Famous Catholic exorcist praises Ratzi

Alert reader Grania sent me a link to a story about the Vatican along with the message: “Here’s a lolzy piece in the Telegraph: the mentally ill defending the morally bankrupt.” And that’s indeed the case: the title of the Telegraph piece is “World’s leading exorcist praises Pope Benedict.”

I remember first learning that the Vatican had Official Exorcists, for that’s an explicit Church acknowledgment of the presence of human-dwelling demons that can be cast out with spells. How, I thought, does that comport with a “modern” and science-friendly faith? And no exorcist is more famous than Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the exorcist of the Diocese of Rome.  In 2000 he claimed to have performed more than 50,000 exorcisms over his career—that’s about ten per day—and Wikipedia notes this:

Amorth’s favorite film is The Exorcist. He thinks that it is substantially exact and based on a true story, although the special effects are exaggerated. In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph that Father Gabriele Amorth stressed that “People need to know what we do.”

Okay, this isn’t even mainline Catholicism—this is bull-goose lunacy. Nevertheless, Amorth was in the news last week for praising the retiring Pope Benedict:

Father Gabriele Amorth, the founder and head of the International Association of Exorcists, said the German pontiff had “done many things for exorcists” during his eight-year papacy, which will come to an end on Feb 28.

He said Benedict, regarded as a staunch conservative during his time in office, had “allowed exorcists to administer the sacrament of exorcism not only to people who are suffering from demonic possession, but also those who suffer other evil disorders, such as diabolical infestations.”

Fr Amorth, the Catholic Church’s best known exorcist, will be a special guest on Friday on a television programme to commemorate Benedict’s papacy.

The programme, to be broadcast on a religious satellite channel, will be called: “Joseph Ratzinger and the Devil – the history of a pontificate and the battle against evil”.

The lunacy went this far:

[Amorth] claimed in a book last year that Pope Benedict unwittingly performed an exorcism of two men possessed by the Devil in the very heart of the Vatican, describing how he and two assistants brought a pair of “possessed” Italian men to one of the Pope’s weekly audiences in St Peter’s Square in May 2009.

In the book, ‘The Last Exorcist – My Fight Against Satan’, he said the mere presence of the pontiff cured the men of their demonic afflictions. As the Pope approached them, the men, identified only as Marco and Giovanni, began to act strangely – they trembled and their teeth chattered.

When Benedict stepped down from his “Popemobile” the two men flung themselves to the floor.

“They banged their heads on the ground. The Swiss Guards watched them but did nothing,” he wrote. “Giovanni and Marco started to wail at the same time, they were lying on the floor, howling. They were trembling, slobbering, working themselves into a frenzy.

“The Pope watched from a distance. He raised an arm and blessed the four of them. For the possessed it was like a furious jolt – a blow to their whole bodies – to the extent that they were thrown three metres backwards. They stopped howling but they cried uncontrollably.”

Fr Amorth, who claims to have conducted thousands of exorcisms, wrote: “It is no mystery that the Pope’s acts and words can enrage Satan…that simply the presence of the Pope can sooth and in some way help the possessed in their fight against the one who possesses them.”

The Vatican disputed the account, saying Benedict was not aware of the men’s afflictions and had not intended to carry out an exorcism.

Amorth is said to have embarrassed the Vatican with his antics, including his pronouncements on Harry Potter (inaccurate characterization of magic) and his pronouncement of yoga as “evil,” but the real embarrassment is that exorcism is still an accepted rite in the Catholic church.  Do we need an Infallable Proclamation to dispel it?

"Demon begone!" Amorth is often photographed with his signature demon-dispelling cross.

“Satan begone!” Amorth is often photographed with his signature demon-dispelling cross.

“Substantially exact”

66 Comments

  1. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Sounds like he’s too good, he’s inadvertently exorcised the pedophile protecting pope from the Catholic church.

  2. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Those who believe in ghosts are, as Robert G. Ingersoll, so eloquently put in ghosts are still in the early stages of man’s journey to knowledge where man for lack of knowledge used ghosts to explain anything they had no rational explanation.
    This is shameful to note that in this day and age, there are those who believe in ghosts and have the temerity to say they exorcise people of such demons!

  3. Diane G.
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    For the possessed it was like a furious jolt – a blow to their whole bodies – to the extent that they were thrown three metres backwards.

    And no one got that on their cell phone?!

    Needed–someone to exorcise the ‘diabolical infestation’ that is Catholicism.

    • Matt Bowman
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      That was my favorite part of the article, “diabolical infestation.” LMAO! I don’t know what the heck that is but it sounds terrifying. I survived a Catholic upbringing, but I don’t think I could have overcome diabolical infestation. At least not without the help of an exorcist.

      • SA Gould
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Perhaps it’s like bedbugs, very hard to get rid of.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        . . . but I don’t think I could have overcome diabolical infestation. At least not without the help of an exorcist.

        Exterminator, maybe…

        • Matt G
          Posted February 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          A profession which is able to demonstrate its utility.

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        It’s an exacting chore, having to categorize and create a taxonomy for all the distinct forms of looney-tunes nuttbaggery.

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Meaning that exorcists imagine they see some important distinction between two problems that are imaginary to begin with.

          Just wanted to clarify.

          That sound you hear is the joke, such as it was, dying.

          • bric
            Posted February 22, 2013 at 1:55 am | Permalink

            For I have known them all already, known them all:—
            Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
            I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
            I know the voices dying with a dying fall
            Beneath the music from a farther room.
            So how should I presume?

            – Mr Eliot

    • darrelle
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Come on. You know how shy the fallen one and his minions are. They aren’t going to show themselves to just anybody. One camera even a sketch pad, and they are outa there.

      What I want to know is why Satan and his minions only mess with believers? How come godless scum, such as myself, are never possessed?

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Oh but we are, darelle.

        We’re the carriers. The demons can do nothing to us, but like Typhoid Mary, we spread the contagion.

        Of course, to us it just seems like we are using rational thought and reason, but to a priest that’s like water is to a witch.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Of course! I new I forgot something, and sure as shit, I forgot my RRB (Reverent Religious Believer) goggles.

          I must say though, it’s not so bad being possessed. Why do they make such a fuss about it? Must be money in it some where.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Anybody who’s ever had a kid who played much in the school sandbox runs the risk of being awakened late at night by the poor child crying from their diabolical infestation: pinworms! Pretty damned diabolical.

  4. Sines
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    When you get right down to it, the Catholic Church believes in the same kind of lunacy as those who talk about speaking in tongues.

    Of course, the speaking in tongues is just demon possession. That’s why we need the exorcists.

    Jokes aside though, the catholic church is somewhat inscrutable. They toss aside obvious declarations of the Bible, such as creationism, so that they can adopt evolution. But they hold fast, no excuses, to the gays are evil thing.

    They don’t seem to abide by either scripture, or the modern world. Picking and choosing their facts and morality from either as they see fit. I wonder what their standard for all this nonsense is?

    Perhaps in the insular community of the Catholic Church, this all makes some kind of sense to them. They’re so filled with the idea that the Bible AND Church Tradition are sacrosanct, so they can find either to follow, having long since forgotten that both are built on a foundation of sand.

    I sometimes wonder how many of those old fools are actively malevolent, and how many are just showing the most deadly mind-rotting strain of the virus of faith.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      And they accuse us of situational ethics.

  5. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I’d love to see the efficacy of exorcism in a double-blind placebo controlled trial (I suppose the control would be someone dressed in priestly garb muttering random Latin phrases)

  6. SA Gould
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    The “substantially INexact” part of The Exorcist movie is where the dedicated priest takes Satan into himself and jumps out a third story window to save the little girl. Just don’t see that much dedication nowadays…

    • Matt G
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Satan can’t survive a three story fall? Pathetic. And falling is supposed to be what He is all about anyways. I need to pick better heroes to worship….

  7. James
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    As Graham Twelftree has argued (and most reputable New Testament scholars concur), if one asks “what drew the people of Galilee to come see Jesus?” the answer is most of all his reputation for healing the body and exorcising spirits. The synoptic gospels are replete with reports of exorcisms he performed. And also reports of the apostles emulating him—reports to be found also in Acts.

    Generally, the doctrine of apostolic succession assures us that when he rose to heaven, the Lord Jesus made provision for those who followed him still confined to earth. Part of this provision was to be protected against evil spirits within by priestly acts of exorcism. It would be contrary to doctrine for the pope not to be supportive of present-day exorcists. (Though exorcism is not one of the seven sacraments.)

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      That makes Jesus the Penn and Teller one-man-show of the 1st century. And provides 21st century humans with one more reason not to take anything the Catholic church hierarchy says seriously.

  8. mknine
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    what’s the difference in a demonic possession and a diabolical infestation?

    a possession occurs when a demon invades your mind and controls your actions.

    an infestation is when the evil spirit invades your bowels, though I’m not sure what the symptons might be :S

  9. Rhetoric
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I think this quote by Mark Twain explains the contradiction perfectly.

    “During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.”

    We are merely in that transition phase where demonic possession is ‘around’, but not amongst ‘serious’ believers. Most of the Catholics from where I grew up still firmly believe in creationism, for example.

  10. steve oberski
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    this isn’t even mainline Catholicism—this is bull-goose lunacy

    You mean there’s a noticeable difference ?

    – Virgin birth.

    – Transubstantiation.

    – Trinity.

    – Demonic possession.

    – Original sin.

    – Papal infallibility.

    – Intercessory prayer.

    – Saints.

    Pick out the really crazy one.

    • Sines
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Part of the issue is the observability of the claims.

      The virgin birth is a one time event. We shouldn’t expect to see any evidence of it. Now, not being able to disprove it doesn’t make it true, but it’s in a different catagorey from the earth being flat.

      Demonic possession is something that, if it existed, would just be a fact of life. The fact that we do not see anything like that in real life, and that all examples of ‘demonic possession’ are better cured with pills than prayer, makes it demonstrably untrue. In this case, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence.

      Now this doesn’t rule out things like intercessory prayer, which is also demonstrably untrue. However, in that case, you at least have groupthink supporting you. A bunch of other people believe it, so perhaps you’re just missing it when it does happen.

      Demon possession is not a widely held belief, so it can’t even rely on that last-ditch safety net for belief. It not only lacks factual evidence, but it doesn’t even have the emotional and psychological support of widespread belief. In order to believe in it, you have to go above and beyond the standard capacity of the human mind to fool itself, into the realm of madness.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        I honestly don’t see the difference. Virgin births in human is something that, if it existed, would just be a fact of life. Many animals procreate that way.

        But if it happened in humans it would be the equivalent of the earth being flat. Jerry has written about the ramifications many times.

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          The main difference sines is describing is that the bandwagon for demonic possession is much smaller than the one for other, more widespread religious nonsense. It’s all nonsense, to be sure, and it all stands in the same relationship to reality, that is, false. But it takes more credulity to jump on the smaller bandwagon.

        • Sines
          Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

          What I mean to say is that there are some elements of the Bible that assume the world is a certain way, and some that assume this is a one-time miracle or special event.

          The virgin birth is a one time thing. Even by the Bibles standard, it happened once, and will not likely ever happen again.

          However, demon possession is NOT rare by the bibles claim. It’s just something that happens. Jesus being able to effortless exorcise them was special and rare, but demon possession had to just be a fact of life for them.

          The virgin birth of Jesus is not disprovable. It has no lasting ramifications, and was a one-off special event. Like the abiogenesis event that brought forth the original self-replicating whatever, it is not something we should ever expect to be able to witness, either directly or indirectly.

          That’s part of the difference, in addition to the whole bandwagon thing. I can’t prove Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin any more than I can prove that hypothesis X is how life got started on Earth. But I can prove that intercessory prayer doesn’t work, because the world would be much different if it was.

          It’s the difference between “I don’t need to disprove it, the burden is on you to prove it,” and “While I don’t need to disprove it if you have no evidence for it, here’s the disproof anyway.”

          • gbjames
            Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:27 am | Permalink

            Virgin birth is a one time thing only if you confine the discussion to a single book of fiction. If you open the discussion to religion in general, it turns out to be a rather common literary device.

      • gbjames
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Actually it would be more accurate to say that virgin birth is a no time event for humans.

    • steve oberski
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      They are all non-evidence based beliefs, some, such as demonic possession and intercessory prayer, make testable claims.

      As such, I think it’s strictly contingent as to which of these beliefs are main stream and which are fringe.

      Replay the tape of history with slightly different starting conditions (and I mean very, very slight) and demonic possession could just as easily be a core Catholic belief, incorporated into the Apostle’s Creed along with the rest of the delusional tenets of this odious cult.

  11. Sam Salerno
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Your mother sews socks that smell.

  12. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    “Who you going to call?”

    Great theme music.
    Entertaining film.
    Rotten basis for interacting with reality.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:18 am | Permalink

      Talking about The Exorcist there, or Ghostbusters?

      (I much prefer Ghostbusters. “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick”

      But Tubular Bells was indeed cool.)

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted February 22, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        My favorite, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.”

  13. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    It is no mystery that the Pope’s acts and words can enrage Satan…

    They’d enrage any reasonable person.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    exorcism is still an accepted rite in the Catholic church.

    When I heard this I was again reminded of the regular witch hunt on Papua New Guinea, officially 96 % catholics, where a few weeks ago a 20 year mother was tortured and burned alive accused of magically affecting a young village boy. The torture & murder scene was apparently repeated -9, and so on.

    This I lay at the stinking feet of Ratzinger. Why is his sect inspiring and protecting murderers? Why didn’t he do something moral for once in his life, when he could?

    • steve oberski
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      And ruin a perfect record ?

      • Occam
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Considering the present line-up and the balance of forces, it may well be that the Ratzinger papacy will yet be deemed the “Dusk of Catholic Enlightenment”.

        (Ok, sarcasm flag raised, no need to prolong this thread.)

  15. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Catholic moderate: “I am a modern, intelligent, educated person who does not believe in superstitious tripe. And I cannot stand atheists who seek to paint every religious person with the same broad brush of irrationality. I do not believe in creationism, the Noachian flood, witchcraft, or any of that other nonsense.

    I just wish that you people would characterize my beliefs accurately, instead of lumping me in with the lowest common denominator fundamentalist. For instance, I don’t think that invisible creatures called demons cause mental illness all of the time, but only OCCASIONALLY. And I don’t think that the Pope is infallible on everything (sigh). Only OCCASIONALLY, and only on a limited number of topics, does the Pope receive perfect information from an invisible all-knowing being. And I don’t believe in magic (rolls eyes), EXCEPT regarding certain things that happened long ago as recorded in an old book.

    Now, would you please stop making my beliefs sound foolish?”

    • Stonyground
      Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      So what you are saying is that you are not as crazy as those really crazy people over there, because they believe a lot of crazy things but you only believe a few crazy things?

      • Posted February 22, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Yes, but please don’t state it in that way. Because if you do, then it makes it hard for me to ward off my cognitive dissonance between my silly Catholic beliefs and my belief that I am rational and should be taken seriously.

  16. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I would say this guy is certifiable if it weren’t for this: “In the book ‘The Last Exorcist: My blah blah’…”

  17. DV
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I think I get it! Catholicism is proof of evolution. It is a demonstration that neoteny is true – they have retained into adulthood the gullibility of a child.

  18. Duncan
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Do you think the ‘International Association of Exorcists’ get together very often? Must be a bit of an odd conference, everyone having to make up all those stories about what they’ve been doing. Maybe they sling up a few graphs up on how many demons have been cast out in the first two quarters of the fiscal year vs the first two quarters of the last fiscal year.

    They must have a newsletter. Please tell me they have a newsletter.

  19. zackoz
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Have you seen the latest?

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/vatican-scandal-cited-in-pope-resignation-20130222-2ev0d.html

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Were chestnuts involved?

      • Hempenstein
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Interesting, I had never heard of the Banquet of Chestnuts But I don’t understand the significance of them to the rest of the debauchery, or are they just part of the narrative without further significance?

  20. Kevin Alexander
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    He said Benedict, regarded as a staunch conservative during his time in office, had “allowed exorcists to administer the sacrament of exorcism not only to people who are suffering from demonic possession, but also those who suffer other evil disorders, such as diabolical infestations.”

    My doctor gave me a creme for that. No wonder it didn’t work.

  21. Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Once again, I see a thread dominated by a bunch of scientismists, erecting and burning their straw men, while ignoring the subtle nuance and rich history of the ministry. I suppose you all can’t really be faulted for your misconceptions, being raised on a steady diet of Hollywood horror flicks and TV tropes, but I worry that you all are throwing Rosemary’s Baby out with the baptismal water.

    An exorcist is not a priest whose primary goal is expelling an almighty Satan with muttered incantations, holy water, a crucifix, and some rosary beads. That would be silly and stupid.

    No… an exorcist’s primary function is, with his apostolate, to LEAD to the faith, persons who are possessed, vexed or obsessed by the devil. Moreover, Satan does not possess telekinetic and transmogritive powers, spewing pea soup and thumbtacks all over the place. Rather, he only possesses the powers of any other ordinary angel.

    Get with the program. Jeez. The fact that you all have an aversion to faith and perhaps an occasional hard-to-identify symptom is a possible sign of demonic possession, although such a determination needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. So why not make your plans today for a little vacation in Italy? When in Rome…

    • gbjames
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Jeezuz. Ordinary angels!

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      I almost forgot to add… one should not under any circumstances attempt to determine one’s own status vis-a-vis demonic possession. The diagnosis should only be made by a certifiable professional.

      • 3456346
        Posted February 22, 2013 at 4:52 am | Permalink

        Yes, “certifiable” is definitely the right word for them.

  22. Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    “certifiable professional”

    Heh, I see what you did there, even if you didn’t?

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      “although such a determination needs to be made on a case-by-case basis by a certifiable professional.”

      That’s how I should’ve typed it the first time. Would’ve saved the additional post, and been snappier, to boot. My kingdom for an edit button.

  23. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi – I can’t find anywhere else to let you know this.

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    I have nominated YOUR BLOG as Very Inspirational

    Please visit i-nation.me to receive your award.

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  24. Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Oops – forgo to post the actual blog link for the Inspirational Blog Award

    http://i-nation.me/2013/02/22/the-very-inspirational-blogger-award-2/

  25. TJR
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    This shows that priestly paedophilia is not caused by demonic possession or diabolical infestations, or the exorcists would have rooted it out years ago.

  26. Roux Brownwell
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    & then there’s this.

  27. Roux Brownwell
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    (link borked. Supposed to be a
    DIY exorcism kit. O well.)

  28. Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    ‘As the Pope approached them, the men, identified only as Marco and Giovanni, began to act strangely – they trembled and their teeth chattered.’
    _____

    I doubt that I would exhibit such charitable restraint as shown by Marco and Giovanni if a ‘rat’ of such infamous reputation approached me. I would have dragged its slimy tail into the nearest sewer.

  29. David Duncan
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    I misread the subject. At first glance I thought it said Famous Catholic Priest Exorcises Pope.


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