Should healing and deliverance be controlled?

by Michael H. Brown

       The news came like a thunderbolt: in an official instruction to Roman Catholics last month, the Vatican sought to place restrictions on exorcism and healing movements. As CW News reported, the Vatican document, issued on November 23 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, cautioned against "arbitrary" claims that certain people have the gift of healing. "Noting the "multiplication" of prayer groups that have claimed such gifts, the Congregation-- in a 15-page document signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the prefect and secretary-- calls for caution and sets fort some criteria for the proper "discernment" of these gifts.

A "prayer for healing" should be carefully distinguished from a "prayer of exorcism," the Congregation points out. Also, prayers for healing should not be a part of the Mass or of other sacraments (although of course prayers and Masses can be offered for the intention of a physical healing). Further, the Congregation asks for clear distinctions between informal prayers for healing and liturgical ceremonies devoted to that purpose. Liturgical ceremonies are "licit and often opportune" as long as they follow the norms set forth by the diocesan bishop. Informal prayer meetings are also legitimate, but should not be conducted in a way that gives rise to "forms like hysteria, artificiality, theatricality, or sensationalism." Rather they should be characterized by "serene devotion." When healing services are broadcast on television, the Congregation continues, the need for prudence and discretion is even greater. And when people report what appear to be miraculous healings, their cases should be submitted to "competent ecclesiastical authorities" for approval.

Finally, the Vatican document insists that any healings which do take place must be attributed to the workings of the Holy Spirit, rather than to the work of any person or persons. While some individuals do seem to have a special gift, the Congregation insists, that gift is the work of the Spirit, who "gifts to certain people a special charism of healing, to make known the power that flows with the grace of the Resurrection."


 "sensationalist and hysterical" movements where crowds gather "in expectation of a miracle." Signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, it now requires permission before

E-mail this site to a friend