Of the many things the Catholic Church has been put on a scornful pedestal for, exorcism stands tall amongst each and every one of them. Now with murders and kidnappings being committed in the name of exorcism, both coincidentally occurring in California, the world is getting a glimpse into the cause and effect of such a belief system away from what one might learn in an interpretation from the cinematic portrayals.
The Catholic Church has historically not taken a clear and firm stance for practices that priests conduct independently of direct Vatican approval. A prime example dates back to the process of fulfilling indulgences for parishioners. Someone would tell the priest their sins and he would come back with a monetary value to absolve them of these particular wrongdoings and ensure passage into heaven. This also worked for relatives who were stuck in purgatory, an alleged place that exists between heaven and hell which is neither good nor bad, also referred to as limbo in different theologies. Whether an indulgence was able to move someone into heaven is obviously not provable in the physical world, and allowed certain corrupt individuals to capitalize on the fear and disillusionment derived from the death of a loved one.
Exorcism has followed a similar path dating back to just as far back into history as indulgences, but the difference is that they still occur. They have seldom ever been approved by the Vatican, and if they ever officially were that would be hard to find out anyway. This has led to rogue priests that believe in the rites of exorcism all the way down to people completely independent from any official church capacity performing them on their own. These independents are now responsible for events, such as the recent murder and kidnapping.
The kidnapping which occurred in Stockton, California involved a man and his son meeting with the ex-wife of the family at a Wal-Mart under the supposition that they were going to work on the marriage through counseling. She was taken into a car where two priests allegedly doused her with spiritual oils in an attempt to rid of her of the demons they claimed inhabited her body and soul. Both the father and son face charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Taking the aggressive exorcism idea even further was an El Sobrante woman who murdered someone during an exorcism while under the influence of large amounts of methamphetamine. Karla Kuhl was smoking large amounts of methamphetamine with her boyfriend before she decided to get into an argument with Patricia Medeiros, who was 68 years old, and smother her to death with a pillow all while singing and chanting Biblical verses. She then went to a church and stripped naked and doused herself with holy water.
Obviously in this particular situation the catalyst barometer would tend to lean more towards the mental anguish and confusion caused by overuse of methamphetamine. Nevertheless, if Kuhl had never heard of an exorcism before this event, she certainly would not have tried to perform one that ended with murder.
By Michael Blain