring it up because I find the similarity between the EF Baptismal Rite and the Catechumenal process very interesting. Even more so, that the Reformed baptismal rite removed all of this stuff, while at the same time, the RCIA program emerged… this just strikes me as a discontinuity….

      12. Chris, the history of baptism is complex, and I can’t do it justice here in a brief comment, but allow me to clarify one thing: the rite of baptism for infants and adults was the same until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That rite had originated as a rite for adults and been telescoped down and abbreviated when the candidates were primarily infants. When the Council asked that the catechumenate be restored and the rite of baptism be revised, the rite for children (infants) was reviewed with it in mind that the candidates were infants, and several changes took place. The questions, for instance, were no longer addressed to the child. The parents were given a role. And so forth. Much of the ritual which had been of its nature crafted for the baptism of adults, was then transferred into the rite for adults which now includes the rites of the catechumenate, spread out over time. These rites thus are able to be celebrated more fully. I have nothing whatsoever against the Tridentine rite of baptism. But the restoration of the rites of the catechumenate and the crafting of a rite specifically for children were developments long overdue. I would love to see the rite for children reviewed in due time, btw. I think some priests have, in practice, “baby-fied” the rite too much, and we should be looking at how and why that occurs, and trying to fix it. Truthfully, the problem is less with the rite itself as with how it is celebrated.

      13. Rita, I can’t speak for Sam, but I don’t see why belief in the existence of demons and evil spirits means that we must believe all unbaptized people are possessed. (I thought possession was considered quite rare, actually.)

        I thought Sam’s question was a fair one.

  2. A wonderful article, Rita. May I reprint it for my team?

    When I re-read it, I know I will find much more to ponder. On first read, however, I kept thinking of the choice: between Gehenna (to live in a place of death, the valley of slaughter, perhaps even, a life as “trash”) or a new Jerusalem (to live in the “kingdom” of life, to be made whole, complete, perfected, a life of peace/shalom)

    Jerome’s image of sin as being shipwrecked, then, illustrates that despite our initial choice – we often find ourselves in the other “place”.

    1. Many thanks for your kind comments, Eileen. Please do use it, but be sure to cite: Catechumenate Magazine, Volume 33, no. 1, January 2011.

  3. I think Rita makes her point clearly when she says, “Perhaps, first of all, the celebration of the Scrutinies can help us to acknowledge that the “reign of Satan” is not all about high drama.”

    While evil can manifest itself dramatically, much more often (and more relevant for us), it shows up quietly, cleverly. To my knowledge, I haven’t been possessed by demons, but without fanfare I have been coerced by evil to sin. I’m sure that’s something we can all identify with, including parents preparing to have their child baptized or catechumens preparing to celebrate the Scrutinies.

  4. My understanding of the role of exorcism in the scrutinies has been helped indirectly by Luke Timothy Johnson, AMONG THE GENTILES: Greco Roman Religion and Christianity (2009), an attempt to understand Greco-Roman religion beyond Christian polemics against paganism.

    Much of Greco-Roman religion was what Johnson calls Religion A “Religion as participation in divine benefits.” These were always benefits in this world: health, success in any endeavor, etc. Religion A was not about moral transformation. It’s advantage was that you simply got gods on your side, or checked to see if they favored you, the more gods the better. They were not seen to be in competition with one another.

    Johnson points out something that I did not know: the Roman mystery religions with their initiation rituals were not exclusive; you could be initiated into more than one. An advantage of mystery religions, as well as Christianity, was that you got a social network by initiation. That was not true if you worshiped Jupiter, etc.

    Christianity did not deny the powers and benefits of the gods; it attributed those to demons, i.e. Satan. So exorcisms would have helped break relationships to Roman religion, to the demons, and importantly to the mystery religions which were the more viable competitors to Christianity because they provided social networks. As a Christian you could not take part in the mystery religions and therefore likely lost the social networks you might have acquired through them.

    If this is how scrutinies and exorcisms functioned sociologically, then they may not be as appropriate in our first world society as they once were and may still be in some third world societies where polytheism is present.

    Our equivalent modern “gods” (promising “divine like” favors in the present life, and occasionally delivering some approximation) are money, social status, sexual attractiveness, etc. Are their better ways to deal with this during Christian initiation? Are these not also problems for Christians?

  5. Really enjoyed your article, Rita!

    Samuel– I don’t think Rita’s article is denying anything about demonic influence in the world. In fact, she points out that the Church, albeit in a pastoral way, does not shy from the word “exorcism”.

    It is also misleading, what you say, about non-baptized being influenced by demons and “under there [sic] power”.

    You seem to imply that all non-baptized people are actively being controlled by Satan, which is not entirely true. Sure, just like baptized people, the non-baptized can be influenced by Satan.

    But the reason for the exorcism of the non-baptized is to remove any spiritual attachments that may have been unknowingly (or knowingly) formed between the evil one and the Elect.

    It is unfair to say that non-baptized=being controlled by Satan. If this were the case, then it would be truly miraculous that they made it this far through the Catechumenal process– Satan would have prevented it before they attended the first class!

    To be “ecumenical,” the protestant term (adopted by many Catholic theologicans, as well) to explain this is known as “prevenient grace,” or “the grace that goes before”. As a Catholic, I think this would fall under the heading “actual grace”.

  6. Chris, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, as I already quoted “all who are not baptized are subject to the power of the demons, at least on account of the guilt of original sin.”

    Obviously, they still have free will, they’re not puppets. But I don’t see what’s misleading about it. The only difference between what you write and what I said seems to be that in my view (which I take to be Saint Thomas’s) the unbaptized are under the power of demons, but in your view they may be under the power of demons. This seems to be very much the objection to which Aquinas is replying.

    I am not sure what you think is gained by suggesting that there are some cases in which the unbaptized are preserved from being subject to the power of demons.

    If this were the case, then it would be truly miraculous that they made it this far through the Catechumenal process– Satan would have prevented it before they attended the first class!

    I have little trouble with that idea. The grace that brings Catechumens to the Church to ask for baptism is gratuitous and neccesary for their salvation. Had things proceeded in the (un)natural course, given the way in which their natures were damaged by original sin, they would not have done this good work.

    1. I think that therein lies the rub:

      “being subject to the power of the demons” and the demons actively controlling them, seem to me at least, to be two different things.

      I am subject to the power of Obama and the decisions he is making, but that doesn’t mean that I am being directly controlled by him. I still have the free will to say “no” to whatever I might not find agreeable.

      If this is what you were saying the whole time, then many apologies. It sounded as if you were saying that all non-baptized people are pawns of Satan.

  7. I would think we can only be coerced by evil to do evil, not sin.

    Only after one has chosen God (in our case a relationship with God, in the Spirit, through Jesus to which I am called) would one see oneself as in sin. Thus – the scrutinies before Baptism.

    “The Scrutiny is a means of grappling with what the modern rite calls ‘the mystery of sin, from which the whole world and every person longs to be delivered’ (RCIA 143)”

    If exorcism is to effect no longer “being under the power” from without – you are “on your own power”, so to speak, God’s Spirit from within.

    Afterward, examination of conscience (with knowledge). “How did I get in this place (something evil for me), why did I do this (sinful) thing, when I chose the other place – Good? It’s not a symbolic place. It is very, very real.

    What I find problematic in believing in “demons” as real entities with an intent to “disassociate” me from God instead of symbolic “messengers” with messages not from God, but to whom I am often attracted, is that, when I believe, I give them power – the power of fear – over me. Something my Baptism denies.

    OK, heresy hunters – Have at it!

  8. The scholars who crafted the modern Rite of Scrutiny decided to cast the prayers as deprecatory rather than imprecatory. They do not address Satan directly. Instead, they pray to God about evil and ask for deliverance.

    This shift, appearing also in the new Rite of Exorcism, appears to be a major source of dissatisfaction among working exorcists who contend that deprecatory prayers are not true exorcisms at all. The multiple and pointed exorcisms of the older form of Baptism surely reflect an ancient understanding and experience of what it must have been like for the Church making her way in a heavily pagan world where so many catechumens and others close to them had been exposed to the occult.

    This strategic choice has made the prayers easier to understand.

    I don’t understand why this unsubstantiated claim should be accepted at face value. Exactly what is hard to understand about “get out and don’t come back”? Modern doubts only increase when the Church shies from addressing the subject forthrightly.

    I am not sure what to do with Rita’s presentation of Baptism as the establishment of a Christian identity. While true, it is incomplete. It would be unhelpful if the common understanding of an ontological change were to be reduced to that of a socio-cultural affiliation.

  9. Thank you Rita for the great article. I am completely unfamiliar with the Scrutinies. The churches I most often attend, although Latin Rite, do not celebrate RCIA rituals at public Masses.

    Also, I have searched in vain online for the actual exorcism prayers. The Tridentine baptismal exorcisms are readily available in any Rituale Romanum. Is there a separate ritual book for the RCIA exorcisms?

    Chris Owens: I bring it up because I find the similarity between the EF Baptismal Rite and the Catechumenal process very interesting.

    Quite true. The ordo baptismi adultorum (Order for Adult Baptism) in the EF contains five exorcisms, each spaced around the various rituals of baptism. After the adult candidates voice their desire to receive baptism the priest recites the beginning of the Shema Yisroel (interestingly, a very close translation of Deuteronomy 6 LXX rather than a translation of the paraphrase in Mark 12). The the priest then explains the dogma of the Trinity as the centerpiece of the baptismal mystery. The exorcisms follow multiple renunciations and creedal affirmations. The EF rite of adult baptism immediate and sustained catechetical focus contrasts sharply with the incrementally catechetical and more subjective RCIA examinations through scriptural reading and bidding prayers.

    Why did the RCIA program shift away from a heavily catechetical and confessional EF baptismal rite towards a more subjective rite in part predicated on personal growth and understanding rather than the objective confession of the Catholic faith. Both methods have strengths. Nevertheless, is it better to disjunct personal examination from the sacrament? Perhaps the EF better reflected the ex opere operato nature of the baptismal sacrament.

    This was a response to Chris Owens later down the thread. Sorry for the misplaced post.

    1. I have finally tracked down a copy of ordo initiationis christianae adultorum 1972. It is quite hard to find. From what I understand, the 1972 typical edition is the first and only edition of this rite. I am mainly interested in the Latin philological evolution from the EF rite to RCIA. I’m more than a bit concerned that the Latin typical edition is no longer published. It is never a good sign when priests and catechists only have ready access to the vernacular.

      I do not know much about the RCIA ritual text. I have not been impressed when I have seen RCIA in practice. Often the catechumens are paraded up to the altar and introduced by the priest with a “here are the catechumens everybody!” smugness. My experiential sample is quite limited. Nevertheless, I find many of the rituals contrived and quite smarmy. If I were a catechumen, I would hear Mass at another church on the Sundays with catechumenal processions. Perhaps I could sign the “book of the elect” in the sacristy.

      Why can’t an orthodox and trusted priest privately and quietly instruct candidates without all this ceremony? I find RCIA ceremony quite embarrassing. I also strongly suspect that the RCIA model is not the best method of instruction for all candidates.

      I attend Mass to laud the Sacrifice, not to be lauded.

      1. The rite tells us that “the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized” (#9) not just the parish priest. Primarily, that responsibility is carried out by the parish welcoming the catechumens into the life of the parish — Christian service, worship, fellowship — and by providing sponsors. But the broader parish membership can begin to know that there are men and women preparing for baptism and to welcome them, even if all they do is pray for them.

        From the other direction, “By joining the catechumens in reflecting on the value of the paschal mystery and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful provide an example that will help the catechumens to obey the Holy Spirit more generously.” (#4). The catechumens serve the parish by reminding us of our own baptisms and conversion experiences. I have seen great value in sharing these experiences at Sunday Mass. I’ve also had some catechumens (and candidates) for which the publicity of the process is painfully embarrassing. We have the flexibility to adapt as we need to, to try to make it a good experience for everyone. Does it always work? No. But more often than not, it does — at least for us.

      2. Terri, thank you for your work. I do mean this sincerely, and do not in a patronizing manner. Perhaps the very public, “interactive” RCIA might work very well for your parish.

        This method will not work in the churches I attend because the Masses are very restrained (some might say “stiff” and stoic). In my experience, EF communities simply will not perform any public rites for catechumens. This is not only because the EF has no provisions for RCIA in its rites. The “EF culture” is not very engaging during services. People are very engaging and social outside of church, but very reserved and serious in church.

        I wish there were an RCIA tailored for the EF and OF communities that is sensitive to “high church” sensibilities. Perhaps the catechumenal presentations could be provided in the context of a more private but nevertheless public and advertised Mass. I understand that ritual privacy is expressly what RCIA framers desire to avoid as this is the Tridentine ritual preference. Some of us are still Tridentine in ethos, even if this is no longer the majority ethos in Latin Catholicism.

        If we are to be one rite of many traditions, there must be some sensitivity for minority communities.

  10. Samuel,

    The Catechism is nowhere near as definitive as you make it out to be. The section you quoted is from the “IN BRIEF” part that summarizes the fuller text. The immediate context for the discussion of the Angels and their fall is the statement in para. 390: The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative LANGUAGE, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. A literalist reading of the Cathecism is no more appropriate than a literalist reading of Scripture, but seems even less appropriate when the passage is labeled as “figurative.”

    “Figurative” does not mean angels do not exist, but that the reality being figured is described in different ways by different cultures. Aquinas describes demons working within the body as the object of exorcism, obviously imagery of a “porous body.” Rita wants to avoid this type of image, so she concentrates on the effect of these inner demons, the obstacles to the sacraments. She touches on most of the issues raised by Aquinas when he writes about prebaptismal exorcism — the preexistence of sin, the interior working of evil, obstacles, liberation, etc. It seems to me like a pretty faithful rendering of the same content, although in a different figurative language.

    1. I’m sorry, but you’re just wrong. Leaving aside the question of baptismal exorcism, the Church teaches that fallen angelic persons who chose evil (demons) exist. It’s not up for debate and it’s not a metaphor.

      390, referring to the figurative nature of the language of the account of the fall in Genesis 3 is about the fall of Adam and Eve, not about the fall of the Angels, which is in the next section of the Catechism. (It also affirms that, while the language is figurative, the event described is real.)

      The following paragraphs clearly discuss the existence of fallen angels, who are real creatures and are not figurative or metaphorical.

      The fact that you could read the article and still believe that we’re talking about demons as a figurative way of discussing some underlying reality is exactly the problem I’m trying to point out.

    2. I am sorry, but you are just wrong. The statement on figurative language is placed where it is to introduce following sections, which includes the fall of the angels as a prelude to the fall of Adam.

      You are also wrong to interpret this as meaning that angels do not exist, or that I, or anyone else, has said that angels do not exist. On the contrary, describing angels in positivistic language that bears no relation to worldview essentially places them outside that worldview, ie says they do not exist. You are much closer than Rita to asserting the irrelevance and non-existence of angels.

      In my opinion, of course. You have your own opinion, based on the hermeneutic you use for deciding what the Church teaches. One day we may learn who is correct: you, me or both of us.

      1. Do you even acknowledge that Satan is a person?

        The CCC does:

        “2851 In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.”

        The statement about figurative language is this:

        “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.”

        This is about Genesis 3, specifically, not that the fall itself or the fall of the angels.

      2. I certainly acknowledge Satan as a person. Why do you ask? Do you believe Satan is a person? What do you mean by that?

        Once we get past those questions, we can talk about whether it is appropriate to treat “the evil one” as a person in the context of the scrutinies. How does that identification help someone to take responsibility for their own sinfulness? Does it encourage a greater trust in God? Does it force a reconsideration of worldview that confuses or clarifies?

  11. It seems to me that Scrutinies (and for that matter the very under utilized minor or first exorcisms and anointings of the catechumens) are about our fundamental alienation from God as human beings, an alienation from the source of life that requires our redemption from the slavery of sin and our salvation in and through the death and resurrection of the Lord. They are intended to assist the elect as they approach the font to turn away from the power of sin over their lives and just as importantly, to recognize the power and grace of the Lord already at work in their lives and their journey of conversion.

    The exorcisms of each of the scrutinies are intended to prepare the elect spirtually for the renuciations at the font. The power of sin and of the Evil One are real but the power of Christ is already at work and efficatious in the lives of the catechumens and the elect. In my experience with these rites, they lead to spiritual healing as the rites uncover their own entanglement in sin as well as the ways in which they have been wounded by the sinful actions and choices of others in this fallen world.

  12. Paul VI and the Catechism insist that Satan is a person — perhaps even reading him back into the serpent story of Genesis 3 — this is a kind of fundamentalism that fully licenses the exorcism racket.

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