The Existence of Hell and The Suffering of Anneliese Michel
At the same time she was capable of successful study. You could see joy in her eyes. She did not avoid company and behaved as you would expect a young girl in love to behave—recalls a student friend. By this time Anneliese was already going out with Peter. She was aware of his deep feelings for her. Yet though she did not avoid him, she felt her personal problems prevented her from entering into a deeper relationship with him. But Peter proved to be a tenacious friend. He comforted her and himself, insisting they would find a doctor who would get to the bottom of these strange ailments. He stayed with her to the very end, never losing heart, even when—as he recalls—she would stare at him with a look full of hatred and break out into snarls and animal-like howls.
At midnight, the priest bade the demons be silent and allow the girl to get some rest. Anneliese lay down and went peacefully to sleep, never to wake again. She died of sheer exhaustion.
Several years later, while studying Anneliese’s medical reports, a Swiss doctor, Theo Weber-Arma, uncovered facts that had been suppressed during the sensational trial of the exorcists. It turned out that Anneliese had undergone three EEG tests. Each time epilepsy was ruled out. Despite this, she was treated for several years with antiepileptic drugs such as zentropil and tegretol. These drugs have serious side effects. Weber-Arma had no doubt that in Annieliese’s case the high concentration of these chemical agents and their use over a period of several years were bound eventually to bring on exhaustion and death. Needless to say, certain individuals were responsible for this incorrect diagnosis and treatment. None of them was held accountable.
Why was Anneliese Michel possessed by evil spirits? Possession occurs in people who have opened themselves up to the work of Satan through satanic pacts, the practice of magic, spiritualism, bioenergetic therapy or other occultic practices. In Anneliese’s case there was not even the slightest suspicion of such involvement. Having prayed so much over the girl and experienced the mysterious resistance of the evil spirits, Fr. Alt came to the following conclusion: “I am convinced that we are dealing here with a typical case of expiatory possession. During the many conversations I had with her she gave me to understand that things would again be very difficult for her in the future. She lived in great fear of this and was saddened by it. But she felt it had to come. In the case of an expiatory possession the exorcist has his work cut out for him because it is not at all easy to understand the meaning of the suffering. The only consolation a person not let in on the mystery can have is the knowledge that through this dreadful suffering a great many souls are saved.”
Does such an interpretation express nothing more than the impotence felt by the priest in his struggle with an evil spirit? How could he be certain that Anneliese endured these diabolic torments not for her own sins but for those of others? There might be grounds for doubt if it were not for the personal notes and tape recordings the girl left behind. These documents prove that Anneliese was clearly and lucidly aware that her frightful struggle with the powers of evil and her attendant sufferings and humiliations would help others to be saved. To the modern mind raised in the spirit of individualism this appears strange and incomprehensible. Can one engage in a spiritual battle with Satan in other peoples’ stead, and for their benefit? From the very beginning—from the time of Christ’s struggle and victory on the Cross—Christianity’s answer to this has been yes. In solidarity with our one Savior, and thanks to His one victory over Satan, we are engaged in a spiritual battle with the invisible realm of fallen angels, intelligent, irredeemably wicked beings hostile to God and man.
Despite the protestations of so-called “enlightened minds” this truth have been an integral part of our faith and the teaching of the Catholic Church since the time of the apostles. The tragic fact is that in Anneliese Michel’s lifetime even Catholic theologians were holding views at variance with the teachings of the Church. According to the convicted priest, Fr. Alt, the attempt by many theologians to reduce the phenomenon of demonic possession to purely natural psychic disturbances has led to the widespread abandonment of the practice of exorcism. To this day Germany has no officially appointed exorcist priests. At the same time interest in occultism in its various forms, including satanism, has grown everywhere.
In this spiritual climate Anneliese Michel came to understand ever more deeply that her terrible experiences were not in vain. Indeed, they served to remind secularized Christians that Satan does exist and that Hell is a real and ever present danger to the unconverted soul. The tape recordings of Anneliese’s exorcisms (which include the demons’ actual voices), the photos of her battered body, her personal notes—all these make up the German girl’s special testament to those who no longer take seriously the perils of Satanic activity.
On what grounds, we may well ask, could Anneliese’s terrible torments help save others? On the grounds that this misunderstood and misdiagnosed girl had a real part in the Passion of Jesus Himself. Thanks alone to her union with the Crucified Christ her suffering assumed a salvific character: salvific not only for herself but for others as well. Indeed, it was Christ Himself who suffered in her—for that is the meaning of the stigmata that several people testified to seeing upon her body.
Thanks to her close bond with Jesus, her keeping of several demons in bondage within her own body took on a salvific dimension. What was at stake was the carrying out of the Church’s triumphant struggle with the Devil. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and, as with any living organism, when one member of the Church engages in a struggle with the enemies of salvation, other members benefit from it. From her extraordinarily difficult vocation flowed special graces which she received from the Savior Himself. These were actual teachings which, in order to keep clearly distinguished from her Satanic suggestions, she shared with her spiritual director. On October 24 1975 she wrote down the following locution from Jesus: I am making use of your suffering, sorrow and lack of solace to save souls. On another occasion He told her: Never cease asking and begging on behalf of your neighbors that they may also attain the eternal homeland; and also: Pray and make great sacrifice for my priests. It is not for nothing that I have revealed to you the greatness and dignity of every priest—to the point that you tremble with fear.