Times (London) March 05, 2010, Bess Twiston-Davies
Rome, I can reveal, is riven by battling exorcists. Well, two to be precise, both priests, both experts on demonic possession, yet currently clashing over the possible existence of Satan worshippers within the Vatican.
The splendidly named Fr Gabriele Amorth stated in a memoir published last month “yes, also in the Vatican there are members of Satanic sects.” Asked if this involved lay Catholics or clergy, he said: “There are priests, monsignors and also cardinals!”
The allegations of Fr Amorth – who btw, has said in the past that the scenes in the 1973 film The Exorcist are “substantially exact” – are recorded in Father Amorth: Memoirs of an Exorcist. My life fighting against Satan, a series of interviews edited by Marco Tosatti. He asked Amorth if Pope Benedict XVI himself knew of the existence of Satanic sects in the Vatican.“Of course he was informed ” replied Amorth. “But he does what he can. It’s a horrifying thing.”
This week, reports Catholic News Online a second Rome-based demonologist, the Spaniard Fr Jose Antonio Fortea (another appropriately named priest) responded, stating on his blog that some priests ,”are more spiritual and others more earthly, some more virtuous and others more human.” He added: “from there to affirm that some cardinals are members of Satanic sects is an unacceptable distance.”
He then mentioned those seeking help for demonic possession, along with, “innumerable persons” alleging to be the recipients of divine Revelation, including some whose visions have a flavour of the apocalypse, or include “revelations about the infiltration of Satan and the Masons [editor’s note – a particular obsession with European Catholics] within the dome of the Church.”
The only acceptable stance in such cases, explained Fr Fortea is to “suspend judgement of the messages” while they are discerned. Fair point.
Then he tackles the interesting question of how one can know if a demon is telling the truth. In many cases, he said, this is impossible, explaining: “We can know with great confidence when a demon tells the truth in the subject directly related with the exorcism. That is, the number of demons, their name and similar things. But we cannot be confident in what regards concrete news relating to people.”
“Father Amorth does not have other sources of knowledge than the two that I just cited.”
That may be true but I prefer to leave the last word with the redoubtable Fr Amorth, who in this interview , pointed out that power anywhere leads to temptation: “I have no doubt about the fact that the demon tempts the authorities of the Church especially, just as he tempts every authority, those of politics and industry.”
Demons aside, is pride, chief of all sins, to blame for human corruption in the Church? In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola contrasts the ‘standards of Lucifer’ including Pride, Honour and Worldly Riches, versus the standards of Christ – a willingness to embrace Humility, Contempt and Poverty – which in a roundabout way ties nicely in with Frank Skinner’s comment piece today on being a Christian right now in the UK.