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Healing Line

Healing Line

Seeking a Balanced Deliverance Ministry in the Church

by Francis MacNutt
Fall 1999

I've just finished reading An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the official exorcist of the Catholic Church in Rome. It is very encouraging: "the number of exorcists has increased, some bishops are now performing exorcisms... something is moving." Writing in Italian in 1990, Fr. Amorth is bold enough to say that "allowing the ministry of exorcism to die is an unforgivable deficiency to be laid squarely at the door of bishops. Every diocese should have at least one exorcist at the cathedral and every large parish ... should have one as well" (p.55). That's a gutsy thing for a priest in Rome to state.

It's very encouraging when the call comes from the chief exorcist of the Roman Catholic Church to wake up. And then, to know that some of the leaders seem to be listening.

But more must be done. There is a confusion of definitions among Christians of all denominational backgrounds: When do you need exorcism? When do you have a need for deliverance? What does it mean to be possessed? To be oppressed? What about infested with spirits? Then there is the whole area of authority — who should be allowed or encouraged to perform exorcisms, deliverances, spiritual cleansing?

Fr. Amorth is focusing on people who are "possessed." Possession is when a person's entire being is taken over by Satan — body, mind and spirit. He or she no longer exercises control over his or her life. Possession calls for exorcism, which can "be administered exclusively by bishops and by those priests (therefore, never by lay persons) who have received specific and direct license to exorcise" (p.43). Not only Catholics, but Episcopalians and many other denominations limit the practice of exorcism to their clergy who may additionally be trained and licensed for this special ministry. There is no doubt that the forces of Satan respect the special authority granted to ordained clergy.

However, restricting all spiritual warfare to the clergy may not be appropriate and is certainly impractical. In over 30 years of experience in the healing ministry, ministering to literally thousands of people suffering from many forms of spiritual oppression, I have seen only one case of demonic possession.

More often, a person needs prayer to break the influence of demonic forces in an area or areas of his or her life. In such an instance, we pray that the person be "delivered" from the influence of such forces. Deliverance, then, is a process of freeing a person from the influence of an evil spirit.

Historically, in the early church, ordinary lay people could free a person from such influences, or perform deliverances. Today, we find that any person, lay or clergy, who is properly trained and mentored, has appropriate gifts of the Spirit such as wisdom and discernment, and is covered by prayers for protection of the Christian community can be very effective in freeing people from spiritual oppression.

Possession is rare, but many people need deliverance. I have learned so much about deliverance, beginning with Agnes Sanford, and then Tommy Tyson, and then Derek Prince and other protestants who have written extensively about casting out demons (as in Derek's ) recent book, They Shall Expel Demons.

There is an urgent need to resurrect a balanced ministry of deliverance! Thank God for books like Fr. Amorth's, calling for a renewed belief in the power of Satan and the need for priests to perform exorcisms.

But there is a greater need to understand the importance of deliverance prayer and the power of the ordinary Christian to engage in spiritual warfare.


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Fall 1999 Issue