Twenty-nine years have passed since that day, June 29 1972. It was the Feast of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles. It was the Feast of Saint Paul who brought the Gospel of Christ to the extreme corners of the West. On that day, June 29, Feast of the Patron Saints of Rome, Peter’s successor who had taken the name of Paul issued a dramatic warning. Paul VI spoke of God’s enemy supreme, that enemy of man called Satan, enemy of the Church. “The smoke of Satan”, warned Paul VI, “has found its way into the Church through the fissures”. It was an anguished warning that caused great shock and scandal, even within the Catholic world.
And what of today, 29 years later? Has that smoke been dispersed or has it continued to drift?
30DAYS went to see the man who has to do with Satan and his cunning every day. It’s his job, almost. He is the world’s most famous exorcist – Father Gabriele Amorth, founder and honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists.
We also went to him because a few weeks ago, on May 15, the Italian Episcopal Conference approved the Italian translation of the new Rite of Exorcism. All it needs now for it to be used is the placet of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Is this a new weapon in the Church’s battle with the Enemy? Will it dispel, if it still hasn’t been dispelled, that smoke which has drifted into the temple of the Lord? Nothing of the kind, according to Father Amorth. He will tell us that the war being waged for millennia rages on more angrily than ever. That the battlefront has now moved inside the house of the Lord. That the smoke … the smoke has drifted in the most unsuspected directions.
At long last, the Italian translation of the new Rite of Exorcism is ready …
GABRIELE AMORTH: Yes, it is. Last year, the Italian Episcopal Conference could not approve it because there were errors in the translation from the Latin. We exorcists who would have to use it took advantage of this to point out yet again that we were not in agreement with the new Rite on many points. The original Latin text is unchanged in this translation. A Rite so long-awaited has turned out to be a joke, an incredible cord that is tying us in knots in our work against the Devil.
That’s a serious allegation. What, exactly, are you referring to?
AMORTH: I can give you two examples, two blatant examples. At Point 15, it talks of evil in the sense of the ‘evil eye’ and how we should conduct ourselves. The ‘evil eye’ is an evil directed at a person through the Devil. This can be done in various ways, in the form of spells, curses, by voodoo and macumba. The Roman Rite explained how this had to be addressed. The new Rite, by contrast, categorically states that it is prohibited to perform exorcisms in these cases. That is just absurd. This evildoing is by far the most frequent cause of demonic possession and other evils procured by the Devil – no fewer than 90 per cent. It’s like telling exorcists to retire. Then, Point 16 solemnly states that exorcisms must not be carried out unless the presence of the Devil is ascertained. This is a masterpiece of incompetence because we can only ascertain if the Devil is possessing a person by performing an exorcism. Moreover, the editors did not realize that, on both points, they were contradicting the Catechism of the Catholic Church which advises exorcism both in the case of demonic possession and of evils caused by the Devil. It also says this should be done in regard both to people and things. The Devil is never present in things, just his influence. The statements contained in the new Rite are very grave indeed and very harmful. They are the fruit of ignorance and inexperience.
But wasn’t it compiled by experts?
AMORTH: By no means, no. In these past ten years, two commissions have worked on the Rite – the Commission of Cardinals who edited the Prenotanda, or the initial dispositions, and the Commission in charge of the prayers. I can say with certainty that no member of either commission has ever performed an exorcism or witnessed one. No member has even the faintest idea of what an exorcism is. There lies the error, the original sin of this Rite. No one who assisted with it was an expert on exorcism.
How can that be?
AMORTH: Don’t ask me. During the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, every commission was assisted by a group of experts who worked alongside the bishops. This custom continued even after the Council every time parts of the Rite were reworked. But not in this case. And if ever there was an area where experts were needed it was this one.
So what happened then?
AMORTH: What happened was that we exorcists were never consulted. Furthermore, the suggestions we gave were received with a certain irritation on the part of the commissions. The whole thing really was paradoxical. Would you like me to tell you about it?
AMORTH: As the various parts of the Roman Rite were gradually being reviewed in keeping with the requests of the Second Vatican Council, we exorcists waited for Title XII to come up, the Rite of Exorcism. But it was evidently not considered a thing of relevance because years passed and nothing happened. Then suddenly, on June 4 1990, the ad interim Rite appeared to be tried out. It was a real surprise to us that we had not been consulted beforehand even though we had our requests all prepared well in advance of the revision of the Rite. We asked, for example, that the prayers be reviewed to include invocations to Our Lady that were completely lacking, and we asked for more specific prayers for exorcism. But we had been completely cut out. We were given no possibility of making any kind of contribution. But we were not discouraged.
After all, the text had been produced for us. And we got down to work; this also considering that in his letter of presentation the then Pre- fect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, asked Episcopal Conferences to let him have, within two years, their ‘advice and suggestions from the priests who will be using the Rite’. I convened 18 exorcists from among the world’s most expert. We scrupulously examined the text and used it. We immediately praised the first part reassuming the Gospel foundations for exorcism. That was the biblicaltheological area certainly not lacking in experts.
It was a new addition to the 1614 Rite, which had been composed under Pope Paul V. At that time, after all, it was not necessary to remind people of these principles. Everyone was familiar with them and accepted them. Today, this addition is vital. But when we got to the practical part in our scrutiny, the part that requires specific expertise, it was blatantly obvious that the editors had no experience at all. We made copious observations, article by article, and we submitted them to all parties concerned – the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Episcopal Conferences, A copy was also delivered directly into the hands of the Pope.
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