This is a guest post by Peter Wood. He’s currently a demography researcher based in Brazil.
An ongoing lawsuit between a mysterious sect of the Roman Catholic Church and one of its former members suggests that the group performs private exorcisms as part of its core practices. That sect is asking U.S. courts to make sure any evidence of such a practice is hidden from public view.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Heralds of the Gospel Foundation, a Brazil-based organization, this past June, former member Alfonso Beccar Varela illegally obtained videos of their private rituals and then posted them on his personal blog in violation of copyright law. Varela claims two other former members gave him the videos and that he has a legitimate reason for posting them.
While the videos have temporarily been taken down at the court’s request while the case is open, the Daily Beast reports that they showed exorcisms during which members would chat directly with Lucifer Himself.
Varela made the videos freely available for view at his blog and also created a second website, where he mainly writes in Spanish about his ongoing experiences. Both blogs have been intermittently shut down over previous months, which Varela claims is due to requests by the Heralds themselves.
Why was Varela so intent on posting these videos? He explained in his response to the lawsuit:
… I don’t deny that I made available these videos to the public but it was done with the expressed intention of denouncing the true nature of this organization that recruits adepts and solicits donations under the pretense of being just a devout Catholic association but that in fact has another concealed face… The so called “healing rituals” revealed in the videos are highly questionable “exorcisms” carried in quite a free manner…
The Heralds, however, never mention “exorcisms” in their lawsuit. Rather, they say Varela exposed their “trade secrets,” which could cause them a lot of harm:
As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants’ foregoing conduct, Plaintiffs have suffered immediate and irreparable harm, including but not limited to an on-going investigation by the Vatican into the Association’s and Herald’s methodologies as well as the loss of thousands of charitable donations in this judicial district and worldwide, as well as the support of its own members.
Just to reiterate: The Heralds are worried that the inner workings of their group are so embarrassing that donors might not want to support them financially after learning about the exorcisms.
You would think that a group “devoted to a life of charity” would find another way to spend their money than by shielding what they do behind closed doors.
Varela, for his part, has created a GoFundMe page for his legal fees, but he’s currently quite short of his $5,000 goal.
The Foundation, which was recognized in 2001 as an International Association of Christ’s Faithful of Pontifical Right, is present in 78 countries around the world. Members are typically lay people who take vows of celibacy and live in communes studying religious texts and evangelizing Catholic dogma.
The group’s leader, João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, recently resigned after the Vatican launched an investigation into the organization. This came as a result of claims by Clá Dias that Satan had personally selected the current pope because he is “stupid” and a Satanic pawn put in place to destroy the Church. (The group says they don’t believe any of that themselves; Clá Dias was just “relaying Satan’s message.”)
What makes the Vatican’s investigation especially hilarious, however, is the reason for opening an investigation. It has nothing to do with the far-fetched claims of Satan manipulating the papal selection process. Rather, the Vatican is upset because speaking with the Devil is prohibited since human minds are weak and will succumb to his tricks. They want to put a stop to that.
If only the power of prayer came with a customer warranty.
(Image via Shutterstock)