Sunday, November 16, 2008


Bishop Josef Stangl, who approved the exorcism and corresponded by letter on the case with the 2 priests a dozen times, also was investigated by state authorities. It was decided not to indict him or summon him to appear at the trial due to his age and poor health. The bishop stated that his actions were all within the bounds of canon law.

The courtroom case, called the Klingenberg Case, became the basis of Scott Derrickson's 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The film significantly deviates from the real-world events (for example, the film is set in the US, Anneliese was renamed Emily Rose, and the court case was shown with a substantially different outcome). The German-language film Requiem (2006) by Hans-Christian Schmid holds a much truer account of the real-life events.

Today, Anneliese's grave in Klingenberg am Main remains a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics who consider Anneliese Michel a devout believer who experienced extreme sufferings to assist departed souls in Purgatory.

Some doctors have suggested that many of Michel's 'symptoms' are consistent with, and suggestive of, mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) section on Dissociative Disorders, and/or with behaviors observed in patients with these disorders. For example, the temporary adoption of bizarre, rigid body postures (dystonia); the use of the first-person plural pronoun 'we' to describe one's self; the markedly dilated pupils not explained by any external stimuli; full or partial amnesia; the emergence of distinct 'personalities' among the 'demons'; the pervasive psychoemotional 'numbness' Michel describes in The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel; Michel's feeling as though her body was acting outside her volition (depersonalization); fear or rejection of sexuality; the persistence of these symptoms despite medical treatment, and in absence of any known medical cause; and many others.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Before the trial authorities asked the parents for permission to exhume the remains of their daughter. They did so as a result of a message received from a Carmelite nun from the district of Allgau in southern Bavaria. The nun had told the parents that a vision had revealed to her that their daughter's body was still intact, and that this authenticated the supernatural character of her case. The official reason presented by the parents to authorities was that Anneliese had been buried in undue hurry in a cheap coffin. Almost 2 years after the burial, February 25, 1978, her remains were replaced in a new oak-coffin lined with tin.

The official reports (to date undisputed by any authority) state that the body bore the signs of consistent deterioration. The accused exorcists - Anneliese's parents and the 2 priests - were discouraged from seeing the remnants of Anneliese. Father Arnold Renz lated stated that he had been prevented from entering the mortuary.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trial & Courtroom Charges

After an investigation the state prosecutor maintained Anneliese's death could have been prevented even one week before she died. He charged all 4 defendants (Pastor Ernst Alt and Father Arnold Renz as well as the parents - with negligent homicide for failing to call a medical doctor.

The trial started on March 30, 1978, in the district court and drew intense interest. Before the court, the doctors claimed the woman was not possessed. Although Dr.Richard Roth who was asked for medical help by Father Alt. allegedly said after the exorcism he witnessed on May 30, 1976 that "there is no injection against the devil, Anneliese."

The priests were defended by church-paid lawyers, whereas the parents were defended by one of Germany's most well-known lawyers, Erich Schmidt-Leichner, a lawyer who had defended numerous persons in Nazi war crimes trials. Schmidt-Leichner claimed that the exorcism was legal and that the German constitution protected citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs.

The defense played tapes recorded at the exorcism sessions, sometimes featuring what was claimed to be "demon arguing", as proof that Anneliese was indeed possessed. Both priests presented their deeply held conviction that she was possessed, and that she was finally freed by exorcism just before she died.

Ultimately, the accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to a 6 months suspended sentence and 3 years probation. It was a far lighter sentence than anticipated by most people. Yet, it was more than demanded by the prosecution, which had asked that the priests only be fined and that the parents be found guilty but not punished.

During the trial, the major lingering issues were related to the church itself. A not-guilty verdict could be seen as opening the gate to more exorcism attempts - and possibly unfortunate outcomes. But for the most part, experienced observers believed the effect would be the opposite - that merely bringing charges of negligent homicide against priests and parents would provoke changes and more caution.

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