A nationwide controversy over an unauthorized exorcism in Romania has unleashed concerns about the growing competition and lack of training of clergy in this predominantly Eastern Orthodox nation. The New York Times (July 3) reports on the publicized case of an Romanian Orthodox monk with a growing following who conducted an unauthorized exorcism of a young women with a psychiatric condition, leading to her death.
The incident, which concluded with the arrest of the monk and the nuns who conducted the exorcism and the closing of his monastery, has led to charges of a church- and monastery-building frenzy where irregularities in seminary training are often overlooked. The return to religion in Romania and other formerly Communist countries “has in many places outrun the speed at which the church can screen and train clergy,“ writes Craig S. Smith.
Romanian sociologist Alfred Bulai adds that “There have been a lot of new churches built and there is a kind of competition. There has been a loss of control.” The number of Romanian monasteries has nearly tripled to 600 since 1990, and the number of its monks has quadrupled to 2,800. Often prominent businessmen sponsor new monasteries as a mark of devotion and pride. Smith adds that these self-styled clergy and the still-strong folk traditions in poor areas of the Romanian countryside have encouraged the growth of elaborate exorcism practices in recent years.