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The Smoke of Satan in the Vatican?

Fr. Gabriel Amorth has served as the Vatican’s chief exorcist for the past quarter century. During those twenty-five years, the quietly outspoken priest has raised eyebrows with his sober accounts of brushes with the Devil — a routine occupational hazard for someone who has dealt with over 70,000 cases of demonic possession. But his recent declaration that Satan is alive and well in the heart of the Vatican itself has to rank as his most provocative revelation to date. According to a book of his memoirs recently released in Italy, Fr. Amorth claims to know of the existence of “Satanic sects” in the Vatican where participation reaches all the way to the College of Cardinals. “There are priests, monsignors and also cardinals!” he explained to Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, who compiled Memoirs of an Exorcist from interviews with the priest. Asked by Tosatti how he knows Vatican clergy are involved, the exorcist answered, “I know from those who have been able to relate it to me because they had a way of knowing directly. And it’s something ‘confessed’ most times by the very demon under obedience during the exorcisms.”

As one might expect, the secular media has had a laugh-a-thon over the seemingly histrionic comments from the 85-year-old priest. Admitting the existence of the Devil is still cause for ridicule and derision by nonbelievers, but at least one other Rome-based exorcist has taken issue with the charges. Fr. José Fortea, a Spaniard and former student of Fr. Amorth’s, came publicly to the Vatican’s defense, arguing that Fr. Amorth had gone well beyond the evidence in making his charges. Demons themselves, he pointed out, are not exactly impeccable sources — after all, the Devil operates by deception and deceit. Fr. Fortea also explained that those seeking help for demonic possession include “innumerable persons” alleging to be the recipients of divine revelation, including “revelations about the infiltration of Satan and the Masons within the dome of the Church.”

Nevertheless, a curious coincidence seemed to want to vindicate Fr. Amorth. Within a month of the release of his shocking charges, one of Pope Benedict XVI’s elite ushers (formally known as a “Papal Gentleman”) was dismissed from his Vatican post for his involvement in a gay-prostitution ring, while an elite Vatican chorister, who allegedly acted as a pimp, was also sacked over the sex scandal.

No, this isn’t direct evidence of Satanism in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, but it certainly makes even the most ardent believer scratch his head. A gay-prostitution ring run out of the Vatican? Really? Well, if we can believe what we read in La Repubblica, it seems so. The Italian newspaper published excerpts of police wiretaps of Angelo Balducci’s phone, and the evidence seems pretty clear. Balducci, the subject of a corruption probe by Italian police when the evidence came to light, served Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on special occasions, such as when heads of state visited the Vatican. Balducci appears to have a whole heap of evidence piled up against him. Ghinedu Ehiem of Nigeria, who sang with the Giulia Choir of St. Peter’s Basilica for nearly two decades, was the chorister who was dismissed after his name appeared in the wiretap transcripts. He stands accused of procuring male prostitutes for Balducci and others as part of an “organized network” that included students from several unnamed Roman seminaries. Yes, you read that right: A layman in the Vatican was pimping out seminarians to local perverts — and reportedly for large sums of money.

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