Parish Psalms

Question: At our parish when the Psalm is sung, the text used routinely varies from my new and authorized prayer book. Is it acceptable for the musicians to change the words as they do?  

Jim Schafbuch, via email

Answer: No, if that is what they are doing. The proper responsorial Psalm from the day should be said or sung, however there are exceptions. Liturgical norms state the following: 

“The responsorial Psalm, ... should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary. It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung … In order, however, that the people may be able to sing the Psalm response more readily … Psalms … chosen for the various seasons of the year … may be used in place of the text corresponding to the reading whenever the Psalm is sung. If the Psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited … There may [alternately] be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or … Graduale Simplex … or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection … providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 61). 

As can be seen, an exception can be made for reasons stated to using the Psalm for the day. In some parishes, the ability of the musicians and or the people to learn and use different responses each week varies a good bit. Thus pastoral provision permits the use of certain seasonal Psalms and refrains. Substituting hymns in place of the responsorial Psalm is not permitted and only texts approved by the bishops are to be used. 

Thus it is possible to see how the words of the Psalm that are sung may differ from what is in your prayer book, but only if the variant text is approved by the bishops.


Question: Why doesn’t the Church speak more about exorcism and have exorcists speak out more about possession?  

Name withheld 

Answer: Major exorcism is a matter of supreme discretion and confidentiality. The identity of the diocesan exorcist is not generally made known, except to those who need to know. 

While procedures in dioceses vary a bit, it is most common that the exorcist works with a team that includes at least one other priest, a medical doctor and a properly trained psychotherapist who all assist in the assessment of whether a person is actually possessed. 

If major exorcism is considered advisable, the exorcist proceeds with it, but only with the explicit approval of the bishop, who must concur with the judgment to go ahead with the major exorcism. 

The exorcist should work with at least one other assisting priest and an appropriate team. Exorcism is rarely a “one and you’re done scenario.” Generally exorcisms are conducted over a series of sessions, sometimes weeks or months apart. 

If one suspects demonic possession, the first place to begin inquiry is always with the parish priest, or another trusted priest. If that priest has reason to suspect possession (rather than obsession or torment) then he should contact the diocese and request consultation with the appointed exorcist. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.