A priest has been summoned to court to answer questions about more than a dozen exorcisms he allegedly carried out on an teenage girl with anorexia.
The investigation began after the girl and members of her extended family complained to the Spanish authorities in August that she had been put through at least 13 exorcisms.
The girl, from the northern city of Burgos, told police that she began having problems with anorexia and anxiety when she was 16, which her parents saw as a “sign of her possession by the devil”.
She was undergoing psychiatric treatments at the time, in May 2012, but her parents, convinced that exorcisms would help, took her to a priest from Valladolid, who carried out several of them on her over a three-month period.
The girl told authorities she was forced to lie on the ground and was tied up with crosses placed over her head. Images of saints were put on her body during the ritual, which often lasted between one and two hours.
It should be needless to say that I don't approve. I understand the desperation of the parents, but I see the potential to make matters considerably worse for this troubled child. Telling someone with an eating disorder that they have demons inside them may be the fast track to bulimia, and that's far from the only potentially serious consequence.
I understand that the beliefs involved are cultural. That doesn't mean that they exist in a psychological vacuum or that their effects are benign. It's possible that the girl's problems are intimately tied to disturbance in a parent, so what we may have is a destructive collaboration between naive or troubled priest and a psychologically disturbed parent.
A spokesperson for the diocese involved says that “exorcisms are a religious practice that has been maintained as part of the church’s tradition, and is a right available to all of the faithful.”
So what? It's still wrong and it's a practice that shouldn't be used on minors. Pray, console, ask for divine intervention, but knock off the demonic possession of children nonsense.