HUTCHEON: It was one of Italy’s most shocking crimes, two teenagers stabbed and bludgeoned and thrown into a grave. Members of a heavy metal band named the Beasts of Satan stand accused of the double murder. Among those on trial today, four of the band members and their spiritual leader, Nicola Sapone, a plumber.
The mother of one victim pronounces her sentence.
PASQUALINA ANTONIONI: Lock them in prison and throw away the keys.
HUTCHEON: The victims, Chiara Marino and her friend, Fabio Tollis, were killed allegedly as part of a drug crazed satanic ritual.
PASQUALINA ANTONIONI: I want to see the faces of my daughter’s killers and then I have to testify.
HUTCHEON: In dense forest outside Milan, Italian police take us to where they discovered the bodies of the two victims last year.
LT ENZO MOLINARO: Chiara was murdered by Nicola Sapone with numerous stab wounds to the chest.
HUTCHEON: Chiara Marino was killed allegedly because she resembled the Virgin Mary. Fabio Tollis died trying to protect her.
LT ENZO MOLINARO: As policemen we’ve been really surprised. Despite the fact that the presence of the Satanic world is fairly widespread we only knew of rituals where animals were slaughtered. As to rituals involving human sacrifice this was the first case.
HUTCHEON: The case quickly developed into a media sensation, lurid entertainment for a nation increasingly obsessed with the occult. It seems the Devil is alive and well and living in Italy, a fear shared by the Catholic Church.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: There is a greater openness towards the Devil today. People are abandoning the faith and embracing superstition, opening the way to Satan.
HUTCHEON: The Beasts of Satan murders also exposes a growing divide in Italian society. In this predominantly Catholic nation, there are at least six hundred and fifty satanic cults. From the Vatican’s viewpoint there’s no question about it, the Devil’s influence is growing in modern Italy and the Church must be prepared to use exorcism, the ritual of driving out
the Devil from possessed Christian souls.
Exorcism may seem like a medieval concept but the Vatican isn’t shy about using it. Some years before his death, Pope John Paul the Second updated the ritual for exorcism, the first time that had been done in almost four hundred years and the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist says that every week he sees up to fifty people who claim to be possessed by the Devil.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: This is the room where I do my exorcism. If a person is not violent I let them sit in the armchair, and I do the exorcism here. If they are violent I lay them down and if necessary I also tie them down.
HUTCHEON: Oh so is this to tie theâ€¦
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: Yes, we can tie the person.
HUTCHEON: Eighty-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth is the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist and the driving force behind the Church’s renewed campaign against the Devil that now includes for the first time, exorcism classes for priests.
Famous thoroughly Italy, Father Amorth is prepared to show us where he works but steadfastly refuses to let us film him confronting Satan.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: and also some oil – it’s the oil used for mass, the same used in a baptism and I’ve seen that it works. I’ve seen that it works, so I use it.
HUTCHEON: Father Amorth discourages his priests and followers from recording the exorcism ritual but five years ago in a village outside Rome, this Catholic exorcism was filmed. The Devil was reportedly driven from this group of local women who claimed to be possessed. Hardly the high drama of Hollywood but Father Amorth insists that the process of exorcism is very real.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: Medicine and science have cases they can’t solve but which are instead solved by exorcism. And that means they are diseases, not of a common nature, not of natural cause, but provoked by the Devil.
HUTCHEON: It’s not just the Catholic Church which is intent on ridding the evil spirits from their midst. Despite being one of the most advanced industrialised countries in the world, Italy thrives on superstition and the occult. This interest has spawned a multi-million dollar industry that now employs thousands. Spiritual consultants tend to all kinds of personal and financial problems, taking calls from viewers as their hard earn Euros clock up a fortune. Even the Catholic Church admits its followers are falling away, forsaking priests for magicians.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: Yes, yes it is a fact. It’s a reality. I would say the fault is not of the Church, the fault is in the hands of those who control social communication because they use it badly. The bad use of television, the bad use of the internet, the bad use of modern instruments. They attract the youth and set them on the wrong path.
HUTCHEON: Turning their backs on the Church, anxious Italians still want the answers to life’s great challenges.
ITALIAN LADY: [Phoning in to TV show with Sensitive Mariano] I want to buy a house.
HUTCHEON: Such as the perfect real estate deal.
SENSITIVE MARIANO: [Reading cards on TV] I see some problems with the house because the husband of the person who wants to sell it to youâ€¦ he doesn’t agree with the sale.
ITALIAN LADY: Do somethingâ€¦ do something Marianoâ€¦ do something.
SENSITIVE MARIANO: But you will succeed in buying this house.
ITALIAN LADY: Really?
SENSITIVE MARIANO: Yes. It’s a really nice house. It’s a house in the sun, and fairly isolated. It’s not a flat.
HUTCHEON: Sensitive Mariano, who’s real name is Salvatore, claims he received the powers of healing and prophecy as a child. We’re invited to observe how Sensitive Mariano uses these powers on a client. Today he performs an exorcism on Esperanza, a troubled housewife whose life was falling apart until she saw Mariano on TV.
SENSITIVE MARIANO: Enemy power who are inside this woman, servant of God, go away, leave this woman and never come back! In the name of Saint Benedict, any form of evil should leave the mind of this woman. Preserve Esperanza! Preserve her from evil, preserve her from danger. Out from this woman!
HUTCHEON: Mariano says he usually enters a trance and starts speaking in languages he doesn’t understand. The entire process takes about ten minutes. Esperanzo has been treated for more than six months and believes she’s definitely making process.
ESPERANZO: Now I feel rather stoned, but afterwards I’ll feel better.
HUTCHEON: While claiming there’s a world of evil out there, the Catholic Church believes its priests alone should confront Satan, freelancers are not welcome.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: They are crooks – they are not exorcists. At most, they can do prayers for liberation. Prayers for liberation can be performed by anybody. It’s possible to pray to God to free a person – but proclaiming themselves exorcists, they are cheating people.
HUTCHEON: But Sensitive Mariano dismisses any notion of a Church monopoly.
SENSITIVE MARIANO: The Bible doesn’t say you have to be in the dress of a priest. In fact in the name of God, anyone can defeat the demons.
HUTCHEON: Despite their disagreements, many Italians believe this man represents the Devil. Marco Dimitri is an italian boy and heads the Children of Satan, a rationalist organisation with more than a 4.000 members.
MARCO DIMITRI: We don’t have a cult of Devil worship, that would be absurd because the cult of the Devil would be the cult of evil – but for us, good and evil are subjective to each individual.
HUTCHEON: Nine years ago he was accused of raping a two-year old boy and a teenage girl in Satanic rituals. He was jailed for fourteen months before being exonerated by the Italian courts. He believes the Catholic Church misrepresents what Satan stands for. It’s not about worshiping evil he says, but being an adversary, standing up to a repressive system.
MARCO DIMITRI: Look at the modus operandi of the Church that is repressive and forces man on his knees with laws that haven’t been created by Christ but by man to enrich man.
HUTCHEON: Several years ago Marco Dimitri appeared on this popular talk show to discuss the influence of the Devil on Italian society. Mr Dimitri debated Catholic priest and prominent exorcist Don Cerafino. When Marco Dimitri accused the Church of committing crimes throughout its history, Italians watched enthralled as the angry priest prepared to punch out the Satanist.
MARCO DIMITRI: [Archive TV footage] You have these guys against you because they are historical criminals.
PRIEST: What did you say?
MARCO DIMITRI: I said historical criminals.
PRIEST: Oh, I got it wrong.
HUTCHEON: Don Cerafino then backed down but the priest’s aggression didn’t go unnoticed by the TV show’s psychologist.
PSYCHOLOGIST: [Archive TV footage] You should be a man of good. You misunderstood, but stood up and were going to attack him.
PRIEST: I want to respond.
PSYCHOLOGIST: We shouldn’t only see violence in other people – in fact we have it inside all of us.
HUTCHEON: Marco Dimitri says his group has no connection to the Beasts of Satan, the heavy metal band involved in ritual murder. He believes some members of the group had psychological problems, exacerbated by drug use and that exorcists prey on people whose problems are psychiatric, not spiritual.
MARCO DIMITRI: I want to say to Father Amorth what I say to all exorcists. Leave people in peace! Let the doctors take care of them.
HUTCHEON: He also claims the Catholic Church’s portrayal of Satanism is part of the problem.
MARCO DIMITRI: Exorcism doesn’t have historical roots. It’s not in literature, the Bible, or theology. There is no element that certifies that the Devil can possess a person. It’s an invention of the Church created much later.
HUTCHEON: A growing number of Italians have been increasingly disturbed by the occult industry and its practitioners. This is a field trip organised by the Italian Committee to help Victims of Charlatans, headed by Professor Giovanni Panunzio, a lecturer in religious studies.
[Looking at etchings on cave wall] OK so that’s the symbol of the devil.
According to the markings, this cave, which archaeologists believe was once an ancient Phoenician temple, was more recently used by a Satanic cult.
ITALIAN MAN: The traces of Satanism – do the leave them or take them away?
PROFESSOR PANUNZIO: The serious Satanists take them away. But the spray-painted ones obviously remain, they are visible I that corner. The paint’s the classic Satanist stuff – 666 demons – the symbols of Satanism.
HUTCHEON: The group founded eleven years ago, exposes the magic and fraud used by both Satanic groups and spiritual healers.
PROFESSOR PANUNZIO: These tricks can be used by anybody because they have to impress the victims – to show their victims they have special powers. These magicians, Satanists, priests, new-age priests and pseudo priestsâ€¦ they are used a lot. Italy is a superstitious country, including the political class. In many cities superstition has over-powered the faith. Italy is a country that has problems. It’s a country where science doesn’t take hold and where people are ignorant, don’t read, and then superstition takes over.
HUTCHEON: It’s feast day on the island of Ischia off Naples. Whilst the Church and spiritualists believe Satan has been given a helping hand by the uncertainties and pressures of modern life, there’s no wavering of faith here.
This is the parish of San Michele, named after Saint Michael the Archangel, the holy immortal charged with banishing the Devil at the end of time. In an annual ritual, the faithful bear his statue through the steep paths of the parish, praying for protection from evil. There’s no need for exorcism on this island, the Devil wouldn’t dare to show his face.
DON VINCENZO: [Ischia resident] As I’ve said before we’ve never had any sign of the Devil here. It could be because there are good people here, or some other cause that we don’t know.
MARCO DIMITRI: True Satanism puts man at the centre of the universe – and is a noble expression.
FATHER GABRIELE AMORTH: I see a very strong presence of the Devil because men are following him.
HUTCHEON: There are no TV spiritualists here or Satanic heavy metal bands. It’s just the way the Vatican likes it and it’s how the villagers like it too. Content in the knowledge that their traditions, faith and a sense of community has the power to banish the Devil they know.
ABC News Australia
Reporter: Jane Hutcheon