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?