Roman Catholic archbishops in two different cities, Portland and San Francisco, have performed exorcism rituals in the middle of the streets hoping to get rid of any evil spirits that might have been left around from the recent protests.
In Portland, Oregon, Archbishop Alexander Sample led a procession of more than 200 people to a city park on Oct 17 as a part of his public exorcism, according to Oregon Live. On the same day, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone performed a similar ritual outside of a Catholic church in San Rafael, where protesters previously toppled a statue of Father Junipero Serra. It is not clear if the two events were connected or if it was just a coincidence that they took place on the same day.
“We pray that God might purify this place of evil spirits, that he might purify the hearts of those who perpetrated this blasphemy,” Cordileone said.
Father Junipero Serra was a missionary priest who lived in the 18th century. Serra is an extremely controversial figure due to the violent campaign that he waged to convert Native Americans to Catholicism.
Cordileone used Latin in many of his incantations, telling local reporters that “Latin tends to be more effective against the devil because he doesn’t like the language of the church.”
These rituals are very strange, even according to religious scholars, who say that nothing like this has ever happened in the US. Religious studies professor Andrew Chesnut of Virginia Commonwealth University recalled that a somewhat similar ritual took place in Mexico in 2015, when some high-ranking Catholic clergy performed an exorcism to expel demons across the whole country.
Exorcisms are more traditionally performed on people.
A police officer from Florida was recently arrested after he was caught performing a strange exorcism on a child holding a taser, while another child was given a gun and instructed to shoot anyone who entered the home. 37-year-old Christopher Dougherty reportedly told the two children that there were demons in the house. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Dougherty was fired from the department on an unrelated matter on the same day of his arrest, but he had worked with the sheriff’s office since 2006. The children said that Dougherty was performing an exorcism on the young boy, and told the girl that there were demons in the house, and instructed her to shoot anyone that entered.
The 2014 horror film “Deliver Us From Evil” is based on the true-life story of New York City Police Sgt Ralph Sarchie, who was an exorcist in his spare time. Sarchie described himself as a “demonologist” and claimed to have taken part in at least 20 exorcisms, but says that he investigated over 50 paranormal cases. In 2001, Sarchie co-wrote the book Beware the Night about his experiences as a part-time demon hunter in New York. His book would eventually inspire the horror movie that came later.
Exorcism began to decline in the United States by the 18th century and rarely occurred until the latter half of the 20th century when the topic began to get more media attention. Interest also sharply rose after the release of the horror film "The Exorcist."