.- Recent stories in the press, based on an erroneous interpretation of the Catholic Church’s teachings on exorcisms and the devil, beg for clarification, says Catholic League president Bill Donohue.
In an Aug. 27 interview with Vatican Radio, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, a Pauline priest who works as an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome, said he was “convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil.” Furthermore, he asserted that the “horrors” committed by Stalin and Hitler also demonstrate “they were possessed by the devil.”
Some online articles, however, interpret Fr. Amorth’s comments to mean that Stalin and Hitler could not be held accountable and should be let off the hook. Some of these articles even joke that if Satan was the only problem, then the Vatican should conduct exorcisms on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
“Unfortunately, some are now reading these remarks as Father Amorth’s way of saying Stalin and Hitler were nuts who cannot be held responsible for their actions,” said Donohue.
The Catechism and the Church in no way imply “that those possessed by the devil are not responsible for their actions,” said Donohue. “Catholic teaching on exorcism does not equate demonic possession with mental illness,” he added
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in fact, makes a clear distinction between exorcism and mental illness, he points out. “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science,” it states.
The Church teaches that the devil was at first created by God as a good angel, made became evil by their own doing, that is, of their own free will.