According to Catholicism, is a Catholic priest's power of exorcism acceptable evidence of the Catholic Church's truth and validity of its claim to be the one true church?

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    If the question needs tweaking to become on topic please feel free to alter its wording as I would very much like a perspective on this. Thank you in advance.
    – David
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 10:14
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    Surely the answer is "Only if non-Catholic Christian ministers do not have that power" (which is a matter of logic rather than doctrine). Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 11:20
  • Hi David, please edit this into one of these question formats: Types of questions that are within community guidelines
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 4:40
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    David, if my edit doesn't capture your intent, please make another edit or explain here in comments what you are trying to understand. A question like this needs to ask for a particular tradition's perspective, as different denominations will disagree (obviously, Protestants wouldn't agree that an exorcism by a Catholic proves Catholicism is true!). Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:26
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    @nathaniel cheers mate:)
    – David
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


Is a Catholic priest's power of exorcism acceptable evidence of the Catholic Church's truth and validity of its claim to be the one true church?

The short answer is no.

The Catholic Church affirms the following, but no more:

The present rite of exorcism as given in the Roman Ritual fully agrees with patristic teaching and is a proof of the continuity of Catholic tradition in this matter. - Catholic Encyclopedia

Generally speaking, Catholic priests may seem more efficacious in this field, but that may be more due to a combination of Church authority and training of exorcists, as well the spiritual aides that we call the sacraments, especially confession and Communion. But this does not constitute unique proof or fruit of the Catholic Church.

Since the foremost authority on exorcism, Fr. Gabriele Amorth admits that some members of other Christian Churches such as Anglicans, Orthodox and Protestants, can and do (at times) perform real and valid exorcisms, I do not see how one can claim the above statement be in the affirmative. No such statements will be found in the writings of Catholic theologians.

First of all, let us look at what Scripture tells us about this subject.

9 Then calling together the twelve apostles, he gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. 3 And he said to them: Take nothing for your journey; neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats. 4 And whatsoever house you shall enter into, abide there, and depart not from thence. 5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off even the dust of your feet, for a testimony against them. 6 And going out, they went about through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere. - Luke 9: 1-6

37 John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, who followeth not us, and we forbade him. 38 But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me. 39 For he that is not against you, is for you. - Mark 9: 37-39

Although Christ affirms that the Apostles have such powers and others though apostolic succession, Scripture do not deny this gift to those who believe, though not in total unity with the Catholic Church. Fr. Gabriele Amorth wrote that many Protestant exorcists consulted him about particular issues at hand.

A priest who performs an a public and solemn exorcism does so in the name of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Historically speaking, some great saints who were not priests were quite well known as exorcist. Most notable were St. Peter the Exorcist, St. Anthony of the Desert and St. Benedict of Nursia. In fact, St. Benedict is the patron saint of exorcists and the now famous Medal of St. Benedict is used in the protection against the demon.

It seems that the greater the sanctity of an exorcist is, the greater is his ability to liberate souls from the hands of Satan.

In his book An exorcist tells His Story, Fr Gabriele Amorth states the following:

Who Can Expel Demons?

"The Holy Spirit, with divine freedom, gives his charismas however and to whomever he pleases. These are not given to be the glory or benefit of the receiver but as a service to his brothers. Among these charismas is the power to liberate from evil spirits and to heal from illness. These gifts can be given to individuals and also to communities." (Page 155)

Fr Gabriele Amorth was exorcist for the Diocese of Rome prior to his death in 2016. He equally states that Christians of other denominations do expel demons during their prayers for liberation of a person from the grippes of Satan and his Legions. This admission is not limited to the Orthodox Churches, but also encompasses mainstream Protestant denominations. He does admit however that he was occasionally consulted by "exorcists" of other churches of particularly hard cases to liberate.

As Catholics, we have more available aides in combatting evil than our Protestant brethren.

In his book An Exorcist Tells His Story, Fr. Amorth lists the following prayers to help combat evil; however, Fr. Amorth and many other priests have stressed that the number one protection from evil is the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Often times people want esoteric rituals to deliver them from evil, when in reality what they need is to become right with God. Along with regular Confession and reception of the Holy Eucharist, these prayers should be coupled with Our Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. - 5 Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil

The fact that within the Roman Catholic Rite only an authorized priest with the local bishop's permission may perform an exorcism (while using the Rituale Romanum) is a question of Canon Law and church disciple. Rome can change this rule at any moment if the need were serious enough. Some Eastern Orthodox exorcists are married deacons or subdeacons. The Orthodox have valid sacraments and priesthood!

The practice of exorcism was not confined to clerics in the early ages, as is clear from Tertullian (Apology 23; cf. On Idolatry 11) and Origen (Against Celsus VII.4). The latter expressly states that even the simplest and rudest of the faithful sometimes cast out demons, by a mere prayer or adjuration (Mark 15:17), and urges the fact as a proof of the power of Christ's grace, and the inability of demons to resist it.

Thus the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII.26) say expressly that "the exorcist is not ordained", i.e. for the special office of exorcist, but that if anyone possess the charismatic power, he is to be recognized, and if need be, ordained deacon or subdeacon. This is the practice which has survived in the Eastern Orthodox Church. - Catholic Encyclopedia

And just a final thought on this whole issue is that Origen, a Church Father, credits Jews with a special talent for exorcising demons (Against Celsus, book 4).

Addendum: Even within in the Church, some exorcisms are not successful in liberating souls from a diabolical possession by a Catholic priests who fulfill the necessary requirements for performing them. If exorcisms are the “fruit” of the true Church, then this fact begs the question as to why some cases of possession do not succeed, even if they are extremely rare. One such case can be read here, although more do exist, this is the most well known.


The ability to legitimately perform an exorcism is linked to jurisdiction according to Canon Law:

Can. 1172 §1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary.

§2. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a presbyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life.

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    This talks about the legitimate use of exorcism within Catholicism, but doesn't address why (illegitimate) exorcisms aren't a "fruit of the true church." So I'm not sure how this is an answer – perhaps a bit of explanation before the quote would help make the logical connection. Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:23
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    Some non cleric Catholic saints have had the gift of driving out demons without using the Rituale Romanum.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:27
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    Quotes alone almost never make for a sufficient answer - explanation is needed too.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:41
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    Ahh, I see - so no, is what you're saying?
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 20:20

The short answer is yes, most likely, Roman Catholics consider exorcism to be a fruit of the One True Church. To understand this, one has to understand the nature of a Catholic Priest. Let's start from the OP question and back into what it means.

Exorcism in the Catholic Church is considered a sacramental, which is distinguished from their seven sacraments. As such, there is no formula per se, but rather the exorcism depends on their being a valid and licit authorization and faith of said person. In other words, the exorcist must be a duly authorized priest.

So, with that in mind, the concept of valid priest in the Catholic Church is known by holy orders. Do other Churches have holy orders? Some claim to have it, but there are additional requirements as to validity. For example, as some define it, a tracing a physical lineage back to apostles, the intentional offering of bread and wine as a propitiatory sacrifice, and of course, submission to Peter's successor.

So, whether others attempt exorcisms, for the Catholic Church, it requires one of their duly ordained priests to produce its fruit.

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    How does this fit with Matthew 723 where Jesus said casting out demons in His Name did not imply He even knew thosr who did it?
    – davidlol
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 23:03
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    Rome acknowledges the fact that the Orthodox have valid sacraments , priests and bishops. The fact that only an authorized priest may perform an exorcism with the local bishop's permission (while using the Rituale Romanum) is a question of Church discipline. Rome can change that at any moment. Some Orthodox exorcists are married deacons. Believe me when I say: "Some non-Catholics have had success in freeing souls from the demon."
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 0:36
  • Re Mt. 7:23, the OP doesn't ask whether it is true or not, just whether Roman Catholics view it as such. And to the second comment, yes, I agree one doesn't need to be of a valid priesthood defined by Rome as one in succession to or agreement with Peter's so-called successor. Hope that clarifies. If not, perhaps the OP can change the question.
    – SLM
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 1:32
  • Do you have a source that states that “Roman Catholics consider exorcism to be a fruit of the One True Church?”
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 1:51
  • "Most likely" is the wording and then I explain why. For someone to disagree, you'd have to dismantle the idea that only "valid priests" with "valid sacraments" may produce said fruit (exorcism). As someone noted above, Orthodox presumably have those two beliefs (valid priest, valid sacrament) and may conduct exorcisms. I further mention the validity idea specifically regarding "one true church" as a group that submits to the successors of Peter. So, apparently one may conduct exorcisms, but the package of one true church is so noted.
    – SLM
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 16:25

When we think of exorcism, at least, when I do, I think of the "May the Power of Christ compels you" being uttered by an old Priest and a Young Priest. There is a bigger picture here, one that is often missed and overlooked when we consider what exorcism is. When Christ died on the Cross, he defeated through his sacrifice, the dominion of Satan, thereby exorcising Satan from Power in this world.

So is exorcism the Fruit of the Church? As with everything the Church teaches concerning sacraments and sacramentals, exorcism or indulgences or whatever you can think of, Christ did it first, and the Catholic by uniting themselves to the sufferings of Christ, share in that very same sacrifice.

We cast out Demons because Christ cast out demons, we offer our suffering for others, because Christ offered himself for others and so on.

Rather than saying "Exorcism is THE Fruit of the Church". I think it would be more accurate to say "Exorcism is A fruit of the Church" The True fruit is Christ himself, and the understanding of his salvific sacrifice and our participation in those sufferings as an Obedience of Faith.

I saw this Quote from Dostoevsky

“Of the pride of Satan what I think is this: it is hard for us on earth to comprehend it, and therefore it is so easy to fall into error and to share it, even imagining that we are doing something grand and fine.”

The devil fights hard for our destruction and even though he has already lost and knows it, destroying us brings him satisfaction. The Church fights the tricks of the devil by countering them with the Cross of Christ which is directly in opposition to those tricks, Humility rather than Pride, Charity rather than Covitiveness, self-denial rather than lust. When a Catholic embraces the sacraments, embraces the evangelical counsels or the cardinal virtues, it is manor of exorcising the fallen world from the temptations of the Satan.

So when for example a person says to me, "Christ did everything and there is nothing that I can do to be saved" I think to myself "The Power of Christ compels you" Just kidding, a little humor makes the medicine go down.

  • With all the Catholic sources available, you quote a Russian Orthodox! Take the next step and add a Catholic source.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 15:45

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