RCIA 69-71: Optional Rites, Exorcism


69. By decision of the (USCCB) the presentation of a cross (RCIA 74) may be included as a symbol of reception into the community. At the discretion of the diocesan bishop, one or more additional rites may be incorporated into the “Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens”: a first exorcism and renunciation of false worship, the giving of a new name, as well as additional rites that symbolize acceptance into the community. (RCIA 33.2, 4-5, 8)

These optional rites have been mentioned hre and there in the preceding posts. The first two are offered to catechumens at the discretion of the bishop, not the pastor. The latter is easily incorporated into the Rite of Acceptance in one of two places. Let’s get to some of the rubrics of these rites.

When might a bishop decide to use exorcism? Why wouldn’t a pastor be authorized to use it in a special case he determined appropriate?

70. In regions where false worship is widespread, whether in worshipping spiritual powers or in calling on the shades of the dead or in using magical arts, the diocesan bishop may permit the introduction of a first exorcism and a renunciation of flase worship; this replaces the candidates’ first acceptance of the Gospel.

Suppose a pastor is confronted with a single instance of a person who wants to be a Christian but  has this particular history? The rite seems to emphasize a cultural context rather than an individual circumstance. As it is, I’m not aware of any situation in the States or Canada in which this “first” exorcism has been used. Note that the ordinary time for exorcism is during Lent in preparation for the Easter Vigil. We’ll get to that much later.

RCIA 71 describes the exorcism ritual as follows:

71. After giving a brief introduction to the rite, the celebrant breathes lightly toward the face of each candidate and, with a symbolic gesture, for example, holding up his right hand, or without any gesture, says the formulary of exorcism.

(If there are a great many candidates, the breathing is omitted and the formulary said only once; the breathing is also omitted in places where it would be unacceptable.)


By the breath of your mouth, O Lord,
drive away the spirits of evil.
Command them to depart,
for your kingdom has come among us.

In the 70’s, exorcism (as it was presented) had a certain cultural allure. The ritual for it here is pretty tame, and these sections of RCIA are illustrative of the Church’s views on the practice. First, it would be considered an exception to the rule for incoming candidates. Second, note the Roman practicality of the rite: perform the ritual individually, except when large numbers of people would create a distraction of time and attention. Note also the invocation of God: the minister of exorcism does not self-refer, nor depend on a personal command to “drive away the spirits of evil.”

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the second part of this rite, the renunciation of false worship. Meanwhile, any comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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