To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Did Hitler have an unusually intimate familiarity with the devil? That’s what Rome’s chief exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth says — and Pope Benedict at one point, seemed to agree.
BY EDWARD PENTINRegister Correspondent
VATICAN CITY — Were Hitler and Stalin possessed?
The devil gets more attention in
the popular culture at Halloween than at any other time in the year. But it’s
not often one hears the question put so specifically.
When Rome’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, told Vatican Radio in August that he believed
Hitler and Stalin were “certainly” possessed by the devil, it made headlines
around the world.
Regarded as the Church’s most
experienced and prominent exorcist, Father Amorth
warned Vatican Radio listeners Aug. 27 that the devil can possess not only
individuals but also entire groups and populations.
“I am convinced that the Nazis
were possessed by the devil,” he said. “If one thinks of what was committed by
people like Stalin or Hitler, certainly they were possessed by the devil. This
is seen in their actions, in their behavior and in the horrors they committed.”
After his comments were made
public, some accused the veteran exorcist of making excuses for the atrocities
perpetrated by the two infamous dictators, and essentially of defending them by
using the “devil-made-me-do-it” excuse.
“It absolves the Nazis from their
crimes,” Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Los Angeles told “NBC News.” “It says they’re
really great people. Up in heaven, some celestial evil angel caused it all.”
Before he became Pope Benedict
XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also spoke about the
influence of the demonic in the life of Hitler — but explained that it absolved
In the Book God and the World (Ignatius, 2002), he is quoted treating the
subject at some length.
“There are reliable reports by
eyewitnesses that suggest he had some kind of demonic encounters,” the future
Pope said of Hitler. “He would say, trembling: ‘He was there again,’ and other
such things. We cannot get to the bottom of it. I believe one can see that he
was taken into the demonic realm in some profound way, by the way in which he
was able to wield power and by the terror, the harm, that
his power inflicted.”
In an interview with the Register
Oct. 17, Father Amorth restated his belief.
When asked if he still believed
the dictators were possessed, he answered, “Certainly,” and denied that the
statement abrogates culpability.
“It’s both,” he said. “They have
full responsibility for their actions, but they have followed the promptings of
the devil — and they have done so willingly. Therefore they are guilty,
When asked if there were any
leaders today who could be similarly possessed, Father Amorth
said there are “many who listen to the temptations of Satan and follow him.”
Because of that, he said, “the world goes bad.” Instead of leading others
“towards peace and well-being, the world moves towards war and unease,” he
addressed the question when journalist Peter Seewald
asked him about it.
“What about Hitler?” asked Seewald.
“Was he, as many people think, ‘Satan incarnate’? Sartre once said, ‘The devil
is Hitler, that is, Nazi Germany.’”
answered: “On the one hand, Hitler was a demonic figure. One only need read the
history of the German generals, who time and again made up their minds, just
for once, to tell him to his face what they really thought, and who were then
yet again so overcome by his power of fascination that they did not dare to.
But then, when you look at him from up close, this same person who has a
demonic fascination about him is really just a quite banal hoodlum.”
He pointed out that “the power of
evil makes itself at home precisely in what is banal” because, when it comes to
evil, “the greater it is, the more pitiful.”
One exorcist who fully backs
Father Amorth is Father Hermanagild
Jayachandra, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Boulder, Colo.
Having spent many years dealing with cases of possession in India, Father Jayachandra is convinced the devil can misdirect political
leaders, and twist their philosophy into thinking their fascist ideology was
right. “Once you are corrupt to evil ideas, the door is open for the devil to
get hold of you,” he said.
He added that temptation is given
by the devil, but in cooperation with God’s grace it can be overcome.
However, dictators such as Stalin
and Hitler turned away from God and refused such cooperation, he said. He also
believes that mental illness and possession can often exist at once in the same
person, and that psychological illnesses are frequently caused by persistent
In his interview, Cardinal Ratzinger pointed to a deeper relationship between Hitler
and the devil.
“Hitler was able to foresee
demonic situations,” he said. “For instance, I once read an account of how the
preparations were made for Il Duce’s (Italian dictator Benito Mussolini) visit
Those who were responsible for various aspects of it made their suggestions,
and after a long time he said: ‘No, none of that is right. I can see how it
ought to go.’ And in a kind of ecstasy he delivered a lecture about it, and it
was all done like that. That is to say, there is some kind of demonic power
that takes possession somehow, that makes what is banal great — and makes what
is great appear banal — and above all makes it dangerous and destructive.”
In the past, Father Amorth has warned of a lack of awareness of the devil in
He has also criticized the
application of the liturgical texts of the Second Vatican Council and, in 1999, he had some criticisms of a new Rite of Exorcism. His
views on the application of the council have not changed: He blames bishops for
“exaggerating” the reforms and for “wanting to make everything new.”
But he accepts the new rite and
has grown to like it.
“It’s good; it’s an official
Church document so it’s valid and it functions well, but it has its defects,”
he said, adding that he still uses the old rite as it is still allowed.
The renowned exorcist did not
succumb to the temptation of explaining his opinion of Halloween and, at first,
seemed unaware of the tradition.
“I don’t practice it and so I
don’t want to seriously answer that,” he said. But he was aware of the famous
movie of the 1970s, The Exorcist.
“I know it very well,” he said.
“Fifteen scenes are very real, the substance of the film is positive.”
He felt it was particularly
helpful in showing how exorcism is of value when all medical care has proved
useless. But he warned that the film is a “spectacle because cinema needs to
Hollywood and Halloween apart, there’s no denying Father Amorth takes exorcism extremely seriously. “It is very
important today because there are so many requests for them,” he said. “People
have lost the faith,” he said, “and superstition, magic, Satanism, or Ouija
boards have taken its place, which then open all the doors to the presence of
He lamented that there are “too
few” exorcists around today.
“Many bishops and priests don’t
practice the material, and they don’t believe in it, or they believe only a little,
despite the fact that canon law is very clear, as clear as the Gospel where it
says pray and cast out devils and evil spirits,” he said.
agreed: “They don’t believe in demons anymore, but it’s a biblical doctrine,
and it’s a big problem,” he said. “It’s a ministry, and canon law says it is
At his general audience address
Oct. 18, Benedict XVI gave some salutary advice on how to overcome the devil’s
“Truly, there are many ways in
which the human heart can be perverted,” he said. “The only way to avoid them
is to be in full communion with Jesus.”
writes from Rome.