There are two cases of women who murdered their children I would need to present in order to familiarize the reader with how mental illness and demonic possession could go hand in hand. Again, I look not to convince anyone, but merely put a theory out there for the reader to draw their own conclusions. Many people are familiar with the tragic Andrea Yates case, she drowned her five children in her bathtub in Texas. For the specifics of this case see here http://crime.about.com/od/current/p/andreayates.htm . It is important the reader examine the whole story.
The second case I wish to present is the equally tragic and heartbreaking case of Lashuan Harris. She also drowned her three children by throwing them off a pier in San Francisco Bay in 2005. For her story please see this article http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/3-kids-feared-dead-thrown-into-S-F-bay-2564092.php. Again, it is important both stories are read in their entirety. Do I doubt for a minute that these women were mentally ill? No I do not. That being said I must say, what if, just for argument’s sake it was something else? Even a lawyer would have to go with the insanity route as a defense, because that is more acceptable. Both women were eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity. I say to you though, that the similarities are eery, chilling and a bit unnerving. These are not rare cases, each year more than 400 children are killed by one parent or another. Drowning seems to be a similar thread in many cases. Is there more to it than just mental illness. Possibly, that can’t be proven though.
In Yates case she was heavily medicated and not deemed a threat provided she stayed on her medication. In Harris’s case she was not on medication even though she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. I commented on another thread that you could medicate anyone or thing into submission using the right medication. In my opinion I think there is more to these cases than the public is privy to.
The Churches position on the matter of possession and exorcism is not what many people think. It is clearly stated by the Church that mental illness and other conditions must be considered first. There are rigorous conditions which must be met, including medical examines,and the consent of the individual themselves. Any “Major” exorcism must be approved by a Bishop. Besides these obvious requirements there is evidence one must offer and document in order for the Church to approve of one. A list of some of this evidence follows.
- The subject must exhibit unusual and extraordinary physical strength.
- Speaking in a language not known by the individual. Speaking more than one language that they have no experience or education in. Speaking in an ancient language no longer used.
- Having knowledge of events or facts that the subject would have no way of knowing. Having knowledge of future events. Knowing information about a person the subject has never met.
- An aversion, sometimes violent aversion to religious objects, amulets, icons or other religious material.
- A putrid, or foul odor, a burning smell is present around the subject
Contrary to popular belief the Church does not use these events to draw attention to itself. As for as I can tell the majority of these rituals are kept quiet, secret and not made public. In other words, the Church does not use these events for publicity. It is used purely to help the individual, after all traditional medical approaches have been attempted. As a Catholic I would like to point out as fact, we are not taught anything about demonic possession or exorcism. It is not part of our religious education.
As I researched this subject I did notice that the Christian religion is not the only one to believe in this phenomena. Islam, Judaism and Hinduism all contain beliefs and rituals regarding evil spirits and possession.
The last few things I would like to cover regarding this material are two of the saints of the Catholic Church who are called on for help in battling demonic possession. There are Patron saints of those who are possessed. They are Saint Dymphna and Saint Michael the Archangel. I will start with Saint Michael and the prayer to him. To do this I must first try to answer a question posed to me after the first installment. It went something like this, “If God is all-powerful why would he even allow things like this[possession] to happen?” Lets look to then man Pope Leo XIII who penned the prayer to Saint Michael. From Wikipedia I add this citation,
In the late twentieth century, more vivid stories circulated among traditionalist Catholics, according to which in that century Satan would be particularly powerful. They recounted that Pope Leo XIII was climbing the steps to the altar when he suddenly stopped, stared fixedly at something in the air and with a terrible look on his face, collapsed to the floor (some accounts say he fell shrieking). The Pope was carried off by those around him to another room where he came around. As one rendition of the story tells it:
“When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices – two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:
- The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.”
- The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.”
- Satan: “To do so, I need more time and more power.”
- Our Lord: “How much time? How much power?”
- Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”
- Our Lord: “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.” *(1)
I will be the first to tell you this story cannot be corroborated. It helps explain why this prayer was written. Here is the actual Prayer:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.[8 *(2)
The story of Saint Dymphna story can be found here, http://www.franciscanmissionassoc.org/requests_stdymphna_story.cfm. Keep in mid these are not the only reasons people invoke the help of these saints. For example, St. Dymphna is also the Patron of those afflicted with mental illness and emotional disorders.
In finishing, during my research I have discovered that the number of exorcist in the Catholic Church is at least 200.