The Urgent Need for Theological and Pastoral Formation for Exorcists Grows

February 28, 2018

Fr. Benigno Palilla, the director of the Regional Training Center in Palermo under the authority of the Sicilian Bishops’ Conference, spoke on February 21, 2018, about the specific formation of diocesan exorcists.


Fr. Benigno, a Capuchin friar, insisted upon the “need for a formation of (exorcist) priests beginning in the seminary years”, and for hands-on experience with older fellow priests: “When one is self-taught in this field, errors are committed; they may be committed all in good faith, but they are still errors.” 

He believes that the doctrinal dimension is not to be neglected: “We need a knowledge of theology, but also a specific knowledge of Church norms and the way the Church says exorcisms are to be accomplished.”

“But that is not enough,” explained Fr. Benigno:

...for we needed to be updated and constantly formed. To conduct an exorcism properly takes training. Is it not useful for a doctor to stand by the side of an experienced doctor in order to understand how to apply what he is studying? And is not the same thing required of lawyers who go through a training period after earning their diploma? We cannot imagine it would be any different for exorcists.

These considerations full of common sense must not, however, lead us to forget the ravages of modern pastoral care. After the Second Vatican Council, all mention of devils and their action tended to disappear, and the sacrosanct rites of the Church for fighting them have been considerably reduced. The new baptism rite in particular has abandoned most of the exorcisms. The order of exorcist is hardly ever conferred on future priests in seminaries. Lastly, the exorcism ritual has itself been reformed, and its efficacy is doubtful.

It is high time the Father of Lies at work in the Church was unmasked; Pope Paul VI sensed his presence in 1972: “Before the situation in the Church today, we have the sentiment that from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the people of God.”