The priest who said he planned to perform mini-exorcisms on young parishioners in their homes ahead of their Confirmation has said it would be more of a family blessing, and he would expect more of parishioners who reported the matter.
County Wexford priest Fr Michael Doyle told his congregation at St Aidan’s Church in Poulfur on Sunday, October 20, that he planned to perform mini-exorcisms while visiting children who will be celebrating their Confirmation next year.
Fr Doyle’s comments have been published in media outlets across the world, something he finds astonishing.
Fr Doyle, 50, said he was not referring to performing formal exorcisms, but to placing "a blessing on the family home against evil".
The diocese of Ferns confirmed that it had received a number of complaints from parents in the area about Fr Doyle’s comments and that it had referred the matter to the diocese’s vicar-general, Monsignor Joe McGrath.
"When I was using the term “exorcism” that’s what I meant," he said. "Not an exorcism in the formal way. Just a family blessing on the home."
He said he performs the rite as part of the usual programme of religious practises he performs for Baptism, Communion and Confirmation.
His usual practice with children who are receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion or Confirmation is that he sends a statue of the Sacred Heart home with a different child each week. The child is called up to him at the altar and is presented with the statue and the family is invited to use the statue "as a focal point for family prayer".
Fr Doyle said he mentioned minor exorcism at the 11.30am Mass, adding that he probably never used the term before but decided to go with it because he likes to joke around and keep his sermons light.
"I was being humorous, I joke around quite a bit and that was lost in translation (in the reports). I could have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. It’s not like The Exorcist movie. I think I’d be scared of that myself."
A local resident who attended the Mass confirmed that Fr Doyle said he would be visiting local houses and encouraged parents to build up the number of prayers they say with their child to a decade of the Rosary.
Fr Doyle said he told parents of first Holy Communion and Confirmation children in the parish of Templetown that he would like to visit their homes to carry out blessings, but only by prior arrangement.
A note to this effect was included in the Tintern Parish newsletter this month.
He joked that he is expecting a call from the owner of the country's most famous haunted house, Loftus Hall, to book him in for his Hallowe’en Lock Down paranormal events this week.
Fr Doyle said he has already written to concerned parents to clarify the matter.
"As soon as I got the word, I could see there was some misunderstanding." When asked how he felt about all of the publicity, Fr Doyle said he was amazed by the way the story made it out into the media, adding that it was ignoble sort of thing to do to report the matter.