Devilry at the Vatican

I notice that the loopy Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's chief exorcist, is up to his tricks again, declaring in an Italian newspaper interview that Satan is busily at work in the Catholic Church. Especially the Vatican, which he claims has long been infiltrated by "Satanic sects". Paedophile scandals, power struggles in the Holy see, the assassination attempt on John Paul II, domestic tragedies - all explained by demonic activity, says Amorth. Even the mentally disturbed woman who knocked down the Pope on Christmas Eve was acting on Satan's orders, he believes.

The Times has the gist of it, but for the full story - including Amorth's ideas about the growing power of the Antichrist - you have to go to La Repubblica. It's bizarre stuff. The priest has a bag which, he claims, contains pieces of broken glass spat out by possessed people, and a couch equipped with ropes to tie people up (sounds fun!). We also learn that he has had to move new fewer than 23 times in the past quarter century as a result of complaints about the strange noises emanating from his room. Here's a flavour:

The Devil is pure spirit, invisible. But he manifests himself in terrible blasphemies in the mouths of those he possesses. He can remain hidden. Or speak in many tongues. Transform himself. Or play the fool. Sometimes he makes fun of me. But I am a man who's happy in his work...

Anything can come out of their mouths, he says, pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals. Some possessed people have such strength that even six people can't hold them down. So they're tied up. My lay assistants help me and pray with me. When the possessed slobber, and start puking, I just carry on. Seeing people vomit isn't a problem for me.

Amorth - who claims to have dealt with 70,000 cases of possession over the past 25 years (which would work out at almost ten per day) - thinks that there's "no doubt" that Satan is active in the Vatican.

I have confidential sources who confirm it. Naturally it's difficult to prove. But the consequences are there to be seen. Cardinals who don't believe in Christ, bishops who are in league with the devil. When people speak of the "smoke of Satan" in the holy places, it's all true. Take these recent incidents of violence and paedophilia. Or the tragic business of the Swiss guard, Cedric Tornay, who was found dead with his commanding officer, Alois Estermann, and his wife. It was all hushed up. That's where you see the rot.

Fr Amorth pops up from time to time in the media. His Satan-obsessed ramblings were the subject of one of Heresy Corner's early posts, in which I suggested that an enthusiasm for demonology, though it might seem alien to Ratzinger's rational, scholastic version of Catholicism, actually fits in rather well with his medievalising agenda. Benedict XVI is no fan of modernity, and you can't get more anti-modern than a belief in demonic possession. Amorth claims that the Pope is fully supportive of his demon-busting activities. Last time, though, the Vatican was quick to distance itself from its "chief exorcist". Today's Times report has another Rome-based exorcist, Father José Antonio Fortea Cucurull, denying that senior figures in the Catholic Church were in league with Beelzebub. "Cardinals might be better or worse, but all have upright intentions and seek the glory of God," he said. While some were more pious than others, "to assert that therefore some cardinals are members of satanic sects is going much too far."

Certainly, these latest remarks are extreme even by Amorth's standards. But I was surprised there's no mention of the recent gay prostitution scandal involving the "Gentlemen of His Holiness." Perhaps the interview was conducted before that story broke - it would certainly seem to confirm Amorth's hypothesis. Looking on the bright side, though, Ratzinger's trip to Britain later this year will at least afford him a few days respite from his demon-infested palace.


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