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Top Catholic exorcist: Pedophiles tempted by Satan, not possessed

From Morgan Neill and Hada Messia, CNN
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Exorcist: Pedophiles 'tempted'
  • Father Gabriele Amorth is chief exorcist at Vatican; he claims over 70,000 exorcisms
  • He says the faithful believe "in the power of exorcism to liberate from the devil"
  • Amorth: "Pedophiles are not possessed by the devil, they are tempted by the devil"
  • Priests from Ireland to Austria have been accused in growing child abuse scandal

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- "The devil tempts everyone -- people in politics, in economics, in sport. And naturally, he tempts, above all, the religious leaders, so you shouldn't be surprised if the devil tempts those in the Vatican. That's his job."

Father Gabriele Amorth isn't speaking metaphorically when he says that. The 85-year-old priest means people can be tempted and literally possessed by Satan.

"It's not my opinion: I'm saying that if you believe in the Gospels, you believe in the existence of the devil, in the devil's power to possess people," he said in an interview with CNN.

The faithful believe "that there are people possessed by the devil, and ... in the power of exorcism to liberate from the devil," he said.

And as the chief exorcist of the Roman Catholic Church, it's his job to expel the devil when someone is possessed. Amorth, the founder of the International Association of Exorcists, has performed more than 70,000 exorcisms in his career, he estimates.

But there is a difference between possession -- where the devil takes hold of someone's body and actions -- and temptation, where Satan lures a person into doing evil, he said.

As a child abuse scandal sweeps across Europe, with accusations being made against priests in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, Amorth said the pedophiles are tempted, not possessed.

He has never done an exorcism on a child molester, he said.

"I have carried out exorcisms on some priests who had been molested by the devil," he said, without going into details.

"But cases of pedophilia exorcised, no. ... Pedophiles are not possessed by the devil, they are tempted by the devil," he said.

"They don't need exorcism, they need to be converted, to be converted to God, that's what they need. They need to confess, they need true penitence, true repentance, that's what they need. They're not possessed."

But no one is too strong a believer to be possessed, said Amorth, who is employed by the Roman diocese.

"Nothing occurs without the permission of God, and he allows even holy people, even saints, to be possessed by the devil," he said.

But, he added, he sees no evil in the Vatican today: "I just see good people in the Vatican. People of prayer, holy people, I don't see any evil."