Despite what you may have learned from television shows or movies, you can’t just call your local Catholic Archdiocese and request an exorcism; it just doesn’t work that way. The Church receive millions of phone calls, letters and emails from people claiming their house, spouse or pet cat is being controlled by some diabolical influence. I’m fairly certain that a large amount of this correspondence is disregarded without a second thought.
Spirit possession and its remedy, exorcism, is something the Catholic Church likes to keep on the down low. However, not all of those requests are considered to be nothing more than crazy people looking for the devil where there isn’t one. If a suspected case of true demonic possession comes into the church immediate action is taken, an inquiry consisting of numerous investigations that include medical and psychiatric testing. If the results of the inquiry meet the criteria of the church for true demonic possession, the Bishop gives his approval and the ritual can begin.
The church is painstakingly careful when investigating reports of demonic possession; they have to be as there have been a couple black eyes suffered by the church as a result of misdiagnosing possession. There have cases where injuries, or death were sustained by the strenuous proceedings of an exorcism, one such case of exorcism gone horribly wrong happened to a young German girl named, Annaliese Michel.
By all accounts, Annaliese was a normal girl born into a devoutly Catholic family, those who knew her considered her to be kind, funny at times and possessing average intelligence. Annaliese was well liked, but by the age of 16 Annaliese’s mental health took a strange turn for the worse.
One afternoon, Annaliese’s parents were horrified when they found their daughter on the floor of her bedroom suffering a violent convulsion, when the convulsion subsided her parents rushed her to the hospital, while there Annaliese was subjected to a battery of tests, and when all was said and done, the diagnosis was Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, a condition that effects millions Upon graduating high school, Annaliese enrolled in Warzburg University, where she would study to be a teacher. Having not had a seizure in over two years, Annaliese was happy and healthy she even met and fell in love with a young man named Peter. Although all seemed well, in 1970 Annaliese received a grim reminder of her past medical problems, she had another convulsion but this time it was different some might even say frightening.
Shortly after the second seizure, Annaliese reported to family and friends that she was hearing strange voices telling her she was evil, and would go to hell when she died. She further complained of seeing demonic faces screaming at her, believing she was schizophrenic, doctors prescribed Aolept a powerful anti-psychotic, but being a devoutly religious person, Annaliese felt that her illness was less psychiatric and more spiritual in nature.
At the invitation of a family friend, Annaliese went on a pilgrimage to San Damiano, while there, a friend noticed Annaliese displaying some very odd behaviour, and Annaliese became violently intolerant of religious icons and those that stood close to her that Annaliese had an overpowering death like stench. After witnessing her behaviour their guide, a priest, believed Annaliese was being possessed by demons, this is when things went from bad to worse.
When she returned from the pilgrimage, Annaliese’s parents decided to take their daughter off her medication and take a more spiritual approach to their daughter’s illness. Believing their daughter was under diabolical influence the Michel’s contacted Bishop Stangl, upon hearing their story Stangl appointed Fathers Arnold Renz, and Ernst Alt to perform an exorcism on the girl to save her soul.
On July 1, 1976, 23 years old Annaliese Michel was pronounced dead in her parent’s home from malnutrition and dehydration, Annalise, endured over 60 exorcisms and failed to eat or drink anything. According to the Coroner’s report, Annaliese’s knees were blown out due to forced genuflections. After the investigation into the death of Annaliese, the two priests and her parents were arrested and charged with negligent homicide.
During the trial professional witnesses were brought in who testified that Annaliese was indeed mentally ill and not demonically possessed. Tapes were played of the exorcisms and pictures of an emaciated Annaliese Michel were shown to the jury, and after a short deliberation the two priests were found guilty and given lifetime court supervision. As for Annaliese’s parents, the judge excused them stating they had suffered enough.
Looking back on this case I really can’t say what I believe afflicted Annaliese Michel. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and all the symptoms were there but so were signs of diabolical possession. It is quite possible; Annaliese Michel was possessed by some negative spiritual force. I wish I could say.