One priest, who asked not to be named, said he was carrying out at least one exorcism a fortnight.
“There has been a recruitment of pagan practices, and it’s sheer poison.”
His claim has provoked an angry reponse from the Pagan Awareness Network (PAN), an association representing wiccans, pagans, and other followers of nature-based faiths.
“A pagan ritual is no more dangerous than going to a church, a temple, or a mosque,” says PAN president David Garland.
“The Catholic Church is once again trying to create a moral panic about devil-worship and the occult. This kind of fear-mongering belongs in the Middle Ages, not in the 21st century.
“Exorcisms endanger lives and physical safety. Anyone worried that they might be possessed by spirits should seek referral to a psychiatrist or other mental health expert, not a witch-doctor in a priest’s collar.
“The Catholic Church should ban this barbaric practice.”
In 2007, a New Zealand woman died after a botched exorcism in Wellington. Nine participants in the ritual have since been charged with manslaughter.
In June 2005, in Romania, a 23-year-old nun was found crucified to a wall in her convent room. She had been undergoing exorcism with Father Daniel Corogeanu, a Romanian Orthodox priest, who consequently was charged with her murder.
Mr Garland said that according to 2006 Census, there were more than 40,000 Pagans of different denominations across Australia, “all remarkably unaffected by demonic possession”.
“Pagans see the Devil as a Judeo-Christian invention, and do not believe in his existence,” he said.
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