Gassner Johann Joseph
Gassner Johann Joseph, a Roman Catholic priest, was born at Branz, near Plunz, August 20, 1727, studied theology at Innsbruck and Prague, was ordained priest in 1750, and in 1758 was settled as pastor at Klosterle. After filling that station for some fifteen years, he began to believe in the cure of physical disorders by exorcism, in virtue of the power conferred on him by his ordination. His first attempts were made upon himself, and having been, as he thought, successful, he felt encouraged to follow what he considered his calling. He traveled much, curing the sick, who were brought to him often from places afar off. "The bishop of Constance called him to his residence, but, having come very soon to the conviction that he was a charlatan, advised him to return to his parsonage. Gassner betook himself, however, to other prelates of the empire, some of whom believed that his cures were miraculous. In 1774 he even received a call from the bishop at Ratisbon to Ellwangen, where, by the mere word of command, Cesset (Give over), he cured persons who pretended to be lame or blind, but especially those afflicted with convulsions and epilepsy, who were all supposed to be possessed by the devil. Although an official person kept a continued record of his cures, in which the most extraordinary things were testified, yet it was found only too soon that Gassner very often made persons in health play the part of those in sickness, and that his cures of real sufferers were successful only so long as their imagination remained heated by the persuasions of the conjuror" (Chambers, from Conv. Leaxkon, s.v.). Finally, the emperor, Joseph II, forbade his exorcisms, and the archbishops Anton Peter of Prague and Hieronymus of Salzburg declared themselves against him (see Act. histor. eccl. nostri temporis, 19:315). Pope Pius VI expressed his disapprobation both of Gassner's deeds and writings. He died in retirement April 4, 1779. Lavater (q.v.) believed in the reality of many' of the cures ascribed to Gassner, and regarded them as the result of an extraordinary power of faith. Among his works, the most remarkable are Weise, fromm und gesund zu leben, und ruhig und gottselig zu sterben, etc. (Kempten, 1774; Augsb. 1775, 3d ed.), and J.J. Gassner's Antwort auf. d. Anmerkungsen wider seine Grntde u. Weise z. exorcismen (Augsburg, 1774). — Harzag, Real-Encyklop. 4:664; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 19:595; Sterzinger, Die aufgedeckten Gassnerschen Wundercuren (1775); Semler, Sammlung von Brieffen u. Aufsatzen uber die Gassmersche Geisterbeschworung (Halle, 1776).