For some reason Fr. Gabriele Amorth has been anointed as yet another Folk Hero. Part of it is due, I suppose, to his having written a book about exorcism for Ignatius (fair enough, that’s his area of competence).
Part of it is due to his having provided suppressing fire for the people who somehow got the impression that fear and loathing of Harry Potter is a defined dogma of the Church and not, in fact, a matter of literary taste elevated to a shibboleth. In his fulminations about Harry, Fr. Amorth revealed that, as an exorcist, he had absolutely no grasp of literary criticism. But because the Harry haters had mistaken literary taste for orthodoxy, they clasped him to their bosom and brandished him like a sword against any Catholic who dared to express the perfectly legitimate opinion that the books were, on the whole, pretty good. By such processes are Folk Heroes born for Faithful Conservative Catholics, who can’t just say “I don’t like the books” but must add “And you are an enemy of True Catholic Faith if you disagree!”
The problem is, Fr. Amorth’s views and pronouncements about things have been rather erratic over the years. Jimmy Akin, for instance, had to delicately point out that it’s rather reckless to declare, as Fr. Amorth did that “all the Nazis were possessed”. Also, there is his preposterous claim”–in his book An Exorcist Tells His Story–to have performed thirty THOUSAND exorcisms in a nine year period[!] That’s nine exorcisms PER DAY for nine years–Sundays included!”
A good Mottramist folk hero worshipper may be able to persuade himself that doubts about such a claim signal the presence of one weak in faith and itching to overthrow Real Catholic Orthodoxy[TM]. But those of us in the reality-based community think it more likely that Fr. Gabriele is one of those people inclined to make outsize claims in a fit of passion. Not wicked really, just inclined toward Big Fish tales. It can even be charming. But reliable it ain’t.
The problem is, when you give somebody inclined to outsize claims a global forum and anoint him a spokesman for Real Catholic Orthodoxy[TM], his Big Fish tales and dogmatic pronouncements about extremely dubious things are liable to be taken seriously by people and that can be dangerous.
Take, for instance, his latest declaration (eaten up with gullible fervor by the Spirit Daily crowd and similar apparition chasers like Medjugorje Today) that if you don’t buy Medjugorje you are a fool and a traitor to God and if you wait for the Church’s judgement on the matter you are a fool:
“In the Old Testament God sent prophets to warn of the betrayals of the Jewish people. Now, here, to warn of the betrayal of the Christian people, also the priests, God sends us His Mother! It has been 30 years! Is it possible that people still do not hear? And as for those people who believe themselves to be intelligent by saying they wait until the Church approves? They are fools!” said Fr. Gabriele Amorth.
With dangerous and scandalous pronouncements like this, Fr. Amorth passes from being a voluble fellow who tells yarns and pops off about inconsequential stuff like Harry Potter, to posing a danger to souls. I hope that nobody takes this rubbish seriously and feels himself morally bound to rush to judgment on this (I am persuaded, false) apparition and I hope whoever his superior is tells him to recant this reckless and dangerous nonsense, be henceforth silent about Medjugorje, and stop tying up heavy burdens on the shoulders of scrupulous and confused people. I also hope he stops calling good people (including bishops and priests) traitors for not being snookered by this fraud.
There is absolutely no harm in waiting for the judgment of the Church. If it turns out Medjugorje doubters are wrong, then we’re wrong and will submit to the Church. If it turns out we’re right, we will not have sent terrified people to go follow a false revelation against their own conscience.
Meanwhile, I hope people will stop anointing these folk heros and treating all questioning of them as though it is part of a conspiracy to destroy Real Catholic[TM] faith. It could just be that honest people have honest reasons for honest doubts and disagreements.