Is it just coincidence that on the day the story breaks about Cardinal Pell becoming the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, this story also comes out of Australia?
Priest conducts 'bizarre' faith healing
Kim Macdonald, The West Australian - May 5, 2010, 2:35 am
A bizarre faith-healing ritual has prompted the Catholic Church to warn that an influx of foreign priests had created "difficulties" because they tended to have a more spiritual outlook than Westerners.
A horrified congregation watched a foreign-trained Catholic priest lay a mentally and physically disabled girl on an altar during mass at the weekend and order her to walk.
The priest was later escorted to a mental health clinic by police. The congregation is being counselled over the event, which left children and adults in tears.
Vicar-General of Perth's Catholic Archdiocese Brian O'Loughlin said while the "bizarre and unusual service" was largely due to the priest's mental condition, it highlighted that foreign-trained priests had a more spiritual approach.
Monsignor O'Loughlin said Westerners had a more logical outlook and tended to turn to the spiritual when they could not understand concepts in other ways.
He said the approach by African, Asian and Eastern European-trained priests was sometimes a "difficulty" but while it required adjustment, it was not a problem because overseas priests were an important addition and were welcomed by multicultural congregations.
Catherine Roatch, who saw the faith-healing service, said it appeared to be an attempted exorcism.
"He prayed in some gibberish and then started to demand that this girl speak as well as stand up," she said.
"The girl would not have even been able to comprehend, let alone follow instructions. It was very undignified for the young lady and she was just crying, howling at the altar.
"Then the priest just left her there and went back to the microphone and the wailing went on for at least 15 minutes.
"People were getting up and leaving. People were crying and they were angry. The children were terrified."
Ms Roatch claimed the girl's parents had put her on the altar but their support for the ritual was uncertain. They were later seen crying.
Monsignor O'Loughlin said exorcisms were a legitimate part of the Catholic religion but were not allowed in regular services and could only be performed by appointed priests.
While the Church did not condone the bizarre service, he said it was standing by the priest in his time of need, though he would not be allowed to give mass until he was better.
My heart breaks for this poor child, her parents, this congregation and this priest. Whether this was an exorcism or not, it was a clearly abusive of an unwilling individual child, a sand bagged congregation and Catholicism's most sacred ritual.
Welcome to Benedict's and Pell's church, both of whom are promoting an army of exorcists. There will be more of this. Maybe not this egregious, but there will be more. The energy unleashed will harm more naive priests and more unsuspecting laity. Exorcism is not a game. It's not a spectator sport. It should never ever be used in this fashion.
Catholicism must not take it's spirituality on the path of the Evangelicals. It is truly dangerous for the unsuspecting, the untrained, and the mentally unstable or emotionally immature. In the hands of the untrained, it harms far more than it heals.
In spite of Msgr O'Loughlin's minimising assessment, this story is a major warning for other bishops in other dioceses. One they had best heed. Abuse of power doesn't only come in sexual forms.