Authorities in Spain arrested a priest for performing 13 exorcisms on an underage girl who was suffering from anorexia.
Jesús Hernández Sahagún and another local priest appeared before a judge in the northern province of Burgos to face allegations of gender violence, causing injury and mistreatment after purportedly performing 13 exorcisms to the unnamed girl while she was still a minor.
The Local reported that the exorcisms dated back to 2012 when the then 16-year-old girl was suffering from anorexia and anxiety, which her parents saw as a "sign of her possession by the devil."
Despite receiving psychiatric treatment, the parents decided that exorcism was a better route to cure their daughter and they hired Sahagún to carry out the rituals on her over a three-month period. The girl stated that she was forced to lay on the ground, was tied up and had crosses placed over her head and images of saints on her body during the rituals, which lasted about one to two hours.
The priest also allegedly told the girl's parents that the exorcism would not interfere with her medical treatment, but did say he disapproved of the number of medicines the girl had been prescribed. The girl eventually attempted suicide and an investigation was finally launched after her aunts and uncles filed a complaint.
"The young woman's suicide attempt was not a result of the exorcisms practiced on her," the archdiocese of Burgos said in a statement defending the exorcisms.
During her investigation into the matter, the judge said that the practice of exorcisms on the girl may have crossed the line into "domestic violence, causing injury and abuse," The Guardian reported.
The archdiocese defended the practice of exorcism and said that the choice to perform the ritual was made by the parents.
"After the girl was admitted various times to hospitals in Burgos and Valladolid, her parents, distraught on seeing that she wasn't recovering, brought her to the exorcist," the archdiocese said in a statement. "Exorcisms are a religious practice that has been maintained as part of the church's tradition, and is a right available to all of the faithful."
Pope Francis made exorcisms official Catholic practice in July of last year, with the Vatican hailing them as "a form of charity," and there are currently 15 priests in Spain with Church authorization to conduct exorcisms. In 2014, due to the "unprecedented rise in demonic possession" in Spain, a specialist exorcism squad was chosen in Madrid to tackle all the exorcisms needed in the country.