Spirit Daily

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Leading Exorcist Warns of Lack of Tools in Dealing With Evil

By Michael H. Brown

On Sunday, Pope John Paul II said the devil is most dangerous when least perceived. "Every man, in addition to his own concupiscence and the evil example of others, is also tempted by the devil, especially when least aware of it," the Holy Father said from the window of his study before praying the midday Angelus. At the same time came word that the Pope recently performed another exorcism.

To those who have argued for so long now, especially since Vatican II, that it's best not to mention the devil, and for theologians who have tended to discount the evil one (replacing him with psychology), this had to be a shocker. In one felt swoop, the Pope was indicating that we are only safe when we know where Satan is, and that we have let the devil work in the dark. Indeed, "intellectualism" has all but allowed Satan to roam the world unfettered. What was once known as demonism is now called names like "multiple personality," psychosis, and schizophrenia. While we have to be careful not to mistaken legitimate mental illness for diabolical activity (there are legitimate biochemical imbalances), our society has gone to the opposite extreme and as a result has left itself wide open to assault.

At the same time, the Church, bowing to that same intellectualism (which replaced mystical theology in the seminaries), has all but neutralized ancient prayers found effective against evil. At least that's the claim of Father Gabriele Amorth, the official exorcist of Rome and one who was present at two of the Pope's exorcisms. Last June, in a startling interview with an Italian publication called 30 Giorni, Father Amorth complained that bishops do not have experience in dealing with evil and have left the Church without proper safeguards, especially in the way of a new Ritual for Exorcists. In fact Father Amorth has called the New Ritual, which he says leaves out prayers that were used for 12 centuries, "an incredible obstacle that is likely to prevent us from acting against the demon." Among other things, Father Amorth said he was asking "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."

"During these last ten years, two commissions worked on the Ritual," Amorth charged. "One was made up of cardinals and was responsible for the Praenotanda, the initial provisions, and the other was responsible for the prayers. I can affirm with certainty that none of the members of these commissions had ever performed an exorcism."

Father Amorth charged that exorcists are "very badly treated" and that on one recent occasion when 150 of them had gathered, they were kept away from an audience with the Pope. Moreover, he claims "there is not a single exorcist" in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal -- "a terrifying deficiency." "Out of a hundred French exorcists," he said, "there are only five who believe in the devil and carry out exorcisms. The rest send anyone who gets in touch with them to a psychiatrist." As a result, he claimed, many suffer the rest of their lives in torment. He said the German episcopate sent a letter to Rome declaring that there wasn't even a need for the New Ritual because exorcisms should no longer be performed. He likewise points out that the baptism of children has been watered down with its exorcism "virtually eliminated."

These are strong words. They come from someone frustrated. We can't vouch for every perspective. But we can say that the Church has stripped itself bare when it comes to exorcism -- even allowing psychologists, who in large part don't believe in the devil, to determine who should be exorcised! In the new benedictionary, Amorth says references to the Lord protecting us from evil and prayers to bless schools and homes have been suppressed. "Everything should be blessed and protected, but today there is no longer any protection against the demon."

"I will tell you a story," said Father Amorth. "When I met Don Pellegrino Ernetti for the first time, a celebrated exorcist who practiced in Venice for forty years, I said to him, 'If I could speak to the Pope, I would tell him that I meet too many bishops who do not believe in the devil.' The following afternoon, Father Ernetti came back to see me and to tell me that he had been received by John Paul II that same morning. 'Holiness,' he had said to him, 'there is an exorcist here in Rome, Father Amorth, who, if he met you, would tell you that he knows too many bishops who do not believe in the devil.' The Pope answered him briefly: 'He who does not believe in the devil does not believe in the Gospel.'"

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