-A unrecognized and misunderstood victim soul. The case of a young German woman who died at age 23 during a series of official exorcisms
By Glenn Dallaire on July 1, 2015. the 39th anniversary of the death of Anneliese Michel
Beginning on September 24, 1975, Anneliese Michel underwent a series of exorcisms. The official rite was administered during the course of 10 months by two Catholic priests, Rev. Ernst Alt and Rev. Arnold Renz, who were given permission to do so by the local Ordinary, Bishop Stangl, in an effort to free Anneliese of at least six demons that were believed to have been possessing her.
During the early morning hours of July 1st, 1976 Anneliese died of what an autopsy later determined to be malnutrition/dehydration, yet without many of the normal accompanying physical signs of such. Because she was not only under the care of her parents, but also the two exorcist priests, worldwide publicity immediately followed her sudden death, and afterwards Annelise’s parents and the two exorcists were brought to trial, and were later found guilty of negligent homicide in a dramatic court case that garned attention not only in Germany, but throughout much of the world. Fr. Arnold Renz, Fr. Ernst Alt and Annelieses’ parents Josef and Anna, were sentenced to six months in prison which was suspended with three years probation, and all incurred court costs. Additionally, the two priests were fined.
The case of Anneliese Michel is well documented in two books: Anneliese Michel: A true story of a case of demonic possession by Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea and Lawrence E.U. LeBlanc and also “The exorcism of Anneliese Michel” by Dr. Felicitas D. Goodman. The motion pictures ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ , ‘Requiem’ and ‘Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes’ were all based on the case, but in the movies there were quite a number of details that were added as hollywood fiction. Contrary to normal procedures, many of the exorcisms were recorded on audio tape, and have been subsequently “leaked” and released to the public over the years, which also has provided additional information concerning this case.
Anneliese Michel’s death was a very painful case for the Church in Germany and abroad, most especially for the priests and the local bishop involved, but the case did bring about some very important worldwide changes as to how exorcisms are now evaluated and performed. Details of her case can be read in the above mentioned books, and there are also many details on the internet. The emphasis of this article will be why she was possessed, and why she died.
A virtually unrecognized victim soul of the Church
“She died to save lost souls, to atone for their sins. Anneliese was a kind, loving, sweet and obedient girl. But when she was possessed, it was something unnatural, something that you cannot explain…
-Statement of Anna Michel, Anneliese’s mother, in 2005.
In September of 1973, Anneliese told a physician named Dr. Luthy that she was having visions of “Fratzen”, the German word for ghastly demonic beings. Later that fall she also stated to another physician that she was experiencing horrible stenches, which at that time only she herself could smell. Later however, others in her family and the priests who performed the exorcisms would also smell the horrid stench during the times she was losing consciousness and being overtaken by the demons. Without going into all the details of her possession and exorcism, which are readily available in the above mentioned books and online, suffice it to say that two priests, Fathers Ernst Alt and Arnold Renz, were eventually given permission by the local Bishop to perform the Rite of Exorcism upon Anneliese, after providing numerous proofs of her possession.
This leads us to the first of two popular misunderstandings concerning Anneliese:
1) The false belief that Anneliese was mentally ill, and not possessed,
2) The lack of understanding that Anneliese was a victim soul for the Church and the conversion of sinners.
Concerning the first misunderstanding, that of her being possessed and not mentally ill, there is the statement of Fr. Alt which shows that possession was the consensus of all of the priests who knew Annelise Michel:
“As her spiritual director, which I was from 1973 to 1975, I cannot allow that her terrible possession and her conscious acceptance of this as expiation [for sin], which both Father Renz and I have established, be passed over as if it were some “theological accident.” Anneliese Michel was possessed. All the priests who took part, Rev. Ferdinand Habiger, Rev. Karl Roth, Rev. Eduard Herrmann, and the expert on cases of exorcism, Rev. Adolf Rodewyk, S.J., were all of this conviction.”
Next we will address the second misunderstanding–That lack of recognition of the fact that Anneliese was a victim soul.
|The Blessed Virgin Mary makes and appearance|
The choice to be freed of the demons, or to save souls- The Blessed Virgin Mary makes an appearance
One Sunday afternoon in July, 1975, Anneliese and her boyfriend Peter decided to go for a walk around an area called Paradise Mill, near Rollbach, just east of Klingenberg . They drove up to Paradise Mill, but during this period in 1975 Anneliese could barely walk without help, because somehow the demons were able to “make her legs like sticks” and she was only able to bend them with much difficulty.
After they parked they set out for a walk. Because she had so much difficulty in walking it was excruciatingly slow. Suddenly Anneliese stopped and dropped to her knees. Peter tried to communicate with Anneliese several times but she was unresponsive and appeared to be seeing a vision. A few minutes later, Anneliese stood up and shouted with excitement, “I can walk, look at me! I’m free! I’m free!”
Peter was amazed at the sudden change in Anneliese’s physical and emotional condition. He asked her what had happened to bring about this sudden change. Anneliese replied that she had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary. Unable to contain their excitement, Peter and Anneliese rushed home to share the good news with her parents and sisters. Anneliese ran upstairs and exclaimed to her mother, “Mom, mom look at me! I can walk again, I can jump, I can dance! The Mother of God appeared to me!” As for Peter, he was completely stunned by Anneliese sudden cure, and remained in the car for quite awhile, completely dumbfounded at what had happened.
Things remained quite calm for the next two months until Anneliese had another apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary—this time at Engelberg Monastery, which is a Franciscan monastery where Anneliese would often visit to pray. This time, the Blessed Virgin Mary complained to Anneliese:
Some remarkable events during her Possession and Exorcism
On one occasion Father Renz brought in three unmarked glasses of water. One contained holy water from Lourdes, one water from San Damiano, the other tap water. When Anneliese picked up the water from San Damiano she stated: “San Damiano shit water.” and put it aside. She then drank only the tap water.
During one exorcism, the demon stated: “I can speak any language but speak to me in German.” Although Father Renz normally read from his prayer book in Latin, on one occasion he spoke freely without his book. The demon through Anneliese immediately pointed out that he had made a mistake in the prayers and that his Latin was poor. It was also astonishing to the priests to see the demons immediate responses to questions put to Anneliese in Dutch and in Chinese (Fr. Renz had been a missionary in China for over 15 years).
On one occasion during an exorcism, Lucifer said through Anneliese: “Today, hardly anyone believes any longer in the Immaculate Conception. And the Church? At present, most believe it is only a community. The modernists are killing it evermore. We are hard at work at this, and we throw much poison into the Church, so it might be discredited. By now, those who believe in the Church and are faithful and believe in Her [teachings] are very few. The rosary? They think it is “modern”. Many believe that after life, everything is finished. These are very many, and they live accordingly, because they do not pray any longer. Sins reach Heaven: but the thing will not last long. The one of 1917 [the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima] said it. But only a few have listened to her. Death, tribulations, and famine, O yes, they will surely come again!”
One has to be careful of course concerning statements from the demons, because during exorcisms the demons lie constantly in an effort to deceive, and they only tell tell the truth out of obligation under strict obedience to the command of the priest in Jesus name. Pertaining to Anneliese’s case, one thing that was learned however is that when asked in direct command by the exorcist in Jesus Name as to how the demons came to possess her, they repeatedly stated that she was cursed in her mothers womb prior to her birth by a woman in her mothers hometown. Prior to be married to Joseph, her mother Anna had had a relationship and a child (Martha–Anneliese’s half-sister) with another man. The woman who did the curse was the wife of this man, and she did so presumably because she was jealous of Anna’s previous relationship with her now husband. Since Anneliese was her parents–Anna and Josef’s–firstborn child, thus such a curse would in fact fall upon her. So, we can see that Anneliese’s possession was in no way caused by her own doing, as in some other cases of possession where the persons involved “opened the door” to the demonic through seances, channeling spirits, Ouija boards, satanism, the occult and other such practices forbidden in the Scriptures.
Why couldn’t the exorcists just cast the demons out of Anneliese?
During one exorcism session, the demons were desperately complaining:
“We are damned eternally! Out! Out! We wish to come out of the snotnose. We cannot bear staying in her any longer. That filthy slut stays the whole day in the church. We are damned! Damned!”
Exorcist: “Then come out!”
Demon named Judas: “We cannot, because He does not allow it. The one up there, that one does not want it! He wants us to remain. We want to get out from her, who goes to Communion, and she goes every day! We cannot bear this! We wish to come out, out, out!…We wish to come out, but the one up there does not allow us!”
-Thus we can see that it was God Himself who permitted the demons to oppress Anneliese, so that sinners might be converted and be saved from damnation.
|Anneliese with her mother towards the end of her life|
Reported mystical graces
During this time period she reported that she was receiving visits from two deceased family members, her grandmother Furg who had died three months earlier, and her sister Martha, and then also Siegfried, the recently deceased nephew of Fr. Roth, who all reportedly came to comfort and strengthen her. Also, there were a quite a few occasions where she reportedly knew exact times and places when persons were praying for her. There were even reports of stigmata as witnessed by family members, Fr. Alt and Peter, who purportedly saw small but clearly visible oval wounds on her hands and feet. She insisted that these wounds were not self-inflicted. She continued to feel pain, especially in her feet, after the wounds had healed.
Concerning the purported stigmata, her mother Anna related the following: “One morning I entered Anneliese’s room and said, ‘Anneliese, you are in bed today.’
I usually found her kneeling before the crucifix or doing some other form of penance. I noticed the wounds on her feet which were very swollen. This had occurred during the night. She later received the same on her hands. Her hands were not as bad as her feet. She suffered very much from these wounds.”
Even the physician Dr Roth reportedly stated upon first seeing her on one of these occasions: “My God, she has the stigmata!” but he later denied stating this in the Court proceedings.
In another statement her mother said: “I know that we did the right thing because I saw the sign of Christ in her hands. She died to save lost souls; to atone for their sins.
“You will become a great saint”
In Anneliese’s diary on October 20, 1975 we read:
Savior: “There is still something that you must write down.”
Anneliese “What is that?”
Savior: “What I told you last night.”
Anneliese:“I did not want to write that down because I thought it was from Satan. Besides, my nature revolts against the idea. Savior demands that I obey, therefore I will write it down.
Savior: “You will become a great saint.”
Anneliese:” I still did not want to believe it, and then the Savior, to prove that I had heard correctly, made me weep tears.”
We can note here that Jesus is likely not referring to Anneliese becoming a canonized Saint of the Catholic church, but a great saint in heaven. When Jesus made this very same statement to St Gemma Galgani, He specifically said: “Within some years, you will be a Saint, will do miracles and will be raised to the altars.”
With in regards to Anneliese, the state of possession endured with patience and love certainly works powerfully towards ones sanctification. Since enduring the possessed state is significantly more challenging than voluntary sacrificial acts, there is little doubt Anneliese sanctified herself in a heroic way by accepting these sufferings in union with Jesus for the benefit of others, for Jesus tells Anneliese this in her Diary:
Savior: “Every suffering, even the most commonplace, bears much fruit when it is united to my suffering.”
A visit from a soul in heaven
Diary undated, but sometime in mid-October 1975:
“The nephew of Father Roth (named Siegfried, who was paralyzed since childhood, and who had died the week before) was here with me on the evening of October 10 and let me know he was in heaven. I did not want to believe this at first. I did come around to believing it. First because he came to me this morning and several times during the day (as far as seeing is concerned, I see nothing) and secondly because he always tries to give me courage. When I asked him why he visited me so often, he said it was because I also had to suffer, as he suffered when he was alive. He promised to give me support in all my tribulations.”
During an exorcism on October 31, 1975 the demons were exceedingly upset, stating that there were a number of heavenly visitors present in the room, including the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Padre Pio, Anneliese’s deceased sister Martha, Siegfried, both of Anneliese’s grandmothers, Therese Neumann [a well known mystic and stigmatic who had lived in the same region of Germany], and St. Michael the Archangel.
In fact, both St Padre Pio and Therese Neumann reportedly came quite a number of times–to the great dismay of the demons—to encourage Anneliese and assist at the exorcisms. For their part on this day the demons said “It is so hard to be in this room! There are so many holy people present!”
And it was on this day, Oct 31, that all of the demons, except for one, were temporarily driven out of Anneliese. A few days later however it was discovered that they were allowed back, along with other “mute” demons which were permitted to enter her.
Why did she die?
It should be pointed out that up to this point in the history of the Catholic church there had never been a reported death while a person was undergoing a series of official exorcisms. The autopsy report stated that Anneliese died of malnutrition/dehydration. Certainly many people have contested this conclusion, like the author Dr. Felicitas Goodman, who felt that the prescription drug Tegretol (and she was also given numerous presrciptions for Dilantin), which Anneliese had been taking for awhile, likely played a significant role in her death.
For sure, in her final months, Anneliese insisted on many occasions that she “was not allowed to eat” and she was very adamantly opposed going to the physician or a hospital because she believed that they would declare her mentally ill, and place her in a mental illness facility. The demons admitted it was their desire to have Anneliese in a mental institution. There, she would not have the benefit of the priests and the exorcism prayers, and they would thus be able to torment her more freely, and she would be out of the public view where the world would not have been aware of her possession and sufferings.
Regardless, the “how” of her death is nowhere near as important as the “why” did she die? Exactly why did God allow her to die?
The simple answer is that Anneliese died for the same reason as St Joan of Arc: That is her mission in this life was completed.
Towards the end of her harsh and very unjust imprisonment, a Voice from heaven revealed to St Joan of Arc:
“You will be released on May 30th!”
Oh, how Joan’s heart leaped with joy at the revelation of her imminent release from the torturous prison, after having suffered a rigorous imprisonment for one year! She gloriously shared this great news of her forthcoming release with the few people who were allowed to visit and attend to her. What she didn’t know, but soon learned, was that the promised “release” consisted of the terror of her being burned alive at the stake, her soul thus being released from this life, to fly to heaven to be with her Jesus. -How different is the perspective from heaven than that of us here on earth! “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) And so we see how even the greatest Saints can completely misinterpret what would seem to be a very simple and straightforward prophesy.
But going back to the death of Anneliese, in April, 1976, Anneliese told Father Alt that “May and June were going to be very tough months, but July would bring a resolution”. Repeating the same message, on May 1st, Anneliese told her boyfriend Peter that she “would have to suffer until July”, and once again on May 9, 1976, Anneliese told her father, mother, Peter and her sister Barbara that “The months of May and June were going to be bad, but that July would bring relief.”
Yet at Ettleben in April, Anneliese privately stated very seriously to Father Alt: “I know now what will happen; I know this coming summer will be hard and terrible and I know I will not survive. No one can tell me any different. I will not survive.”
During the last weeks and days, everyone–including Anneliese herself–were hanging on heavens words to Anneliese, that being that she would be freed of the demons in July. On the morning of July 1, 1976, Anna called Father Alt to inform him that Anneliese had died during the night. Like St Joan of Arc, she was indeed now free. Not in the way we here below would have it, but in the way that God would have it, for God sees with the eyes of eternity that our lives here on earth are only a temporary pilgrimage, whereas our true life is with Him in heaven for all eternity. Her sacrificial mission as a victim soul was completed, and now she was to receive her eternal reward.
When the news spread of her death, many mourned what they saw as the tragic and sad death of a young mentally ill woman who died because of the neglect of her parents and two priests, much in the same way that many people view what appears on the surface to be the tragic and sad deaths of many mystics and victim souls who give their lives wholly to God.
To quote from the book referenced below: “Since these events may be regarded from a spiritual perspective as a way of participating in Christ’s sufferings, the death of Anneliese was by no means a failure of exorcism. It has to be understood in the same way as Christ’s death. What may be seen, in the eyes of the world, as a failure, may in reality be success in the eyes of God.”
LeBlanc, Lawrence (2012-09-19). Anneliese Michel–A true story of a case of demonic possession Germany-1976 (Kindle Locations 1569-1571).
For those interested in learning more about the life of Anneliese, I highly recommend the book Anneliese Michel: A true story of a case of demonic possession by Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea and Lawrence E.U. LeBlanc. I can state upfront that I personally do not receive any remuneration from book recommendations, so this is simply a sincere recommendation on the subject.
“Oh, Father, I never thought it would be as cruel as this. I always thought I would want to suffer for others so they would not have to go to hell, but I did not realize it could be this bad and this cruel and terrible. People think suffering is an easy matter, but when things get really awful you don’t want to go on, you don’t want to take a single step further.” -Anneliese Michel to Fr. Arnold
“You will pass all of your tests (the tests at her school), but you will be called upon to undergo tests of a different kind. I will give you my grace, and you will be faithful until death.” Reported words of Jesus in a vision to Anneliese on Nov 10, 1975
-Some quotes from Anneliese Michel:
“You can mark one thing for sure–I want to go to heaven, cost what it may; to gain heaven, nothing is too much for me…On that account I should place my life at the disposal of others out of love for God, and hope more for the reward of God, than for the reward of men.”
From Anneliese’s diary, October 24, 1975:
Savior: “You will suffer a great deal and do penance, even now. But your sufferings, your sadness and desperation will help me to save souls.”
Anneliese’s diary, October 29, 1975:
Mother of God: “Later you will also have visions.”
“If I understood her correctly, it will be as compensation for the satanic countenances that I saw in the past and those I still see. I am not sure though if this was something Satan deluded me with.
(Savior:) “Do not worry about the future. Unburden everything on Me. Seek every minute you can to listen to Me, to fulfill My will, My slightest wish, by listening to My voice. The lambs know the voice of their shepherd. I am the good Shepherd and I love My lambs.”
-Quote taken from one of the four notebooks given by Anneliese to Father Renz.