Satanism: More and More Widespread Among Catholics

Author: Stefania Falasca & Stefano Gasseri


by Stefania Falasca, with the collaboration of Stefano Gasseri

Is Turin really the capital of Satanism in Italy? The notion is now so widespread that it seems to have become a commonplace not merely for the people concerned but also for the man in the street. As early as 1986 the idea was launched by the German weekly when it portrayed Turin as a city besieged by the nightmare of Satanism, where thousands of adepts were constantly engaged in devil worship. The uproar caused by a 1988 conference on Diabolos, Dialogos, Daimon held there, and sponsored by the city government, merely confirmed the impression.

This general impression does, in fact, have some historical basis. During the second half of the 19th century, this city capital of the Savoy monarchical seat became a refuge for a great many magicians and followers of the occult, attracted to Turin by substantial help from the governors. For, those were the years of fierce opposition between the two institutions of Church and State, which was in favour of encouraging the spread of the phenomenon to the detriment of the Catholic Church. Thus until the end of the century the Pie Imontese rulers allowed sects of all kinds, satanic and occult, considerable freedom for expansion.

But it would be mistaken to think that the current Satanic wave, now swelling, is the direct offshoot of the 19th century variety.

During this century, satanic sects in Italy all but disappeared. The reason was the authorities' growing hostility - the first trial in Turin of followers of satanic sects took place in 1890 - but mainly the hostility of the establishment generally during the immediate, culturally materialistic and primarily Marxist post-war years.

According to sociologist Massimo Introvigne, the phenomenon was barely existent during the 1960s. But it was precisely then that an alternative culture developed in the United States which spread to Europe and became embodied in the 1968 students' movements. In those years, Satanism took on new life in California when Anton Szandor La Vey, a young San Franciscan, founded a "Church of Satan" that had startling appeal. But the real father of contemporary Satanism must rightly be considered to be Alastair Crowley, the English Rosecrucian who died in 1947 and whose writings on Satanism and the Occult largely inspired La Vey's "church". In the atmosphere of protest that developed around the 1968 movements, interest in all forms of transgressive behavior increased in Italy as well as elsewhere. Newly reimported, the phenomenon of Satanism began to spread in Italy once again. As the crisis within Marxism grew progressively more acute during the 1980s, finally leading to the collapse of regimes in eastern Europe, the ground became increasingly fertile for it and it is now spreading on an alarming scale.

Turin is no longer an isolated spot on the map of Satanism. In recent years Bologna has also earned the name of "satanic city". The administrative center of the region of Emilia and its surrounding countryside have witnessed episodes of profanation of churches and cemeteries and the celebration of black masses. During these rituals, which follow an inverted version of the canons of a Catholic mass, the devil is invoked and the Eucharist profaned, but there is also a great deal of sexual activity. And sometimes crimes proper are committed. The Bolognese judiciary has been investigating and the magistrates in charge have announced dramatic revelations to be made public soon.

Meanwhile Father Gabriele Amorth, the official diocesan exorcist, has recently declared that "Rome is currently the most satanized city in Italy". Apart from the city itself the phenomenon - a phenomenon foreign to the traditional culture of the Eternal City and imported from outside - centers on the surrounding hills, known as the "Castelli Romani". What are the reasons for the large-scale spread of these rituals within the capital? In an interview last year. Father Amorth offered the following explanation: "I'd say that in general the presence of the Pope at Castel Gandolfo (in the Castelli Romani), and not only there but also in Rome, the center of Christianity, is more than a secondary attraction for all those intent on countering faith".

The recent focus on the question by Italian Church hierarchy also suggests that Satanism is now spreading among ordinary people. In collaboration with the Italian Group for Research and Information on Sects (GRIS) and the University of Bologna, the Episcopal Conference is backing a nationwide survey on the subject of religious sentiment. The declared aim is to provide a map of these phenomena in Italy.

This article was taken from the No. 5, 1996 issue of "30Days". To subscribe contact "30Days" at: Subscriptions Office, 28 Trinity St., Newton, NJ 07860 or call 1-800-321-2255, Fax 201-579-5541. Subscription rate is $35.00 per year.