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Shocking: Franciscan convicted of sexual abuse engaged in an exorcism with victim

David Morrier, center, sentenced on Friday, victim shocked the court

… Judge: “most powerful victim statement I have ever heard.”

The judge was shocked, and that is difficult after all that the jurists hear from sexual abuse victims.

The young woman who was abused over the years by a man who was a Franciscan priest told her story that was shocking on a number of levels. Particularly the part about exorcism.

I have said so many times how I have loved and admired the Franciscans. However, Franciscan University, formerly called Steubenville, has changed my perspective to a certain extent.

How she shocked the court

Here is what the anonymous young woman said on Friday,

For 28 minutes, the woman who’d accused a Franciscan friar of subjecting her to years of sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse detailed the pain and betrayal she suffered at the hands of those she’d trusted to protect her.

The woman, who did not wish to be identified by name, said she had trusted David Morrier.

“I was damaged, had a past and was completely alone,” she told Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Friday. “When I met (him) within the first month of arriving on campus, he was not just a man, a professor, a mentor or a trusted adult. He was a priest. A friar. The one you are taught to trust because of the collar or the habit. The one you are taught is safe. The one you are taught will protect you. The one you are taught represents God, speaks for God and will only do that which brings you closer to God. The one who holds a powerful level of authority over your life that you feel comfort in because you never imagine the priest being the one who will abuse that power and authority.”

Linda Harris, “Rev. David Morrier sentenced to probation

for sexual battery,” The Herald Star, March 12, 2022

Victim agreed to probation

The victim in this case demonstrated Christian charity that the perpetrator did not deserve. The judge noted that he wished that she had not done so,

Morrier pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual battery on the woman he was supposed to be counseling. Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said the victim agreed to the plea deal because, “What she wanted from Day 1 was to be able to prevent him from hurting anyone else.”

But after listening to the victim’s tearful impact statement, a grim-faced Bruzzese told Morrier, 60, “That was the most powerful victim impact statement I have ever heard. You’re fortunate she agreed to this.”

With the plea agreement, Morrier will be on probation for five years and must register every 90 days for life as a sex offender. Until he can be turned over to Pennsylvania authorities, he’ll be living at a Granard Parkway residence under house arrest, complete with an ankle monitor.

Linda Harris, The Herald Star, March 12, 2022

Horrible details included exorcism

The most shocking part of this included the practice of exorcism, which the Catholic Church allows for some cruel reason,

The woman told the court it was in 2010, her senior year, that she finally felt safe enough to talk about the abuse she’d endured earlier in life, but said it very quickly turned into “a three-year nightmare of physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, sacramental and sexual abuse.”

“Instead of being present, listening and providing support to me, my truth was woven into a dark narrative of Satanic ritual abuse that I was forced to accept under threat of his abandonment and through hours of gaslighting by him and by a ‘specialist’ I was taken off campus to see,” she said, her nine-page statement punctuated by sobs.

“I was guilted and shamed into agreeing to stay for graduate school at Franciscan University because, as he said to me on my graduation day, ‘If you don’t, it means that you are throwing away all of the energy and effort that I have put into caring for you. You need to stay to continue to receive the treatment you need.’ That treatment was not mental health treatment. Instead of receiving therapy to address my diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and addiction, I endured upward of four-five deliverance sessions, lasting two to four hours for the entirety of summer of 2010 until I was told through ‘discernment by God’ that I was possessed by 36 demons. That is when the Major Rite Exorcisms started in September 2010. The only role therapy played was to keep my physically alive.”

While exorcisms and deliverances, where adult men would restrain her physically in a chair or on the floor while others would pray over her, telling her that her screams were the demons manifesting were being done in full view some in the college community, it was in the privacy of the Finnegan Fieldhouse basement where she said she was “forced to endure (Morrier’s) hands violating me because ‘this is what God revealed to (him) in prayer.'”

Linda Harris, The Herald Star, March 12, 2022

“Years of my life” stolen from me

Here is the gut-wrenching end to that,

The university banned Morrier from campus in 2014, and the woman said she was stunned to find out that while she had been “shamed, humiliated and coerced into silence” and “told repeatedly he was removed from public ministry, told that meant he could no longer act, be represented, dress as or be referred to or named as a priest in public,” Morrier had been treated to going away parties and tearful goodbyes, followed by a public celebration of his vows and ordination.

She said her early disclosures were met with “constant and persistent gaslighting, minimizing, public shaming, victim-blaming, guilt trips, character assassination, threats, manipulation, coercion, betrayal, dismissiveness and a forced pay-off.”

“Years of my life, my education, my mental stability, my financial security, my professional career, my chance at normalcy, my sense of safety, my development of trust again in the world and in others, my dignity, my worth and my character were repeatedly and actively stolen from me by a priest, a Catholic community and two institutions who were more concerned about hiding the truth and protecting themselves than protecting me,” she told Bruzzese, sobbing uncontrollably.

“I left Franciscan University in August of 2016 terrified of the world, confused about the existence of God, questioning the intentions of every person coming into my life and believing that I was worthless in the eyes of God, the church and a community that I once had called home. It has taken a great deal of therapeutic work, with the on-going support of spiritual direction, to be able to even walk through the doors of a Catholic church again.”

The victim also told the court justice “did not come easy, or quickly, and came at an incredibly personal cost that works can never fully capture.”

“But the reason that I am able to stand here today, alive, and have the courage to speak is because of one simple moment — it was the moment someone looked at me and said, ‘I believe you.’ And that belief echoed. It echoed through each encounter with the Diocese of Steubenville who never hesitated to immediately do the right thing, to provide me with unwavering care, love and support throughout the criminal investigation from the very moment I came to them. It echoed through each encounter with every member of the team who worked to investigate the crimes that took place.

Linda Harris, The Herald Star, March 12, 2022

I will write about this idea of exorcism again later, but this is just a shocking story.

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