Fr. Gabriele Amorth: Loose Canon

Fr. Gabriele Amorth: Loose Canon November 7, 2011

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.

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  • James H, London

    I stand to be corrected, but isn’t Fr Amorth the one who said that there were Satanic rituals being performed in St Peter’s, and that the vernacular Mass was the idea of Freemasons? Or am I getting my kooks mixed up?

    If he’s come out shooting for Club Medj, I’m afraid that’s the biggest mark against it I’ve ever seen. Ay, Caramba!

    • Lorenz

      James, I think you are getting people mixed up (I agree with Mark’s analysis but still want to be charitable). I have read his two main books and did not see this anywhere. I have heard the two accusations elsewhere and don’t believe they were from him.

    • Mr. London,
      I’ve heard rumours that Malachi Martin claimed that Masonic/Satanic rituals were being conducted inside the Vatican. As I’ve only read Hostage to the Devil, I have no clue how much of it is real though.

      • Oh, Fr. Amorth definitely said that stuff about Satanists and Freemasons in the Vatican. I have no idea about his books, which I haven’t read, but in an interview some months ago (I think it was last year), he said that he got this information from what devils said during exorcisms, and also from some visionaries – I don’t think he mentioned which ones. An internet friend of mine, Mike Potemra, wrote in his column for the National Review Online that Fr. Amorth seemed to be waaay too wrapped up in his work – he didn’t quite call him a kook, but close enough. He was roundly attacked by Fr. Amorth’s supporters. I defended Mike (over at Creative Minority Report) and was roundly attacked by firm believers in Freemasons in the Vatican. Maybe all this will ring a bell with someone.

        Mark is quite right. The crowd supporting Fr. Amorth has got that real Catholic Folk hero thing going for him.

        As for me, I wouldn’t believe what a demon said during an exorcism, no matter what.

        At any rate, Fr. Amorth, because of his work, is exposed to special spiritual dangers, and it’s our duty to pray for him, and not to encourage any possible nuttiness.

        • current lector

          “got his information from what devils said in exorcisms…”

          R i g h t . . .

          I think I prefer Wikipedia.

          • SDG

            Surely everyone knows how reliable information from devils in exorcisms is. Devils never lie, do they?

            And even if they do, surely after doing NINE EXORCISMS A DAY for years and years and years, a veteran like Fr. Amorth can be trusted to know when a demon is lying and when it isn’t. Right?

        • Les

          I see freemason stickers on cars in teh Church parking lot all the time.. , dont see how that isnt possible at a higher leverl. also figure that a kidnapped girl that is pretty, is kidnapped for some reason, that too isnt improbable. as far as Medg.. maybe they sterted out giving the Message of Our Lady, but later became corrupted.. everyone has free will

  • SDG

    “With dangerous and scandalous pronouncement 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.”

    Well said, Mark.

  • And if one of the seers themselves places full trust in the Church’s process, all the more reason not to fall for this.

    I like the fact that our Church is cautious because there are many apparitions reported in the world and, in the end, it turns out that they are not authentic.

    Scare tactics aren’t effective when it comes to saving souls. This isn’t Tracy Morgan’s SyFy show, after all.

    • That second comment is Marja’s, not mine. Buggers, you can’t edit anything in these comboxes…

  • Bill Kirby

    Thank you so much for your use of the word Mottramist.

    • What’s mottramist, precioussssss?

      • Mark Shea

        I have graciously provided you a link.

  • Babs

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought no one is required to believe in any of the Marian apparitions, but the Church merely proclaims some as “Worthy of Belief”. In other words, there is no Dogma attached to belief in the apparitions, but a permission to accept them. I would be very interested to know the answer.

    • Mark Shea


  • ’bout right. We need sanity and caution when dealing with exorcism questions–not high drama and sensationalism

  • Colleen

    Now I’m bummed. I got the exorcist books because my sister in law said they were great books, and I even began reading the first one but haven’t had time to finish it yet. Now I don’t even want to anymore. 🙁

  • kevin

    The comment about Medjugorge was indeed strange. Could it be that it was inaccurate?

    We have Church approved apparations at Lourdes, Fatima and, more recently, Akita (which are hardly ever discussed), yet all some people talk about is the never ending series of appearances allegedly happening there.

  • kevin

    James H, you are thinking of Malachi Martin and his novel “Windswept House.” Hardly a nut. A former Jesuit who was once Cardinal Bea’s right hand man.

    Mary’s message during her third apparition at Akita is consistent with his portrayal of major problems within the Church hierarchy:

    “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”

    • Mark Shea

      Bearing in mind that Akita is not approved by the Church and is a prime example of the way in which paranoids navigate the faith by trusting in dubious apparitions over the actual teaching of the Church.

  • kevin

    Incorrect Mark. Akita is approved. Cardinal Ratzinger himself

    See link

    • Mark Shea
      • Jim S.

        I heard Akita shares the same status as Knock-yes, the Vatican has never formally declared it a true Marian Apparitian, but Akita’s Local Ordinary Bishop John Shojiro issued a letter to his diocese permitting devotion to Our Lady of Akita. This is quite different than Medjugorje, where the current and previous Local Ordinaries have clearly publicly stated negative statements about the alleged apparations.

      • current lector

        Whoops – I partly take back what I said about Wikipedia above. Though it’s still better than listening to devils.

  • kevin

    30 Days magazine? Hmmm I’m not convinced.

    EWTN and Wikipedia are not poor sources. But I will check further. EWTN has claimed them to be approved for quite some time.

  • kevin

    And let’s add Deacon Kandra to the list.

    You would think the Holy See would have some resource to clear this kind of thing up quickly and easily.

  • Babs

    Do any of you know if Kibeho is approved. I am under the impression it is…

  • Mark R

    I am very close to someone who knew very well a close associate of said priest. This associate is very gifted, but the sort who likes to condemn everything! If you bring up any topic, he is likely to express something he doesn’t like about it.
    Some of these would-be Church titans are hammers who see everything as a nail.

  • Lorenz

    I agree with Mark’s analysis.

    However, having read Matt Baglio’s book and how he shadowed Father Gary Thomas who was shadowing the exorcist Fr. Martini, an exorcist in Italy does perform multiple exorcisms in one day. Most of it was not the dramatic stuff we saw in the exorcist movie but ordinary people coming to be exorcised as a form of help for suffering and problems. It is possible he performed that many.

    That said, although I think Fr. Amorth may have a good heart, I don’t agree with his findings and conclusions. I believe that possession is very real and involves one opening a door to demons. In fact, sadly I may even know some one who is in such a state (it is frustating in that this person has all but left the church under the possible influence of dark forces). However, I don’t think possession can happen by someone cursing a charm and then placing it in the home of a devout pious person. Faith in Christ, confession, and protection from guardian angels is more powerful.

    I also agree that Fr Amorth should not be giving any credibility to Medugorje as well. By doing so he raises serious suspicians about the veracity of all his previous writings. Also, he is neglecting his vows to obedience.

  • Elaine T

    The U of Dayton has a page on a Marian apparitions which links to the translation of a letter written by the Bishop of the appropriate diocese for Akita, approving it. I suppose the letter could be a fake but the letter is written in convincing ecclesiatic-speech, so to speak.

    I haven’t found anything dated later to back up claims from Mark’s link that the Japanese Bishops Conference decided it wasn’t real and that pilgrimages are not to happen.

    It’s the local bishop’s call, not that Vatican’s, usually. That place in Bosnia got Vatican attention because attempts to shut it down have been ignored, so it keeps spreading.

    That the local Bishop makes the call is why it’s so hard to keep track – if there’s no diocesan web page which makes a clear statement on the subject (for us in English) confusion is probably going to follow. The Vatican doesn’t.

  • Pansy Moss

    I have no links, but I’m not a huge apparition fan, so I really don’t need any arm twisting not to read about Medjugorje. Having said that, I’ve looked up many times approved apparitions because I really have no desire to read messages coming from unnapproved apparitions. I kind of thought it was common knowledge that Akita was the last approved apparition, but I
    could be very wrong.
    Is there evidence stating it is not approved? I’d like to know.

    PS-good post. 🙂

    I also thought the prayer we

  • I thought it was common knowledge that Akita was an approved apparition, although I know some traditionalists deny it. If it’s not approved, then someone had better tell them at EWTN, since they name names and give dates. To quote:

    “April, 1984—Most. Rev. John Shojiro Ito, Bishop of Niigata, Japan, after years of extensive investigation, declares the events of Akita, Japan to be of supernatural origin, and authorizes throughout the entire diocese the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita.

    On April 22, 1984, after eight years of investigations, after consultation with the Holy See, the messages of Our Lady of Akita were approved by the Bishop of the diocese. In the Japanese village of Akita, a statue of the Madonna, according to the testimony of more than 500 Christians and non-Christians, including the Buddhist mayor of the town, has shed blood, sweat and tears. A nun, Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa has received the stigmata and has received messages from Our Lady.

    June, 1988—Vatican City—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gives definitive judgment on the Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.”

    I guess someone should write to Pope Benedict and give him the news that Akita has *not* been approved in spite of what he might think.

  • current lector

    Kinda hard not to approve of this (caution – it’s from Wikipedia!):

  • Kevin

    Exorcism is very dangerous work. And thankless to some extent. I thank God there are some men out there who are up to the task.

    I have always pictured the perfect exorcist as a Gandalf type figure, old, holy, wise and very humble. Max. On sydow does a great job with the role in The Exorcist.

  • Sharon

    Re Akita

    On the 17 March 2011 I read from Donal Foley’s blog:

    “I have seen those links indicating Cardinal Ratzinger’s approval of Akita,
    (e.g. but the info just says:

    “June, 1988-Vatican City-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation
    for the Doctrine of the Faith, gives definitive judgement on the Akita
    events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.”

    There is no link to a document authenticating this. And as I indicate on my
    site, there is later info to indicate that Cardinal Ratzinger was not 100%
    in favour of Akita.

    More recently, the situation has been further clarified. It appears that the
    Vatican has not approved of Akita, as the following statement from the
    Apostolic Nuncio in Tokyo, Ambrose de Paoli, issued in 1999, makes clear. In
    response to a query from the editor of a British Catholic magazine, the
    Apostolic Nuncio stated: “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has
    asked me to respond to your query re: Akita. … The Holy See has never
    given any kind of approval to either the events or messages of Akita.”
    (Christian Order, December 1999, p. 610.) ”

    17 MARCH 2011
    I sent an email to the editor of Christian Order:
    I read on Donal Foley’s blog that your magazine published
    a statement from the Apostolic Nuncion in Tokyo, Ambrose de Paoli which said
    that the apparitions were not approved by the Holy See. If possible could
    you scan this letter and email it to me? The date given was December 1999
    and the page number 610 though I don’t know if that is correct.

    On 30 March 2011 the editor of Christian Order replied:
    I don’t have a scanner so can’t send the letter by email. But, yes, the nuncio did reply to me after I had initially contacted the CDF in Rome. He said:
    “I enclose copy of the statement which the Bishop of Niigata sends to overseas bishops who seek information about Akita. The Holy See has never given any kind of approval to either the events or the messages of Akita.”
    The statement of Bishop Sato of Niigata (dated 18 August, 1993) confirms the shedding of tears by the statue as an “undeniable” fact witnessed by many. He says the that first investigative commission set up by his predecessor Bishop Ito found that “The supernatural nature of the events can not be proved.” Bishop Ito wasn’t satisfied with that and after consulting Rome established a second commission to investigate. He reported the findings of that commission in his 1984 pastoral letter, in which he said that “It is not possible to make a negative statement that there is no supernaturality.” Since there was nothing found that opposed “faith and morals” Bishop Ito thus allowed “veneration within the diocese towards the holy statue of Akita” until a “final judgement is handed down by the Holy See.”

    Bishop Sato confirms that Bishop Ito’s judgement “is still valid.”

    He also says that the shrine at Yuzawadai in Akita “has an atmosphere of prayer” though not to be compared with Lourdes or Fatima. His intention was “neither especially to encourage veneration and pilgrimages” to the statue “nor to forbid them.” He said time would tell if it is the work of God or human beings.
    What the view of the current bishop is I do not know.
    Rod Pead – Editor

  • kevin

    The situation would seem to cry out for a clarification at this point. There seem to be polar opposite views on whether they have been approved as worthy of belief. from Deacon John’s Space:

    “On April 22, 1984, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, the local ordinary of the diocese where the Marian apparitions took place, issued a pastoral letter in which he authorized the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. In the pastoral letter, Bishop Ito declared the supernatural authenticity of three Marian messages, the messages of an angel and other mysterious events that have happened to a Japanese nun since 1973 at a convent in Akita, Northern Japan, a city that belongs to his diocese.

    His successor as local ordinary, Bishop Francisco K. Sato, has continued his predecessor’s authorization of the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. Thanks to these two diocesan bishops’ authorization of this veneration, pilgrims from some fifty countries have trekked to the convent of the apparitions over the past twenty years and pilgrimages still continue today.”

    Here an important fact should be noted: Akita, Fatima and Lourdes all share one decisive Providential development—a local ordinary who declared the supernatural truthfulness of the Marian apparition, in the form of a pastoral letter. In Lourdes, Bishop Bertrand Laurence did so on January 18, 1862. In Fatima, Bishop Jose de Silva issued his pastoral letter on October 13, 1930. In Akita, Bishop Ito did so in 1984.

  • Phil Sieve

    I doubt that anyone who converted because ofd Medjugorje, and later read basic things about their faith, would come to realize, while still maintaining their new faith in The True Faith, that Satan can plan his deceptions so that enough truth remains to fool even the elect (many Medjugorje believers are very conservative), but also that God can bring greater good out of that evil for such sincere believers as they, like how a baby born out of wedlock is still a beautiful human being that should still be brought to term. The latter doesn’t make the deception OK, anymore than out-of-wedlock sex is OK, and those that still go or propogate the goings on there, despite the Medjugorje bishops saying it’s probably a hoax, are doing real damage to their souls.
    Some questionable mystics have come from there, where signs and wonders have stolen their allegience from the bishops, who can formally use their authority to denounce alleged heavenly occurances. God help us!