Monday, June 20, 2005

An Outrageous Exorcism in Romania

By now, some of you will have learned about the "exorcism" that led to the death by crucifixion of a young Romanian woman, a nun of three months, at the direction of her spiritual father, the priest serving the monastery where this young woman lived. The priest, Fr. Daniel, himself only 29 years old, believed that the 23 year old nun was possessed by the devil; and that, other methods having failed, crucifixion was the only option. Her body was found gagged and bound by chains to a cross. Fr. Daniel, saying that his actions were "entirely justified," is nevertheless seeking "a good lawyer" in anticipation of being charged with murder.

How could such a thing be possible? How could Fr. Daniel have come to believe that crucifixion is a means for exorcism? How could any rational person who accepts the possibility of demon possession help but conclude that a person who thinks crucifixion is an option for exorcism may actually be the one influenced by a demon?

As for what would constitute proper conduct in an exorcism, we need, I think, look no further than the Gospels, where our Lord meets people possessed by demons. Again, would anyone knowledgable about the Orthodox Christian faith seriously entertain the idea that the demon-possessed man our Lord met in the tombs, which, when he was exorcised, led the herd of Gadarene swine to rush off the cliff into the sea, would have been put to death by our Lord if the exorcism had failed? Or the woman, from whom He cast out seven demons? He came to save sinners, not to put them to death! And, when the apostles failed to cast the demon out of the boy who threw himself into the fire and into the water at the influence of a demon, so that he had to be brought to the Lord for healing, He told them (in response to their question), "This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting." Their failure was due to their lack of faith; and their lack of labors.

Thus, this Fr. Daniel, who ordered the young nun to be crucified, shows, I think, his failure to confront the demon (if, indeed, the young lady was actually possessed) by prayer and fasting. The news story about the event mentioned that she had been locked in a room without food or water for several days -- an involuntary form of fasting; but we are not told whether Fr. Daniel made any special preparations for the struggle at hand. There is an account in the book of the Acts of the Apostles of some young men (the seven sons of Sceva), not believers, who are casting out demons "in the name of Christ Jesus whom this Paul preaches." The demon does, indeed, come out, saying, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" He proceeds to beat them and wound them. (Acts 19:13-16)

I think this tragic murder may be part of the fruit of the persecution of the Orthodox Church under the Communists in Romania. Good, faithful, knowledgable elders having suffered, and being rare, there would seem to be many people, perhaps, who have some level of understanding of Orthodoxy, but cannot be said to truly have wisdom -- and this is an extreme example. Personally, I think his actions can only be described as murder. If the young woman was truly possessed, and he was unable to cast out the demon, he should have consulted with, or turned the matter over to his spiritual father and/or his bishop. His failure to do so is frightening.

Please, of your mercy, pray for the soul of the nun Irina; and for the priest-monk, Daniel.

UPDATE: An additional report with more details is found at