Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For Anneliese.......

According to a report in TODAY, the Catholic Church is being sued for an "alleged act of exorcism"........

Church sued over 'exorcism'

Woman claims damages for trauma of alleged exorcism by two priests and helpers at Novena Church

Wednesday • August 30, 2006

— Channel NewsAsia

NOVENA Church, two priests and seven helpers are being sued for an alleged act of exorcism, in an incident believed to have taken place two years ago.

Ms Amutha Valli Krishnan, 50, an athlete in the 1980s, claimed that attempts to exorcise her later led to chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. A writ of summons was served last Thursday.

In the writ, Ms Amutha Valli claimed that on August 10, 2004, she went to Novena Church to pray with her son, daughter and a close friend. She fainted while she was there.

She is alleging that two priests from the church, Father Simon Tan and Father Jacob Ong, claimed she had been possessed by a spirit, and then performed an act of exorcism, helped by seven others.

The ritual is said to have lasted two-and-a-half hours, during which time Ms Amutha Valli claimed she had resisted furiously. She claimed she was strangled, pinned down and verbally abused.

When contacted, Father Tan claimed Ms Amutha Valli did not faint in church. In fact, he said, she had walked in asking for help, saying she was possessed.

Father Tan also denied any act of exorcism. He said he, Father Ong and seven helpers only said prayers over her.

Ms Amutha Valli's claims against the defendants include trespass, assault, false imprisonment and negligence. She is also asking for damages for loss of income and injuries.

Mr Suppiah Jeyabal, her husband, said: "Before, she was an athlete and ... a very tough person, you know, who (liked) to exercise; she must run and exercise. She also used to coach children — a very tough and active person.

"But now, she's more like a vegetable."

A medical report by a Changi General Hospital psychiatrist states that Ms Amutha Valli's symptoms — which are persistent, severe and extremely disabling —- are a direct result of the traumatic incident she experienced at the church.

According to the report, this has affected her ability to cope with self-care, demands at home and relationships with family members. The doctor added that she would require long-term treatment and follow-up, and is unlikely to fully recover.

Ms Amutha Valli's lawyer said it is still too early to comment, but he believed this is the first such case in Singapore.

The lawyer for the defendants says his clients deny liability and will file their defence by Sept 16. The civil suit is estimated to cost at least $1 million.
This is the first time I'm hearing of such a case in Singapore. Of course, I'm not a lawyer or historian or anything and so there could be some similar cases in our history.

The report reminded me of a movie last year titled The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Its based on true events that occured in Germany in the 1970s to a 23 year old girl, Anneliese Michel (right).

The true story and the movie differ somewhat. The atmosphere. The courtroom drama. The horrific happenings. The actual audio recordings of the exorcism sessions. The tragic end. The movie was very haunting and disturbing. Great performances. Especially the portrayal of Emily Rose played by Jennifer Carpenter (left).

Whether one thinks it was demonic possession or a sickness of the mind or some other medical condition, whatever happened to Anneliese was extremely horrifying and sad. The following report about Anneliese by Telegraph was published about the same time as the movie........
'God told us to exorcise my daughter's demons. I don't regret her death'
Elizabeth Day
27 Nov 2005

At the end of an ordinary road in a little town in Bavaria stands an unexceptional house, its walls a dirty white, the window frames painted a flaking green. But behind the locked front door and the lowered shutters a dark tale of extraordinary horror lurks.

Twenty-nine years ago, the house was filled with fear. The nights were punctuated by howls and screams, the mornings filled with inhuman voices. The neighbours did not know it then, but they were hearing the exorcism of a young woman who would shortly die.

At the time, it was believed that Anneliese Michel, a 23-year-old student from Klingenberg, had been possessed by six demonic spirits who would not let her go. After enduring 67 rites of exorcism over nine months, she succumbed to starvation in 1976.

She forced herself to fast, believing that it would rid her of the influence of Satan and when she died her weight was down to 68lb. "Mother," she said, just before the end, "I'm afraid."

Last week saw the release of a film loosely based on the life and death of Anneliese Michel. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is set, as is Hollywood's way, in modern-day America and focuses not on the of the exorcism itself, but on the prosecution of the exorcists after the heroine's death. Tom Wilkinson plays Fr Moore, the rural priest who believes he has acted on the side of angels, and Laura Linney stars as his hard-nosed but reluctant defence attorney.

Anneliese's parents, Anna and Josef, were put on trial for their daughter's murder alongside the two priests who performed the exorcisms. All were found guilty of negligent homicide by allowing her to starve and given suspended six-month prison sentences and three years' probation.

Anneliese's mother, who still lives in the house where her daughter died, has never quite recovered from those terrible times. Her husband died six years ago and her three surviving daughters have moved away. So Anna Michel, now in her eighties, bears the burden of memory alone. Her bedroom overlooks the graveyard where Anneliese is buried, under a wooden cross bearing her name and the inscription "Resting with God."

The house is quieter now, but the pain is evident still. "I don't want to see the film and I don't know anything about it," Mrs Michel says, her eyes glazed with the film of cataracts. "I miss Anneliese, of course. She was my daughter. I can see her grave from the house. I visit it often, taking flowers."

For a moment, it is easy to forget her turbulent history. She looks like a benign great aunt, contoured with soft lines drawn across papery skin, her brittle white hair tucked under a floppy black hat. She clearly does not like speaking about Anneliese's death and, until now, she has maintained a public silence.

But nor does she regret her actions. A deeply religious woman, she insists that the exorcism was justified. "I know that we did the right thing because I saw the sign of Christ in her hands," she says in a voice surprisingly forceful for one so frail. "She was bearing stigmata and that was a sign from God that we should exorcise the demons. She died to save other lost souls, to atone for their sins.

"Anneliese was a kind, loving, sweet and obedient girl. But when she was possessed, it was something unnatural, something that you can't explain." She pauses. From the very beginning, Anneliese's life was governed by fear. Her family was deeply religious. Her father had considered training as a priest and three of her aunts were nuns. But the Michels had a secret.

In 1948, Anneliese's mother gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Martha, bringing such disgrace on her family that she was forced to wear a black veil on her wedding day.

When Anneliese was born in 1952, her mother encouraged her to atone for the sins of illegitimacy through fervent devotion. But when Martha was eight, she died from complications arising from an operation to remove a kidney tumour. Anneliese, a kind-hearted and deeply sensitive girl, must have felt ever more strongly the pressure to do penance for her mother.

She found herself increasingly surrounded by evidence of sinfulness and increasingly anxious to be rid of it. While other children in the 1960s were rebelling testing the limits of their freedom, Anneliese slept on a bare stone floor to atone for the sins of the drug addicts who slept rough at the local train station.

In 1968, aged 17, she began to suffer convulsions. Although initially diagnosed with grand mal epilepsy, she started experiencing devilish hallucinations while praying. By 1973, she was suffering severe depression and considering suicide. Voices in her head told her she was damned. She asked the local priest for exorcism and was twice refused.

But gradually, Anneliese slipped further into the abyss. She would perform 600 genuflections a day, eventually rupturing her knee ligaments. She crawled under a table, barking like a dog for two days. She ate spiders, coal and bit the head off a dead bird. She even licked her own urine off the floor and could be heard through the walls screaming for hours.

In 1975, her third request for exorcism was granted by the Bishop of Wurzburg. "I don't regret it," says Anna Michel firmly. "There was no other way."

We shall never know if there was. By this stage, Anneliese had refused further medical intervention from the Psychiatric Clinic Wurzburg. Her symptoms have subsequently been compared to schizophrenia and should have responded to treatment.

There has also been speculation that Anneliese might have been influenced by the release of William Friedkin's The Exorcist, in 1973. But whatever lay behind her disturbance, the exorcism could have caused Anneliese to believe her own hallucinations.

There was certainly no doubting the extent of Anneliese's turmoil. Her exorcism was performed by Fr Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt according to the 1614 Rituale Romanum. One or two four-hour sessions a week were held over nine months. The priests identified several demons, including Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Cain and Adolf Hitler, who spoke with the correct Austrian inflections.

Forty-two hours of the process were recorded and the tapes are said to make terrifying listening. Barely human growls mingle with throaty gurgles, screamed obscenities and a series of dialogues between each of the demons about the horrors of Hell. The sessions often resulted in such brutality that Anneliese would be held down or chained to her chair.

By the spring of 1976, Anneliese was suffering from pneumonia and emaciation. Gradually weakened and exhausted to the point of fever, she died on July 1. Her parents buried her next to Martha at the outer edges of the cemetery - ground normally reserved for illegitimate children and suicides. Even in death, Anneliese was not free of the sinfulness she fought so hard to repent of.

Today, the 2,000 inhabitants of Klingenberg are unwilling to speak of Anneliese Michel. A gentle enquiry to passers-by is greeted with hostile glares and a shake of the head. "The town is ashamed," says Christiana Metzler, 42, who works in the tourist office. "I was at school when it happened and there were a lot of things covered up. People don't want to talk about it. There is a feeling that it was the parents' fault because they were so religious they didn't see what was happening. Sometimes Catholic pilgrims come to her grave because they think she can save lost souls. But there are not many of them. Now there is this film coming out, we are worried it will all be stirred up again."

It is a past that the Church is ashamed of, too. In 1984, German bishops petitioned Rome to review the exorcism rite in the light of the Michel case. Although their recommendations were not adopted, the Vatican published a revised exorcism rite in 1999 - the first update since the 17th century - and has introduced a qualification in exorcism that maks priests undergo medical training.

"I wouldn't have carried out the exorcism [on Anneliese Michel]," admits Fr Dieter Feineis, the current priest at St Pankratius Church in Klingenberg. "But both Anna Michel and her husband remained absolutely convinced that what they had done was right. The view of the Church is that it is possible to be possessed, but in Germany there are no more exorcisms."

In Italy, however, it is a different matter. According to the Italian Association of Psychiatrists and Psychologists, half a million Italians seek exorcisms each year. There are about 350 practising exorcists worldwide. Earlier this year, a priest and several nuns in a Romanian Orthodox convent in Tanacu believed that Maricia Irina Cornici, a 23-year-old nun, was possessed. They carried out an exorcism ritual and tied her to a cross, pushing a towel in her mouth and denying her food or water, She was dead three days later.

Was this death, or Anneliese's, the work of Satan or was the act of exorcism itself to blame? It is a question that tests the limits of faith and science. But for Anneliese's mother, sitting in her bedroom and looking out over the snow-covered graveyard, there is no uncertainty. "I give out a prayer to pilgrims who come to visit her grave," she says. "They are prayers to be said every day and they thank God for her giving her young life for other sinners so that we can be shown how to devote ourselves to the will of God."

As she shuffles slowly on her visits to leave flowers at the graves of her dead daughters, she cuts a lonely figure among the grey headstones. For Anna Michel, faith is all she has left.

1 comment:

xwizit said...

What a sad story!!.. Really