Exorcist with comedy beardThe unkind person might regard the appearance of this exhibit (see right) as somewhat bizarre – wrapped in furs and sporting a fiery red beard fit for any joke shop, the man could have walked straight out of the Iron Age, never mind the Dark Ages.

Yet he is no joke.

He is an exorcist. And he gagged a 23-year-old woman by stuffing a towel into her mouth, he chained her to a cross, and he left her alone, in a freezing cold room, with nothing to eat or drink. She died in 2005 at the hands of this man, Daniel Petru Corogeanu, the priest at the Holy Trinity convent in Tanacu, a village in North-East Romania. Because he thought she was possessed by demons. Because she had schizophrenia.

And what did he say about it afterwards?

God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil… I don’t understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practice in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests.”

The church has described this man’s actions as “abominable” but his protestations of normalcy, of innocence suggest that perhaps such activity was condoned. And although nominally suspended, he was allowed to continue ministering to the nuns and the community even after he admitted, and tried to justify, what he had done to Irina Cornici (see this story, and the video of him, taken after her death). To me, that speaks volumes. Both about the church and the people in his “flock”.

And then there is something else. In 1999, the Vatican issued guidance on exorcism. Yes. New guidance. On exorcism. In Latin (“The Devil understands Latin” apparently). There was some warning to take care about exorcising people who might just be mentally ill.

Catholic World News said this:

The Devil exists. That unpopular reality is brought into sharp focus by the promulgation of a new rite of exorcism for the Catholic Church.

De Exorcismus et supplicationibus quibusdam, approved by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1998, was formally released by the Vatican on January 26… This new Vatican document clearly recognizes both the existence of the Devil and the reality of diabolical possession. In a short introduction, the document calls attention to the existence of both “angelic creatures” and others “called demons, who are opposed to God.” Since the influence of the demonic can become apparent in people, places, or things, the document continues, the Church “has prayed, and continues to pray, that men will be freed from the snares of the Devil.”

The new rite confirms “the victory of Christ and the power of the Church over the demons.” It points to the rites in the Christian tradition: the “minor exorcism” of catechumens prior to their baptism and the major exorcisms conducted according to this ritual. The latter are designed to “drive out demons, or bring freedom from demonic influence, through the spiritual authority which Jesus confided in his Church.”…Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that … the rite of exorcism– which can only be used under the guidance of the local bishop, and with the consent of the person suffering diabolical possession– remains necessary because the Devil is a reality. He cautioned that while many Catholics today no longer profess belief in the Devil, that belief “is not a matter of opinion which one can accept or reject; it is an element of faith and Catholic doctrine.

So there we have it.

If the Devil does exist, I suspect he was the one stuffing the towel into Irina Cornici’s innocent mouth, and binding her innocent body with chains, and leaving her alone in a cold room, and depriving her of all sustenance. Leaving her to die. And telling the world that he had done her good.