Spanish Priest Arrested for Performing Exorcism on Anorexic Girl

Exorcism Spain
The girl was reportedly left contemplating suicide after the exorcism. REUTERS/Susana Vera

A Spanish priest and an exorcist have been charged with gender violence and causing injury and mistreatment after the exorcist performed repeated exorcisms on an anorexic teenage girl.

A judge in Burgos has called for the arrest of exorcist Jesús Hernández Sahagún, the official exorcist of Valladolid, along with the girl's priest, after she endured 13 exorcisms while still a minor.

The chain of events began in 2012, according to the Spanish newspaper El País, when the girl began to suffer from anorexia. Her parents, convinced that she had become possessed by a devil, decided to have her exorcised, and appealed to their priest for help. She was then tied up and had crucifixes hung above her bed, an ordeal which later led her to attempt suicide.

Her uncle and aunt then raised an alarm to the authorities and filed a complaint, but it has taken until now for the case to come to court.

The priest reportedly knew that the young girl was receiving medical treatment for anorexia, the court heard, and had assured her parents that the exorcisms would not interfere with her health.

In an interview with a Spanish newspaper in December 2014, Hernández Sahagún defended the 13 exorcisms by explaining the girl was "possessed by the devil". He also told the Spanish newspaper that he had performed 200 exorcisms over the past four and a half years.

The archbishop of Burgos has also spoken out on the issue, stating in 2014 that "the young woman's suicide attempt was not a result of the exorcisms practiced on her", and arguing that exorcisms are "a religious practice maintained as part of the Church's tradition, as a right available to all the faithful".

Exorcisms are on the rise across many Catholic countries. In 2013, it was reported that the Catholic church in Spain had recruited eight specialist exorcists to combat an "unprecedented rise" in cases of "demonic possession".