A judge in the northern Spanish town of Burgos has ordered the arrest of exorcist Jesus Hernandez Sahagun and a local priest following complaints relating to a series of exorcisms conducted on an underage girl suffering from anorexia. Sahagun, who is the official exorcist for the nearby city of Valladolid is facing charges of gender violence and mistreatment involving the girl who cannot be named given her underage status.
Sahagun's involvement began in 2012 when the girl's parents, alarmed by her refusal to eat, asked for an exorcism due to fears that she was possessed. The family's priest arranged for Sahagun to conduct an exorcism but, when this failed to cure her symptoms, as many as twelve additional exorcisms were then conducted. Due to the abuse the girl was subjected to, which included being tied up and having crucifixes positioned over her head, she later attempted suicide.
After the girl's aunts and uncles filed a complaint against Sahagun and the priest, an official investigation was launched. In a statement by the girl's parents, the court was told that Sahagun was fully aware that she was receiving medical treatment for anorexia at the time and he had access to her medical records. Sahagun had reportedly assured the parents that the exorcisms would not interfere with her treatment though he disapproved of the different medications she was taking.
In a December 2014 interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Sahagun defended the thirteen exorcisms by insisting that the girl was "possessed by the devil." He also stated that he was a fully qualified exorcist who had conducted two hundred exorcism within the past five years. Sahagun insisted that exorcisms were "a religious practice maintained as part of the Church’s tradition, as a right available to all the faithful."
At present, there are fifteen priests in Spain who are authorized to conduct exorcisms by the Catholic Church along with a "specialist exorcism squad" based in Madrid to fight what has been described as an "unprecedented rise in cases of demonic possession."
The demand for exorcisms has led Pope Francis to give his official blessing to the International Association of Exorcists and established the practice of exorcism as part of official canon law. The Association was first formed in 1990 and currently has over two hundred members conducting exorcisms in thirty countries around the world.