Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Devil Made Them Do It

The most trusted excuse for all criminals and criminal enterprises, historically, has been the supernatural. Be it David Berkowitz's neighborhood dog "telling him" to shoot and kill six people, Dan White's Twinkies compelling him to assassinate Harvey Milk and George Moscone, Charlie Manson blaming his murderous rage on subliminal messages in Beattles songs, to all of those 'holy warriors' blowing up women's clinics, IRS buildings, and gay nightclubs for our Lord and savior, if you do the crime it is likely someone else made you do it. Enter the previously unknown 'official exorcist' of the Catholic Church, Don Gabriele Amorth. He has a message for all of us--Satan makes young boys irresistible to his employer's minions.

Vatican unleashes exorcist for campaign of crazy

Rome responds to sex abuse scandals by letting its official Satan fighter speak. Turns out it's Satan's fault

When you're one of the most powerful institutions in the world and you've got an escalating series of sex abuse scandals erupting in such far-flung locales as Ireland, Germany, Brazil and beyond on a near daily basis, how do you even begin to do damage control? If you're the Catholic Church, maybe you say you're going to investigate. You issue a few letters. And then just to cover all your bases, you do a little Satan blaming. In a bold and arguably wack move, the Vatican's normally press-shy exorcist Don Gabriele Amorth has been granting interviews left and right lately, and they are a treasure trove of WTF moments.

You say you hadn't been aware the Vatican even had an official exorcist? Thought that stuff was just for Linda Blair movies? That's likely because, prior to last week, the Vatican had permitted its exorcist to grant one interview in the entire last century. Now, suddenly he's doing the rounds like he's got a new rom-com with Gerard Butler opening Friday.

Speaking to La Republica last week, Amorth, who in fact does have a new book, "Memoirs of an Exorcist," to shill, said, "When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." A few days later, he told the UK Times, "All evil is due to the intervention of the Devil, including pedophilia." He also added that contemporary culture has "given in to the Evil One. You see it in the lack of faith, the empty churches, the collapse of the family. Compare the world of today to when I was a boy in Modena: families and parish communities were strong, women did not go out to work."

I don't want to read too much into it here, but did the honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists actually just sort of suggest that if some priest in Rio is sodomizing his altar boys, it might be my fault because I have a job? Cripes, you eat one lousy piece of fruit from the tree of knowledge and you get blamed for everything.

But he didn't stop there. Amorth then took his world publicity tour to the big time – granting an on camera interview Tuesday on CNN, he helpfully explained that pedophiles are "not possessed by the devil, they're tempted by the devil. They don't need exorcism; they need to be converted to God. They need to confess, they need true penance, true repentance."

I'm someone who self-identifies as a Catholic, who believes we shouldn't judge Christianity by its most evil elements any more than we would do likewise for any political, social or educational system we hold dear. My Catholic upbringing taught me kindness, forgiveness and non-materialism. I believe I can be outraged by the crimes of individuals – and their perpetuation by an institution looking out for its own best interests – and still find worth in a spiritual philosophy that would never tolerate that BS for one minute. All of which is my way of saying – I'm no Church basher, and I'm quite confident Don Gabriele Amorth is NUTS.

At least Amorth didn't completely insult the planet by suggesting that pedophila can be waved away with a little holy water and some incantations, any more than it can by transferring the offender to another parish. You likewise won't find too many people who'd disagree that confession and repentance are long, long overdue here. But that's just for starters. Until the Vatican gets it through its thick skull that sexual abuse isn't a sin but a crime, isn't a moral weakness but a dangerous pathology, it's going to continue putting up with predators within its ranks, thinking they can say they're sorry and make it all go away. It will go on holding the devil responsible for its own worst acts. And it will continue condemning its youngest and most vulnerable members to hell on earth.


Let us assume for a second that Mr. Armoth (who conveniently withheld his existence to the general public until now) is not a BS artist and actually believes in this nonsense. If what he is saying is true (the devil makes the priests loco), then it can be said that my old church is cursed. Think about it. How can you be the one true church when you cannot even convince your supposedly celibate employees to resist Lucifer to possess them with the spirit of child rape? Either God is out to lunch or the organization is Satanic. I am sure Mr. Armoth would never bite the hand that feeds him, but he is implicitly telling the rest of us that the church is irrevocably lost and unable to sexually control itself around kids.

And all of this is allegedly because those kids' abusers live in a "decadent culture" filled with evil things like women's rights, which Mr. Armoth expressly and misogynistically denounced when opining for the good old days when the womenfolk 'stayed at home.' Yes, women in the workplace made them do it. The correlation is so obvious, you see. Women work, have rights, and the devil makes these priests who would not know what to do with the an interested female if she hit him over the head turn to pedophilia as a result of this scourge against the male-dominated household.

And remember, to my old church's members who stuck by this institution, these are the same people who tell you that you are going to hell if you so much as think of having an abortion. They will lecture about contraception and how you should conduct your marriage and family affairs, while being unable to have their own. They will tell you that it is your obligation to give them your money for the tithe, while they use those funds to subsidize the attorneys they need to defend their errant employees. This is what you are paying for.

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