A long standing point of contention between some protestant sects and mainstream Catholicism relates to who has authority to cast out demons. Under the law of the Roman Catholic Church (as well as related faiths like the Orthodox) canon law explicitly states that only a bishop or someone given dispensation from a bishop has the authority to practice the solemn rite of exorcism. Some evangelical groups on the other hand contend that any Christian has authority over demons by virtue of their ordination into the congregation of believers.
There are a number of sources that consider the subject but one of the most reliable outside of scripture is the writing of Father Gabrielle Armothe, Chief Exorcist of Rome with experience of the demonic in hundreds of documented cases. Father Armothe writes about the issue of non clerical exorcism in his book “An Exorcist Tells His Story” explaining the difference between prayers for deliverance, something all believers in Jesus Christ have authority perform and the solemn rite of exorcism. Father Armothe explains that Christians have authority to pray against temptation by demonic spirits (James 4:7) but specifically working against demonic possession is the province of a properly ordained exorcist.
Outside of the Catholic Church the Bible itself gives multiple warnings and instructions about exorcism and those who can practice it. Of particular note here Is the story of the Seven Sons of Sceva who on seeing the efficacy of Saint Paul and his followers over demons attempted to cast them out in Christ’s name (Acts 19:11-20) for their efforts they were severely beaten and fled the house naked. Further Christ himself addresses the subject speaking of those who at Judgment will protest they had cast out demons in his name but who he will cast out saying he never knew them (Matthew 7:22). Both of these verses make clear that the casting out of demons is not something to be taken lightly. Another common failing of those who do not resort to the formal rituals of exorcism is the non biblical belief that commands in the name of Jesus Christ alone is always enough to cast out demons. Jesus himself instructed that some kinds of demon will only be driven out by prayer and fasting when the disciples themselves failed to exorcise a spirit (Mark 9:29). Anyone who claims to always cast out demons simply by the name of Jesus Christ is denying the truth of the Bible and Christ’s own words.
Another question that logically rises from this is the question of legitimate ordination. In this modern world anyone can get an ordination of varying degrees of legality on the internet. Setting aside the legal questions of the legitimacy of such an ordination there is the question of its spiritual legitimacy particularly since some of these church’s have gone so far as to claim to empower their “clergy” to perform exorcisms. The most common spiritual defense of these ordinations is found in 1 Peter 2:9. Yet these arguments ignore other verses that talk about a specific delineation among believers. Most notably this occurs in Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13, and John 6:70. In each case the Bible specifies that Christ singles out specific individuals (the 12 apostles) and invests them with specific power and authority (including the casting out of demons) so clearly the argument that every Christian has equal authority is not a Biblical argument. Does this mean that only the Roman Catholic (or any other single denomination) lay claim to legitimate ordination? No but given the special nature of ordination and the investment that it involves a simple online ordination without training is not a credible one. These supposed churches for that matter are in many cases not even Churches in any spiritual sense. They all religions and philosophies as being equal meaning they are not a single coherent set of beliefs just a gathering of people for common purposes. It is not the author’s attention to judge the worth of these groups or the legality of their marriages but it seems irrational to claim that legitimate God given authority came from a group that doesn’t even claim a single unifying belief system or doctrine.
A final consideration is the question of demonologists. Many, like Ed Warren and Lou Gentile, legitimately hold claim to the title but were not ordained priests. While many demonologists are ordained priests with the permission of their bishops there is another group. They exist to investigate claimed cases of demonic attack and document them. This serves two purposes. First to verify that the phenomenon is legitimately preternatural and not mundane (mistaking natural phenomenon for spiritual), psychiatric or medical in nature (confusing the two is a common mistake of “exorcists” who lack formal ordination and training and ignores Mark 6:13 which clarifies that disease and possession are not synonymous). The second is discerning the entity involved. Not all cases of paranormal activity are demonic in nature nor are all demons equal in power so in some cases the priest will often resort to less extreme solutions then a full solemn exorcism.
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