Catechists Have Authority to Expel Unclean Spirits

I was struck by a line in yesterday’s Gospel that I think speaks to catechists:

“Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits…” (Mt 10:1)

Two things in particular strike me. One is the notion of authority. Catechists need to know that they have been given authority to teach. All authority belongs to God, who is the Author of all of creation. God, in turn, has given all authority to Jesus (Mt. 28:18). Jesus, in turn, has given authority to the Church (Mt. 16:19). The Church, in turn, authorizes catechists, to minister in Jesus’ name, proclaiming the Gospel. We are to teach with authority because we have been given (entrusted with) that authority. Knowing this should give us confidence and courage to do our work.

Second, I’m struck by the notion of “expelling unclean spirits.” For so long, I associated this verse strictly with the notion of “driving out demons” from people who are “possessed.” In many ways, I’ve dismissed this phrase an anachronistic…harkening back to a time when people thought that many maladies (which today we can diagnose and treat) were caused by demonic possession. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that the term “unclean spirits” need not be (nor should be) interpreted in such fantastical supernatural terms. We ALL deal with unclean spirits – those “forces” that separate us from the love of God and render us “unclean” – not fit to participate in the divine life. The most basic examples would, of course, be the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, covetousness, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth. We are all too familiar with these “unclean spirits” from our own lives and we see them in the lives of those we teach. IT IS OUR JOB AS CATECHISTS TO EXPEL THESE UNCLEAN SPIRITS! Not through rituals of exorcism but through our teaching: we have been given authority to expel that which is contrary to the will of God.

We don’t have to become some kind of wacky Benny Hinn-type preacher to expel unclean spirits. We just have to teach the Gospel with authority – with confidence and courage, knowing that the Author of Life has revealed the truths we are imparting!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. The Scrutinies that take place during RCIA are intended to do just what you are referring to, Joe!

    Everyone freaks out when they hear that a component of each of the Scrutinies is a ‘minor exorcism” Immediately, the imagination goes to Linda Blair, spinning heads and pea soup!

    However, when one reads what the Rite has to say about the exoricsm, he or she learns that they are intended to:

    1.) Uncover and heal all weakness in the elect

    2.) Strengthen all that is strong and good in the elect (see RCIA 141)

    The same can be said of the rest of the community as they travel through Lent. The question to be asked is the same, “What obstacles are preventing me from completely accepting the gift of God’s Grace and making it fruitful in my life?”

  2. Precisely my point, Joe M. Thanks for reminding me (us) about the Scrutinies. I recall doing the “Linda Blair Disclaimer” many times when working in the RCIA and explaining the minor exorcisms! Thanks.

  3. Hi,

    This is my first time to your site and found this article very insightful.. Thank you!

    Have you ever seen “Is It Real” on exorcism by Natl. Geographic?I tried to download it, but cannot view for some reason… I heard it was very interesting…

    Anyway, the Word of God certainly has power!!!!! So, yes, teach it, in season and out of season!!!

    Also, of special interest on exorcisms of sorts and Benny Hinn,
    You will probably really appreciate the video on… He is very insightful and articulate as he shares on the metaphysical roots of the Word of Faith movement and the damage it is done in the church.

    God bless you!


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