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Exorcism

Exorcism is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities which are supposed to have possessed (taken control of) a person or object. The practice is quite ancient and still part of the belief system of many religions.

 

The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a priest, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use religious material, such as prayers and set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons, amulets, etc.. The exorcist often invokes some benign supernatural power to actually perform the task.

 

In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions. Therefore, exorcism is generally thought more as a cure than as a punishment. However, the two concepts are often confused in practice, and exorcism has often been (ab)used as a pretext for harsh physical punishment, or even sadism.

 

History

 

The concept of possession by evil spirits and the practice of exorcism are very ancient and widespread, and may originate in prehistoric Shamanistic beliefs.

The Christian New Testament includes exorcism among the miracles performed by Jesus. Because of this precedent, possession was part of the belief system of Christianity since its beginning, and exorcism is still a recognized practice of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant sects.

 

In recent times, the practice of exorcism has diminished in its importance to most religious groups and its use has decreased. This is due mainly to a greater understanding of psychology and the functioning and structure of the human mind. Many of the cases that in the past which were candidates for exorcism have been found to be the products of mental illness, and are handled as such. More generally, the change in worldview since the Age of Enlightenment, which put increased value on rationalism, materialism, and naturalism, has led to a decrease in the belief of the supernatural.

 

Exorcism-related deaths

 

  • Exorcism may end up bringing considerable physical harm to the patient. This is particularly the case when it is performed by improperly trained people, given the common belief that exorcism is necessarily a violent process. Some of the most notorious cases are listed below.
  • In 1967 the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago reportedly documented a failed exorcism of a teenage girl named Sarah, who died. Specific information is vague and some consider the story an urban legend.
  • Anneliese Michel (September 21, 1952 - June 30, 1976) was a German college student who died during an exorcism. Her parents and the two Bavarian priests who carried out the exorcism were later convicted.
  • Kyung-A Ha was beaten to death in 1995 in San Francisco, California by members of the Jesus-Amen Ministries.
  • Kyung Jae Chung died in 1996 in Glendale, California from blunt-force trauma by her husband (a reverend) and members of the Glendale Korean Methodist Church.
  • In Ontario, 1996, two-year-old Kira Canhoto was killed by her grandmother Ana Maria Canhoto, who force-fed water to the child in order to "ward off evil spirits". (Vancouver Province, 1/11/96)
  • Charity Miranda was suffocated with a plastic bag in 1998 in Sayville, New York by her mother and sister, during a Cuban Voodoo exorcism ritual.
  • Terrance Cottrell Jr., an eight-year-old autistic child, died of asphyxiation in 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during an exorcism carried out by members of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith, in an attempt to expel the boy's demons. The coroner ruled that the boy died "due to external chest compression" as the part-time pastor lay on top of him. On July 10, 2004, the pastor was convicted of child abuse.
  • In June 2005, in Tanacu, Bacãu County, Romania, Maricica Irina Cornici, a 23-year-old nun, was found crucified to a wall in her convent room. She had been undergoing exorcism with Father Daniel Petru Corogeanu, a Romanian Orthodox priest, who consequently was charged with murder.