From Praxis to Prescribed Ritual

in Believe Not Every Spirit

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226762821
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226762951 | DOI:
From Praxis to Prescribed Ritual

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Beginning in the second half of the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church initiated a systematic campaign to control all activities that dealt with the miraculous and the supernatural. The changes that occurred reshaped all aspects of traditional forms of exorcismal activities. The reform effort was not only a clericalization of exorcism; it was also a reform of the clergy itself. This chapter explores the changes in ecclesiastical rites between the last years of the fifteenth century and the publication of the official Roman Rite of 1614, and traces the evolution of the movement to forbid and criminalize lay exorcism and to unify the clerical rite. The focus is the Italian peninsula, where the confrontation between exorcists and the Inquisition was more dramatic, and where the majority of new guides and instructions for exorcists were composed. But it is important to keep in mind that similar developments took place in other parts of the Catholic world, and that developments in Italy shaped changes in rites and liturgies in other countries.

Keywords: Catholic Church; exorcism; clergy; ecclesiastical rites; reform; exorcists; Inquisition; Italy; liturgies

Chapter.  14726 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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