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Christian Order - Read - Features - June/July 1996


June/July 1996
Satanic Alarm
"Catholic hierarchy should say a fervent mea culpa. For, it is also their
fault if devil worship and esoteric practices are becoming more
Fr Gabrielle Amorth
Diocesan Exorcist of Rome (1996)
SATAN may have changed tactics. For so far his greatest success has been
in making people skeptical about his very existence. Now, however he wants
to be in the big picture, judging by recent Italian newspaper headlines.
The Devil is increasingly front-page news and not just in Turin, Prague
and Lyons, the cities forming the so-called Satanic triangle. His
influence seems to have extended to the whole of Italy, from the Venice
region in the north down to Sardinia passing through Rome. And his
followers are hell-bent on promoting him. There are no reliable statistics
on Satan's adepts in Italy because they perform their rites in secret and
what usually emerges is the folkloristic aspect of the phenomenon - or the
criminal side as is more often the case. Alarm at the spread of the
phenomenon is such that even the Italian Interior Minister Rinaldo Coronas
has intervened with a special warning to all police prefects.
What's happening? Is Italy, home to the capital of Christianity, suddenly
falling foul of a fatal attraction for the prince of darkness? I put this
question to the man who, by profession, engages the Evil One in combat

every day. He is Father Gabriele Amorth, 70, who has been the official
exorcist of the diocese of Rome for the past ten years, appointed by the
then Cardinal Vicar of Rome Ugo Poletti. He points out that Canon 1172 of
the Code of Canon Law states that no one can legitimately exorcise the
possessed unless his bishop has issued him a special license to do so.
There is nothing about Father Amorth to suggest the anguished image of the
exorcist we have come to know through movies and ill-informed newspaper
reports and books. A native of the Emilia region of North Italy, Father
Amorth is witty and entertaining and he even manages to joke about his
work: "You want to know if I'm afraid of the Devil? That beast should be
afraid of me because I have the power to cast him out in Christ's name".
You are in a unique position to form a general opinion of the whole
question and you have direct-experience. Is it true that more people today
are "associating" with the Devil?
GABRIELE AMORTH: Unfortunately, it is. In these past ten years of
exorcisms I have witnessed a progressive increase in the number of people
coming to me. Of course, more information circulates today. In the past, a
lot of people who might have needed the help of an exorcist wouldn't have
known how to go about finding one and may not even have known that they
exist. But I think this increase is owing to an explosion proper of
maleficence and evil and this is the Devil's work.
What are the causes?
AMORTH: More and more people are practising spiritism or joining Satanic
sects. It's like a fashion, almost. Sometimes they just join without
thinking about what they might come up against. Then they find themselves
facing the consequences in terror. For the Devil is not an impersonal
entity. This is not just a name psychoanalysts use for the abstract ills
that exist in society. He is a real person and, as Saint Peter says in his
first letter, 'like a roaring lion he is on the prowl for someone to
devour'. Unfortunately, a poor form of theology has also spread this
abstract concept of the Devil within the Catholic Church. Yet this is the
exact opposite of Gospel teaching, of the Magisterium and of the feelings
of the Christian people. Many bishops don't believe that he exists either.
So if more and more people are recurring to esoteric practices and joining
Satanic sects it is also because the Church has stopped teaching the
proper doctrine about the Devil taught to us by Scripture and transmitted
to us by Tradition. So I would say that Catholic hierarchy is also greatly
responsible for the spread of this phenomenon.
Who else is to blame?
AMORTH: The press which has paid the worst kind of service by amplifying
the phenomenon and nearly always failing to publish proper information. By
so doing they are proclaiming and propagating evil. And so today we are
seeing vast numbers of people turn to witches, card-readers and Satanic
sects and the consequences are alarming even public authorities.
What are the evils and maleficence you mentioned earlier?
AMORTH: There are two types: demonic infestation and demonic possession.
Infestation is provoked by a demon 'outside' the person and every now and
then it assails the person causing physical and mental disturbances
totally immune to medical treatment. Possession, which is very rare,
happens 'inside' the person who is penetrated by a demon which sometimes

acts using the person's own faculties. I would stress that cases of
authentic demonic possession are very rare and cannot be compared with the
cases of people in need of psychiatric help, which are 999 out of a
thousand. The majority of cases I treat are cases of demonic infestation.
What is the cause of either of these conditions?
AMORTH: There are four causes. Firstly, seances and membership of Satanic
sects. These practices, which expose people to maleficence and evils and
even possession, are booming today, playing into the Devil's hands. Today,
people no longer go to seances conducted by mediums who enter into a
trance and claim to conjure up the dead - the truth is that if someone
does intervene it is the Devil because the dead are in Paradise, Hell or
Purgatory. They put questions to a 'spirit' and received the answers by
placing a glass in a circle made of letters of the alphabet, or else they
leave a tape recorder on in an empty room to record messages. Some
thoughtless priests have been known to suggest this particular practice to
parents who have lost children so that they can enter into contact with
them. In short, seances are 'played' as if they were a game. According to
one reliable survey, 36 per cent of schoolchildren have held seances of
this type.
What else is behind the phenomenon?
AMORTH: The second cause is that some forms of grave sins are being
persistently committed and so they become more rooted. The third cause is
Evil itself. 'Evil' is a general word meaning something bad done to
another person through the Devil. The victim is innocent but God allows it
because he respects man's freedom. Just as someone might pay to have
another person killed, people go to witches in association with Satan to
have something evil done against another person. Evil can be done in
various ways - the evil eye, curses or by Macumba or Voodoo rites. These
rites, in my experience, are the hardest to combat. But if the person to
whom the evil is done lives in the grace of God, if he is 'armed' by a
normal life of prayer and communion with the Lord, the evil rarely sticks
or else it sticks in a weaker form. The fourth cause is an assault by the
Devil himself which, in defiance of human explanation, makes a person a
victim of maleficent evil. And God allows this. In the Bible and history
of the Church there are many such cases - Job, Saint Angela da Foligno,
the Cure of Ars. More recent cases include the Blessed John Calabria and
Saint John Bosco who was tormented with the Devil's afflictions for two
years. Saint Paul, too, tells us that he was tormented by a messenger of
Satan. It clearly transpires from his Letters that he was suffering from a
physical ill of maleficent origin and it stayed with him until he died. He
writes: 'So that I should not get above myself, I was given a thorn in the
flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me'.
What is an exorcism?
AMORTH: It is a 'sacramental'. Canon 1166 of the Code of Canon Law defines
sacramentals as sacred signs by which, in imitation of the sacraments,
come the principally spiritual effects obtained by the supplication of the
Church. Whereas the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and are the
same gestures as Jesus Christ performed, the sacramentals are proposed by
the Church. The Church instituted the sacramental of exorcism to make the
power, conferred by Christ to all believers, more effective. In fact,

every believer or community can offer prayers of deliverance following the

example of Christ's teaching reported in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of
Mark: 'Whoever believes,.. in my name will cast out devils.' But only
bishops and priests - never the laity - who have received an express
license from a bishop may perform an exorcism. This is established by
Canon 1167 of the Code stating that exorcisms must be performed in strict
observance of the rites and formulas approved by the Church.
Was this rite also reformed after the Second Vatican Council?
AMORTH: You must be joking. It is the only text of all the texts due to be
published after the last Council that has still to come out, even though
30 years have passed since Vatican II closed. The book of exorcisms
currently in use is still the Roman Rite version dated 1614. This is
another sign of the remarkable disinterest within the Catholic Church
towards the Devil's concrete actions. In contrast to the Orthodox Church
and to many Protestant confessions, the Catholic Church has almost
abandoned the use of exorcisms, retaining this practice to be a throwback
to the 'dark ages.' Catholic hierarchy must say a fervent mea culpa for it
is also their fault if esoteric practices and Satanic sects are more
widespread. All too often, the Church has been guilty of omission in its
teaching on the Devil and in providing remedies for the faithful under
attack by him. The Congregation of Divine Worship once formed an ad hoc
commission to draft the new rite for exorcisms. But the temporary rite
they recently drafted reflects a total lack of preparation on the part of
the commission's members. They were liturgists who had never performed or
seen exorcisms and who hadn't the slightest idea how they took place. We
protested and the new rite has now been shelved [see 2002 POSTSCRIPT below
- Ed.]. It's better for us to keep to the Roman Rite of over three
centuries ago.
Has the Italian Episcopal Conference improved matters by appointing
exorcists to the various dioceses, as the press often reports?
AMORTH: When they intervene in this field, bishops often say the wrong
things. This is seriously counter-productive. It all depends on the
awareness and goodwill of local bishops. Some bishops realize that they
have more need today of exorcists on hand in their dioceses and so they
appoint them. This is also a reflection of growing express demand from
faithful with the increase in witches, card-readers, Satanic sects and
spiritists. Some bishops are excessive. Tarcisio Carboni, Bishop of
Macerata, was killed in a car accident recently on his way to the Italian
Church convention in Palermo. He had just appointed 22 exorcists all in
one go. Other dioceses have none at all, their bishops refusing to appoint
Acknowledgements to 30 Days
February 2002
Blunting the Sword of Exorcism
AS Harry Potter trivialises the occult on the outside, Father Gabriele
Amorth, Founder and Honorary President of the International Association of
Exorcists, complains of Vatican efforts to stymie the power of exorcists
on the inside. In a recent interview published in the Italian monthly 30
Days [No. 6, 2001], he spoke out about the new rite of exorcism being
developed by the Congregation of Divine Worship:
"All of us exorcists in trying out the prayers of the new ad interim Rite

have proved that they are totally ineffective. But then again, the rite of
baptism of children came off worse too. It was totally re-worked so that
exorcism against Satan has been all but eliminated... Their intention was
to arm us with a blunt sword. Some effective prayers were cancelled,
prayers with 12 centuries of history. New ineffective prayers were written
His only lifeline, he explained, was that permission can still be obtained
to use the traditional rite. He further bitterly complained that 150
trained and canonically appointed exorcists were "barred from taking part
in a public Papal Audience in Saint Peter's Square. (This) says much of
how the exorcists of the Church are obstructed in their ministry, how much
they are frowned upon by so many of the ecclesiastical authorities."
Asked: "You are locked in daily battle with the Devil. What do you see as
Satan's greatest success?" the highly respected cleric replied:
"The fact that he has managed to convince people that he does not exist.
He has almost managed it, even within the Church. We have a clergy and
an Episcopate who no longer believe in the Devil, in exorcism, in the
exceptional evil the Devil can instill, or even the power that Jesus
bestowed to cast out demons."
Commenting on the above exclusion of the 150 exorcists, he added:
"The smoke of Satan gets in everywhere, everywhere. Perhaps we were kept
out of the Papal audience because they were afraid that all those
exorcists might have cast out the legions of demons that have installed
themselves in the Vatican."
"You're joking aren't you?" returned the startled interviewer, to which
Father Amorth replied:
"It might sound like it, but I don't think that it is a joke. I have no
doubt whatever the Devil is tempting the upper levels of the Church, above
all, just as he tempts every upper level."
* * * * *
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2851. Evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil
One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who
'throws himself across' God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished
in Christ.
1673. When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of
Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the
Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus
performed exorcisms (Mark 1: 25) and from him the Church has received the
power and office of exorcising. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at
the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called 'a major
exorcism', can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of
the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the
rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of
demons or the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual
authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially
psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the
concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it
is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the
Evil One, and not an illness.

2116. All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or

demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to
'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading,
interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and
recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history and,
in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate
hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect and loving fear that we
owe to God alone.
2117. All practices of magic or sorcery by which one attempts to tame
occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a
supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of
restoring their health are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.
These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the
intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the
intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism
often implies divination or magic practices: the Church for her part warns
the faithful against it.
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