Fr. Gabriele Amorth isn’t just playing devil’s advocate. The 89-year-old Italian Paulist organized the International Association of Exorcists in the 1980s, and has been one of the world’s most visible Roman Catholic exorcists in his own right for over thirty years. He has also been something of an enigma within the church; while Pope John Paul II himself reportedly performed at least two exorcisms, the claim that demonic possession has historically been a primitive interpretation of severe mental illness, and exorcism a potentially harmful response to it, is pretty hard to dispute. Extricating the rite of exorcism and trying to salvage some dignified spiritual meaning from it is hard work, maybe doomed work, especially when exorcism has become an overused horror movie trope. But hundreds of priests in good standing, including Fr. Amorth, feel that it’s necessary—and the Pope agrees.
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