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“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it”: A Modern-Day Exorcist

Exorcist Bishop Bryan D. Ouellette, now “semi-retired,” spends his time expelling demons.
His sermon on Sept. 16 began with a verse from Matthew 16:25, one of the most difficult verses he said it was for him to teach.
This particular sermon often serves as an instruction for one of the more difficult rituals in Catholicism: exorcisms.

THE CHURCH

Ouellette’s Holy Nicholean Catholic Church is tucked between a tattoo parlor and sports equipment shop in Cartersville, Georgia.

On Sept. 16, an overcast sky and light rain set off the morning before Mass. Nothing marked the Holy Nicholean Church save for their emblem on the outside of their door.

The inside was not as low-profile. It was pitch black. A purple light illuminating a porcelain-like statue of Jesus Christ on a cross behind a metal gate provided the only light for the room.

In front of the metal gate was the lectern, followed by an empty set of four pews. Religious Byzantine-style paintings covered the walls. On the left side of the room, a thicket of branches sectioned off a white-clothed table. An aluminum bucket, sized for an infant, sat atop.

A family of three—a man, woman and child—occupied the left side of the room. A woman, who arrived later, sat in the back. Besides the family and woman, the pews were empty.

Bishop Ouellette, Sister Mary Joan and Sister Kateri, all in white cloaks, and Sister Elizabeth Healey and Sister Maximilian, both in black cloaks, performed Mass. They began with chants and songs, turning on and off various lamps that sat around the lectern.

Ouellette returned to Matthew 16:25, using the verse as a lesson in reevaluating identity, a verse that the bishop said additionally supports exorcisms.

“We live in entropy, don’t we? We waste away,” Ouellette said. “Whatever is remembered about you is fiction, gets changed, as people tell the story and you become someone other than who you really were.”

With a switch of a lamp, the sermon ended.

A MODERN-DAY EXORCIST

Ouellette met with The Signal at the back of the church.

He removed his cope, a liturgical vestment, revealing a pistol holstered to his hip.

Ouellette does not fit the general mold of the clergy. He’s explored several Roman Catholic religions and left his pastoral ministry due to his witnessing corruption. Afterward, he completed a degree in psychology and worked in clinical facilities, managing care of clients with disorders such as schizophrenia. He continued his religious studies through an independent Catholic ministry where he was consecrated by his bishop under Eastern Orthodox church traditions.

“I’m not a traditional pastor, in which I have a congregation,” Ouellette said. “This is a mission church. This church services people who are in spiritual crisis.”

Ouellette discovered the Independent Sacramental Movement, leading to the creation of the Holy Nicholean, a church where the bishop doesn’t have to report to a higher authority.

The Holy Nicholean church specializes in exorcisms. Ouellette performs these as a Catholic bishop, though the church is not in union with the Vatican.

The church itself holds refuge for the community who seeks spiritual connection where they may have been shunned elsewhere.

“[Attendees] don’t have to worry about jumping through the hoops the Roman Catholic Church has them jump through. Here, if you’re a baptized Christian, you’re welcome,” Ouellette said.

He’s also a celebrity, having appeared in the Rolling Stone and conducted an exorcism on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures.

“Some people have criticized me for being willing to go on TV,” Ouellette said. “Look, I can make two choices: I can continue to leave this a taboo subject, only making it more enticing by making it more mysterious, or I can use my expertise in the same way, going public and using that notoriety to educate. I prefer the latter.”

Though Ouellette seeks to educate about the practice of exorcisms, he recognizes modern views of Christianity and the mass opposition toward it.

“I don’t blame [society] for marginalizing the Christian religion because most of the people who call themselves Christians are nut cases. Plain and simple,” Ouellette said. “You can quote me on that.”

The South is often attributed as a haven for religious fanaticism.

As Flannery O’Connor, a southern author from Milledgeville, said, “While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

Reports of exorcism requests have risen in the last century. Within the United States, Christianity has primarily enacted exorcisms, but non-Christian religions also have their own versions of exorcisms.

The biggest misconception people have about exorcisms is that “ it’s a magic fix,” Ouellette said.

“I’m not Gandalf. I’m not going to wave my staff around and it fixes [everything],” Ouellette said. “I’m a facilitator of grace, but if you’re not willing to accept the grace there’s not much I’m going to be able to do for you.”

And Ouellette and his team have a very thorough process for testing for a demonic process,a detractor for some clients.

“Clients come in and get really frustrated with us when they find out there is an evaluation process, that we need to be sure what we’re dealing with before we start any kind of solution,” Ouellette said.

Medical professionals’ opinions do not go out the window during an exorcism. On the contrary, Ouellette advocates that clients seek medical treatment first.

“We always encourage them to get their treatment through their conventional medical channels and then come to us for spiritual healing,” Ouellette said. “What we’re looking for is, is there a demonic presence involved in this situation?”

Clients seeking their help often attribute their illness to demons and want to disregard medical treatment.
“Nothing is all demonic. The demonic likes to exploit our vulnerabilities,” Ouellette said. “We fight that while their doctors do the symptoms.”

THE EXORCISMS

Exorcisms have long been popularized in movies such as “The Exorcist.” Though some scenes have been exaggerated, Ouellette said he has witnessed some hallmarks of an exorcism.

“Levitation—never to the ceiling, but I have seen people risen a few inches above the bed,” Ouellette said. “People dry heaving or spitting up, that’s almost every single exorcism.”

Ouellette’s last exorcism reportedly blew out the power on the entire block.

“The lights in the room started to flicker. It did it three times, which as you might’ve seen from paranormal shows, is a sign of mocking the trinity,” Ouellette said. “Our incense will explode and go everywhere and try to light things on fire. It’s dramatic, but maybe not in Hollywood’s CGI kind of way.”

The exorcisms also take a toll on Ouellette.

“When we are making headway with a victim, I will all of a sudden feel a surge of anger and things will fly off the shelves and break. It happened this past week,” Ouellette said.

Some clients reporting demonic possession were alleviated not from an exorcism, but from religious counseling.
The client Ouellette counseled was a carpenter.

“He was convinced that his homosexuality was a result of demons and I sat down with him and said to him, ‘You don’t have demons. You have guilt,’” Ouellette said.

The bishop and nuns spoke with him for some time.

“He went to confession and cried and hugged us — a big bearhug.”

Much of the modern resistance toward Christianity has been its view of homosexuality.

However, Ouellette has his own views.

“How about we let them forge their relationship with God and let what happens in the privacy of their own home be something they work out with God and not be a judge and a jury for them,” Ouellette said. “There is nothing in the gospels that would excuse us from our responsibility to each other.”

1 Comment

  1. Amazing how such a small exorcism ministry and missionary church has such an immense spiritual energy that radiates within. I live in NY and went to visit and attend masses during my stay. Can’t wait to visit again. One needs to check their schedule on-line, and usually the masses are late in the evening but yes, it is a very mystical and powerful spiritual experience. Something someone who wants to leave “basic level” Christianity and grow, shouldn’t miss!

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