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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