Exorcism, the priest and movie deals; Diocese puzzled, disappointed

Dateline: Mon 10 Feb 2014



The Roman Catholic Church is in need of a good public relations agency in Indiana.

The issue is the Catholic priest from Gary, Ind., the Rev. Michael Maginot, who performed a so-called exorcism in a home in Gary where a mother claimed demons had possessed her three children, aged 7, 9 and 12.

This story was Page 1 news in the Indianapolis Star Jan. 26. Since then, it has been gobbled up by tabloid press around the world, and it has of course attracted the usual vultures: TV types who have signed on the mother -- and shockingly, the priest -- for more publicity. Yes, a Catholic priest, himself a canon lawyer, has cut a money deal for appearing in more sensationalized TV accounts of this wretched, silly and highly manipulated story.

A friend, the Rev. Marie Siroky, a United Church of Christ (UCC) pastor and a former Catholic nun, now lives in Northwest Indiana, after residing in Indy. She too has taken an interest in this story.

As a representative of a religious group, with more than a passing understanding of the Catholic Church, she shared with me her indignation at the flippant reporting by the Star and, even more, the frivolous, shallow and media-savvy approach taken by the priest.

Rev. Maginot was not born yesterday; he is a grey-haired canon lawyer in the church. Before this splash, his claim to fame in 2004 was legally protecting Catholic priests who stand accused of a crime; he himself argued against submitting to a criminal background check in his diocese for all priests, and he refused such a check. The bishop's intent was to weed our sex offenders or other criminals.

But here he is now, on the national stage, bringing shame to the faith. Even the Catholic and conservative Bill O'Reilly challenged the priest on O'Reilly's show, hammering home that Father Maginot HAD NEVER EVEN MET THE CHILDREN yet still performed an exorcism. He did have permission from the bishop for the exorcism; he appealed once, was denied, and appealed again, and the exorcism request was granted.

Then came the Star and the subsequent TV/let's make a deal frenzy.

On Feb. 7, Rev. Siroky contacted the docese of Gary to ask pertinent questions and voice her concerns. Here is some of what director of communications, Debbie Bosak, said in response, speaking on behalf of the bishop, the Rev. Dale Melczek.

"Father Maginot did not request nor would he have received permission to sign a 'movie deal' had he sought permission from the bishop. The official stance of the diocese from the beginning is that this is to be considered the performance of a very private ministry and, as such for reasons of confidentiality, we could not and would not comment or enter into any public discussion of the matter. Bishop Melczek first read about the movie contract and all the other media hype in the newspaper at the same time as everyone else."

Ms. Bosak goes on to explain that Catholic priests are assigned certain duties, but what they choose to do with their free or private time is up to their discretion. She acknowledged that the priest did receive permission to perform the exorcism in 2012, then adds:

"...beyond that, why Father Maginot decided going so public with the story is puzzling and disappointing to us all."

It is indeed puzzling, disappointing and very frustrating to many Catholics as well.

And back to the original question: why would the Indianapolis Star -- as O'Reilly says, the state's largest newspaper -- go tabloid? Obviously the three children, with the family having been under investigation by the Department of Child Services, have been under enough stress. Why do even more harm?

A side issue, but a critical one regarding the newspaper's decisions: Rev. Sirokey and I agree that there is historically very little understanding of Catholicism in what I call the Bible Belt of Central Indiana. The newspaper has nobody covering religion/faith now, as far as I can tell. So given the paper's worldview, it perhaps makes sense for the Star to run with a story like this.

However, what makes no sense is irreponsible reporting as well as irresponsible actions by the priest.

The two parties are tied together. Both are at fault.


George Stuteville [unverified] said:

It was a bogus story and awful on so many counts I am unable to count them all!

2014-02-10 10:54:40

ruthholl [Member] said:

Exactly! Yet most of the comments were favorable after the story was first published. True, there were some who did independent thinking and research, but most just swallowed it whole hog.

2014-02-10 10:56:31

Gail [unverified] said:

Having two sons in their early 20s, I marvel at times how certain they are that they have it all figured out. I also remember being that age myself and feeling exactly the same way. What saved my reporting career were seasoned editors who were where I am now ... something that likely will never return to the Star.

Facebook, Twitter, reality TV. That's where story ideas are being generated today. The exorcism story likely was an idea stolen from a reality tv program that featured an Indianapolis priest who performed an exorcism on a woman from southern Indiana. Wondering myself if it were true, I Googled the priest's name. Here's a link http://www.archindy.org/criterion/local/2011/03-18/exorcist.html. If you read it, you'll see that the priest himself acknowledges that most people fighting demons have personal issues. I have to wonder if the idea came from the same show I saw and if the priest in Indianapolis said thanks but no thanks. I do not wonder, however, why a seasoned editor didn't question the report. They're as rare as demons.

2014-02-10 19:22:14

Monotonous Languor [unverified] said:

I know The Star has been sinking in terms of quality of Investigative Reporting for years. This Front Page article on exorcism in The Star proves to me at least The Star has sunk to the bottom.

I thought at the time I read the article what a set-up for some "reality" show, with Ghost and Demon hunters descending on the house.

I love Science Fiction and monster movies and aliens, but I expect a lot more from the largest paper in Indiana. What will be next scoop for The Star a front page article on Voodoo dolls sold in Gas Stations.

2014-02-10 22:30:56

hendy [Member] said:

This crap sells newspapers and clicks online. To have done a thorough investigation would cost obvious money and show true depth. C'mon-- we're talking Gannett here.

2014-02-11 13:32:13

Ron [unverified] said:

I found it an interesting read, at least.

2014-02-12 11:08:21

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