What? All we did was crucify her

The most interesting bit from the recent Romanian crucifixion horror story, to me, was the clash between religious Romanians and the press. We’ll join the story midstream and then circle back for more details and analysis. I know this is a long excerpt, but please try to slog through:

As her coffin entered the church of the monastery Saturday no church bells were sounded while nuns cast distrustful glances at the strangers, including two AFP reporters, present at the ceremony.

Claps of thunder from an approaching storm were sometimes the only sounds to break the silence.

“This storm is proof that the will of God has been done,” [Father] Daniel said. . . .

“Over there, in your world, the people must know that the devil exists. Personally I can find his work in the gestures and speech of possessed people, because man is often weak and lets himself be easily manipulated by the forces of evil,” said the bearded young priest.

“I don’t understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practice in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests,” he said.

A 34-year-old parishioner who had come to defend Daniel and gave her name as Dora, said Sister Irina “had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation.”

Exorcism may be a common practice in the Romanian Orthodox Church, but it is not at all clear that what Father Daniel did stayed within the bounds of what constitutes an exorcism.

Sister Maricica Irina Cornici, a young, relatively new addition to the Holy Trinity monastery, created a scene at a recent Sunday Mass. The priest responded by shutting her away for several days, binding her hands and feet, and withholding food and drink. That apparently didn’t do the trick, because she was then gagged and chained to a life-sized cross, on which she was found dead Wednesday.

At least some of those actions occurred with the consent of several nuns. The reporters note that the sisters “showed no visible emotion” during the Mass for the soul of the deceased. One of the nuns, Sister Martha, explained to AFP reporters why the body was left in the annex of the chapel: “She can’t be laid in the church because she was possessed.”

Father Daniel faces both criminal and ecclesial sanction for his action, but it is not at all clear what will happen to him. His being allowed to perform the funeral Mass for Sister Irina will strike many as perverse, and it signals reluctance by both church and secular authorities to deal with the problem.

This morning I spoke of this case with Matt Welch, an associate editor of Reason magazine who visited Romania last summer. He was surprised not by the action itself but by the perpetrator’s identity as a priest. I mean, Romania is a country in which people still routinely blame bad omens on corpses, dig them up, maul the bodies, cut out the hearts, and ingest them as an ingredient in magic potions. That such people would crucify a living person to try to drive the evil spirits out of her doesn’t seem at all surprising.

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  • don-o

    In the words of Hunter S. Thompson. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    I thought it was slack that neither the AFP nor the BBC tell us “Father Daniel’s” full secular name. Anyway, it’s Petru Corogeanu, according to the Bucharest Daily.

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  • Dan D.

    Very unorthodox methods! I thought the technique was to say prayers and splash with holy water. But gagging and crucifying? Say what?! I can relate to all those stoned Dutchmen who voted no to EU enlargement. Nothing harshes your mellow more than ritual murder.

  • Tom Breen

    One thing that journalists sometimes do that drives me crazy is look for underlying reasons for one-off events that are supposed to have broad social significance. In this case, you have one person suggesting that it’s the backwardness of Romanian culture that led to this poor woman’s murder; another blogger, linked on this comments page, suggests it’s the natural consequences of Christian polytheism; meanwhile, on the Revealer, they suggest that anyone who’s ever believed in Mother Theresa’s sainthood contains the seed of such madness. But in reality, there’s no sociological significance here; this is a story about individual crime and individual pathology.

    As Chris Rock once asked, referring to explanations of the Columbine killers’ motives, “Whatever happened to ‘crazy’?”

  • http://GetReligion.org Danielle Jones

    It sounds to me to be a way to legalize murder; a likely excuse to murder someone. There’s more to this ‘story’ than meets the eye! We’re all just in the dark about it! This is what they’re allowing us to know but what really happened behind closed doors? Will we ever know? Only God knows!
    I find this absolutely appauling! I also would like to ask the same question that was asked earlier~What happened to the Biblical way of exorcisms, by commanding those demonic spirits, in the Name of Jesus, to loose off of people, & casting them back into the pit of hell where they came from? It sounds to me that she was being crucified like a criminal, like our Lord Jesus Christ was. Like I said before, there’s more to this story than meets the eye!

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  • http://northwind.blogspot.com Rick Deshpande

    Resistance is futile. All your base are belong to us.

    Hard to imagine anything more narcissistic than believing that the creator of the universe is forsaking all else to get inside one’s head and have a running chit-chat. “Magic”? It’s hand-me-down institutionalized schizo-delusion. By calling it anything other than what it really is we kinda continue to let it slide.

    “It’s tradition founded on mental illness misinterpreted as divine insight by people unqualified to know any better”

  • http://www.skete.com Joseph Eisner

    I am american but I wanted to mention that sometimes a fool for christ shows up and points out a bad priest and the Fool is concidered posessed. This is common with a fool for christ, to appear to be possesed. If Irina was one, then Father Daniel and anyone defending his actions ought to watch out for God’s wrath for awhile, NEVER STOP A FOOL-FOR-CHRIST FROM DOING HIS or HER WILL.

  • http://www.politicaldiscussion.info hallipa

    The nun had a known psychological affection, scientifically explainable in minute detail, death unsurprisingly occured as a result of physical exertion, as expected, and still commentators bring up words like “possessed” and “demons”. It’s easy: Schizophrenia is not demons.

    Whomever asked “whatever happened to ‘crazy’?” was correct.