EXORCIST (Lat. exorcista, Gr. ), in the Roman Catholic church, the third grade in the minor orders of the clergy, between those of acolyte and reader. The office, which involves the right of ceremonially exorcising devils (see Exorcism), is actually no more than a preliminary stage of the priesthood. The earliest record of the special ordination of exorcists is the 7th canon of the council of Carthage (A.D. 256). "When they are ordained," it runs, "they receive from the hand of the bishop a little book in which the exorcisms are written, receiving power to lay hands on the energumeni, whether baptized or catechumens." Whatever its present position, the office of exorcist was, until comparatively recent times, by no means considered a sinecure. "The exorcist a terror to demons" (Paulinus, Epist. 24) survived the Reformation among Protestants, with the belief, expressed by Firmilianus in his epistle to St Cyprian, that "through the exorcists, by the voice of man and the power of God, the devil may be whipped, and burnt and tortured."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)