Wednesday, 18 November 2009

+Montague Summers


The Right Reverend Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers (1880-1948) was a fascinating character without whom demonological research would be very much the poorer. Throughout his life he was described by acquaintances as kind, courteous, generous and outrageously witty; but those who knew him well sensed an underlying discomfort and mystery. In appearance he was plump, round cheeked and generally smiling. His dress resembled that of an eighteenth century cleric, with a few added flourishes such as a silver-topped cane depicting Leda being ravished by Zeus in the form of a swan. He wore sweeping black capes crowned by a curious hairstyle of his own devising which led many to assume he wore a wig. His voice was high pitched, comical and often in complete contrast to the macabre tales he was in the habit of recounting. Throughout his life he astonished people with his knowledge of esoteric and unsettling occult lore. Many people later described him as the most extraordinary person they had ever known. I, like wise, began in the Church of England and converted to Roman Catholicism before entering holy orders in an autocephalous Catholic Church ~ as, of course, did Summers. We were both ordained within the context of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and, as Catholic Bishops, led self-governing and independent jurisdictions which held authority in Great Britain. Summers entered the Old Catholic priesthood in 1913 and, towards the end of his life, was elevated to the episcopate by Hugh George de Willmott Newman, Archbishop of Glastonbury ~ an office and currently held by myself. Summers was episcopally consecrated for the Order of Corporate Reunion.

Despite his cherubic demeanour and affability some people found Montague Summers sinister, a view he delighted in encouraging. Although in everyday life he was kind and considerate, when engaged in academic debate Summers was furiously intolerant. There were also rumours that in his youth Summers had dabbled in the occult. If true, the only effect seems to have been to turn him completely against such meddling. Summers may have been fascinated, even obsessed by witches, vampires and the like but the tone of his writings is consistently hostile towards them. 

Montague Summers grew up in a wealthy family living in Clifton, near Bristol. Religion always played a large part in his life. He was raised as an evangelical Anglican, but his love of ceremonial and sacraments drew him to Anglo-Catholicism. After graduating in Theology at Oxford he took the first steps towards holy orders at Lichfield Theological College and entered his apprenticeship as a curate in the diocese of Bitton near Bristol. A year or so later he converted to Roman Catholicism. He had been made a deacon within the Church of England in 1908, and was diaconated again within the Roman Catholic Church, but it was not until he embraced the Old Catholic Church that he was ordained into the priesthood. He celebrated Mass publicly when travelling abroad, but at home in England he only performed this sacrament in private. This was probably due to the fact that he was ordained into the priesthood outside the regular procedures of the Church. Old Catholic holy orders, albeit valid, are irregular in the eyes of Rome.

None of his close friends doubted the sincerity of his religious faith. Dame Sybil Thorndike wrote of him:

“I think that because of his profound belief in the tenets of orthodox Catholic Christianity he was able to be in a way almost frivolous in his approach to certain macabre heterodoxies. His humour, his ‘wicked humour’ as some people called it, was most refreshing, so different from the tiresome sentimentalism of so many convinced believers.”

For a living, Summers was able to draw on a modest legacy from his father, supplemented by spells of teaching at various schools, including Hertford Grammar, the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Holborn, and Brockley School in south London where he was senior English and Classics Master. He described teaching as:

“One of the most difficult and depressing of trades, and so in some measure it must have been even well-nigh three hundred years ago when boys were not nearly so stupid as they are today.”

In practice though, he was both entertaining and effective as a teacher once he had overcome initial problems with discipline, and was popular with both pupils and colleagues despite making it plain his real interests lay elsewhere.

From 1926, when he was in his mid-forties, Summers' writings and editing earned him the freedom to pursue full time his many enthusiasms and love of travel, particularly in Italy. The bulk of his activity then was related to English Restoration drama of the seventeenth century. Beginning in 1914 with the Shakespeare Head Press, Summers had edited a large number of Restoration plays for various publishers, accompanied by lengthy critical introductions that were highly praised in their own right, and did much to rescue that period of literature from oblivion.

Not content with editing and introducing these plays, Summers helped in 1919 to found the Phoenix Society whose aim was to present them on stage in London. The venture was an immediate success and Summers threw himself wholeheartedly and popularly into all aspects of the productions, which were staged at various theatres. This brought him a measure of fame in London society and invitations to the most select salons, which he dazzled with his wit and erudition. By 1926 he was recognized as the greatest living authority on Restoration drama. Some ten years later he crystallized his knowledge in The Restoration Theatre and The Playhouse of Pepys which examined almost every possible aspect of the London stage between 1660 and 1710. Summers' involvement with the theatre presents a curious parallel with his near contemporary Bram Stoker, who for most of his working life was business manager to Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in London. There is even a suggestion of some jealousy in the grudging praise Summers gives Bram Stoker's Dracula, leading to his conclusion that the novel's success owed more to Stoker’s choice of subject than any authorial skill. One cannot fail to suspect that Summers felt he might have written the definitive vampire novel himself, only better. Notwithstanding this conjecture, Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece remains a work of sheer genius. It was left to myself to tie up the lose ends left flapping about at Dracula’s conclusion in a sequel titled Carmel. The thought must have surely occurred to Summers, but it was to be Summers’ own successor who executed the deed.

Summers’ fame as an expert on the occult began in 1926 with the publication of his History of Demonology and Witchcraft followed by other studies of witches, vampires and werewolves; notably The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929). As an editor he also introduced to the public, along with many other works, a reprint of The Discovery of Witches by the infamous Matthew Hopkins and the first English translation of the classic fifteenth century treatise on witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum. In later life he also wrote influential studies of the Gothic novel, another lifelong enthusiasm; notably The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel (1938), and A Gothic Bibliography (1940). Much of Summers’ life remains in obscurity, many of his personal papers have been lost; yet he left an autobiography, The Galanty Show, that was published over thirty years after his death.

In his introduction to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto Summers articulated the appeal of Gothic novels, and perhaps also the appeal of all the dark mysteries that fascinated him:

“There is in the Romantic revival a certain disquietude and a certain aspiration. It is this disquietude with earth and aspiration for heaven which inform the greatest Romance of all, Mysticism, the Romance of the Saints. The Classical writer set down fixed rules and precisely determined his boundaries. The Romantic spirit reaches out beyond these with an indefinite but very real longing to new and dimly guessed spheres of beauty. The Romantic writer fell in love with the Middle Ages, the vague years of long ago, the days of chivalry and strange adventure. He imagined and elaborated a mediaevalism for himself, he created a fresh world, a world which never was and never could have been, a domain which fancy built and fancy ruled. And in this land there will be mystery, because where there is mystery beauty may always lie hid. There will be wonder, because wonder always lurks where there is the unknown. And it is this longing for beauty intermingling with wonder and mystery that will express itself, perhaps exquisitely and passionately in the twilight moods of the romantic poets, perhaps a little crudely and even a little vulgarly in tales of horror and blood.”

Bishop Montague Summers died of a heart attack in 1948 and his mantle awaited the arrival of another. When Sandy Roberston launched The Summers Project in 1986 to raise money for a tombstone to be laid on Summers’ unmarked grave in Richmond Cemetery, known only as plot 10818, I was grateful it was to me he turned for support. The simple stone, bearing the legend “Tell me strange things,” was erected on 26 November 1988. Summers invariably opened his conversation with those words when people visited him. He yearned to hear strange things. In 1991 an updated and enlarged hardcover edition of my best selling The Highgate Vampire was dedicated to the memory of Montague Summers. This fitting tribute to that former vampirologist still remains in print and soon to be made into a major cinema film. Two years after his death, Summers’ longstanding friend, Hector Stuart-Forbes, joined him in the then unmarked plot at Richmond.


Hello Bishop Manchester. I would like to ask, what is your opinion of the events that took place at Garabandal. I believe the alleged events took place between 1961 & 1965. I am kind of on the fence on whether to believe it or not. Conchita Gonzalez, Maria Dolores Mazon, Jacinta Gonzalez and Maria Cruz Gonzalez do seem to be witnessing something special. But, some of their behavior does seem a little suspicious at times. For example, them running backward and falling back and levitating just inches off the ground. The Catholic church, to my knowledge, has never approved or disapproved of the events that allegedly took place at Garabandal. - Ruben

Garabandal is a small village in northern Spain, in the Santander province, near the Picos de Europa mountains, a rugged and beautiful setting. Its full name is San Sebastian of Garabandal. It is located six hundred metres above sea level, some fifty-seven miles from the capital of the province. To get there one must climb steep, poor roads. No more than three hundred people live in Garabandal. The town is impressively quiet. There is no doctor in the town and no resident priest at the parish church. The priest from Cosio, the next town down the road, used to celebrate Mass there on Sunday.

On the evening of 18 June 1961, four girls were playing on the outskirts of the town - Conchita Gonzalez, Maria Dolores (Mari-loli) Mazon, Jacinta Gonzalez and Maria Cruz Gonzalez (not related despite having the same name.) Maria Cruz was eleven, the others twelve, and all were from poor families. Suddenly they heard a loud noise, like thunder, and saw before them the bright figure of the Archangel Michael.

On the following days the Archangel appeared to them again in the same place. He announced that on July 2nd they would see Our Lady. This was the beginning of the Garabandal events.

News spread quickly. On July 2nd, many priests were among the numerous visitors who joined the villagers to witness the great event. At about 6.00pm, the children were headed for the spot where they had been seeing the angel when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared with an angel on each side.

They recognised one of the angels as the one who had been appearing to them (later identified as St Michael the Archangel) and the other looked identical. Above the Virgin was a large eye that the children thought to be the eye of God. They spoke openly and familiarly with their Heavenly Mother and said the rosary in her presence. Over the next year-and-a-half she would appear many times.

To confirm the supernatural character of the events, St Michael told Conchita that on a certain date, the invisible Communion he had been giving her would become visible on her tongue. So, in the early morning hours of 19 July 1962, she left her house in ecstasy, turned a corner, and fell to her knees in an adjacent street. As the crowd pressed around her, she put out her tongue and those just inches away affirmed that it was bare and the mouth empty. Then, faster than the eye could see, a brilliant white Host appeared on her tongue.

Regarding the claim to private revelation at Garabandal, I find no moral or doctrinal errors in any of the messages or claims associated with Garabandal. False private revelations almost always have moral or doctrinal errors in their messages.

There are no clearly false statements about the future. There appear to be no errors of eschatological theology, not even subtle ones. The predictions of a Warning, a Miracle, and a Chastisement are in no way contrary to the teachings of the Church on the Mercy and Justice of God, nor are they contrary to the teachings of Sacred Scripture about the future. In fact, the ideas of a Warning, a Miracle, and a Chastisement agree with my understanding of what the Bible itself predicts for the future.

False private revelations almost always make erroneous claims about the future of the Church and the world. No such false claims are found in the messages of Garabandal.

There are none of the usual characteristics of false private revelation. The material is not sensational. It does not present distorted doctrine. It does not exalt the persons receiving the private revelation. In fact, the visionaries of Garabandal have remained humble and have lived very quiet lives. Furthermore, the messages and apparitions do not give excessive attention to evil or to sin. They do not contain long rambling uninformative diatribes, nor vague and confused predictions. There are no empty exhortations to holiness, nor are various unusual new titles given to the Virgin Mary. The vocabulary and language are simple and humble, not sensational and worldly.

As often happens, even with true claims of private revelation, some persons have drawn incorrect conclusions about the meaning of the messages at Garabandal.

It is not true that the Miracle will happen within twelve months of the Warning. This false conclusion is based on a comment one of the visionaries made that was misunderstood. In fact, the Miracle will occur more than twelve months and less than eighteen months after the Warning.

Some have claimed to know the month in which the Miracle will occur. They have reached an incorrect conclusion. Their reasons for narrowing the date to one month is based on misunderstandings and false assumptions.

The idea that the Chastisement (or punishment) can be completely averted by conversion and prayer is incorrect.

The objection is made that the visionary Conchita said that there would only be three more Popes after John the 23rd. This objection is based on a misunderstanding of what she said. She did not say that there would be only three more Popes ever, but that after the reigns of three more Popes were completed, then the events predicted at Garabandal (which begin with the Warning) will occur. Therefore, the Warning will occur during the reign of the fourth Pope after Pope John 23, which is the current Pope Benedict 16. (The succession of relevant popes is: John 23, Paul 6, John Paul 1, John Paul 2, Benedict 16).

Some persons have incorrectly concluded that the Chastisement will occur only a brief time after the Miracle. The Chastisement in the messages of Garabandal refers to supernatural events that are brought about by God to correct and punish the world. Although many sufferings have and will occur in the world, before and after the Warning and the Miracle, the Chastisement itself is the supernatural events that occur many years after the Miracle.

The claim is made that a prediction that the Pope and also Fr (now Saint) Padre Pio would see the Miracle. Some say that Padre Pio did see the Miracle, in a vision of the future event. The Pope who would see the Miracle is most likely the Pope of that time when the Miracle occurs.

The objection against Garabandal, that the messages do not describe the future as conditional, is based on an erroneous understanding of the future. In truth, God knows the whole future with absolute certainty, for He knows all our future free will decisions, prayers and sacrifices, and our future sins. The future seems conditional from our point of view, because we know that if we abandon sin, and increase prayer and sacrifice, that we will be blessed in the future, but if we continue to sin, we will be punished. This idea that the future is conditional is only true from our limited point of view within Time.

The Virgin Mary can present knowledge of the future in messages and apparitions, knowledge that comes to her from God and is absolute and unconditional. At times, she speaks from our point of view, as Scripture also often does, telling us correctly that the future depends upon our free choices. But she can and sometimes does reveal future events that are based on God's absolute knowledge of future events, and such events cannot fail to occur.

The local bishops have issued various rulings on the validity of these apparitions. However, the approval or disapproval of a local bishop, concerning a claim to private revelation, is fallible. In fact, even the Holy See does not and cannot rule infallibly on claims of private revelation. Nor has the Holy See ruled against Garabandal using the fallible temporal authority of the Church.

As a clear example of bishops making mistakes about apparitions, consider he false claim of private revelation to Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam. A number of bishops in succession gave their disapproval. But another bishop, more recently gave approval (even though this claim of private revelation is clearly false). One can see from this example that bishops can be mistaken when evaluating private revelation.

Furthermore, the position of one local bishop is not binding on all of the faithful worldwide. Many priests and devout Catholics believe in the apparitions and messages at Garabandal. Many dioceses and parishes permit pilgrimages to Garabandal.

Some object to the events at Garabandal because it is said that the visionaries were in a state of ecstasy, and that they took odd postures when in ecstasy, and that they manifested supernatural abilities: being able to run quickly without tiring, running uphill or backwards, etc. My response to this objection is that the Saints throughout the history of the Church have, from time to time, manifested abilities requiring the assistance of Heaven. Such events do not disqualify a claimed private revelation, even if the events are unusual.

Despite the opposition of a number of Catholics and of the local bishop, the apparitions and messages of Garabandal do not contain any of the characteristics of false private revelation.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Hello Bishop. I would like to ask you what is your opinion of the exorcism of Anneliese Michel. Do you think the reason the exorcism was unsuccessful was because the the bishop had delayed any exorcism to be performed on her, or the exorcism was unsuccessful because of lack of faith on the part of Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Ernst Alt? - Ruben

Anneliese Michel (21 September 1952 – 1 July 1976) was a Roman Catholic who many believe was possessed by demons. She was born in Klingenberg, Bavaria, Germany,  and raised in a fairly strict family. A devout girl, she tried to make reparations for the sins of wayward priests and drug addicts by sleeping on a bare floor in the middle of winter.

In 1968, when Anneliese was sixteen and still in high school, she began to suffer from convulsions. Court findings have her experiencing her first epileptic attack in 1969. It was then that a neurologist at the Psychiatric Clinic Würzburg diagnosed her with grand mal epilepsy.

Anneliese soon started to experience demonic hallucinations while praying. She also began to hear voices, which told her that she was damned. By 1973, Anneliese was suffering from depression and had suicidal thoughts. Her behavior became increasingly bizarre. She tore off her clothes, tried to eat coal and licked up her own urine.

Being admitted to an unnamed psychiatric hospital did not improve Michel's health. Her depression began to deepen and she grew increasingly frustrated with medical intervention as it did not improve her condition. Long-term medical treatment proved unsuccessful. Her condition, including her depression, worsened with time.

Having centred her life around her religious faith, Michel began to attribute her condition to demonic possession. She became intolerant of sacred places and objects, such as the crucifix, which she attributed to her own demonic possession. Throughout the course of the Catholic rites Michel underwent, she was also prescribed antipsychotic drugs, which she may or may not have stopped taking.

In June 1970, Michel suffered a third seizure at the psychiatric hospital she had been staying in and was prescribed anticonvulsants for the first time. The name of this drug is not known, and it did not bring about immediate alleviation of Michel's symptoms. She also continued talking about what she called "devil faces," seen by her during various times of the day. She became convinced that conventional medicine would not work or help her situation. Growing increasingly adamant that her illness was of a spiritual kind, she appealed to the Church to perform an exorcism. That same month, she was prescribed another drug, Aolept (pericyazine), which is a phenothiazine with general properties similar to those of chlorpromazine: pericyazine is used in the treatment of various psychoses, including schizophrenia and disturbed behavior.

In November 1973, Michel started her treatment with Tegretol (carbamazepine), which is an antiepileptic drug. Michel took this medicine frequently, until shortly before her death.

In 1975, when Anneliese was 23-years-old, an older woman who accompanied Anneliese Michel on a pilgrimage concluded that Anneliese was suffering from demonic possession because Michel was unable to walk past a certain icon of Jesus Christ and refused to drink the water of a holy spring. An exorcist in a nearby town examined Michel and returned a diagnosis of demonic possession. The bishop issued permission to perform the rite of exorcism according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614.

She and her parents were convinced that she was possessed. After years of unsuccessful psychiatric treatments, they gave up on medical treatment and chose to rely solely on the exorcisms for healing. The rites of exorcism were performed over the course of about ten months in 1976. A total of sixty-seven exorcism sessions were held, one or two each week, some lasting up to four hours. Michel at this time was refusing medical care, refusing to eat, and talking about her death being a form of atonement for other people's sins.

On 1 July 1976, Anneliese Michel died in her sleep. The autopsy report stated that her death resulted from the malnutrition and dehydration due to almost a year of semi-starvation during which time the rites of exorcism took place.

After an investigation, the state prosecutor maintained that Michel's death could have been prevented even one week before she died. He charged all four defendants — Pastor Ernst Alt and Father Arnold Renz as well as the parents — with negligent manslaughter for failing to call a medical doctor to address her eating disorder.

The trial started on 30 March 1978 in the district court and drew intense interest. Before the court, the doctors claimed the woman was not possessed, although Dr Richard Roth, who was asked for medical help by Father Alt, allegedly said after the exorcism he witnessed on 30 May 1976, that "there is no injection against the Devil, Anneliese."

The priests were defended by church-paid lawyers, and the parents were defended by Erich Schmidt-Leichner. Schmidt-Leichner claimed that the exorcism was legal and that the German constitution protected citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs.

The defence played tapes recorded at the exorcism sessions, sometimes featuring what was claimed to be "demons arguing," as proof that Michel was indeed possessed. Both priests presented their deeply held conviction that she was possessed and that she was finally freed by exorcism just before she died.

Ultimately, the accused were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to a six months in prison, which was later suspended, and three years of probation. Though a far lighter sentence than anticipated by many people, it was more than demanded by the prosecution who had asked that the priests only be fined and that the parents be found guilty but not punished.

Before the trial, the parents asked the authorities for permission to exhume the remains of their daughter. They did so as a result of a message received from a Carmelite nun from the district of Allgäu in southern Bavaria. The nun had told the parents that a vision had revealed to her that their daughter's body was still intact and that this authenticated the supernatural character of her case. The official reason presented by the parents to authorities was that Michel had been buried in undue hurry in a cheap coffin. Almost two years after the burial, on 25 February 1978, her remains were replaced in a new oak coffin lined with tin.

The official reports state that the body bore the signs of consistent deterioration. The accused exorcists were discouraged from seeing the remains of Michel. Father Arnold Renz later stated that he had been prevented from entering the mortuary.

Bishop Josef Stangl, who approved the exorcism and corresponded by letter on the case with the two priests a dozen times, also was investigated by state authorities. It was decided not to indict him or summon him to appear at the trial due to his age and poor health. The bishop stated that his actions were all within the bounds of canon law.

The courtroom case, called the Klingenberg Case, became the basis of Scott Derrickson's 2005 cinema film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

I cannot sit in judgement on the faith, or lack of it, of those administering the exorcism or, indeed, whether or not the exorcism was successful or not. What I do know is that both priests stated that Anneliese Michel was finally freed by exorcism just before she died..

Friday, 6 November 2009

Be Not Afraid


This view across the water with clouds looming is found where my Retreat is situated on the south coast. When I took the photograph my thoughts turned to an episode recounted in Luke's Gospel.

One day Our Lord was in a boat with His disciples, and He said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake." So they set out, and as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marvelled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even winds and water, and they obey Him?" (Luke 8: 22-25)

We are all on that same journey with God as the disciples where back then, we are all crossing that lake through life to reach the other side.

We can take heart brothers and sisters, the Lord is always with us, even though it may seem like He is sometimes resting. You can be sure that He is quite awake and very aware of what storms arise on our journeys.

We must know that there is no storm in life that God cannot calm. We may indeed come across many turbulent times when we think that our ship is almost sinking. We may fear the raging waves that come along, but with Faith and trust in God, there is nothing to worry about. “Do not fear, only believe” the Lord said. (Luke 8: 50)

God will rebuke any storm, no matter how large the waves, or how strong the wind. We are in the very safest of hands.

When we call out, will we be trembling with fear or with faith will we cast all our burdens onto Him? There is nothing in your life that God can not put straight, this we must believe and remember “For all things are possible with God," Jesus said. – (Mark 10: 27)

."Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7: 50)