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Lay Adjuration

by Matt Lozano on December 14, 2022

Is adjuration, meaning to invoke the name of Jesus to command an evil spirit to leave, restricted only to priests and the rite of exorcism?  Or is it a proper exercise of our God-given authority in the context of deliverance ministry?

The answer is the latter.  We have researched these questions over many years and presented our findings in several publications.  You can find our theological reasoning in Appendix A of Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance, which carries a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.  You can also read our defense of lay commands in our blog article, entitled “Authority and the Lay Person” (https://heartofthefather.com/blog/authority-and-the-layperson/). 

At the same time, we want everyone to know that we have done our homework when it comes to this question.  We have sought the perspective of bishops, moral theologians, priests, professors, exorcists, and seminary rectors.  We have been reassured in countless ways that lay people have the authority to command evil spirits to leave by virtue of their baptism.  We do not want anyone to depend solely on our opinion. Therefore, would like to share a few quotes from other respected voices who share the same conclusion.

Christ has given Christians, by baptism, authority to cast out demons.  That is clear in Scripture and reaffirmed in the writings of the Fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and in the traditions of Canon Law regarding simple or “private” exorcisms.

  • Dr. Mary Healy, professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary

One dimension of Unbound is Christian authority over evil spirits.  This authority flows from a Catholic’s baptism and confirmation in Christ and includes command over evil spirits, or, as St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches, “private adjuration” (cf. Theologia Moralis, Appendix de Adjuratione, 193.4).  This teaching comes from Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons…” (Mk 16:17).

  • The Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska

It is not intrinsically immoral for laypersons to issue such commands, and, if done rightly, it is virtuous for them to do so. Moral theologians and canonists writing after the Council of Trent up until the Second Vatican Council referred to this practice as “private exorcism.” A close look at the writings of these authors reveals a nearly universal understanding that no ecclesiastical positive law prohibited such actions. When current laws and instructions related to exorcism are read within the context of this tradition, I believe it is also the case that no ecclesiastical positive law categorically prohibits such actions today.

  • Bradley S. Sjoquist, Doctor of Moral Theology

We hope that these voices contribute to your understanding and your confidence that the practices used in Unbound ministry are faithful to Magisterial teachings and have been thoroughly examined by many respected theologians.  In addition, we recommend several scholarly resources below on this topic for further research:

Deliverance Ministry (2017). Locust Grove, VA: ICCRS.

Sjoquist, B.S. (2021) “The virtuous use of private exorcism by laypersons,” Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal, 25(1), pp. 63–90. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/atp.2021.0003.

Grob, J. A Major Revision of the Discipline on Exorcism: A Comparative Study of the Liturgical Laws in the 1614 and 1998 Rites of Exorcism. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29460.

Tags: command, evil spirits, adjuration

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