A woman in Texas is suing the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and her parish claiming she suffered psychological and emotional abuse through a lay-led exorcism during a retreat.
Beth Ann Andrews filed her lawsuit on July 25 after attending a “Faith in the Fire” event, which is associated with the Catholic Charismatic movement.
According to its website, the Faith in the Fire retreat “provides its participants the opportunity to reconnect with what matters and share their faith journeys in a loving community.”
“The whole purpose of me attending the retreat was to get close to God and the Catholic faith,” Andrews told ABC13 Eyewitness News.
She said she wasn’t informed that “exorcisms” would be performed by the lay leader of the retreat.
According to Church law, exorcisms can only be performed by authorized personnel, but the Church has published a book of “Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness” that can be used by anyone.
Andrews told the television station that the retreat leader abused his power and authority by inappropriately discussing sexual topics.
She is seeking monetary damages and a change of archdiocesan policy when it comes to training lay leadership.
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands, the parish named in the suit, responded to the accusations in an Aug. 15 statement in the parish bulletin.
“The parishioner plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to non-physical, psychological and emotional abuse by a lay volunteer. The parishioner further alleges that the Archdiocese and the parish failed to properly train and supervise the lay volunteer,” the statement said.
The parish said Andrews brought her concerns to parish personnel, and that the parish leadership “promptly and appropriately” responded to her concerns.
“The parish met with the parishioner plaintiff, immediately removed the lay volunteer from all ministry, contacted the Archdiocese, and indefinitely suspended the ministry programs associated with the plaintiff’s concerns,” the statement said.
“St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church categorically denies that the parishioner plaintiff was damaged by anything that parish leaders did or failed to do,” the statement said.
The parish said it has “no ill will” towards Andrews, and “will continue to look for a redemptive outcome.”
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