Conservative Catholic priest the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf is leaving a diocese in Madison, Wis., after live-streaming himself performing an exorcism of alleged election fraud, according to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star.
The exorcism that was originally published on YouTube has been taken down. A statement by the diocese on Jan. 14 said Madison Catholic Diocese Bishop Donald Hying and Zuhlsdorf came to the “mutual decision” for him to leave.
Zuhlsdorf, a popular and controversial traditionalist priest according to the Journal Star, believed the false election fraud claims former President Trump and his supporters pushed following President Biden’s election. The exorcism was aimed at these election fraud claims, according to the report.
The priest said that he got permission from the bishop to perform the exorcism, but Hying denied that claim.
Hying told Zuhlsdorf he had permission to perform an exorcism “for the intention of alleviation from the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic” and not for political activities, the National Catholic Reporter reported.
“The Reverend Zuhlsdorf, who is in good canonical standing, will relocate from the Diocese of Madison to pursue other opportunities,” the Jan. 14 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.”
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Diocese spokesman Brent King said Zuhlsdorf was not an employee of the parish and that the best nonreligious term to compare him to is a “freelancer.”
Zuhlsdorf posted on his blog on Jan. 15 that he would leave Madison but did not mention the exorcism or the exact reason for him leaving.
The parish’s statement and Zuhlsdorf’s departure came after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving five people dead.