September 4, 2017

The Devil and Father Amorth: The Documentary Chronicling the Vatican's Former Chief Exorcist

The Exorcist

Variety reports on a newly released documentary directed by William Friedkin whose directorial credits include the 1973 masterpiece The Exorcist. His latest venture, The Devil and Father Amorth, stars the late Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s former chief exorcist, who died at the age of 91 last September, soon after filming ended. The documentary includes scenes from an exorcism Fr. Amorth conducted which Friedkin describes as "Terrifying!" Here is an excerpt from The Telegraph’s (UK) review (the reviewer is an acknowledged skeptic):
The exorcism footage that makes up the spine of the film was shot by Friedkin at Father Amorth’s modest quarters in Rome. Most of the time, his camera – a humble digital SLR – is pointed at Cristina [an architect in her late 30s, undergoing her 9th exorcism] thrashing and growling in her chair, restrained by assistants, while Amorth works through the exorcism in Latin, exasperatingly little of which has been subtitled in English. Occasionally, the camera turns to take in what looks like an entire coach party of Cristina’s relatives, praying and wringing their hands on the other side of the room.
The critic, Robbie Collin, laments that the devil does not get his due. He writes: "But in The Devil and Father Amorth, a knobbly and gnawingly weird non-fiction coda to Friedkin’s earlier film, the Great Deceiver is much less of a raconteur: repeated growls of 'I am Satan!', 'We are legion!' and 'No, no, no!' is more or less all he’s got for us." The truth is that demonic possession is real, horrific and truly diabolical. Satan's "extraordinary activity" can take many forms. It seems some critics prefer their exorcisms with high production values and gory special effects.

"It Was Terrifying!"

Friedkin spoke to Variety about the documentary following the premiere of The Devil and Father Amorth at the Venice Film Festival in Italy earlier this month.

Q: It’s a known fact that [Fr.] Amorth was a fan of The Exorcist. It’s really so wonderful that in that film you had been able to capture something that resonated for him, even without doing that much research into the specifics of what he did.

There is no research; the only research is his books. In the United States in the 20th century, there were two reported cases of possession, as far as Mr. Blatty [who wrote the novel “The Exorcist”] and I could tell….The church doesn’t say a lot about this. They don’t try to publicize it at all. They are not promoting it. I doubt that they will even have a position about my film [this latest one]. They never comment about these things. I doubt that they would have given me permission to do what I did. He gave me permission, and he operated quite independently from church procedure and was openly critical of the Vatican.

(Editor's note: The veracity of Friedkin's last assertion is dubious. Fr. Amorth did say the devil is constantly attacking the Church and that "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus and bishops who are linked to the demon," are evidence of this.)

Q: What was the experience of witnessing a real exorcism so close up like?

It was terrifying. I went from being afraid of what could happen to feeling a great deal of empathy with this woman’s pain and suffering, which is obvious in the film.

The Devil Created Hell and is Behind the Persecution of Christians

(Here is what we wrote in June 2015 as Fr. Amorth was preparing to retire.)

In an interview for the Italian blog Stanze Vaticane, the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, answered questions about his soon to be beatified mentor, the persecution of Christians by ISIS, and why a loving God would allow the existence of Hell. (I have highlighted in red Fr. Amorth’s most profound observations about the devil and the nature of evil.)

Q: Father Amorth we are going through a time of violence and persecution against Christians by ISIS: Is the hand of the devil behind it?

Ah, to be sure! Where there is evil there is always the devil. He always is, where there is evil, any evil, great or small, it is always at the suggestion of the devil.

Q: These people are manipulated by Satan then?

ISIS? Sure, I am convinced of it. Where there are wars and destruction, behind these, there is always the devil laughing. God would never allow it. God wants only good things. And these people would also shoot the Pope without qualms...

[ ... ]

Q: You’ve said before that Fr. Candido (Fr. Amorth's mentor) never got angry, not even with the devil. Was Satan afraid of him?

He was very afraid of him, he trembled before him! He would immediately run away. In reality, the devil is afraid of all of us, one only needs to live in God’s grace!

Q: Obviously you witnessed Fr. (Candido) Amantini’s exorcisms…

Of course! I assisted at them for six years. I was appointed exorcist in 1986 and I began to perform exorcisms with him beginning that year. Then in 1990, two years before he died, I began performing exorcisms alone because he wasn’t practicing anymore. When someone went to him he responded: “Go see Fr. Amorth”. That is why I am considered to be his successor…

Q: Was Fr. Candido ironic even with the devil?

I want to tell you about one very important episode to help you understand a truth. You need to know that when there’s a case of diabolical possession, there is a dialogue between the exorcist and the devil. Satan is a great liar, but sometimes the Lord obliges him to tell the truth. Once Fr. Candido was liberating a person after many exorcisms and with his typical irony he told the devil: “Go away for the Lord has created a nice warm home for you, he has prepared a little house for you where you won’t suffer from the cold”. However, the devil interrupted him and replied: “You don’t know anything”.

Q: What did he mean?

When the devil interrupts with a saying like this, it means that God has obliged him to tell the truth. And this time it was extremely important. The faithful often ask me: “But how is it possible that God created Hell, why did he think of a place of suffering?” And so at that time the devil responded to the provocations of Fr. Candido by revealing an important truth about Hell: “It was not God, who created Hell! It was us. He hadn’t even thought of it!” Therefore in the plan of God’s creation the existence of Hell had not been contemplated. The demons created it! During exorcisms, I have also often asked the devil: “Did you create Hell?” And his response has always been the same: “We all cooperated”...

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Latin

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen.

For more about the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth see Here, Here, Here and Here.

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