If all the bishops of the world came to him for confession, he would refuse to give the vast majority of them absolution unless they repented of neglecting their responsibility to cast out demons, the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth said in an interview in 2000.
Fr. Amorth died earlier this month at the age of 91. He had served as an exorcist for the diocese of Rome since the mid-1980s and had performed tens of thousands of exorcisms.
Fr. Amorth revealed his judgement of most of the world’s bishops during an interview he gave John L Allen, Jr. in 2000. Allen says Fr. Amorth squeezed in their brief 30 minute interview between exorcisms and greeted him by remarking in Italian on the exorcism case he had just come from, “It’s a very tough case, but all right, we’ll keep going!”
It’s not clear if Fr. Amorth would have a similar judgement of the world’s bishops today (about 20 years since the interview). Since then, there has been an explosion in the number of designated exorcists around the world, with the Vatican offering exorcism courses. Pope Francis, in particular, has preached about the reality of the demonic so much that secular media has wondered “Why is Pope Francis so obsessed with the devil?”
According to the Catechism, only bishops, or priests authorized by a bishop, are allowed to perform exorcisms (CCC 1673). This is also stated in the Code of Canon Law (CIC 1172 §1). So if a particular bishop doesn’t believe in demons or exorcism or doesn’t think it’s important, no one in his diocese will have the authority to exercise this important aspect of the Church’s ministry.