This article by Tim Brunero first appeared on the Live News Australia website and can be viewed here.
Handbooks allegedly used to perform exorcisms on sick girls at the controversial Mercy Ministries residences in Sydney and on the Sunshine Coast have been leaked to LIVENEWS.com.au.
Mercy Ministries, which is bankrolled by the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, has previously denied performing exorcisms on residents.
The documents, obtained clandestinely by a girl who “escaped” the group’s clutches, shows counsellors how to rid ‘demons’ from girls struggling with anorexia, depression and drug addiction.
Mercy Ministries’ activities hit the headlines in March this year when former residents claimed they were subjected to exorcisms, were cut off from friends and family and had to sign over their Centrelink payments to the group.
Some of the young women say they had little or no access to the promised psychologists and other mental health professionals but were instead counselled by bible studies students whose solution to all problems was prayer.
Earlier this year the then head of Mercy Ministries, Peter Irvine, said exorcisms were not practised at the residences. Mercy Ministries has been forced to shut their Sunshine Coast residence.
“There’s no exorcism, no driving out of spirits it’s not how the program works,” he told Today Tonight’s Marguerite McKinnon earlier this year.
But the handbooks tell a different story and corroborate accounts given to LIVENEWS.com.au by former residents of Mercy Ministries.
In the handbook, under a section entitled ‘Identifying Additional Demons’ those practising the exorcism are advised to ask the demon’s name, but not for any more details.
“They sometimes talk: they may threaten the person or you. They have been know to say, ‘I am going to kill you,’ and other unsavoury phrases. Command them to be quiet in the Name of Jesus,” the book advises.
Later, the book, Restoring The Foundations, published by an American Christian group, warns those exorcising demons to be firm.
“The minister’s attitude is one of commanding,” it reads.
“He needs to be firm and prepared to press in. He does not need to be loud. (Demons are not deaf.) The ministers’ commanding attitude resembles that of a person speaking to a little “yappy” dog commanding him to go home and stop barking.
“We also want the ministry receiver to set his will to resist and then command the particular demon or grouping of demons to leave him, in Jesus’ name. This is repeated until the demons are gone.”
Later in the book, those performing the exorcism are given more complex techniques in a subheading called ‘What to do With Obstinate Demons’.
Later a list of ‘Scriptures that Demons Hate’ is provided.
“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you,” is one such passage singled out.
The emergence of the exorcism handbook lends weight to other claims made by girls who went through the Mercy Ministries program.
Megan Smith (not her real name), who spoke to LIVENEWS.com.au earlier this year, said her panic attacks only got worse.
“I was self-harming,” she said.
“I was cutting my arm with anything I could get my hands on – scratching with anything from my nails to paper clips.
“I never really had a problem with self-harm beforehand. When you tell them about self-harming they said I was trying to get attention and I was taking their valuable time away from girls with real problems.”
Finally, she was subjected to an exorcism.
“The counsellor gave me a list of different demons – demon of anger, demon of unforgiveness, demon of pride, there were lots of them and I was told to go away and circle the demons I had in me or around me,” said Smith.
“I was really scared… they cast demons out of me, one by one, and they became quite excited and animated during the process, and spoke in tongues.
“It was the counsellors and myself and they put their hands on me and started praying one by one for each of the demons that were on the list to be cast out of me.
“After each demon was cast out I had to say ‘I confirm the demon of X has been cast out of me in the name of Jesus and is unwelcome to return.’
“The whole time I was there, all I heard was that I’m demonic.
“Even after the exorcism, when I had the next anxiety attack, I was told that they had already cast the demons out, so therefore I was obviously either faking it, or I had chosen to let the demons come back, in which case I was not serious about getting better.
“They kept telling us that the world can’t help us, professionals with all their ‘worldly qualifications’ can’t help us, only Mercy could because only they have God’s power.
“So when I was kicked out for being ‘demonic, unable to be helped, not worth a place at Mercy’ and because I had taken too long to pray to become a Christian… it left me worse than I had ever been before in my life.
“They told me I would never get better now because I had blown my chance. I started cutting my arms and wrists more than ever, with their voices echoing in my mind as I did it.”
Suicidal and self-harming after being removed from the program, which she now thought was her only hope, she went to see a “proper psychologist to prepare me to go back to Mercy to help me fit in better.”
“The psychologist had never heard of them but told me to stay away from them… that person helped me more in the 40 minute session – really listening to me and understanding me.”
LIVENEWS.com.au has contacted Mercy Ministries for comment and is still awaiting a response.