Vatican Satanic Panic

Father Gabriele Amorth, an Italian priest noted as an exorcist, has published a book-length interview entitled (in Italian) Memoirs of an Exorcist. It’s typically lurid fare, and the Italian media is of course lapping it up. Most attention has been given to Amorth’s claim that there are “Satanic cults” operating inside the Vatican, involving priests, monsignors, and cardinals. Panorama quotes him:

Anche in Vaticano ci sono membri di sette sataniche. Sono preti, monsignori e anche cardinali.

We’re also regaled with tales of paranormal phenomena – including Elvis Presley’s spirit guide:

Il sacerdote descrive inoltre case infestate di spiriti, indemoniati che «lievitano» sotto i suoi occhi, messe nere, vergini violentate, talismani e feticci che evocano presenze demoniache. Ma ricorda anche spiriti guida, come quello di Elvis Presley che ha visto trasferirsi su un pranoterapeuta, oppure anime dannate che spingono giovani adolescenti al suicidio.

Amorth is not the first priest to allege Satanism inside the Vatican – although, as with the others, actual evidence is not provided. In the 1990s Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo made the same allegation, and Amorth is described by Panorama as his friend. John Cornwall’s book Powers of Darkness, Powers of Light featured an interview with Milingo:

Now Satanism is at its strongest throughout the world. These are the years of the Devil. Black Masses, and blaspheming God, and Judas priests. Before he died Pope Paul VI knew what he had done [post-Vatican II]. He knew it! He had let Satan free within the Church. He said he could smell the stench of smoke around the sanctuary. He said the truth!

Milingo, of course, has since married a Korean member of the Unification Church and formed an alliance with Rev Sun Myung Moon to develop a schismatic church for married priests; it seems that he also now accepts Unification Church theology. Amorth explains his friend’s fall from grace as due to temptations sent by the devil.

And before Milingo, there was the late Malachi Martin. This 1990 quote has been posted widely on-line:

Most frighteningly for John Paul [II], he had come up against the irremovable presence of a malign strength in his own Vatican and in certain bishops’ chanceries. It was what knowledgeable Churchmen called the ‘superforce.’ Rumors, always difficult to verify, tied its installation to the beginning of Pope Paul VI’s reign in 1963. Indeed Paul had alluded somberly to ‘the smoke of Satan which has entered the Sanctuary’. . . an oblique reference to an enthronement ceremony by Satanists in the Vatican. Besides, the incidence of Satanic pedophilia — rites and practices — was already documented among certain bishops and priests as widely dispersed as Turin, in Italy, and South Carolina, in the United States. The cultic acts of Satanic pedophilia are considered by professionals to be the culmination of the Fallen Archangel’s rites.

This revelation just happened to coincide both with the evangelical-inspired hysteria over Satanic Ritual Abuse, and with increasing public awareness of the reality of catholic priests who were child abusers.

Amorth, Milingo, and Martin have all been moved to feverish excitement by a quote attributed to Pope Paul VI in 1972 (see here for the original; H/T this site), in which the Pope warns darkly of the “Smoke of Satan”. It seems he was referring to the failure to implement liturgical reforms; the idea that he was making an oblique reference to Satanic cults defies common sense. If the Pope believed such a thing was going on, why didn’t he do more to put an end to it? Or, if he wanted it covered up, why make his statement at all? How could such things still be going on forty years later, and still no evidence has come to light?

In 2006, Amorth purported to have discerned “the signature of the Prince of Darkness” in Harry Potter:

By reading Harry Potter a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil.