After driving away 160,000 demons, Vatican’s chief exorcist goes to Heaven

Catholics often say that they’re science friendly, and are really down with modern evolutionary thought. Two decades ago, John Paul II proclaimed that evolution was “more than an hypothesis,” which many saw as the Vatican’s acceptance of evolution. What they don’t mention is that John Paul added that we face “an ontological leap” when dealing with the origin of humans—something that involved “the spiritual realm.” And when you ponder the Vatican’s supposed acceptance of evolution and science, remember these three things:

  • The official position of the Catholic Church, as given in Pope Pius XII’s De Humani Generis (1950) and in the Catholic Catechism, is that Adam and Eve were real people who were the ancestors of us all (and, of course, bequeathed us all original sin). In fact, the former document says that we are not allowed  to see Adam and Eve as other than our historical ancestors. Modern evolutionary genetics, as I’ve written before, nullifies this claim, as the population of our ancestors was never anywhere near as low as two (more like 12,000).
  • 26% of Catholics, despite their Church’s implicit endorsement of evolution, are young-earth creationists, believing that “humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” Another 33% accept evolution, but a theistic form guided by God, while only 33% accept naturalistic evolution.  In contrast, 57% of religiously unaffiliated Americans accept naturalistic evolution.

Well, the Dean of Exorcists, Father Gabriele Amorth—the official exorcist for the Diocese of Rome—just died at 91. The Christian Post notes that Amorth claimed to have driven out over 160,000 demons in his long career, though 6 years ago he claimed 70,000. (That means that since then he’s driven away about 41 demons per day—5 per hour assuming he works an 8-hour day, 365 days a year.) The Christian Post also gives more fun facts about Amorth:

Amorth was also an outspoken critic of yoga and Harry Potter books and dismissed them as ungodly hobbies.

“Practicing yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil,” he once said.

Referring to Harry Potter, he also said, “People think it is an innocuous book for children but it’s about magic and that leads to evil. In Harry Potter the Devil is at work in a cunning and crafty way, he is using his extraordinary powers of magic and evil… Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist… He studies each and every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil and then he tempts us.”

Amorth also insisted that both Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, Amorth said that the sex abuse scandals which engulfed the Catholic Church were proof that the Antichrist was waging a war against the Holy See. “The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences,” he said, according to The Telegraph. “He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, or even appear to be sympathetic. At times he makes fun of me. But I’m a man who is happy in his work.”

Describing people possessed by evil, Father Amorth once said, “From their mouths, anything can come out – pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals… When the possessed dribble and slobber, and need cleaning up, I do that too. Seeing people vomit doesn’t bother me. The exorcist has one principal duty – to free human beings from the fear of the Devil.”

Ugh. Well, somebody has to do it. And now that Amorth is gone, who will expel the hordes of demons just waiting to insinuate themselves into Catholic bodies?

Seriously, though, this is an embarrassment for the Catholic Church—or should be, for they seem to be beyond being embarrassed.


Father Amorth and one of his weapons


  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    If (per your paragraph 4) Father Amorth had performed 70,000 successful exorcisms as of six years ago, but the Church now puts that number at 16,000, does that mean 54,000 demons have now been returned to the possessed?

    Did they not keep up with their post-possession donations to the Church?

    • Jacob
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Typo. Should be 160,000.

      • Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Righto, fixed, thanks.

      • John Taylor
        Posted September 20, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        He’s probably trying to take all the credit for that mass exorcism they did on Mexico City. He is the boss. Bosses can be like that.

    • Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      The correct number claimed is 160,000. I made a typo, now corrected.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:13 am | Permalink

        That’s a relief. I knew the Papists drove hard bargain, but at least they don’t let the Prince of Darkness claim dibs, you don’t pony up at the collection plate.

        • jeffery
          Posted September 21, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          “So many demons; so little time….”

  2. serendipitydawg
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I bet it was one demon with a massive wig and false nose collection.

    • Charlie
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      After Jesus expelled one demon, he noted that afterwards this one plus six more would re-infest the victim. Unless the good padre is much more effective than Jesus Christ Himself, the 160,000 demons that were expelled were followed by well over a million re-infestations.

      With a god like that, who needs a devil?

  3. Marilyn
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Richard Pryor: “The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is that vampires are allergic to bullshit.”

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Ha, ha,love it!

  4. Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist

    You know who else doesnt want us to believe he exists? Keyser Sose. He wants us to believe he’s just a character in a movie played by Kevin Spacey.

    “From their mouths, anything can come out – pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals…

    Didnt Kevin Spacey have rose petals coming out of his mouth in American Beauty?!?!?!? Makes you think.

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    And with that, WEIT is finally getting into the Halloween spirit – a bit late this year. The big home improvement store started in the third week of August!

  6. Pliny the in Between
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Of course the RCC would consider yoga evil – it makes you feel good. Maybe if you wear a hair shirt…

    • John Taylor
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I did a yoga class on the weekend. Didn’t make me feel very good and now my arms are sore. I didn’t realize I was flirting with magic and the devil. Just trying to get some exercise.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Something about doing yoga that makes me angry and agitated. It does not relax me, I do not feel better, I do not feel virtuous. I find it a kind of sadomasochistic activity, and I detest the spiritual superciliousness of so many yoga buffs. Now I know why — it’s raised the demons in me.

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          You definitely have to be careful with yoga – particularly if you like me, are defined by your angst 😉

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            “Defined by your [my] angst,” and I am. I think you’ve nailed it — as in to the cross. The torture, the “Passion,” the anguish and the angst: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing!” I think that must be the name of a particularly esoteric and difficult yoga position.

  7. Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Catholics believe in a lot of absurd things, no surprise they’re not embarrassed by father Amorth…

  8. TJR
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences”

    At last, a catholic priest says something accurate!

  9. Dave
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Funny how it’s only believers that ever seem to get possessed and never atheists, eh?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      We’re permanently possessed – we just don’t realize the depths we have sunk to allowing the devil into our lives. With our logic and reason we’re constantly infect others. Every flood, earthquake, storm, and successful woman is a sign of another soul successfully possessed by the devil.

      • jeffery
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        “Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist…”
        – and he makes sure that if you ARE possessed, that you don’t know it- the more you think you AREN’T possessed, the more likely it is that you ARE!

  10. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I envision another Sainthood just around the next evil corner. The battle with Satin is never ending and the miracles just won’t stop.

  11. busterggi
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    “That means that since then he’s driven away about 41 demons per day—5 per hour assuming he works an 8-hour day, 365 days a year.”

    maybe it was his breath?

    • rickflick
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      It wouldn’t surprise me. Garlic is an herb used in exorcism.

  12. Larry Cook
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    As a former Catholic I can confirm with confidence that nobody in that church is embarrassed by this. The pope, bishops, priests and nuns are almost all true believers who keep their doubts to themselves. Catholics rarely discuss among themselves which of the church’s teachings they believe. Those who, like me, attended Catholic school, were thoroughly indoctrinated and so are loath to express doubts for fear of being told to go to confession or end up in hell. It’s a wonder we don’t all think that everyone can see our thoughts considering the way we were taught that thinking about a sin is as bad as committing it and that god knows what’s in our minds and in our hearts. Bringing up the idea that Exorcists are full of shit does nothing to enhance your stature among other Catholics even if they feel the same. And I hope nobody reading this can see what I’m thinking.

  13. Sastra
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Ironically, demonology provides a legitimate example of a concordance between science and religion.

    By “legitimate” I don’t mean there are real demons and genuine exorcisms which can be studied and refined through the application of the scientific method. I mean that IF there were a legitimate overlap between science and religion, it might look something like demonology.

    Which means that the lack of evidence for demons is lack of evidence for Catholicism

  14. johzek
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t imagine that the Catholic Church has done any follow up studies on these alleged exorcisms. Five, ten, twenty years down the road do undiagnosed psychological conditions lead to further problems.

  15. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    The patronymic Amorth sounds as if the bearer of the name should be an emissary for demonic creatures in a horror film involving exorcism. He looks like an emissary for the demonic, too.

    Does anyone remember the mischievously maleficent Irish priest, Malachi Martin? A brilliant mind addled and derailed by Catholic theology. He was an exorcist and wrote about exorcism. Used to appear regularly on the radio program, “Coast to Coast AM,” where he held forth wittily and in rolling tones on Catholic conspiracy theories and demons. For me, listening to him and reading his books satisfied my need for rip-roaring fiction far more than any novel could.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Years ago I was a post-doc doing the work of Satan in the lab, and there we would sometimes tune in hear Harold Camping and his detailed discussions with callers about this or that passage in the bible, and about his elaborate prediction of Armageddon. It was very entertaining. Like tuning into a parallel universe.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted September 20, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Via the miracle of the airwaves, Harold Camping, though dead for three years, is still broadcasting. As you know, he had an international following of pathetically gullible people. Here in the Bay Area where he was headquartered, he was a local radio sensation, not only among the faithful, but with the unfaithful, too, who loved to listen to his nuttiness. I was one of the latter. Sounds as if you and your fellow lab rats were also on that same wavelength, so to speak. The radio station he owned is still on the air, and his programs rebroadcast, even his old pastoral Q&A sessions, which were my favorite. If one tuned in now, unaware of his demise, you’d think he was still alive. I found the questions disturbing, appalling, pathetic, endlessly fascinating. Who are these people, I wondered? How do they function in the everyday, when they needed him to tell them to put one foot in front of the other to walk. Some definitely needed immediate psychiatric attention because they seemed schizophrenic, close to suicide, and terribly distressed and I worried about them. Others (who also needed psychiatric attention) called in to ask what they should do with their money and possessions since his shtik was that the End Times were nigh (How many times did he have to revise the dates?). I recall more than one person who asked if they should bother to enroll their children to school, plan for retirement, pursue romantic relationships. This was very sad. He died shortly after his last End Times prediction proved false, and he publicly apologized, but didn’t renounce his prophecies, just felt the divine math needed a bit of tinkering). Then he croaked. It was indeed the End of Days for him. But he lives on!

        By the way, I love your photos, especially the arthropods — you’ve got a superb eye for arthropods.

  16. loren russell
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Amorth may have inflated his tally of exorcisms by counting the demons he put into foreclosure, not the clients he relieved.

    If I understand the Gadarene situation in Mark correctly, a single madman had enough demons aboard to infect a “large herd” of swine — supposedly at least 2000 pigs got at least one demon apiece, according to my handy concordance. Jesus took care of that in a wave of his hand! Perhaps Amorth was not as gifted as Jesus, but with modern [er, medieval?] techniques, he could well have come close..

    Another possibility is that Amorth had entered the bar before coming to the priesthood, and so relied on the concept of “billable hours” to raise his productivity to these heights..

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      So, if one was to go all scientism-y and include harmful bacteria in the ranks of demons (microdemons?), then my doctor (with the collaboration of a pharmacist and some drug company) has just cast out several billion of them.

      Way to go, doc!


  17. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Ah, the silly beliefs and fears of grown adults. We would at times encounter a lady in my parents’ neighborhood who was convinced that Halloween was a Satan-worshipping holiday. You could not put out pumpkins or hang a plastic skeleton without hearing from her about it.

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The ins and outs of the debates of Christians (Catholic and evangelical) over the merits and/or seductions of the Harry Potter books have been engaging, and I hope affording some distraction from more noxious concerns.

    Both Pope Bene/Maledict and the above-mentioned Geisterbeschwörer (that really IS German for exorcist) thought Harry Potter demonic, but the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and even one writer in the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano have backed them up. (Sadly SNL’s Fr. Guido Sarducci does not write for L’OR in real life.)

    A much smaller subset of Christians are even debating C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books with its fauns, satyrs, even one appearance by Bacchus. (Somehow, I’m disappointed that Conservapedia defends them. 🙂 )


    Remember, if you don’t pay the exorcist, your house gets repossessed!! 🙂

  19. Roger
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Quite a racket. RIP racketeer.

  20. Somer
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    “During the papacy of Benedict XVI, Amorth said that the sex abuse scandals which engulfed the Catholic Church were proof that the Antichrist was waging a war against the Holy See.” Vile. Since 1922 the Vatican has been compelling priests to keep mum and send reports of sex abuse only to itself except in jurisdictions where Police are empowered to compel a bishop to release documents or information. To be fair to the current Pope, he tried unsuccessfully to introduce a body to punish bad conduct of bishops with regard to handling of sex abuse cases.

    The exorcism stuff Amorth uttered is the demented babble of medieval torturers. Pope Francis goes along with it – and with disdain for science, as when he characterises curiosity as a kind of sin or at least an undesirable trait.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this comment. I’m really sick of the resurgence of anti-intellectualism and the ‘demonization’ of curiosity in the name of some bullshit transcendent “wisdom.” I just Googled Pope Francis on curiosity and what he said is appalling: “The spirit of curiosity generates confusion and distances a person from the Spirit of wisdom, which brings peace, said Pope Francis” (from Vatican Radio). Reminds me of Thomas à Kempis and the “Imitation of Christ.” Not only is anti-intellectualism, religious or otherwise, poisonous to every aspect of culture, not just the sciences, but given what (little) I can understand of neuroscience (I’m damned curious to learn more), I’d say it’s a perfect recipe for cultivating age-related dementia. In fact, I just spoke with an older woman who said that she wasn’t interested in learning things anymore. And she’s a religious person. Who knows where this lack of interest came from — could be based in religion or perhaps her general lack of education makes her defensive, but I felt very sorry for her — and I got the impression that she somehow resented the fact that I valued intellectual curiosity over the blind “wisdom of age.”

      • somer
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 4:27 am | Permalink

        Yes! Some people are stuck with their lot which is understandable but as for a religious prescription that we need to spend our days in cow-like “contentment”. Mooooo-oooo 🐝

  21. Posted September 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    The only demon is the mindset of idiots who subsidize belief in demons. Such pathetic and puerile fraudulence can only come from the narcissistic imagination of the pious. Not only do these fools deserve to be mocked repeatedly; they should be reminded of how dangerously irresponsible and socially reprehensible it is to be full of shit at the expense of their intended audience. The public domain deserves better (if only for the sake of mental health and intellectual prosperity).

  22. Posted September 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    These things put vulnerable people, particularly children, in danger.

    “A Virginia man was convicted earlier this week in the death of a 2-year-old who died during a 2011 exorcism. Eder Guzman-Rodriguez beat his daughter Jocelyn to death in an attempt to rid her of the demon he believed was inside her.

    Police summoned to the scene encountered several people holding Bibles outside the home, where Guzman-Rodriguez stated that he had also become possessed by a “bad spirit” when he punched and choked Jocelyn to death. The girl was found on a bed, wrapped in a blanket surrounded by Bibles…

    In 2003, an autistic 8-year-old boy in Milwaukee was killed during an exorcism by church members who blamed an invading demon for his disability; and in 2005, a young nun in Romania died at the hands of a priest during an exorcism after being bound to a cross, gagged, and left for days without food or water in an effort to expel demons. In 2010, a 14-year-old boy in England was beaten and drowned to death by relatives trying to exorcise an evil spirit from him.”

    • Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Crimes of superstition should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law with additional charges for perpetuating grave stupidity in a domestic context. Community service requirements include reciting select quotes from Charles Bradlaugh(pending eligibility for parole).

    • somer
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      Yes – who is possessed by who

  23. Posted September 20, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    “The exorcist has one principal duty – to free human beings from the fear of the Devil.” Ah, it must work: I’ve never had any fear of the Devil! And I don’t worry too much about any other mythical creatures, either.

  24. jamesgart
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I am 67 and raised Catholic and was taught that Adam and Eve were not real people: only symbolic.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      You’re about my (& Jerry’s) age…back then Catholics were a lot more liberal, and a lot more open about flouting church dogma. (I’m thinking of birth control, for example.) They were also damned good allies in the anti-Viet Nam war movement. Outspoken priests weren’t afraid to push the envelope. But of course you know that. 😉

  25. Roger
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Amorth also insisted that both Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

    Dang, he was old enough that he could have exorcised their demons. There can only be one rational explanation for why he didn’t: He wasn’t an exorcist yet at the time.

  26. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    As an aficionado of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld fantasy novels, I’m constantly bemused – or maybe peeved – by this repeated emphasis on the malignity of Harry Potter. Have these people never read anything by Pratchett? I can’t think of one thing in Pratchett’s books that isn’t heretical, and many of them deliberately mock, by analogy, organised religion. Which is just one reason among many to like them.


  27. madscientist
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    I wonder if he was of the Franciscan order – that would have been sweet. As Faust exclaimed to Mephistopheles in Christopher Marlowe’s play: “Ach! You are too ugly to serve me. Be gone and return in the form of a Franciscan friar for it is that holy shape which best fits the devil.”

  28. jeffery
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I always wondered why, in the movie, “The Exorcist”, they had to say, “The power of Christ commands you” more and more loudly as they repeated it- is Satan hard of hearing? Does the magic not work unless the spells are yelled?

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