A Spanish priest, Jesús Hernández Sahagún, and an exorcist have been charged with gender violence and causing injury and mistreatment after the exorcist performed 13 exorcisms on an anorexic teenage girl.
Beginning in 2012, the girl began to suffer from anorexia. Her parents, convinced that she was possessed by a devil decided to have her exorcised and appealed to their priest. The teen was then tied up and had crucifixes hung above her bed, an ordeal which later led her to attempt suicide.
The girl’s aunt and uncle contacted authorities and filed a complaint soon after, but the priest and exorcist were charged only recently.
The priest, who knew the girl was being treated for an eating disorder by medical professionals, reassured the parents that the exorcism wouldn’t interfere with her health.
In interviews with the Spanish press, Hernández Sahagún even defended the 13 exorcisms by explaining the girl was “possessed by the devil”. He also bragged that he had performed 200 exorcisms over the past four-and-a-half years.
The archbishop of Burgos stated in 2014 that “the young woman’s suicide attempt was not a result of the exorcisms practiced on her”, and said that exorcisms are “a religious practice maintained as part of the Church’s tradition, as a right available to all the faithful”.
Exorcisms are on the rise across many Catholic countries. In fact, from April 13-18 the Vatican is teaching a course on the practice at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University. The course will feature interventions by a wide range of experts in the field of exorcism from priests – including practicing exorcists – medical professionals, psychologists, lawyers, and theologians.
“The devil exists and we must fight against him,” Pope Francis said on Oct. 30 of this year. He made exorcisms an official Catholic practice in July last year.
Dr. Valter Cascioli, of the The International Association of Exorcists (AIE), seconded the Pope, saying that exorcisms are “becoming a pastoral emergency. At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise.”