Italy an Unhealthy Climate for Satanists

The Australian Age has further details on Professor Carlo Climati and the new course on Satanism at the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome. According to Climati:

“The idea is to help priests deal with those youths who are attracted by satanistic cults, or parents who are concerned that their children might have joined some kind of sect…Once, teenagers’ exposure to satanism was limited to the record sleeve or lyrics of a few rock bands. These days, there are thousands of websites dedicated to Satan,”

The media took an interest when the course was first announced a few weeks ago, but the Age has some extra details about Climati’s thinking:

While a simple dictionary definition describes it as “the worship of Satan – the chief spirit of evil and adversary of God”, Professor Climati argues that satanism is in fact an extreme “form of pessimism”.

…Though the concept of Satan is probably as old as humanity itself, Professor Climati says the spread of its popularity in the modern world has been in part aided by the emergence of New Age – which a recent Vatican pamphlet describes as “an individualistic, egoistic and ultimately anti-Christian culture”.

Moreover, satanism cannot merely be confined to the Christian world.“It is a global phenomenon, a human problem that transcends all barriers and which can affect anyone, particularly those with a highly sensitive soul who see their strong ideals betrayed in some way or other,” Climati says.

Climati has a website, which is mostly in Italian, but a 2001 profile by Veritas provides a good introduction:

“Youth and Esotericism,” a best-selling work about Satanism and its impact on young people, is one journalist’s attempt to tear down walls of misunderstanding…This week it was published in Portuguese. It will soon appear in Spanish, published in Mexico by Alba and, in a few months time, will be available in Polish.

Climati’s list of possible Satanic influences will be familiar to anyone who recalls the US/UK “Satanic Panics” of the 1980s:

Satanic rock, discotheques, esoteric secrets of tattoos and piercing, New Age, the Internet world, comics, the film “The Blair Witch Project,” the problem of television magicians, telefilms of esoteric content, games, Japanese cartoons, video games, role-playing.

He does, however, know the difference between Satanism and Wicca, and although he unsurprisingly disapproves of the latter as well, his argument is primarily a rationalistic one (Wicca is “superstitious”).

Climati’s current prominence has come in the wake of three “Satanic” murders by delinquent teenagers in Milan and Chiavenna (the Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) has details about the latter case). According to his website biography, he has written several other books and he works with GRIS, the Bologna-based Gruppo di Ricerca ed Informazione Socio-Religiosa (“Group of Research and Information on the Sects”, according to their own translation). GRIS is a Catholic organisation, and is also involved with the Regina Apostolorum Satanism course. The GRIS website used to have a small English-language section, now only available to view in the Wayback archive. An English summary of the group’s publications on Satanism in their journal Religioni e Sette nel mondo (as of 1996), including an essay by Climati, can be seen here.

However, not everyone is impressed with the efforts of Climati or of GRIS. The Bologna-based leftist writing collective formerly known as “Luther Blissett” (authors of the novel Q, and now known as “Wu Ming“) describes Climati as “del super-bigotto”, and clashed with GRIS quite dramatically in 1997 over the arrest of three self-styled Satanists in Bologna on charges relating to rape and pedophilia. “Luther Blissett” produced a pamphlet, lasciate che i bimbi (an English translation can be seen here), that included scathing comments about GRIS and the Bologna public prosecutor, a conservative Catholic called Lucia Musti. A successful libel action from Musti followed, but the Satanist group, known as the Children of Satan, was acquitted. According to “Luther Blissett’s” analysis (which requires wading through some anti-Catholic rhetoric):

Since the Seventies, in the Italian political discourse “emergenza” means a re-definition and re-description of the “public enemy”, by which the suspension of rights formally warranted by the 1948 Constitution is made not only acceptable to the “public opinion”, but even necessary and desirable in order to ‘defend democracy’…[Bologna] can’t help having the most reactionary Curia, the new Inquisition represented by the GRIS…and the religious intolerance that provoked the arrest and detention of the Children of Satan.

…on January 1997, a few weeks before the beginning of the trial, L’Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican daily paper) started to publish a series of articles about the dangers of Satanism. This series was edited by Giuseppe Ferrari, the president of the GRIS. Ferrari himself wrote the first piece, titled ‘The Phenomenon Of Satanism In The Contemporary Society’. He described Satanism as an absolute emergency, drawing alarmist conclusions from a hopeless mess of rumours, cliches and urban myths. No specific examples, no precedents, no statistics. Moreover, Ferrari extended to excess the definition of ‘Satanism’, including ‘other groups that do not intend to present themselves as Satanists and, for example, claim to practice pagan rituals in order to harmonize with the occult powers of nature. As a matter of fact, these groups are suspect and we can include them in the multi-form world of Satanism’. Such a mysterious sentence was aimed at accusing a whole constellation of various movements, cults and philosophies.

…The emergency of “paedophilia”, thanks to the myth of ‘ritual abuse’, has made possible the present attacks on ‘dangerous cults’. In their turn, such attacks are likely to create a global cultural, indeed “spiritual” emergency.

Perhaps, from an Italian perspective. But for those of us worried that the 1980s might be about to happen all over again, it should be noted that when Scott Peterson tried a “Satanic cult” defence in his recent murder trial, his lawyers quickly thought better of it. And an attempt just a few weeks ago by Jan Schroder (an anti-Muslim “activist”) to use the Peterson case to re-ignite fears of Satanism in the USA appears to have flopped – so far.

UPDATE: More today.