THE Church of Scotland is planning to train ministers to deal with evil spirits after research showed half the clergy believe they have directly encountered "Satanic" forces.
The Kirk is considering lessons on the supernatural because a growing number of pastors are seeking advice on issues ranging from poltergeists to "possessed" parishioners.
According to research by one of the Kirk's leading experts on the subject, more than half of the church's 1,200 ministers report personal experience of "dark spirits" and "evil powers".
Rev Douglas Cranston, the convener of the Ministries Council, said: "Most ministers come across something like this at some time in their pastoral lives. The training would be given as part of a broader context of healing ministries in general."
The Rev Douglas Nicol, who helped draw up a report for the Kirk's Deliverance Group on the supernatural, confirmed that despite living in a materialistic age, many in the Kirk say they have encountered the dark side.
Nicol, the minister of Priesthill and Nitshill Kirk, Glasgow, said: "It's clear from our research that more than half of ministers have had direct experience of this sometime during their ministries. I might be contacted about eight or nine times in a year whereas a few years ago it might have been three or four times. There's more awareness of this now. In recent years there is much more openness about discussing the subject."
Nicol said full-blown exorcisms, where ministers believed that a person had been fully "possessed" by a devil, are so rare that he had never come across one.
He added that the situation which most Kirk "demon-busters" encountered was better described as "oppression", a lesser form of possession, where - it is claimed - a spirit will afflict a person, perhaps by causing mood swings, physical pain or depression.
Describing one case, he said: "I was speaking to a woman who felt she was being oppressed by a spirit and wanted help. Then the atmosphere changed and she started being hostile to me. I then addressed her by name, we'll call her 'Mary', and I said, 'Is that you speaking to me, 'Mary'?' And she said nothing. So that told me I was dealing with something supernatural."
Such a case is typically dealt with by a "deliverance" service, rather than full-blown exorcism, which the Kirk recently decided not to adopt.
A typical "deliverance" can last up to an hour and will involve two ministers, one ordering the spirit out of the victim and the other praying for the minister doing the delivering.
Nicol and others in the Kirk's small team of experts insist they are cautious in "diagnosing" a person as being oppressed by a spirit, and only intervene after taking medical and psychiatric advice.
Last year, Nicol conducted a deliverance service for Val McInnes, from Glasgow, who had a "spirit of pain" prayed out of her.
She told Scotland on Sunday: "I was suffering from this dreadful pain in my hip and I was convinced it came from a spirit in me which was giving me physical pain. I had tried painkillers and been to the doctor.
"This was very different from any pain I had felt before and I have arthritis. Douglas prayed and ordered the spirit out of me, and I could feel the spirit leaving my body, going all the way down through my leg and then leaving me completely. I believe that the spirit came into me during a difficult time in my life when I was feeling angry with others and I was vulnerable to that spirit."
Flora Robinson Black, also from Glasgow, had a "spirit of fear" taken from her by Nicol.
She said: "I felt under a deep spiritual depression. All the joy had been taken out of my life. I had suffered a bereavement, but this sadness was much deeper than that and lasted much longer, I was at the doctor, I tried antidepressants. My doctor was worried about me. I believe it was a spirit in me making me sad and fearful."
The Rev Douglas Irving, a former lawyer who convened the Deliverance Group for the Kirk - and who has himself dealt with a poltergeist - said: "Jesus commissioned us to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and also cast out demons. It is a part of healing, even if just a small part. I don't like the Hollywood image of the exorcist and don't even use the word 'exorcism'. I want to take the sensationalism out of the whole thing."
But secular scientists urge caution in seeing diabolical work in people's ailments.
Dr Andrew Gumley, an expert in psychosis at Glasgow University's department of psychological medicine, said: "This is a fascinating subject but I would urge people to be careful about seeing all these kinds of occurrences in terms of the supernatural and possession by the Devil. For example, hearing voices at some stage in one's life is relatively common, affecting up to 25% of the population and it can be a common feature in people recovering from extreme trauma."
Winner of the 2005 Best New Canadian Christian Author Award.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Hillaire Kallendorf tells the Dallas Morning News:
I see demonic possession as merely an extreme example of the battle for the soul. That's not to say everyone's possessed; that would be absurd. But it's to say that exorcism gives us an opportunity to look up close at a very exaggerated form of what happens to everyone.
I have an article in which I look at deathbed scenes from art, and I read exorcism manuals that deal with the moment of death. This bleeds over into a different genre, the "art of dying." These authors are trying to write something to help people die well. At every single deathbed [scene], there is an angel at the head of the bed and a demon at the foot, and they are fighting over who'll get possession of that soul.
So I don't think that it's wrong to say that demonic possession is just an exaggerated version of what happens to everybody, in every life, with every moral choice.
There is a constant war going on between good and evil. That's what we can learn from it. It's relevant.
Have you ever seen an exorcism?
Not really. As a child, I did go to charismatic revival-type prayer meetings where there were strange things going on. I did have, in the past couple of weeks, a woman contact me to request an exorcism. She had been heavily involved with the occult. I walked her through the steps to salvation and referred her to a priest.
But really, I study the Renaissance, I study literature and art and representations of exorcism. I do believe there's something there, but there are a lot of fakes. In the Renaissance, there were lots of fakes.
People ask me all the time, "What do you believe?" In my dissertation, I had 80 historical cases of exorcism. We have no idea what really happened there. Reading the accounts, some of them you can be fairly certain were proved to be adolescent children who wanted attention, and the pamphlets printed about them were useful to charlatans who wanted to fake the symptoms of possession. But in some cases, it does seem like something was going on, but nobody can say what it was.
But that's what religion does: fills in the spaces between what we can understand and what we can't. Personally, I wouldn't want to believe in a God I could fully understand. Then he wouldn't be God.
CADE - By all accounts, 3-year-old Kaloey Laigh Kittiraj's death was brutal. Deputies called to a home late Wednesday found her battered and bloodied at the hands of her father, Sengdao Kittiraj, 32.
He continued beating the girl as they watched. They ordered him to stop. They sent out a dog to attack him. Ultimately, they shot him to death. But it was all too late to save her life.
The toddler died from her injuries Thursday morning at Lafayette General Medical Center.
Capt. Ginny Higgins, spokeswoman for the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office, said deputies shot and killed Sengdao Kittiraj after several failed attempts to stop him from beating Kaloey.
Higgins said Kittiraj refused to obey deputies' orders, and a K-9 unit did not deter him.
"Ultimately, an officer with our department was compelled to discharge his service weapon to protect the child, himself and other officers on the scene," she said in a news release.
Kaloey died at 4:30 a.m. Thursday at Lafayette General Medical Center, Higgins said. Cedars said the girl died from a punctured lung after being impaled on some sort of instrument.
The beating might have been part of some bizarre sort of ritual for Kittiraj, he said.
"I wouldn't necessarily use the word religious, I think the word demonic might be a better description," Cedars said. "I've heard there might be some overtones of voodoo or something along those lines, but that's all heresay and preliminary."
Meanwhile, the deputy who fired the fatal shot has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Higgins said this is a common practice for the sheriff's office.
Once the investigation is complete, it will be forwarded to the district attorney's office and to the sheriff's office, which both will determine whether any additional actions are merited.
Cedars said that while everything still is in its most preliminary stages, he doesn't foresee any charges being filed against either deputy.
"My dealing with them reflects that they have always conducted themselves professionally," Cedars said. "They are well trained, experienced police officers.
"It's one thing to evaluate the conduct in the peace and tranquility of an office, however, they were confronted with a very ugly, brutal, rapidly evolving situation. I am certain that their judgment based on what I know of them, was more likely than not, appropriate."
Monday, April 17, 2006
We have to be wary of these satanic ritual abuse stories, remembering that innocent people have been found guilty of preposterous charges. Yet at the same time we must not go into denial that horrific abuse can and has taken place in other instances.
See more in the post below.
The trial of Reverend Gerald Robinson, a 68-year-old Roman Catholic priest, begins today in Toledo OH for the ritualistic murder of a nun, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, some 26 years ago. Jury selection starts today in a case that has galvanized the Catholic community of this Ohio metropolis for a quarter century. Rev. Robinson has pleaded not guilty and faces a possible life sentence if convicted. He has been on leave from the priesthood since 2004.
The investigation of the murder had been stymied since 1980, but a letter from an alleged victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Robinson came to light when the Toledo leader of Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Claudia Vercellotti, forwarded it to the Ohio Attorney General. The alleged abuse victim had tendered the letter to diocesan officials in Toledo in 2003, having requested reimbursement for psychological counseling. The woman claimed to have been the childhood victim of Robinson, and also victimized by other priests in satanic sex rituals. The unidentified woman fingered Robinson as one of several priests who sexually molested her and forced her to participate in obscene rituals. Another woman and her husband filed suit against the diocese in 2005, also alleging sexual abuse and satanic rituals.
See more in the post below.
TOLEDO, Ohio -- There are no little murders. But Gerald Robinson is about to go on trial in Toledo for one that is unusually large, judging by the interest.
He is a Roman Catholic priest. The victim, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, was a nun, and the slaying occurred more than 20 years ago, in the chapel of a hospital where they worked.
The crime is anchored to Easter Sunday -- the most sacred, defining day in Christendom. It occurred on Holy Saturday 1980, the day before Easter and what would have been the nun's 72nd birthday.
Robinson's murder trial begins Monday, the day after Easter 2006, when a Lucas County Common Pleas judge begins empaneling a jury under the glare of national -- and quite possibly international -- media attention.
And why wouldn't the media descend?
There are intimations of a ritual killing, satanic cults, organized sexual abuse and an institutional cover-up.
Someone strangled and stabbed Pahl at least 30 times -- the wounds defining an inverted cross. Some of her clothes were pulled off, suggesting a sexual assault.
The evidence -- and the allegations about rituals -- surfaced only a few years ago, when one woman pressed complaints about her own sexual abuse onto a diocese that many think did not want to hear, believe or act on them.
She identified Robinson as one of her abusers, when she was a child, and her claims ran to satanic rituals that involved at least one other Toledo-area priest.
Note that word "ritual," because it is a refrain in this case, sounded by many voices.
Another Toledo woman and her husband filed suit last year against the Toledo diocese, alleging the same kind of abuse and satanic rites.
Catherine Hoolahan is a lawyer representing about two dozen people, half with lawsuits against the diocese and the rest pressing their claims through a mediation process.
Hoolahan had doubts about the satanic and ritual abuse until three people with no connection were saying roughly the same things. Two were her clients, and both linked Robinson to ritualized abuse.
The Rev. Jeffrey Grob is associate vicar for canonical services with the Chicago Archdiocese. He has been called as an expert witness in Robinson's trial and is expected to testify about the significance of ritual in the case.
Grob, contacted by telephone, would not disclose his knowledge of the case, except to say that "some kind of ritual took place." He said that in general, the possibility of satanic ritual is not far-fetched, even where priests are involved.
"A priest is just as susceptible as anyone else," Grob said. "In some ways more susceptible." There is the allure of power, and "if anyone believes in God, there is a firm presumption they also believe in the demonic."
Monday, April 03, 2006
Hilaire Kallendorf is on a personal crusade to put the human back in the humanities by intertwining spirituality and academia.
The Hispanic studies professor at Texas A&M University researches religion in Spain and has tackled such topics as exorcism, demons, sins and morality in her research. Recognizing God and religion as an academic pursuit is important for the native West Texan, who grew up Catholic and considers religion her main inspiration.
"Religion is often dismissed in academia," she said. "But there is a whole realm that can't be explained away by science. If we ignore that aspect of the human experience, we ignore what it means to be human."
Kallendorf, a 31-year-old graduate of A&M who received her master's and doctorate from Princeton, was awarded the $50,000 Hiett Prize in the Humanities for 2006 by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
Kallendorf's work deals with religious experience, especially as belief relates to literature and culture. She is the author of the book Exorcism and Its Texts: Subjectivity in Early Modern Literature of England and Spain.
She was inspired to delve into the eerie world of exorcism by her father, Cliff Richey, a professional tennis star of the 1970s.
"My father was always talking about fighting his personal demons," she said. "I wanted to take a look at what that would mean in a different time and place."
ROME: Police are investigating whether the killing of four members of a family from southern Italy was carried out by a relative who believed he had done a deal with the devil.
The family members were buried on Friday. The chief suspect in the quadruple homicide is Claudio Tomaino, 28, the nephew of the slain family's father.
Nine bullets were fired in all, most to the victims' heads. The youngest victim was the 18-year-old daughter, Maria, who sang in the local church choir.
Police are investigating a Satanic oath which Tomaino was said to have written before the killings
"Tomaino wrote that he had a deal with Satan to sell him his soul if Satan assured him he would make him rich and make sure he wasn't sent to jail for killing his uncle Camillo and the rest of the family," Salvatore Curcio, lead prosecutor in the southern city of Catanzaro, told a news conference.
Curcio added forensic tests had proved the "contract" was signed by Tomaino in his own blood.