TUESDAY
February 26, 2002
volume 13, no. 37

The smoke of satan in the house of the Lord

Part One

by Stefano Maria Paci
    The following is the first of a two-part interview reprinted from 30 Days in June 2001 in a frank, revealing discussion with the Church's chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth conducted by Stefano Maria Paci. Fr. Amorth does not mince words in describing the situation today in the Church, especially in the Vatican itself for he acknowledges that satan has indeed penetrated the hallowed halls and infected countless souls by his insidious campaign to corrupt Holy Mother Church. Though Fr. Amorth points out in this candid conversation that Jesus Christ has assured us"the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", the devil is trying and for Fr. Amorth and others conferred with the very grave responsibility of performing exorcism sometimes their own hands are terribly tied and that can bode well only for the evil one.

The author, Stefano Maria Paci, relates: "We went to visit him largely because a few weeks ago, on 15 May, the Italian translation of the new Rite for Exorcisms was approved by the CEI. All this ritual now needs for it to be adopted is the placet of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Is it a new weapon deployed by the Church to combat the enemy? To chase out, if this has still not been done, this smoke that has entered the Lord’s temple? Think again! Let us listen to what Father Amorth has to say. You will discover that the war which has been going on for thousands of years is raging more strongly than ever, that the battle has moved on and is now being waged inside the very house of the Lord. And this smoke… This smoke…ah! it is spreading into some quite unsuspected quarters."

Father Amorth, the Italian translation of the new Ritual for Exorcists is finally ready.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth: Yes, it is ready. Last year the CEI didn't want to approve it because it contained errors in the translation from Latin to Italian. And we exorcists, the ones who would have to use it, we took the opportunity to point out that, on a number of points, we were in disagreement with the New Ritual. But the underlying Latin text has remained the same in this revised translation. This long-awaited Ritual has turned into a farce. An incredible obstacle that is likely to prevent us acting against the demon.

A heavy accusation. What is it that you are thinking of?

Fr. Amorth: I will give you but two examples. Two spectacular examples. Point 15 treats of evil spells and how one should behave when dealing with them. An evil spell is an evil brought about on a person by means of recourse to the devil. It can be accomplished under a variety of forms like spells, curses, the evil eye, voodoo and macumba. The Roman Ritual used to explain how one should confront it. The New Ritual on the other hand categorically declares that it is absolutely forbidden to perform exorcisms in such cases. Absurd. Evil spells are by far the most frequent causes of possessions and evil procured through the demon: at least 90% of cases. It is as good as telling exorcists they can no longer perform exorcisms.

    Then Point 16 solemnly declares that one should not carry out exorcisms if one is not certain of the presence of the devil. This is a masterstroke of incompetence: the certainty that the devil is present in someone can only be obtained by carrying out an exorcism. What is more, the authors of the Ritual failed to notice that on two points they were contradicting the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For this points out that exorcism should be practiced in cases of diabolical possession and in those of evil caused by the demon. And it also recommends that it be performed on people as well as on things. And in things, there is never the presence of the demon, there is only his influence.

    The declarations contained in the New Ritual are very serious and very damaging. They are the fruit of ignorance and inexperience.

But wasn't the New Ritual put together by specialists?

Fr. Amorth: Not at all! During these last ten years, two commissions worked on the Ritual; one which was made up of cardinals and which was responsible for the Praenotanda, that is to say the initial provisions, and the other which was responsible for the prayers. I can affirm with certainty that none of the members of these commissions had ever performed an exorcism, had ever been present at an exorcism and ever possessed the slightest idea of what an exorcism is. Here lies the error, the original sin of this Ritual. Not one of those who collaborated on it was an exorcism specialist.

How is that possible?

Fr. Amorth: It is not me you should be asking. At the Vatican II Ecumenical Council, each commission was aided by a group of experts who assisted the bishops in their work. And this custom was kept up after the Council, every time that parts of the Ritual were redrafted. But not this time. And yet, if there were ever a subject that demanded the participation of specialists, it was truly this.

And yet?

Fr. Amorth: And yet we exorcists were never consulted. And what is more, any suggestions that we were able to make were unfavorably received by the commissions. It is a paradoxical history. Do you want me to tell you what happened?

Of course.

Fr. Amorth: As Vatican Council II had requested, the various parts of the Roman Ritual were gradually revised. We exorcists were waiting for title 12 to be addressed, that is to say the Exorcism Ritual. But apparently this Ritual was not considered an important subject, for the years went by and nothing happened. Then, quite unexpectedly, on 4 June 1990, there was published a Ritual ad interim, that is a trial Ritual. This was a real surprise for us, as we had not been consulted beforehand. And yet we had prepared a whole series of requests in view of the Ritual's revision. We were asking, among other things, that the prayers might be amended so that invocations to the Virgin, which were completely absent, might be incorporated, and that the number of prayers specifically relating to exorcism might be augmented. But we were not given the chance to make any kind of contribution.

    However, we were not discouraged: after all the text had been drawn up for us. And as in his letter of presentation, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship at the time, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, had asked the Episcopal Conferences to send in, over the following two years, "any advice and suggestions made by priests who would make use of it," we got down to work. I brought together eighteen exorcists, chosen from among the most expert on the planet. We examined the text with great attention. We used it. We immediately commended the first part in which the evangelical foundations of exorcism were summarized. This part deals with the biblical and theological aspect of the question, and on this head no lack of competence was apparent. It is a new section not found in the Ritual of 1614, which was composed under Pope Paul V; besides, at that time, there was no need to recall these principles, since the whole world knew them and accepted them.

    Today, on the contrary, this is indispensable. But when we came to examine the practical part that demands a specific knowledge of the subject, the total inexperience of the writers really showed through. We made numerous observations, article by article, and we sent these on to all interested parties: the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, end the Episcopal Conferences. One copy was handed directly to the Pope.

How were your observations received?

Fr. Amorth: Badly, and they achieved nothing. We had taken our inspiration from the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium in which the Church is described as the "People of God." In number 28, it speaks of priests collaborating with bishops, and in number 37 it is clearly stated – and this applies to the laity also – that "by reason of the knowledge, competence and preeminence they enjoy, they are empowered, indeed sometimes obliged, to manifest their opinion on things that pertain to the good of the Church." This is exactly what we did. And we were ingenuous enough to think that the directives of Vatican II had found their way into the Roman Congregations. But instead we found ourselves up against a wall of rejection and derision.

    The Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship gave a report to the Commission of Cardinals in which he said that those who had contacted him were bishops and not priests and exorcists. And with regard to our own humble attempt to help them by giving our advice as specialists, he added – and I quote verbatim –, "One should also take note of the fact that a group of exorcists and “demonologues”, who subsequently formed themselves into an international Association, were busy orchestrating a campaign against the rite." An indecent accusation: we have never orchestrated a campaign! The Ritual was intended for us, and yet not one competent person had been called upon by the commissions; so it was only to be expected that we should seek to make our contribution.

Does this mean then that, for you, the New Rite is unusable in the struggle against the demon?

Fr. Amorth: Yes. They were looking to give us a blunt weapon. Efficacious prayers, prayers that had been in existence for twelve centuries, were suppressed and replaced by new ineffective prayers. But, as luck would have it, they threw us a lifeline at the last moment.

What was that?

Fr. Amorth: The new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Jorge Medina, attached to the Ritual a Notification in which he specified that exorcists were not obliged to use this Ritual and that, if they wished, they could ask their bishop for authorization to use the old one. The bishops must in their turn ask for authorization from the Congregation which, as the Cardinal writes, "willingly accords it."

"Willingly accords it"? That is a very strange concession…

Fr. Amorth: Do you want to know where it comes from? It comes from an attempt made by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and by Cardinal Medina to introduce into the Ritual an article – it was article 38 at that time – which would authorize exorcists to use the previous Ritual. It was undoubtedly a maneuver in extremis to fend off on our behalf the grave errors found in the definitive Ritual. But the two cardinals failed in their attempt. Then Cardinal Medina, who had understood what was at stake in this matter, decided to grant us this lifeline anyway and he added a separate note.

How do you exorcists see your position within the Church?

Fr. Amorth: We are very badly treated. Our brother priests who are charged with this delicate task are treated as though they are crazy, as fanatics. Generally speaking they are scarcely even tolerated by the bishops who have appointed them.

And the most striking manifestation of this hostility?

Fr. Amorth: We organized an international congress of exorcists near Rome. We asked to be received by the Pope. To avoid pressurizing him and adding yet another audience to those he had already granted, we simply asked to be received in a public audience, that of Wednesday in Saint Peter's. We were not even asking him to address us his personal greetings. We made our request for an audience in the proper manner, as will be perfectly recalled by Mgr. Paolo de Nicolo of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House, who received our request very warmly. But on the day before the audience, Mgr Nicolo told us – to tell the truth, he was very embarrassed and it was very apparent that the decision did not depend on him – not to present ourselves at the audience, and that we had not been admitted.

    Unbelievable: 150 exorcists from five continents, men appointed by their bishops in accordance with the rules of canon law which requires that they be men of prayer, knowledge and good reputation – and thus in some way the cream of the clergy – ask to take part in a public audience with the Pope and are shown the door! Mgr Nicolo told me, "I promise to immediately send you a letter explaining the situation." Five years have passed and I am still waiting for this letter. It [was] certainly not John Paul II who excluded us.[???] But the fact that 150 priests should be forbidden to take part in a public audience with the Pope in Saint Peter's shows what kind of obstacles exorcists encounter even within their own Church and to what extent they are frowned upon by a great number of ecclesiastical authorities.

Next week: Part Two of this revealing interview on the smoke of satan.

Note: [editor's bold, brackets and italicized for emphasis]


February 26, 2002
volume 13, no. 37
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