So the Vatican’s chief exorcist insists that the joint is demon-possessed .

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon.”

Well, if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

I mean, he’s an exorcist. What else is he going to say—it’s the plumbing? And not just an exorcist—he’s chief exorcist, which is to say head of a group of exorcists. In the Vatican. The one in Rome.

What I’d like to know is, when you say someone is “linked to the Demon,” does this mean that a member of the species homo sapiens has signed a pact, made a blood oath, offered invocations and conjurations, sold his immortal soul to Beelzebub and his minions, received the diabolical mark forever branding the bedeviled as hell-bound, in exchange for health, wealth, and acclaim? Or do the parties in question merely hang out on the odd Saturday night? And if Mephistopheles is a resident of the Vatican, does he get his own apartment, or is it sharesies? (That heating bill must tax the house accountants sorely. I know Rome is warm, but it ain’t that warm.)

Many a thriller has used Vatican hijinks, not to mention deals with the Devil, as its hook. Think of Windswept House by Malachi Martin, himself a novel-worthy character . And of course, the Reformation produced some nice woodcuts in which the Archfiend and the Bishop of Rome are . . . linked. Luther himself was often referred to as a cohort of the Evil One, but only by his father, and then after he’d had a brewski or two. (Luther’s father, not Satan, who prefers Fresca.)

I wonder if diabology is a growing field? One would have thought that the science of Satanism would have gone the way of phrenology, astrology, and sociology as so much folderol. But given the evil that men do, spiritual causes are as likely as psychological, societal, and biochemical ones. Unless you’re a pure naturalist, in which case, it’s all in the wiring. And electricians we will always have with us.

But where does all this talk of demons finally get us? Can’t we simply agree with Lord Acton that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and leave it at that?

Articles by Anthony Sacramone

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