Here’s something that doesn’t come along every day. Media critic, scholar, and practicing Witch Peg Aloi interviews Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist”. That book has since been adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins, and Father Thomas has been getting interviewed quite a bit in the process. Aloi’s interview is excerpted at The Boston Phoenix, but an unedited version, which features direct questions regarding the priest’s feelings regarding the occult, Wicca, polytheism, and indigenous spiritualities can be found at her blog The Witching Hour.
PA: So, in your view, polytheistic traditions are unacceptable, or evil? Does that include Native American spirituality, which is polytheistic?
FGT: It depends on your vantage point when you’re asking the question. I would say that anything that is outside the realm of the Supreme Being is polytheistic. But that term is not necessarily pejorative. Native Americans have their own religious culture, it doesn’t make them bad, but quite honestly, it’s opening them up to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous.
PA: I wonder if you also make a distinction between what you consider occultism and the modern earth-based spiritual traditions, such as Wicca or neo-paganism. And I should tell you that in addition to being a film critic and a media scholar, I am also a former Catholic, and I’m now what you’d call a neo-pagan, or a witch.
FGT: The occult is not the same thing as the satanic. So people who are involved in Satan worship are not the same thing as those are involved in Wicca, but we (priests, presumably–PA) would say Satanists are Satanists. I don’t even consider pagans in the same ways as I would consider those involved in the new age, but I think it’s fair to say the occult can be a doorway to the satanic.
The whole interview is a treasure trove. A rare chance for a Pagan to directly question a Catholic exorcist. As readers of my blog may know, I’ve been keeping track of the recent revival of interest in the rite of exorcism within the Catholic Church, and its undertones of spiritual warfare against non-Christian (specifically Pagan) faiths. Specifically chilling is that Father Thomas, and by extension I would hazard to guess other Catholic exorcists, still believes in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).
PA: Do you believe there are a lot of satanic cults out there?
FGT: There are probably more than we think. In fact, I pray over a woman right now who is a satanic cult survivor.
PA: I need to ask this. Speaking as someone who has done extensive research on the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s: Do you think it’s possible your parishioner’s experiences are false, or that she may be lying, or delusional? Because despite many, many horrific accusations of abuse and murder and various other atrocities by satanic cults over the years, most of them by alleged “survivors” who claim to be former cult members, the FBI, after years of investigation, never found a single shred of evidence to suggest there is or ever has been an underground network of satanic cults in the United States.
FGT: I don’t believe that she’s lying. She had been seeing a priest in our diocese for a while and her memories stated to surface, and that’s how we learned of her involvement in the cult. But if even half of what she’s saying is true, and I have not found any reason to doubt it, in her system, if anyone exposes the group, they’ll be killed. There is a whole culture in terms of what these people tell their members.
This interview is essential reading, and I urge everyone to head over there. Kudos to Peg Aloi for not only landing this interview, but for asking the tough questions I’m sure many Pagans have wanted to ask this new generation of exorcists. For more on Father Thomas, do check out this profile in The Catholic Spirit where he outright says that dabbling in witchcraft “immediately disqualifies” you to run for public office. This movie, and its resulting publicity, may be a hidden gift to our community, as it is illuminating a very secretive subculture about their motives and world view.