Exclusive: Bishop suspends exorcisms, orders review following accusations of abuse of power

All Catholic priests in the Christchurch diocese have been suspended from performing exorcisms and the local Bishop has ordered a review.

It follows an investigation, which aired last month on Three's Paddy Gower Has issues, that uncovered concerning allegations regarding the behaviour of leaders at a little-known St Albans chapel. 

But there's concern the Bishop's proposal does not go far enough.

Father Michael Mary is the leader of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, or the Transalpine Redemptorists.

"As I speak, an investigative reporter waits to do a story on us," he said during a sermon in mid-July. 

Together with Father Anthony Mary, the pair are accused of manipulative, controlling behaviour, and allowing and performing exorcisms on people without authority from the Bishop. 

Following the Paddy Gower Has Issues investigation, Christchurch Bishop Michael Gielen told Newshub: "All priests in the diocese have been directed that exorcisms are suspended until further notice. This will provide me with an opportunity to review current practices."

Emeritus Professor Peter Lineham from Massey University said this involves every single priest within the diocese of Christchurch, whether they're involved in schools, parishes, or other church activities.

Professor Lineham believes the review by the Bishop could involve defrocking The Sons' leaders. 

"I think he is looking to see whether these priests should be allowed to have standing as priests in the diocese of Christchurch."

  • If you have further information, contact Michael Morrah in confidence on michael.morrah@wbd.com

The Sons had permission to perform two exorcisms. It's understood they carried out at least seven. 

Greg Price is a career firefighter and former member of The Sons' congregation. He told Newshub that Bishop Gielen must act more broadly. 

"There needs to be a full investigation - this goes much deeper and wider than just the exorcisms," Gielen said. 

"This is the very first baby step in the right direction."

Price was one of 17 people Newshub spoke to who had serious concerns about the leaders at the Sons, including claims they interfered in the personal lives of families.

Many complained - but say nothing happened.

Bishop Gielen said he's taking "reasonable and appropriate steps" to address concerns. Despite multiple requests for clarity, he's declined to say what that entails.  

Since the investigation aired, another person has contacted Newshub calling for Father Michael Mary to resign.

"Their teaching is divisive, and it breaks people. There needs to be a change in leadership," the person said.

"I had an exorcism, and know of three others, including a teenager who had them. There were a lot more than seven exorcisms. 

"There were no psychological assessments or permission from the Bishop." 

Price said the Bishop has the power to suspend religious faculties held by The Sons leaders and believes this would be a "reasonable step" to take. 

He hopes Bishop Gielen listens and acts on information from those who have raised concerns after former Bishop, and current Archbishop, Paul Martin failed to.

"There are people out there and they will be willing to talk to the Bishop if the Bishop is willing to listen," Price told Newshub.

Price urges people to come forward. 

"Now is the time to speak up, don't be afraid. There are plenty of others.” 

"Bishop Michael would be extremely foolish if he did not open his door and listen attentively to all the concerns," Lineham said. 

Bishop Michael is currently overseas on a pilgrimage - he has a lot to deal with on his return.