Crucified Nun is Killed in Exorcism... etc.

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 Crucified Nun Dies in Exorcism

A Romanian nun died after
being bound to a cross,
gagged and left alone for
three days.

"I don't understand why journalists
are making such a fuss about this
-- Father Daniel

Members of the convent in north-west Romania claim Maricica Irina Cornici was possessed and that the crucifixion had been part of an exorcism ritual.

Cornici was found dead on the cross on Wednesday after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.

On Saturday a former priest, Daniel Corogeanu,  and four nuns were charged in connection with her death.

Police say the 23-year-old nun, who was denied food and drink throughout her ordeal, had been tied and chained to the cross and a towel pushed into her mouth to smother any sounds.

A post-mortem is to be carried out, although initial reports say that Cornici died from asphyxiation.

   Daniel Corogeanu

  God   performed
 a Miracle;  she is
 delivered  from evi


Local media reports that the young woman had arrived at the remote convent three months before, having initially gone there to visit a friend and opted to stay.

She grew up in an orphanage in Arad, in the west of Romania.

Mediafax news agency said Cornici suffered from schizophrenia and the symptoms of her condition caused the priest at the convent and other nuns to believe she was possessed by the devil.


"They all said she was possessed and they were trying to cast out the evil spirits," police spokeswoman Michaela Straub said.

Father Daniel (pictured here)  who is accused of orchestrating the crime is said to be unrepentant.

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," AFP quoted the priest as saying.

"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," Father Daniel added.

If found guilty of killing Cornici, Father Daniel and the accused nuns could face 20 years in jail.

Story from BBC NEWS

During the trial, Daniel Corogeanu started to construct an image of himself as a martyr. He did not speak in his or the nuns defence, he gave his blessing to the court at the beginning of each session, he only spoke about his will to undermine the power of evil in this world. He had no word of comfort for the relatives of the nun killed by crucifixion, starvation and deprivation of water, who were present in the court.

On February 10, 2007 Daniel Corogeanu and the four nouns were sentenced to 17 years of prison.  More...

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Priest defiant on nun's crucifixion
By L a u r a   C h i r i a c  in Tanacu, Romania
19 June 1305  2005

"It's happening particularly in the isolated monasteries, where the superiors have difficulty understanding the current realities and adapting themselves to modern life"

  -- Alred Bulai, Sociologist  

"This storm is proof that the will of God has been done....You see it?"

...Father Daniel, gesturing at the body still showing the marks of the gag.

A ROMANIAN Orthodox priest, facing charges for ordering the crucifixion of a young nun because she was "possessed by the devil", was unrepentant as he celebrated a funeral ceremony for his alleged victim.

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," said Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania.

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He then celebrated a short liturgy "for the soul of the deceased", in the presence of 13 nuns who showed no visible emotion.

He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was "entirely justified", but admitted he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a "good lawyer".

Prosecutors said they had charged the priest and four nuns with imprisonment leading to death, while religious authorities said the priest would be barred from celebrating liturgy until the investigation was completed.

The monastery would be shut if the accused were found guilty, Father Daniel's superiors said.

The alleged victim was found dead midweek, gagged and chained to a cross, after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.

Mihaela Straub, spokeswoman for the police in the province of Vaslui, said Father Daniel and four other nuns had claimed she was possessed and should be exorcised.

Before being crucified she had been kept shut up for several days, her hands and feet tied and without food or drink, he said.

She had entered the monastery just three months before, after visiting a friend who was a nun there, police said.

As her coffin entered the church of the monastery no church bells were sounded, and nuns cast distrustful glances at the strangers, including 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.

"You see it?" said the priest, gesturing at the body, lying in an annexe and still showing the marks of the gag.

Father Daniel has lived for the past four years in the isolated monastery in the hills of one of the poorest regions of Romania, without running water or electricity.

"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."

Sociologist Alred Bulai said corporal punishment was still commonly used in certain Romanian monasteries.

"It's happening particularly in the isolated monasteries, where the superiors have difficulty understanding the current realities and adapting themselves to modern life," he said.

It was not clear why Father Daniel believed the nun was possessed. One parishioner, Dora, said the nun "had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation".

The Mediafax news agency reported that the dead woman had recently been treated for "schizophrenia" at the local hospital, but the chief of the local child welfare office, Ionel Bratianu, said the nun was "in good health and did not suffer from any psychiatric trouble".,5478,15662281%255E23109,00.html



 USA Today provides additional material:

Mediafax news agency reported Saturday that the Cornici had recently been treated for "schizophrenia" at the local hospital, but the chief of the local child welfare office, Ionel Bratianu, said the nun was "in good health and did not suffer from any psychiatric trouble."

Cornici was raised in an orphanage until the age of 19, when she traveled to Germany to work as a nanny for a family of German doctors. After in-depth psychological and psychiatric tests, the German embassy had declared her apt to take care of children, said Bratianu.

Since the fall of the communist regime in December 1989, the Orthodox Church, which represents 85% of Romania's 22 million inhabitants, is rated in many opinion polls as the most trusted institution in the country.

Vitalie Danciu, the superior of a nearby monastery at Golia, called the crucifixion "inexcusable," but a spokesman for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it.

"I don't know what this young woman did," Bogdan Teleanu said

Former Romanian priest jailed for exorcism murder of nun
Wed January 30, 2008

Story Highlights:
   Former priest jailed for seven years for murdering a young nun during an exorcism
    Nun was bound, chained to a cross and denied food and water for days during ritual
    Irina Cornici, 23, died from dehydration, exhaustion and suffocation during an ordeal
    Cornici, once treated for schizophrenia, believed she had heard the devil talk to her

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- A former priest began a seven-year jail term Wednesday for murdering a young nun during an exorcism ritual when she was bound, chained to a cross and denied food and water for days.

Former priest Daniel Corogeanu, center, listens to a court ruling as he is sentenced.

Irina Cornici, 23, died from dehydration, exhaustion and suffocation during an ordeal that stunned Romania and prompted the Orthodox Church to promise reforms and psychological tests to screen potential clergy.

The former priest, Daniel Corogeanu, and four nuns were all convicted and sentenced in September but Corogeanu was freed pending an appeal, which he lost Tuesday. He was picked up by police in the remote northeast Wednesday and sent to jail.

Cornici, who had previously been treated for schizophrenia, had believed she heard the devil talking to her. Corogeanu and the four nuns decided to try an exorcism ritual in June 2005 using techniques that the Romanian Orthodox Church condemned as "abominable".

The church, which has benefited from a religious revival in recent years, defrocked Corogeanu and excommunicated the four nuns, who in September were handed five- and six-year jail terms.

When arrested Wednesday, Corogeanu said he would serve his term if that was God's will, the national news agency Rompres reported.

Corogeanu, a Romanian, dropped out halfway through training for the priesthood, but still served as a priest for the secluded Holy Trinity convent in northeast Romania because of a shortage of suitable candidates for convents and monasteries.

Original story:

"I don't understand why journalists
are making such a fuss about this
-- Father Daniel

Romanian Town Gets Rich Through Scams
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
By N i c o l a   S m i t h

DRAGASANI, Romania — Hundreds of people in the poor Romanian town of Dragasani have grown rich by conning eBay online auction customers with deals that seem too good to be true — and often are.

The scammers have even put the new town hall up for sale on eBay, the mayor admitted last week.

"I mean, who would want it?" he asked.

Despite growing concern about online frauds, the European Union has poured $300,000 into computer training courses in Dragasani over the past three years in "special recognition" of its information-technology skills.

"I heard about another offer on eBay selling a MiG fighter jet. There was a photo and a very good price as the customer was only being asked to pay for the fuel to fly it. One guy paid $2,000!" the mayor, Gheorghe Iordache, exclaimed.

"The victims are mainly Americans because they are on the Internet most often and they're naive," he added. "I've heard about local guys who have suddenly bought apartments in Bucharest, Germany, Holland, but haven't a job. Others have BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches and they don't work. So where do they get the money from?"

With few local jobs available in this industrial town in Romania's Valcea wine-growing region, defrauding eBay customers has became a popular career path for many of Dragasani's young people.

A classic scam is the "second chance auction," in which fraudsters contact an eBay user who has just missed out on an item, offering them another chance to buy it outside eBay rules. The scammers persuade their victims to purchase the fictitious items using payment methods that do not allow them to recover the money.

Other frauds include hacking into eBay accounts and stealing an identity to make fake offers. Local police say thousands of victims have been defrauded by the scammers. The biggest case involved the sum of $300,000.

Mihai Popescu, 29, is serving a three-year jail sentence for his link to one such scam. He was lured into online fraud when he was unemployed.

Last week his parents protested that he had been made a scapegoat after playing a minor role in the crime, in which his identity card was used to pick up a cash payment from a victim.

"He is only 5 percent guilty. He doesn't even speak English," said his father Stefan.

According to Virgil Spiridon, chief of the national cyber-crime unit, there were 752 arrests and 84 convictions last year, many of them in cases where Romanians posed as Britons.

A spokesman for eBay said it had "invested millions" in fighting fraud in Romania.



Religion beat became a test of faith
    by  W i l l i a m L o b d e l l, LA Times

A reporter looks at how the stories he covered affected him and his spiritual journey.

WHEN Times editors assigned me to the religion beat, I believed God had answered my prayers.

As a serious Christian, I had cringed at some of the coverage in the mainstream media. Faith frequently was treated like a circus, even a freak show.

I wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. Along the way, I believed, my own faith would grow deeper and sturdier.

But during the eight years I covered religion, something very different happened.

In 1989, a friend took me to Mariners Church, then in Newport Beach, after saying: "You need God. That's what's missing in your life." At the time, I was 28 and my first son was less than a year old. I had managed to nearly ruin my marriage (the second one) and didn't think I'd do much better as a father. I was profoundly lost.

The mega-church's pastor, Kenton Beshore, had a knack for making Scripture accessible and relevant. For someone who hadn't studied the Bible much, these talks fed a hunger in my soul. The secrets to living well had been there all along — in "Life's Instruction Manual," as some Christians nicknamed the Bible.

Some friends in a Bible study class encouraged me to attend a men's religious weekend in the San Bernardino Mountains. The three-day retreats are designed to grind down your defenses and leave you emotionally raw — an easier state in which to connect with God. After 36 hours of prayer, singing, Bible study, intimate sharing and little sleep, I felt filled with the Holy Spirit.

At the climactic service Sunday, Mike Barris, a pastor-to-be, delivered an old-fashioned altar call. He said we needed to let Jesus into our hearts.

With my eyes closed in prayer, I saw my heart slowly opening in two and then being infused with a warm, glowing light. A tingle spread across my chest. This, I thought, was what it was to be born again.

The pastor asked those who wanted to accept Jesus to raise their hands. My hand pretty much levitated on its own. My new friends in Christ, many of whom I had first met Friday, gave me hugs and slaps on the back.

I began praying each morning and night. During those quiet times, I mostly listened for God's voice. And I thought I sensed a plan he had for me: To write about religion for The Times and bring light into the newsroom, if only by my stories and example.

My desire to be a religion reporter grew as I read stories about faith in the mainstream media. Spiritual people often appeared as nuts or simpletons.

In one of the most famous examples, the Washington Post ran a news story in 1993 that referred to evangelical Christians as "largely poor, uneducated and easy to command."

Another maddening trend was that homosexuality and abortion debates dominated media coverage, as if those where the only topics that mattered to Christians.

I didn't just pray for a religion writing job; I lobbied hard. In one meeting with editors, my pitch went something like this:

"What if I told you that you have an institution in Orange County that draws more than 15,000 people a weekend and that you haven't written much about?"

They said they couldn't imagine such a thing.

"Saddleback Church in Lake Forest draws that type of crowd."

It took several years and numerous memos and e-mails, but editors finally agreed in 1998 to let me write "Getting Religion," a weekly column about faith in Orange County.

I felt like all the tumblers of my life had clicked. I had a strong marriage, great kids and a new column. I attributed it all to God's grace.

First as a columnist and then as a reporter, I never had a shortage of topics. I wrote about an elderly church organist who became a spiritual mentor to the man who tried to rape, rob and kill her. About the Orthodox Jewish mother who developed a line of modest clothing for Barbie dolls. About the hardy group of Mormons who rode covered wagons 800 miles from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino, replicating their ancestors' journey to Southern California.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholicism, with its low-key evangelism and deep ritual, increasingly appealed to me. I loved its long history and loving embrace of liberals and conservatives, immigrants and the established, the rich and poor.

My wife was raised in the Catholic Church and had wanted me to join for years. I signed up for yearlong conversion classes at a Newport Beach parish that would end with an Easter eve ceremony ushering newcomers into the church.

By then I had been on the religion beat for three years. I couldn't wait to get to work each day or, on Sunday, to church.

IN 2001, about six months before the Catholic clergy sex scandal broke nationwide, the dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles paid a record $5.2 million to a law student who said he had been molested, as a student at Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, by his principal, Msgr. Michael Harris.

Without admitting guilt, Harris agreed to leave the priesthood. As part of the settlement, the dioceses also were forced to radically change how they handled sexual abuse allegations, including a promise to kick out any priest with a credible molestation allegation in his past. It emerged that both dioceses had many known molesters on duty. Los Angeles had two convicted pedophiles still working as priests.

While reporting the Harris story, I learned — from court records and interviews — the lengths to which the church went to protect the priest. When Harris took an abrupt leave of absence as principal at Santa Margarita in January 1994, he issued a statement saying it was because of "stress." He resigned a month later.

His superiors didn't tell parents or students the real reason for his absence: Harris had been accused of molesting a student while he was principal at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana from 1977 to 1979; church officials possessed a note from Harris that appeared to be a confession; and they were sending him to a treatment center.

In September 1994, a second former student stepped forward, this time publicly, and filed a lawsuit. In response, parents and students held a rally for Harris at the school, singing, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." An airplane towed a banner overhead that read "We Love Father Harris."

By this time, church leaders possessed a psychological report in which Catholic psychiatrists diagnosed Harris as having an attraction to adolescents and concluded that he likely had molested multiple boys. (Harris, who has denied the allegations, now stands accused of molesting 12 boys, according to church records.) But they didn't step forward to set the record straight. Instead, a diocesan spokesman called Harris an "icon of the priesthood."

Harris' top defense attorney, John Barnett, lashed out at the priest's accusers in the media, calling them "sick individuals." Again, church leaders remained silent as the alleged victims were savaged. Some of the diocese's top priests — including the cleric in charge of investigating the accusations — threw a going-away party for Harris.

At the time, I never imagined Catholic leaders would engage in a widespread practice that protected alleged child molesters and belittled the victims. I latched onto the explanation that was least damaging to my belief in the Catholic Church — that this was an isolated case of a morally corrupt administration.

And I was comforted by the advice of a Catholic friend: "Keep your eyes on the person nailed to the cross, not the priests behind the altar."

IN late 2001, I traveled to Salt Lake City to attend a conference of former Mormons. These people lived mostly in the Mormon Jell-O belt — Utah, Idaho, Arizona — so-named because of the plates of Jell-O that inevitably appear at Mormon gatherings.

They found themselves ostracized in their neighborhoods, schools and careers. Often, they were dead to their own families.

"If Mormons associate with you, they think they will somehow become contaminated and lose their faith too," Suzy Colver told me. "It's almost as if people who leave the church don't exist."

The people at the conference were an eclectic bunch: novelists and stay-at-home moms, entrepreneurs and cartoonists, sex addicts and alcoholics. Some were depressed, others angry, and a few had successfully moved on. But they shared a common thread: They wanted to be honest about their lack of faith and still be loved.

In most pockets of Mormon culture, that wasn't going to happen.

Part of what drew me to Christianity were the radical teachings of Jesus — to love your enemy, to protect the vulnerable and to lovingly bring lost sheep back into the fold.

As I reported the story, I wondered how faithful Mormons — many of whom rigorously follow other biblical commands such as giving 10% of their income to the church — could miss so badly on one of Jesus' primary lessons?

As part of the Christian family, I felt shame for my religion. But I still compartmentalized it as an aberration — the result of sinful behavior that infects even the church.

IN early 2002, I was assigned to work on the Catholic sex scandal story as it erupted across the nation. I also continued to attend Sunday Mass and conversion classes on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights.

Father Vincent Gilmore — the young, intellectually sharp priest teaching the class — spoke about the sex scandal and warned us Catholics-to-be not to be poisoned by a relatively few bad clerics. Otherwise, we'd be committing "spiritual suicide."

As I began my reporting, I kept that in mind. I also thought that the victims — people usually in their 30s, 40s and up — should have just gotten over what had happened to them decades before. To me, many of them were needlessly stuck in the past.

But then I began going over the documents. And interviewing the victims, scores of them. I discovered that the term "sexual abuse" is a euphemism. Most of these children were raped and sodomized by someone they and their family believed was Christ's representative on Earth. That's not something an 8-year-old's mind can process; it forever warps a person's sexuality and spirituality.

Many of these victims were molested by priests with a history of abusing children. But the bishops routinely sent these clerics to another parish, and bullied or conned the victims and their families into silence. The police were almost never called. In at least a few instances, bishops encouraged molesting priests to flee the country to escape prosecution.

I couldn't get the victims' stories or the bishops' lies — many of them right there on their own stationery — out of my head. I had been in journalism more than two decades and had dealt with murders, rapes, other violent crimes and tragedies. But this was different — the children were so innocent, their parents so faithful, the priests so sick and bishops so corrupt.

The lifeline Father Vincent had tried to give me began to slip from my hands.

I sought solace in another belief: that a church's heart is in the pews, not the pulpits. Certainly the people who were reading my stories would recoil and, in the end, recapture God's house. Instead, I saw parishioners reflexively support priests who had molested children by writing glowing letters to bishops and judges, offering them jobs or even raising their bail while cursing the victims, often to their faces.

On a Sunday morning at a parish in Rancho Santa Margarita, I watched congregants lobby to name their new parish hall after their longtime pastor, who had admitted to molesting a boy and who had been barred that day from the ministry. I felt sick to my stomach that the people of God wanted to honor an admitted child molester. Only one person in the crowd, an Orange County sheriff's deputy, spoke out for the victim.

On Good Friday 2002, I decided I couldn't belong to the Catholic Church. Though I had spent a year preparing for it, I didn't go through with the rite of conversion.

I understood that I was witnessing the failure of humans, not God. But in a way, that was the point. I didn't see these institutions drenched in God's spirit. Shouldn't religious organizations, if they were God-inspired and -driven, reflect higher standards than government, corporations and other groups in society?

I found an excuse to skip services that Easter. For the next few months, I attended church only sporadically. Then I stopped going altogether.

SOME of the nation's most powerful pastors — including Billy Graham, Robert H. Schuller and Greg Laurie — appear on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, benefiting from TBN's worldwide reach while looking past the network's reliance on the "prosperity gospel" to fuel its growth.

TBN's creed is that if viewers send money to the network, God will repay them with great riches and good health. Even people deeply in debt are encouraged to put donations on credit cards.

"If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed � you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven," Paul Crouch, co-founder of the Orange County-based network, once told viewers. Meanwhile, Crouch and his wife, Jan, live like tycoons.

I began looking into TBN after receiving some e-mails from former devotees of the network. Those people had given money to the network in hopes of getting a financial windfall from God. That didn't work.

By then, I started to believe that God was calling me, as he did St. Francis of Assisi, to "rebuild his church" — not in some grand way that would lead to sainthood but by simply reporting on corruption within the church body.

I spent several years investigating TBN and pored through stacks of documents — some made available by appalled employees — showing the Crouches eating $180-per-person meals; flying in a $21-million corporate jet; having access to 30 TBN-owned homes across the country, among them a pair of Newport Beach mansions and a ranch in Texas. All paid for with tax-free donor money.

One of the stars of TBN and a major fundraiser is the self-proclaimed faith healer Benny Hinn. I attended one of his two-day "Miracle Crusades" at what was then the Pond of Anaheim. The arena was packed with sick people looking for a cure.

My heart broke for the hundreds of people around me in wheelchairs or in the final stages of terminal diseases, believing that if God deemed their faith strong enough, they would be healed that night.

Hinn tells his audiences that a generous cash gift to his ministry will be seen by God as a sign of true faith. This has worked well for the televangelist, who lives in an oceanfront mansion in Dana Point, drives luxury cars, flies in private jets and stays in the best hotels.

At the crusade, I met Jordie Gibson, 21, who had flown from Calgary, Canada, to Anaheim because he believed that God, through Hinn, could get his kidneys to work again.

He was thrilled to tell me that he had stopped getting dialysis because Hinn had said people are cured only when they "step out in faith." The decision enraged his doctors, but made perfect sense to Gibson. Despite risking his life as a show of faith, he wasn't cured in Anaheim. He returned to Canada and went back on dialysis. The crowd was filled with desperate believers like Gibson.

I tried unsuccessfully to get several prominent mainstream pastors who appeared on TBN to comment on the prosperity gospel, Hinn's "faith healing" or the Crouches' lifestyle.

Like the Catholic bishops, I assumed, they didn't want to risk what they had.

AS the stories piled up, I began to pray with renewed vigor, but it felt like I wasn't connecting to God. I started to feel silly even trying.

I read accounts of St. John of the Cross and his "dark night of the soul," a time he believed God was testing him by seemingly withdrawing from his life. Maybe this was my test.

I met with my former Presbyterian pastor, John Huffman, and told him what I was feeling. I asked him if I could e-mail him some tough questions about Christianity and faith and get his answers. He agreed without hesitation.

The questions that I thought I had come to peace with started to bubble up again. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God get credit for answered prayers but no blame for unanswered ones? Why do we believe in the miraculous healing power of God when he's never been able to regenerate a limb or heal a severed spinal chord?

In one e-mail, I asked John, who had lost a daughter to cancer, why an atheist businessman prospers and the child of devout Christian parents dies. Why would a loving God make this impossible for us to understand?

He sent back a long reply that concluded:

"My ultimate affirmation is let God be God and acknowledge that He is in charge. He knows what I don't know. And frankly, if I'm totally honest with you, a life of gratitude is one that bows before the Sovereign God arguing with Him on those things that trouble me, lamenting the losses of life, but ultimately saying, 'You, God, are infinite; I'm human and finite.' "

John is an excellent pastor, but he couldn't reach me. For some time, I had tried to push away doubts and reconcile an all-powerful and infinitely loving God with what I saw, but I was losing ground. I wondered if my born-again experience at the mountain retreat was more about fatigue, spiritual longing and emotional vulnerability than being touched by Jesus.

And I considered another possibility: Maybe God didn't exist.

TOWARD the end of my tenure as a religion reporter, I traveled to Nome, Alaska. Sitting in a tiny visitor's room, I studied the sad, round face of the Eskimo in front of me and tried to imagine how much he hated being confined to jail.

Peter "Packy" Kobuk was from a remote village on St. Michael Island in western Alaska. There natives lived, in many ways, just as their ancestors did 10,000 years ago. Smells of the outdoor life hung heavy in his village: the salt air, the strips of salmon drying on racks, the seaweed washed up on the beach.

But for now, Packy could smell only the disinfectants used to scrub the concrete floors at the Anvil Mountain Correction Center. Unfortunately, alcohol and a violent temper had put Packy there many times in his 46 years. For his latest assault, he was serving three months.

The short, powerfully built man folded his calloused hands on the table. I was surprised to see a homemade rosary hanging from his neck, the blue beads held together by string from a fishing net.

I had come from Southern California to report on a generation of Eskimo boys who had been molested by a Catholic missionary. All of the now-grown Eskimos I had interviewed over the past week had lost their faith. In fact, several of them confessed that they fantasized daily about burning down the village church, where the unspeakable acts took place.

But there was Packy with his rosary.

"Why do you still believe?" I asked.

"It's not God's work what happened to me," he said softly, running his fingers along the beads. "They were breaking God's commandments — even the people who didn't help. They weren't loving their neighbors as themselves."

He said he regularly got down on his knees in his jail cell to pray.

"A lot of people make fun of me, asking if the Virgin Mary is going to rescue me," Packy said. "Well, I've gotten helped more times from the Virgin Mary through intercession than from anyone else. I won't stop. My children need my prayers."

Tears spilled from his eyes. Packy's faith, though severely tested, had survived.

I looked at him with envy. Where he found comfort, I was finding emptiness.

IN the summer of 2005, I reported from a Multnomah County, Ore., courtroom on the story of an unemployed mother — impregnated by a seminary student 13 years earlier — who was trying to get increased child support for her sickly 12-year-old son.

The boy's father, Father Arturo Uribe, took the witness stand. The priest had never seen or talked with his son. He even had trouble properly pronouncing the kid's name. Uribe confidently offered the court a simple reason as to why he couldn't pay more than $323 a month in child support.

"The only thing I own are my clothes," he told the judge.

His defense — orchestrated by a razor-sharp attorney paid for by his religious order — boiled down to this: I'm a Roman Catholic priest, I've taken a vow of poverty, and child-support laws can't touch me.

The boy's mother, Stephanie Collopy, couldn't afford a lawyer. She stumbled badly acting as her own attorney. It went on for three hours.

"It didn't look that great," Stephanie said afterward, wiping tears from her eyes. "It didn't sound that great but at least I stood up for myself."

The judge ruled in the favor of Uribe, then pastor of a large parish in Whittier. After the hearing, when the priest's attorney discovered I had been there, she ran back into the courtroom and unsuccessfully tried to get the judge to seal the case. I could see why the priest's lawyer would try to cover it up. People would be shocked at how callously the church dealt with a priest's illegitimate son who needed money for food and medicine.

My problem was that none of that surprised me anymore.

As I walked into the long twilight of a Portland summer evening, I felt used up and numb.

My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul.

Sitting in a park across the street from the courthouse, I called my wife on a cell phone. I told her I was putting in for a new beat at the paper.


Response to the author of the preceeding article:

Dear Mr. Lobdell,
That was a touching story, Religion beat became a test of faith, and it seems that you came to the right conclusion, but for not-so-good reasons.

If you had researched  biology, anthropology, cosmology and physics instead of religion -- If you had had a regular subscription to magazines like Scientific American, for example, ones that popularise these and other fields, or if you had taken to heart your high school biology education, then you'd have a much stronger foundation and ammunition to refute this god-crap, and sooner!  That's what I think. I'm sorry to speak to you like this but I mean it in a nice way :).  Science is actually fun!

As it is now, your well written and touching story allows the existence of an evil god -- and if there can be one god, then why not three or 12 or a 12 zillion, as the Mormons believe?  If something as complex as One who can create a universe can spring from nothing or always exist, then certainly something simpler, universes, can come from a Big Bangs, yes?

What does it mean to lose one's faith?  It seems to imply that faith is a good thing.  Nobody says oh, I lost my cancer but one is well understood if he/she says I lost my vision or my purse.

History-research shows that Nazareth didn't exist until 40 years after the alleged birth of your savior there.  No historian form that time ever heard of Him.  There was no Jesus, no Moses... there were never any captive Jews in Egypt, for example; any Egyptologist will freely tell you that.  The book of Mormon is made up... I could go on.  My point is that knowing this stuff saves one like you, one with a brain, a lot of unnecessary anguish.

              Rev. Buskirk

Rising number of children stand accused of ‘crime of witchcraft’

By P A U L   R E D F E R N          July 26 2010

Tens of thousands of children, some as young as four years old, are being accused of “crimes” of witchcraft in Africa, according to a new report, which examines the consequences for the societies they live in.

Unicef’s Children Accused of Witchcraft report which was released last week looks at a number of case studies across the East African region and in particular the recent killing of albino children in Tanzania.

In western regions of Kenya 15 women accused of witchcraft were recently burnt to death by angry villagers.

The media, and more recently Internet sites in various regions of Africa regularly report shocking figures on the number of violent acts against children, that are related to witchcraft.

Unicef acknowledges that executions of alleged witches have reached alarming levels in a number of African countries including Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

There has been no comprehensive study to suggest how widespread child witchcraft allegations are, or the number of children who have been beaten or killed, but experts believe the numbers are in their thousands or tens of thousands.

Unicef’s regional child protection officer for West and Central Africa Joaquim Theis said more than 20,000 street children had been accused of witchcraft in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa alone.

The report says thousands of elderly people, especially women, have been accused of witchcraft and then beaten and/or killed in Tanzania.

In western regions of Kenya 15 women accused of witchcraft were recently burnt to death by angry villagers.

The report says the existence of such violence requires that a number of distinctions be made.

“First, that there is a difference between belief in witchcraft and accusations of witchcraft. The fact of believing in witchcraft, that is, in the extraordinary power of certain people, does not pose any particular problems.”

According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

The report also notes that, witchcraft accusations that end in extreme violence require a different response.

“Not only do such acts pose serious problems for civil society and African state institutions, but also for those who defend human rights.”

The report says the most common age for witchcraft accusations is between four and 14 years old.

Unlike in medieval times in Europe or in the 19th and early 20th century in Africa, the studies indicate that witchcraft accusations target mostly boys.

Several news articles published recently on the Internet reveal the extreme discrimination and violence against people with albinism, (who are believed to posses magic powers supposedly contained in parts of their bodies) especially in Burundi and Tanzania, but also in Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Kenya, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

In Cameroon, Jean Jacques Ndoudoumou, President of the World Association for the Defence and Solidarity of Albinos (Asmodisa), explains: “People think we are magical creatures, that we’ve come back from the dead as a punishment by God for something we did in our previous life.”

In contrast with the “child witches,” albino children are attacked and killed in order to make people more powerful, rich and prosperous.

Certain body parts, such as the skin, tongue, hands, ears, skull, heart and genital organs are believed to have magical powers and are used to make potions and charms.

These body parts are sometimes called “spare parts” and are commercially traded.

Albinos are especially prized on the occult market, the report says.

Multiple anthropological studies have reported this trade in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

Most authors believe the phenomenon is directly related to globalisation, the arrival of capitalism and the market, production, consumerism, as well as development policies.

It integrates the mysteries of economic growth, the accumulation of wealth and of the general impoverishment of populations

The Unicef report questions those who say that a belief in witches is part of “African tradition”.

“While it is true that certain ancient practices have been maintained, then adapted to contemporary contexts, other practices that appear to be ancient or claim to be are often of very recent origin,” the report says. “Such is the case of the sale of body parts or the mainly urban phenomenon of children accused of witchcraft. According to the most recent anthropological studies, witchcraft and the sacrifice of people with albinism cannot be interpreted solely in terms of “African tradition.” It is a “new” tradition or an “invented tradition.”

The spread of democracy, capitalism and the free market have also democratised the occult.

Today, everything is for sale: charms, talismans, magic powders and potions, some apparently made from body parts.

In some countries, such as Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, albino body parts appear to be particularly highly prized, because they can be used to make potions and magic charms that enhance wealth.

But why is the belief in witchcraft growing even as Africa modernises and becomes a much more integral part of the world economy?

Unicef says that life in the city, paid employment, consumerism, financial pressure and an emerging individualism “have all led to profound transformations in family structures.

“The result is a dysfunctional family and a disruption of relations between age groups – in particular the legitimacy of parental authority – and between men and women. The changes that have been introduced through development are therefore a challenge to African solidarity.

“Accusations of witchcraft against children can also be a direct consequence of this inability of families to meet their basic needs. In addition to these economic and political crises, and general impoverishment, there are also institutional crises to consider, such as inadequate health services, weak legal system, and the role of civil society.”

The study aims to clarify the basis for certain social practices that are wholly or partially misunderstood by western observers.

Behaviours commonly associated with accusations of witchcraft include violence, mistreatment, abuse, infanticide and the abandonment of children.

From a western perspective, such practices are violations of the rights of children.

Unicef says that the objective of its report is to understand both the complexity and the variety of the phenomena described, as well as the causes, which are not only cultural and social, but also economic and political.

The study targets child protection agencies and aims to promote better understanding of local representations and beliefs, as well as to provide guidance on effective child protection interventions.

Children accused of witchcraft are subject to psychological and physical violence, first by family members and their circle of friends, then by church pastors or traditional healers.

They are stigmatised and discriminated for life. Increasingly vulnerable and caught in a cycle of accusation, they risk further accusations of witchcraft.

Children accused of witchcraft may be killed, although more often they are abandoned by their parents and live on the street.

A large number of street children have been accused of witchcraft within the family circle.

These children are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence and to abuse by the authorities.

In order to survive and to escape appalling living conditions, they use drugs and alcohol.

Often victims of sexual exploitation, they are at increased risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection.


‘Holy Ghost’ Religious leader charged with raping teen - Salt Lake City, Utah
March 20, 2012, by A a r o n   V a u g h n

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man who founded a Christian church over a decade ago is now being accused of raping a 15-year-old girl.

Terrill Dalton, 45, founded the Holy Ghost Church of the First Born of Heaven. He later moved his church across three states before being arrested in Montana.

Prosecutors say the alleged victim claims Dalton told her he received a revelation from God telling him to have sex with her so she would be “blessed.” She also says Dalton claims to be the Holy Ghost and forced her to have sex with the first counsel of the church to “seal” the blessing.

“She certainly believed that and was led into a sexual relationship not only with the president of this church but also their first counsel who was part of this organization,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

The Holy Ghost of the Church of the First Born of the General Assembly of Heaven was founded by Dalton in 2004. The small group started in Magna and grew to about 100 members. They moved to the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho where they wore out their welcome and left for greener pastures in Montana. That is where U.S. Marshalls arrested Dalton and his first counsel Geody Harman in 2010.

“These are very serious offenses and rightfully so and the potential on this is up to life in prison,” says Gill.

Dalton was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for two counts of first degree felony rape. Harman is also charged with rape, but was released after he posted bail. Prosecutors have struck a plea deal with him in exchange for his testimony during trial.

Harman claims he was the “Oracle” of the church and dalton would transcribe and interpret the revelations.

“He [Dalton] had an impression from God, which directed him to have sexual intercourse and relations with this 15-year-old minor and therefore, this child would be blessed as a result of that,” said Gill.

Harman not only testified against Dalton, but admitted to having sex with the same teen. However, Harmon’s faith within the church had him lie to police because “the act of giving seed of the physical body was only to be shared to those sealed under celestial light.”;

“He’s talking about celestial and terrestrial … it seemed a little delusional,” said Dalton’s defense attorney Rudy Bautista.

Bautista says his client is innocent and the alleged victim, who is now 22, is not telling the truth.

“We plan to introduce evidence tomorrow [Wednesday] that she told her sister that the reason why she’s doing this is to get Terrill’s money so she can use it to buy drugs and other things,” said Bautista.

The alleged victim will be testifying Wednesday. The trial is expected to last through Thursday.

If convicted, Dalton could spend up to life in prison for the two felony rape charges.

Harman is expected to plead guilty to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor as part of his plea deal. The third-degree felony carries a maximum of five years in prison.


  Pakistan mob burns man accused of desecrating Koran alive
By H a m i d   S h e i k h       Sat, Dec 22

HYDERABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - A mob broke into a Pakistani police station and burnt a man accused of desecrating the Koran alive, police said Saturday, in the latest violence focusing attention on the country's blasphemy laws.

The man was a traveler and had spent Thursday night at the mosque, said Maulvi Memon, the imam in the southern village of Seeta in Sindh province. The charred remains of the Koran were found the next morning.

"He was alone in the mosque during the night," Memon said. "There was no one else there to do this terrible thing."

Villagers beat the man then handed him over to police. A few hours later, a crowd of around 200 stormed the police station, dragged the man out and set him on fire, said Usman Ghani, the senior superintendent of police in Dadu district.

Ghani said around 30 people had been arrested for the murder and seven police detained for negligence.

At least 53 people have been killed in Pakistan since 1990 after being accused of blasphemy, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies, and accusations are becoming more frequent.

Blasphemy in Pakistan is punishable by death but it is not specifically defined by law. During court cases, lawyers often do not wish to repeat evidence against the accused for fear of being blasphemous themselves.

People have been arrested for just discussing or writing about Islam, making mistakes in homework or not joining protests against a film insulting Islam. In some cases, the accusers have had financial disputes with those who are accused.

Most recently, international attention focused on the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager accused of having some burnt pages of a child's exercise book quoting the Koran in a bag of rubbish she was carrying.

The case was dismissed last month after a neighbor came forward to say she was framed, possibly to chase Christians out of her neighborhood.

In the past two years, two senior Pakistani officials who suggested reforming the laws have been shot dead, one by his own bodyguard. Lawyers threw rose petals at the killer and the judge who convicted him was forced to flee the country.

(Additional reporting by  M e h r e e n   Z a h r a - M a l i k;   Writing by K a t h a r i n e   H o u r e l d;   Editing by N i c k   M a c f i e)


Islamic punishment: Amputation
By K r i s t a   L a r s o n      Feb. 2013

GAO, Mali — The Islamic extremists in Mali came to Issa Alzouma's cell and brought him out to the public square they had renamed Place de Shariah. They laid him out, tying down his arms and legs before amputating his right hand and forearm with a knife.

"I passed out from the pain," the 39-year-old father of three recalled, the stump, just below his elbow, still wrapped in gauze more than a month later. "The next thing I knew I was in the hospital."

The Islamic extremists in Mali came to Issa Alzouma's cell and brought him out to the public square they had renamed Place de Shariah. They laid him out, tying down his arms and legs before amputating his right hand and forearm with a knife.

 Link  Islam - News from the Past

Alzouma still carries the worn, folded piece of paper he was given upon his discharge from the hospital in December after five days there. Diagnosis: Amputation, it says.

The northern Malian town of Gao has been celebrating the departure of the Islamic radicals after nearly 10 months in power. But the French military intervention that caused the armed jihadists to flee came too late for Alzouma and the other men who lost their hands and probably their livelihoods, too, when the militants carried out amputations as punishments for theft and other alleged crimes under their strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law.

Alzouma, the last prisoner in Gao whose hand was chopped off, doesn't know how he will support his wife and three children. He used to dig for gravel for a living.

"Even for men with two hands, there is no work to be found," he said.

When the Islamic extremists first took over Gao last April, Alzouma says they talked about Islam and the importance of being a good Muslim. Only later, he says, did they start imposing their strict rule. In total, they carried out nine amputations in Gao, residents say, and several others in the nearby town of Ansongo.

In November, Alzouma was traveling by motorcycle between his home village and Gao when the jihadists arrested him and accused him of espionage. Alzouma denied it, and said he had been lingering on the road only because he was changing a faulty plug on his motorcycle's engine. Later, the extremists said witnesses had seen him breaking into a nearby store.

A neighbor later came by their home to tell his wife Fatimata that his hand had been cut off. How would she explain to their 7-year-old son Ousmane why his father had no hand, she wanted to know. When they went to visit him in the hospital, Ousmane cried at the sight of his father's bandaged stump.

Tiny but resilient, Fatimata now bears the weight of responsibility for their family's future, packaging charcoal in plastic bags to sell for income. The jihadists wanted to keep women in the home but ironically the amputation has changed the dynamic of gender roles, with Fatimata now going out to work while he stays home recuperating and helping watch over the children.

Alzouma cannot afford pain medication. He returns every 10 days to the hospital to have his dressing changed. He hopes that one day he can get a prosthesis that will give him back some functionality. He knows, though, he will not be able to dig gravel as he did before.

"Each day when I pray I ask God 'What can I do to survive? How can I support my family?' " he says.

The militants said they cut off his hand in accordance with Islamic law. Alzouma, though, says to subject him and his children to a life of poverty is not in accordance with his faith.

"They said they were Muslims, but they are not," he said. "They are criminals."


"She was a demon. We had to destroy her" -
Two Chinese cult members to be executed for McDonald’s murder

T e r r e n c e   M c C o y,   W a s h i n g t o n   P o s t    |      October, 2014

It was at the back of the restaurant – beyond the fry stand, the grease-slicked counter, the droves of gawking patrons — where the murder happened. The restaurant was a McDonald’s. It was a Wednesday evening. The murderers, who bludgeoned the woman to death with chairs and a mop, belonged to a cult described as China’s “most radical.”;

Called the Church of the Almighty God, it claims to have a million followers, aggressively promotes Doomsday scenarios, wants to destroy the Chinese Communist Party and believes that Jesus Christ has returned — as a Chinese woman.

“I beat her with all my might and stamped on her, too,” Zhang told state television, the BBC reported. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”

But it was the McDonald’s murder that has consumed a Chinese court’s attention over the last two months. Days ago, two church members were convicted and sentenced to death for a killing that, even by the standards of the Church of the Almighty God, was peculiar and brutal.

According to prosecutors, five members tried to recruit a woman patronizing the McDonald’s in question, asked for her phone number and beat her to death when she refused. Defendant Zhang Lidong, who arrived that night in luxury Porsche Cayenne car, never offered much explanation.

“You could just tell she was not a good person,” he said in a state television interview, describing the 35-year-old mother. “She was a demon, the evil spirit. We had to beat her to death.”;

The trial, which brought greater attention to the Christian cult without elucidating its murkier aspects, marked another clash in a decades-long feud between the Chinese authorities and the church. The Chinese have long been suspicious of religious organizations and have been known to crack down, imprison or even execute dissidents with little provocation.

In late 2012, the state arrested more than 1,300 members after the church fretted over an impending doomsday following the release of the disaster film, “2012.” Then this year, following the the McDonald’s murder, state media reported that Chinese authorities had arrested 1,000 more cult members.

“The suspects, all seized since June, are allegedly involved in more than 500 cases,” Xinhua said in a brief report. “Among them are nearly a hundred ‘high-level organizers and backbone members.’”;

Adding more confusion is the cult’s convoluted Web site. It speaks of life’s three stages — ploughing, sowing and harvesting — and offers a series of books, including one depicting a viola floating over a lake amid a flurry of doves. “Follow the lamb,” says the church, which also goes by the name Eastern Lightning. “And sing new songs.” Its Facebook page describes the group thusly: “The Lord Jesus has already Come. God’s sheep hear the voice of God.”;

Much of the church’s teaching hinges on Jesus, who to them is now a woman named Yang Xiangbin. Little is known of the woman beyond this: she reportedly suffered some sort of mental breakdown after failing a national exam and “has a history of mental illness,” according to China’s People’s Daily. In the early 1990s, the 30-year-old woman came into the orbit of a square-jawed man named Zhao Weishan in Zhengzhou, Henan province, according to the Christian Research Institute. Zhao claimed that God had told him she was the “female Christ,” and he began attracting followers to her.

Defendant Zhang Hang cries during her trial for the murder of a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant, in Yantai City, Shandong province October 11, 2014 in this still image taken from video. (REUTERS/CCTV)
The ethos of the group, however, is as much about dissent as it is religion. On its Web site, it castigates the ruling politburo for its “evil deeds,” labeling it the “Great Red Dragon.” It produces movies telling members what to do if the government captures them: “Even if they beat me to death, my soul is still in God’s hands.”;
“It’s about as illegal and politically sensitive as religion gets in China,” Emily Dunn, of the University of Melbourne, told CNN. “As the government has cracked down more, Eastern Lightning’s rhetoric has escalated against the government.”;

As is the nature of many churches accused of being a cult, the only members who comment on it are those who have extricated themselves under acrimonious conditions. “The strategy is to slowly draw you in,” one 31-year-old former member told the Telegraph. “It is like taking classes in school. They told us there are three steps to believing in God. First you believe in Joseph, then in Christ, then in the female reincarnation of Christ. They asked us to convert more people or God would be upset…. At night I would always feel scared when I was alone.”;

Which is exactly what prosecutors say the church had in mind in May when members approached their victim in the McDonald’s. And when she denied their attempts at recruitment?

“I beat her with all my might and stamped on her, too,” Zhang told state television, the BBC reported. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”;

Source:   Please ALLOW COOKIES if you want to see the books

Why I Am Not a Christian,
and Other Essays on
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Why I Am Not a Muslim,
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Raised in the Muslim faith, Warraq came to reject religion and now spends his time lecturing and writing. He recently authored a piece "Islam, The Middle East and Fascism" which critiques the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an.


Holy Bible:
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Ken's Guide to the Bible
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With precision and pig-
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The Holy Qur'an:

Translation & Commentary

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Editor)


The Quest for the Historical Muhammad
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