An answer to this question, According to Catholicism, does reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit protect against demon possession?, indicates that the Catholic Church holds that everyone is liable to be possessed by the devil or demonic spirits. The notion of willful participation with the occult being a means of opening oneself up to demonic influence is taken out of the equation by the example given of a group of Nuns who were possessed through the curse of an ill-intentioned person.

I was unable to find any explicit statement from the Catholic Church regarding whether being "in Christ" affords any protection against demon possession. I did, however, find many references to "demonic affliction of the faithful" and "exorcism for the faithful" in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops following the 2016 translation of De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam (Exorcisms and Related Supplications):

The Latin Church Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the English translation of De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam, editio typica in November 2014. The final text of Exorcisms and Related Supplications (ERS) was confirmed by the Holy See in December 2016 and implemented in the dioceses of the United States as of June 29, 2017. In the course of the approval process, a list of frequently asked questions on exorcism and its use in the Church's liturgical life was developed by the Secretariat of Divine Worship. Answers were provided by specialists in this ministry and by experts in canon law. Since so much of the common perception of the nature and application of exorcism is shaped by the exaggerations of movie scripts and television programs, the Committee on Divine Worship has approved dissemination of these basic questions and answers, in hopes that clear information is brought to bear on a topic that is often shrouded in mystery or misinformation.

It appears clearly indicated in the various questions and answers that the Roman Catholic Church does, indeed, teach that every human being (Catholic faithful or not) is liable to be possessed by demons and come in need of exorcism:

May anyone receive a "major exorcism?"

Since the rites of exorcism are categorized as sacramentals, effectively as blessings, the practice of who may receive a "major exorcism" is governed by canon 1170 of the Code of Canon Law. The following are able to receive this specialized blessing if it is determined necessary: 1) Catholics; 2) Catechumens; 3) Non-Catholic Christians who request it; and 4) Non-Christian believers provided they have the proper disposition—meaning, they are sincere in their desire to be free of demonic influence. In cases involving a non-Catholic, the matter should be brought to the attention of the Diocesan Bishop (cf. ERS, no. 18).

(As an aside, what in the world is a non-christian believer?)

When and how is an afflicted member of the faithful referred to an exorcist?

It is advisable that every diocese establish a protocol to respond to inquiries made by the faithful who claim to be demonically afflicted. As part of the protocol, an assessment should occur to determine the true state of the person.Only after a thorough examination including medical, psychological, and psychiatric testing might the person be referred to the exorcist for a final determination regarding demonic possession. To be clear, the actual determination of whether a member of the faithful is genuinely possessed by the devil is made by the Church, even if individuals claim to be possessed through their own self-diagnosis or psychosis.

Do afflicted members of the faithful undergo medical or psychological examination prior to the use of exorcism?

As part of the evaluation process (which can be established in a diocesan protocol), the afflicted member of the faithful should avail himself/herself of a thorough medical and psychological/psychiatric evaluation. Frequently, individuals present themselves claiming to be afflicted in any number of ways. Historically, however, the Church has exercised caution when evaluating such individuals for fear of unnecessarily drawing attention to the machinations of the devil or giving credit where no credit is due.

Unless some different understanding of "the faithful" exists in Roman Catholicism it appears as though this church teaches that there is no one for whom demonic possession is impossible even against their own will.

  1. Is this teaching specific to Western (Latin Rite) Catholics or do Eastern Catholic traditions teach the same universal vulnerability?

  2. If it is not to broad, are there any other Christian traditions that teach this same universal vulnerability?

  • It should be noted that ordinarily a person is possessed only after willingly opening themselves up to demonic influence and that God is in control over what he allows the demons to do. A Catholic in the state of grace can be sure that by the grace of God demons cannot harm him.
    – Glorius
    Commented Mar 1 at 16:46
  • @Glorius Can one who is a Catholic faithful open themselves up willingly to demonic influence and still be a Catholic faithful? Commented Mar 2 at 18:51
  • Catholics = the faithful = the Catholic faithful. Yes, Catholics can do all sorts of evil. Only heresy, schism and apostasy sever one from the Body of the Church by their nature.
    – Glorius
    Commented Mar 4 at 7:17
  • @Glorius How can a demonic spirit indwell a person who is indwelt with the Spirit of the living God? Does the demon kick God out? Commented Mar 5 at 12:57
  • Obviously demons cannot kick God out, God has to allow possession. Not all Catholics are inebriated by the Holy Ghost, only those in the state of graceare, of whom I am pretty sure they can never be possessed, but I'd have to checkto be absolutely certain. Demonic influence has three main forms, only possession in the strict sense would be incompatible with the state of grace, outside attacks like obsession would probably not be. But again, this is not my area of expertise so I'd have to consult some old books to give you all the specifics.
    – Glorius
    Commented Mar 6 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


Is it only Roman Catholicism that teaches the possibility of universal vulnerability of demon possession?

  1. Is this teaching specific to Western (Latin Rite) Catholics or do Eastern Catholic traditions teach the same universal vulnerability?

  2. Are there any other Christian traditions that teach this same universal vulnerability?

The answer to the first question is no.

The answer to the second question is yes.

Now let me explain.

According to Catholicism, this is a universal doctrine that applies to the whole Church. A Church divided on doctrine can not stand. The only things that differ in this matter are the rules for the application of official exorcism. The Catholic Eastern Rite rules of exorcisms are to be found in the Eastern Rite Code of Canon Law (Codex canonum ecclesiarum orientalium). Thus the only difference between these Rites is not Catholic doctrine or teachings, but in the application of rules governing the application of the sacraments and sacramentals.

It could be noted that in my response to the question: (According to Catholicism, does reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit protect against demon possession?) mentioned by the OP that as a title of example I stated that Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified had been possessed by demons twice and that the last on was for 40 days. Now Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified was in fact a Catholic nun of the Melkite Greek Rite Catholic Church. She was not a Roman Catholic.

As for the second part of this question, there are some other denominations that teach that all of mankind could be susceptible to a demonic possession.

The Orthodox Churches perform exorcism on their own faithful, when necessary. Each denomination believes they hold the deposit of the true faith.

If a particular denomination performs valid exorcisms on their own faithful, it follows logically that possession for mankind is a vulnerability of every individual on earth.

The monks from Russian Valaam monastery consider that everyone is possessed at some level, depending how much they are burdened by passions, so they recommend living according to God’s commandments: fast, prayers, confession, repentance and Holy Communion.” - The Secrets of Orthodox Exorcists

Lutheranism holds the possibility of possession can afflict anyone.

The Lutheran Church traces the practice of exorcism to the Scriptural claim that Jesus Christ expelled demons with a simple command (Mark 1:23–26; 9:14–29; Luke 11:14–26). The apostles continued the practice with the power and in the name of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; Acts 19:11–16).[8] Contrary to some denominations of Christianity, Lutheranism affirms that the individual, both the believer and the non-believer, can be plagued by demons, based on several arguments, including the one that "just as a believer, whom Jesus Christ has delivered from sin (Romans 6:18), can still be bound by sin in his life, so he can still be bound by a demon in his life." - Exorcism in Christianity

In the Pentecostal Churches tend to believe that a "spirit-filled Christian" cannot be possessed, based on their beliefs.

Yet grievous sin against God are always possible post conversion and baptism of all believers whether Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran Anglican or Protestant. All must work with Divine Graces accorded to every individual believer regardless of denomination.

In the Pentecostal Church, Charismatic Movement, and other the less formalized sections of Christianity, the exorcism ritual can take many forms and belief structures. The most common of these is the deliverance ceremony. Deliverance differs from the exorcism ceremony in that the Devil may have gotten a foothold into a person's life rather than gaining complete control . If complete control has been gained, a full-fledged exorcism is necessary. However, a "spirit-filled Christian" cannot be possessed, based on their beliefs. Within this belief structure, the reasons for the devil to get a foothold are usually explained to be some sort of deviation from theological doctrine or because of pre-conversion activities (like dealing with the occult). - Exorcism in Christianity

  • Lutheranism seems to draw a distinction between bodily possession (possible for believers) and spiritual possession of the soul of believers (impossible). Is there such a distinction drawn for Catholics? Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 16:12
  • @MikeBorden Absolutely, the Catholic Church makes the same distinction in Catholicism. Think another question is coming up?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 18:32

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