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Priest who conducted elections-related exorcisms leaves Madison Diocese

A conservative Madison priest and blogger has left the Diocese of Madison after performing livestreamed exorcisms aimed at rooting out what he, former President Donald Trump and other Trump supporters have falsely claimed was widespread fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Rev. John Zuhlsdorf also claimed he had permission to conduct the exorcisms from Madison Catholic Bishop Donald Hying — an assertion Hying has said is false as well. The exorcisms have since been removed from YouTube. The National Catholic Reporter earlier reported on Zuhlsdorf’s departure.

In a statement on Jan. 14, the diocese said it and Zuhlsdorf had reached “a mutual decision” for Zuhlsdorf to leave.

“The Reverend Zuhlsdorf, who is in good canonical standing, will relocate from the Diocese of Madison to pursue other opportunities,” the statement said. “The Bishop of Madison is grateful to the Reverend Zuhlsdorf for his faithful support of the diocese’s seminarians and priests, thanks him for his many years of steadfast ministry serving the diocese, and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”

Hying has said that he did not give Zuhlsdorf permission to conduct exorcisms related to “partisan political activity,” but rather several months ago approved an exorcism “for the intention of alleviation from the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic.”

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops defines an exorcism as “a specific form of prayer that the Church uses against the power of the devil.” Hying’s permission allowed for the exorcism of a place, locality or things, but not of a person, according to the diocese.

As reported Jan. 8 by The Tablet, a United Kingdom-based Catholic news weekly, Zuhlsdorf said he was carrying out the exorcisms because it appeared some had committed “well-organized fraud.”

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Zuhlsdorf did not respond to emails for comment. He announced his decision to leave Madison on Jan. 15 on his popular “Fr. Z’s Blog,” where he did not mention the exorcisms or Hying by name but said he has been thinking about his lack of a 10-year plan and how to get his “mo jo” back.

“That — by the way — should be interesting in this present atmosphere of ‘cancel culture’ now infecting the Church, as well as the media and streets,” he wrote, adding that “there is a catholic Antifa now.”

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Zuhlsdorf, a proponent of the traditional Latin Mass, was not a parish priest but served as the leader of the Diocese-sanctioned Tridentine Mass Society of Madison, which sought to preserve Latin Mass.

He was not an employee of the diocese or a parish, diocese spokesman Brent King said, adding that the best nonsectarian analogy for his role was “freelancer.”

Photo gallery: Bishop Robert Morlino


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