Exorcism in St. Louis

Sorry, just reading posted news stories from the beginning of March.
This one is interesting because, although not mentioned in the Post-Dispatch story, both Lutherans and the seminary were apparently involved.
There is at least one book and one thesis in the seminary library (can’t think of their names right now) that discuss the roles of the president of the seminary at the time and at least one other professor or pastor. According to the story (of which there is very little), the boy was first brought to the seminary to see if they could do anything for them. In the room that is now the Chapel of the Apostles in the bell tower, some sort of something (I told you there wasn’t much) was attempted, although not necessarily an exorcism–probably because there is no Lutheran rite of exorcism. Also according to the story, the Lutheran pastors involved attempted to give the boy communion and the vessels kept moving around on the table. Some time after this, the Jesuits took over.
I believe I read about some of this in a book about the events–not the Blatty book–and I was intrigued.
Any comments on demon possession/oppression or exorcism?



23 thoughts on “Exorcism in St. Louis

  1. This kind of thing gives me chills.

    How would an exorcism be ‘performed’ by a Lutheran? Perhaps baptism, if the person hasn’t been baptized? Prayers to God, asking Him to drive out the demon? Command the demon, in the name of Christ, to come out?

    Really, how would we do it? And what could a Lutheran layman do differently than a pastor, assuming a pastor wasn’t readily available?

    And why would you commune someone controlled by an unclean spirit? That doesn’t make sense, since the Holy Spirit would obviously not be residing alongside a demon, right? And thus the person could not possibly be a part of the Church, right?

  2. The seminarian’s name who wrote the paper was Shearouse, I believe, or something similar.

    His paper, located in the library of the St. Louis seminary, includes a few pages of the priest’s diary, and a couple of signed affidavits of second-hand testimony, mostly from pastors/professors recalling conversations about the case with the gentleman who was the Sem president at the time.

    The exorcism, according to Shearouse, was performed in the Chapel of the Apostles, which, at that time, was a storage room. It was presided over by the Sem president and the boy’s local Lutheran pastor (the boy was ALC; other family members were lapsed Catholic). The ritual used was a medieval Latin exorcism found in the Sem libarary. The boy recalled hearing the sound of “banging chairs,” or something similar, during the exorcism.

    The demon returned (as they sometimes do), and the family was referred to the Jesuits.

    Lutheran involvement is recorded in one book (I’ve forgotten the name), and can be found in the film “Possessed.” In an otherwise really cool film, the Lutheran “minister” is ridiculed in some unsavory ways.

    BTW, I would appreciate you guys monitoring your site for unwarranted ad hominem attacks, that is, if you want people to continue to offer comments. Personal attacks don’t add anything to the debate, and just make the posters thereof look foolish.

  3. “How would an exorcism be ‘performed’ by a Lutheran?”

    In the same manner that any other Christian would perform it. Exorcism is an exercise of the office of the keys; if our pastors rightly exercise that office to absolve or retain sins, then they can exercise it to drive out demons.

    Anciently the rite of baptism included an exorcism of the candidates immediately before the immersion. Our vastly simplified Lutheran rite omits this. I don’t know if the RCs still perform this (it’s been years since I’ve been to an RC baptism), but the Orthodox still do.

  4. I would think it is as simple as invoking the most powerful name we have on earth and commanding the possesor to go to hell.

  5. I’d like to agree with you Jam, but I can’t. “Simple invoking” is along the lines of what was “allegedly” tried in the pre-chapel. And we have clear witness from the Scriptures that some demons only come out with much faithful prayer. (Matt. 17:20/Mark 9:29)

    There is a book published by a current Seminarian named Daryll McCully called “A House Swept Clean” which deals with demonology and includes a rite of excorcism. I’ve never gotten my hands on a copy and I believe they will no longer be selling them at the Sem. bookstore.

  6. I’ve read Daryll’s book. It’s interesting.
    Chi Chi has read the same things I’ve read about the events.
    I agree with you, Chi Chi, about the personal attacks. It seems that the antiseminarian along with her(?) many aliases has gone for the moment. I appreciated, however, the many other valuable contributions to that discussion by both men and women.


  7. It is pretty well held among us that the supernatural gifts given during the Apostolic age to the Apostles and others in the Church ceased with the publication of the Apostolic writings and their transfer to glory. Why then would not demon possession, in the form it took place during the Apostolic age, no also change? There is, to be sure, a change in the Church with the death of the Apostles.

    We don’t have a clear passage on this but that seems to me the most reasonable course. Excorcism needs to be no more elaborate than it is in the Baptismal rite, i.e., lay hands on the person and invoke the Spirit to possess him and pray the Lord’s Prayer. It can be more explicit and formal but ceremonies aren’t where the power is. The power is the Word of God.

    I have performed these kinds of exorcisms several times without ever telling the people that is what I was doing. Something was wierd. It could have been, and probably was, mental illness. But I wasn’t sure. So I asked the person to pray with me. For this kind of a prayer, when something has me feeling uneasy, I always lay hands on the person, use the Trinitarian formula and the Lord’s Prayer, and say whatever comes to me, typically something along the lines of asking God to keep us safe from demons and the powers of Hell and send His Holy Spirit to inhabit us. I’ve done this also in the Rite of Absolution.

  8. “There is, to be sure, a change in the Church with the death of the Apostles.”

    I would be very careful with a statement like this. First of all, what is your basis (Scriptural or otherwise) for saying that there was “a change”?

    And secondly, what, in your view, is the nature of the change? Does the Church no longer have the Holy Spirit? Has the office of the keys been withdrawn? Is she no longer ‘the pillar and bulwark of the Truth’? Which of her marks (unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity) no longer obtains?

    There is certainly something unique about the Apostolic age, but statements like that make me nervous. As the Confessions say, “the holy Church continues forever”.

  9. Tim,

    What about the ad hominem attacks by Othniel which he refuses to substantiate?

    Be careful to not lay all the blame at one door.

    And don’t expect to hear much from me anymore, because I, for one, distinctly remember reading an apology from your ‘antiseminarian.’

    Your description of her in your comment here has the definite feel of another ad hominem attack.

  10. Chaz – it was never my intention to attack anyone, ad hominem or otherwise. I have apologized for any hurt that I have caused as we sought to let the Word of God speak among us, and, as your brother in Christ, and per the command of our Lord, I would appreciate that forgiveness not be witheld, nor indeed that you would withdraw the hand of peace.

    I ask you not to depart from us. Even though we may disagree on some issues, you are a valuable contributor to the diaglogue which takes place here, and wa orthy member of the body of Christ who will be sorely missed in our online fellowship.


  11. Also, I would agree with Chris. Statements like:

    “It is pretty well held among us that the supernatural gifts given during the Apostolic age to the Apostles and others in the Church ceased with the publication of the Apostolic writings and their transfer to glory”

    do not seem to be either clear or substantiated by the Scripture and Confessions. What is meant by “supernatural gifts”? Faith? the Sacraments? Healing? Tongues? And how do we know which ones are or are not around.

    Don’t get me wrong…I haven’t spoken in a tongue (taht I am aware of) nor raised the dead, but I wouldn’t want to say that such miracles simply can no longer be BECAUSE THE APOSTLES DIED. It seems to place a lot of weight on the ambassadores of Christ, rather than on Christ. And what of the men whom those first ambassadors selected to carry on their work? Why is there no writing in the letters or Fathers about how “soon, the supernatural gifts will depart with us.” Perhaps that is an argument from silence, but I hope the gist of my concern is clear from it. I’m not “of necessity” in disagreement with the possibility that currently the Spirit is not working miraculous acts of healing (apart from the blessed Supper!) among us. But simply because He has not done so this century, does not mean that He will not do so again.

    And all of this is about demons…

    Even if Peterson’s position is true, which, clearly defined, it may or may not be, it does not seem to be a sufficient nor logical move to claim that “because the miracles of the New Testament time are gone, demons have changed too.” Its kind of like saying, “Because there are no more Caesars, therefore the Shang dynasty also has fallen.” The statement may or may not in content be true, but the logic of it is inconsistent.

    Certainly, Peterson, I would grant that “the strong man” has been “bound” by Christ on the cross. In this way, Christians are protected from the devil’s schemes in a new way. But does this protection extend over the unbelievers? And this is also to say nothing of the “little season” in which the devil will be unleashed to havoc the Church and the world.


  12. I said “pretty well held among us” because it is not universally held and becuase there is not a Bible passage we can point to. But most of us would acknowledge that the apostles were given gifts that we have not been. It has not, for instance, been given to us to write letters that are inspired and inerrant. We have not had tongues of fires upon our heads or had our listeners hear us in their native tongues while we spoke in ours. We have not raised the dead.

    So my “proof” is entirely from experience, both personal and historical. That is why I hedge and am not dogmatic. But the Church viewed from man’s perspective in time has changed. The preisthood of Aaron is no longer valid. If there was a Temple in Jerusalem it would be idolatrous to offer sacrifices in accordance with the ceremonial Law of Moses. Some of the the prophets and some of the apostles (assuming you accept St. Matthais as an apostle) experienced direct calls. Our undershepherds do not receive direct calls. Things are different. The holy Church continues forever, indeed, but from the perspective of time the Church has changed, even though the faith is the same.

    So what is the change? The ceremonial law and the priesthood, the office of judge, prophet, and apostle. We don’t have any of those things exactly even though we still have the same Office of the Ministry. It is simply that what we have has been custom made by God for our time in history. Paul calls this same Office among us Overseer or Elder or Servant.

    The apostles and Our Lord cast out demons in a very physical and visible way. I am not sure we’ve been called to do it in the same way, even as even though the Apostles also preached and wrote as we do, their call was different.

    So that is not to say that demons have changed or that we are not called to deal with them, just that it may be that we’ve been called to deal with them in slightly different manner even as we’ve been called to deal with sickness and preaching in a slightly different manner.



  13. well said.

    It should be noted that in the “legend” under discussion, the monks WERE able to physically cast out the demon…or so is my understanding.

    But your points are well taken Peterson.


    PS Chaz, if you still come to this site, would you please email me. I would like to answer your questions in private, but have not been able to find a way to contact you on your site.

    Peace to all who are in Christ!

  14. By not having an exorcism “procedure”, it almost seems to be admitting the Catholics are right.

    As per the personal attacks, if you are going to open up statements for debate in a public forum, you need to develop tough skin. No journalist is immune from critism, whether legitmate or “below-the-belt” as the attack against chi-chi was. Though, I must say, you guys definilty don’t seem very open, or take very seriously comments from women on here. I learned more from the women who posted in all the dramas of the elders post then from those who are supposed to be studing this stuff! To be fair though, I am only a sporadic reading. This blog isn’t much of a priority for me to catch up on.

  15. Chaz, maybe you could point out to me both Othniel’s “ad hominem” attack, as well as the antiseminarian’s apology. I missed both of them. I understand you didn’t like O.’s comment, but that doesn’t mean he attacked your person.

    I’m glad you learned something from the women who posted. Most of their comments were well-thought out.
    I really don’t know what you mean about “being open” or taking their comments “seriously.” The only problem I had was with those whose comments degenerated into what really were personal attacks, instead of making an argument. It’s not that I’m offended so much, as it is I don’t see the point. Offer something intelligent or don’t offer it at all (that’s not directed at you).


  16. The book “The House Swept Clean” was endorsed by a few prominent scholars in the LCMS. I assume because it was the only honest attempt to deal with this unpopular subject. I’ll leave them unnamed. It was, however, weak on a few points of doctrine (not to mention weird), and this is why I assume (a big assumption) that it did not pass the CPH review process. The author has done a significant amount of research in an area that is very unpopular within almost every church body. His drive was to attempt to wrestle the “voice” away from the deliverance movement, and to provide a more serious treatment of the subject from a Lutheran perspective. Speaking with him is an interesting learning experience even if he may have faults. I would not be quick to write him off as a lunatic.

    That strange events (such as hauntings) take place is almost without question (even at secular universities that teach courses on parapsychology). The question is: what causes these events; supernatural or natural forces? Atheists stick with the later. Some will point to demonic activity. All of the current “parapsycological” subjects are familiar to the Church and touched upon often in serious treatments demonology.

    The Rite for exorcism used by the Lutherans in St. Louis, according to the sources I have read, was a Lutheran Rite from the 16th/17th century. It was in Latin. Why the Lutherans failed would be anyone’s guess (polemics aside), but according to the account (assuming that the entire story isn’t just nonsense) it would seem that the event was simply botched and they gave up quickly. Some did not take it seriously. The Pastor from Maryland was a Rationalist and did not believe in such things. Think about it: they were going to give the Eucharist to the demoniac? What were they thinking? They wouldn’t have given it to Methodists. Communion was indeed given to the boy, by a priest mind you, after the demon was expelled.

    The author of the “The House Swept Clean” offers the hypothesis that Exorcism Rites are not so much about the power of the Name that ultimately performs the exorcism, but the endurance and focus of the participants. That a demon would refuse to leave a person is a part of the tension inherent in the application of the Means of Grace. Does Christ’s dominion over Satan mean that everyone who hears a proclamation of Christ bows their knee? No. Not in this life. The problem is the person; not the Word and Sacrament. If a person, by nature, refuses grace, than a demoniac can certainly resist as well. Refer to Scripture when the Apostles cannot drive out a demon. What does Christ say? The plain sense is very clear. This is the basis for all rites of exorcism. The steps included in the old Baptismal Rites were present in order to disturb demons and cause them to make their presence known. They were diagnostic; not complete rites. There is reason to believe that when cultures were steeped in paganism that a candidate might just be possessed. Some missionaries will share stories, often reluctantly, from areas of the world where Christianity is almost non-existent. The argument of whether one needs to be exoricsed before being Baptized is a valid and interesting argument, but for adult converts, we do prepare them with instruction and look for a confession of faith; don’t we? Preparation does not add to or negate the power of the Word in the Sacrament.

    If a demon were to leave, then God would get the glory, but if a demon were to persist…..? The rite serves as a guide and prop for human frailty. It is not magic. The Roman Catholics who worked with this boy spent weeks with him. These weeks included daily proclamation of the Gospel (and novenas and rosaries, yes, yes, that’s all true), but by what power did the demon leave if he was really possessed? Would someone really “fake it” for weeks and weeks? Perhaps it was psychological, but something happened. And I for one believe that the devil is real.

    Perhaps it was only a part of the Apostolic era. But, frankly, as the author of the book argues, we are experiencing more “strange” phenomenon as fascination with the occult and ancient paganism increases in this post-Christian age. Even though Christ is Victor, we struggle, in this time, with the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.

    The author includes a rite of exorcism. It is based upon the Roman Ritual, old Lutheran, and Episcopal sources. There is much room for question and improvement. There are clear reasons why this book would not published by the Missouri denominational publishing house. But you have to recognize that the author was applying the theology he had learned to a risky, risky subject; one that many would not dare to touch.

    Please forgive me for posting as Anonymous. I just wanted add a few points of clarity, and I wanted to be open and honest rather than just making up a name. Criticize away bloggers.

    Webmasters, if you need to delete this out of principle…no hard feelings.

    Anonymous Reader

  17. Anonymous – I’m curious why you do not name persons whom have supposedly endorsed McCully’s work on this subject. If it is a true endorsement then why do they remain anonymous? It’s simply easier to know who you are referring to than “the author.” People have names, and if you publish a book then you definitely loose your ability or right to remain anonymous when referring to that book.

    Secondly, McCully was still a student and not a professor or theological authority. His book was an attempt at honing his theological skills but his work didn’t pass doctrinal review not because of the topic per se but that the doctrine contained in the work was not completely in line with an LCMS understanding of the Book of Concord and the SCriptures.

  18. Tim, Anonymous, Chi Chi, or anyone else who has read “A House Swept Clean”…I can’t seem to find anything on this book on the internet and I’m very interested in reading it. Any information you might have on obtaining a copy would be deeply appreciated.
    Yours in Christ,
    Brother Rosencruz

  19. Rosencruz,
    I don’t know for sure where you might find it. You might contact the Concordia Seminary bookstore to see if they still have copies (I know it was in there at one time). Or, you might see if you can get ahold of Darryl McCully. Sorry I can’t give you more info.


  20. The book “A House Swept Clean” was actually a STM thesis written by McCulley and not necessarily for CPH or LCMS publication. I believe that the copies that were made available through the seminary bookstore were actually printed on campus. I, too, am looking to obtain a copy. I should have purchased it when I was still at sem, but I neglected to do so and now they are scarce. I am not sure where to contact Mr. McCulley at this point.

  21. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments… and other contributors as well. I am serving in Sedona … Spiritually it is an interesting place… Among other things Sedona is home to the New Age, a plethora of cults and some “interesting religious practitioners”. Jerome less than 30 minutes away was home to Anton LeVay author of the Satanic Bible… and those influences still remain.

    Any info you can send my way is greatly appreciated.

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