Role of exorcism in Catholic Church highlighted after complaint against Wollongong priest
By Nick McLaren
A Wollongong clinical psychologist and Catholic priest is being investigated for comments he made about exorcism on ABC radio.
Fr Gerard Stoyles is the subject of a complaint to the Psychology Council of New South Wales over comments he made to triple j’s John Safran.
The ABC understands the complaint was made via the Health Care Complaints Commission website and queried if it was legal for a NSW psychologist to “promote” exorcism.
The complaint refers specifically to an interview in October 2015 in which Fr Stoyles spoke of his role in referring two people for exorcisms — a child and an adult female.
“She was showing many qualities about her personality that were just not right,” Fr Stoyles said in reference to the adult female.
“Anybody looking at her would say ‘there is something psychologically wrong here’ but in fact, all of the independent assessments said there was nothing wrong at all, so I referred her further to the exorcist who looked after those matters.”
He also said each Catholic Diocese had its own officially appointed exorcist.
The Catholic Bishop of Wollongong Peter Ingham said he had never approved the undertaking of the rite of exorcism and to his knowledge it had never been performed.
However, Bishop Ingham did say exorcisms were performed by Catholic priests in some rare circumstances.
“Only a priest with the explicit and express authorisation of the bishop with the necessary personal and professional qualifications, and who has undertaken appropriate formation, may carry out such an exorcism,” he said.
“The practice of exorcism is very rare and is used only with great care and caution.
“The church makes clear that exorcism is not a response to illness, especially psychological illness, which is the concern of medical science.”
Fr Stoyles worked as a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and ended 17 years of employment in October 2015.
“The university has nothing further to add to Dr Stoyles’s own public statements,” a university spokesman said.
“UOW rejects any suggestion that any redundancy has been initiated as response to, or in connection with, any allegations or public controversy.”