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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dr Gerard Stoyles, Psychologist and Exorcist

Dr Gerard Stoyles began working in religious education as a Catholic priest in 1977 and went on to study clinical psychology at the University of Wollongong where he later secured a position as senior lecturer specialising in children and teens.

So because of his religious background, Dr Stoyles is a rare breed - he's a psychologist who believes in demons.

But a complaint has been made to the Psychology Council of NSW over the comments he made on a radio program last October.  During an interview, he discussed the exorcism of an adult female and a child and the complainant alleges he was "promoting" the bizarre practice.

Dr Stoyles ended 17 years of employment with the University in October 2015.

"The University has nothing further to add to Dr Stoyles' own public statement" a university spokesman said.  "The University of Wollongong rejects any suggestion that any redundancy has been initiated as response to, or in connection with, any allegations or public controversy."

Enter Dr Mitch Byrne, also a senior lecturer in psychology at the same university who does not believe in demons but still thinks the method of exorcism has its merits.

"If you are a person who is possessed of a delusional or a psychiatric disability, and you have a strong religious belief, and that belief can be marshalled to help you overcome your distress, then why not?"

"I wouldn't say it's the best call or should be the first call in terms of a way of dealing with psychological disturbance, but people should never underestimate the power of belief."

"Suicide bombers and Kamikaze pilots are evidence that the power of belief is beyond any sort of rational argument so perhaps working within someone's belief system is the best way to help them recover from their disability or distress."

He thinks that people who believe they are possessed do incredible things, but he attributes this to the mind, not demons.

"There is an enormous amount of power and energy in the human body that we don't usually exert and people under the right sort of circumstances can marshal that power for a very brief and short period of time, usually at some psychological cost" he said.

"They can marshal it to engage in acts of human strength and agility.  So if a person is possessed of a delusional belief or a psychotic condition, they may evidence some degree or excessive or unusual behaviour which we might interpret as being possessed or as evidence of a demon."

But who is to say that Dr Stoyles hasn't been right all along?  As a priest, he could immediately recognise someone with strong religious beliefs and exorcism could be the ideal solution to their problem.

Dr Stoyles has provided the Psychology Council of NSW with a response to the complaint and has been asked to attend a "counselling interview" over the matter.