The UK’s Channel 4 is taking reality television to the next level with the planned broadcast of a live exorcism of a man whose brain activity will be monitored while a priest drives out his demons.
Channel 4 has earned a reputation for provocative broadcasting of medical procedures, having shown an abortion in 2004 and an autopsy two years prior.
An Anglican priest will be conducting the exorcism on a young man who claims he is “possessed by evil,” according to the Sunday London Times. The young man has been receiving counsel from the priest for several years.
The controversial subject matter has already drawn criticism before the program’s showing.
“People who need this sort of help are nearly always psychologically troubled,” says Dominic Walker, Bishop of Monmouth. “Once you’ve got a television program on exorcism we’ll end up with lots of telephone calls from people saying, ‘I think I’m possessed’, because they have got some problems that a doctor hasn’t been able to solve.”
The Church of England has not commented on Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the exorcism, but noted that the practice is one not viewed lightly by the clergy.
“There are very careful pastoral decisions made by priests about exactly what circumstances it’s right to offer this ministry,” said a spokesman.
Earlier this month, Ireland’s Catholic dioceses were encouraged by a leading expert on spiritual issues to each have a specialist who is qualified to evaluate “poltergeists, hauntings and demonic infestations.”
Anglican priests in Australia report they commonly bless homes whose owners complain of items of furniture being inexplicably moved about.
“Sometimes, it has to be said that, for some people, there is a psychological projection going on and you try to make sure that you don’t cause any further damage to these people,” Very Reverend Graeme Lawrence, Dean of Newcastle, tells the Sydney Morning Herald.
“But from time to time I have gone to a dwelling and taken some of the baptismal water from the font with me and I have quite clearly blessed the house, and asked for God’s blessing. As a sign I’ve sprinkled the baptismal water and prayed that the presence will depart.”
Channel 4 insists its intention is to treat the matter seriously and scientifically, not as a stunt to draw viewers. Scientists, as well as priests, are scheduled to be part of the program.
“Exorcisms are carried out regularly in Britain and some scientists who have studied religious experiences believe that measuring brain activity could reveal what’s going on during the process,” says Simon Andreae, Channel 4’s head of science.