There were numerous aspects of the history of the Catholic Church and the Spanish Inquisition that were fictionalized in The Pope’s Exorcist, including the life of the titular real-life hero. The 2023 supernatural horror film stars Oscar winner Russell Crowe as the late Vatican head exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, who tries to rescue a little Spanish kid from the hands of Satanic forces. Given that Father Amorth claimed to have conducted thousands upon thousands of exorcisms during his lifetime (as detailed in his 1999 autobiography An Exorcist Tells His Story), a film about his life was inevitable.
In The Pope’s Exorcist, Franco Nero portrays the Pope, but it is never specified which Pope it is. This was likely done to minimize religious controversy. Although it claims to be based on a factual narrative, The Pope’s Exorcist takes several liberties in its depiction of Amorth’s life in favor of exploring the Church’s role in the Spanish Inquisition.
The film suggests that a demon-possessed exorcist helped plant the seeds of evil throughout the Catholic Church and eventually became one of the creators of the Inquisition. The question of whether or whether this terrible exorcist justified the crimes of the Inquisition is settled by historical fact.
The Real-Life History Of The 1478 Spanish Inquisition & Church Connections Explained
The theologian Hans-Jürgen Prien wrote Christianity in Latin America, in which he argued that the Spanish Inquisition, which was established primarily to identify the so-called “heretics” (mostly people who converted to Christianity from Judaism and Islam), was responsible for many forced conversions to Catholicism and brutal torture methods. Fear was effectively stoked, and many religious men took part in writing the decrees that legalized torture.
As explained in Edward Peters’s Inquisition, the Catholic Church’s role in the Spanish Inquisition was complex. Not wanting to support a monarchy-controlled system to govern and torture heretics, Pope Sixtus IV did have worries about the Inquisitions’ cruelty.
However, the Pope’s theological stance shifted when Ferdinand II of Aragon threatened to withdraw Vatican forces if the Pope would not accede to the Inquisition in response to the threat posed by the Ottoman Turks. The Inquisition was halted by a declaration from the Pope, although he later had to back down. Sixtus, now helpless, gave the Inquisition his approval on November 1, 1478.
The movie’s portrayal of Alonso de Ojeda, a priest with nefarious intentions, was very certainly influenced by the real-life inquisitors who donned the priestly garb after 1478. The First Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Friar Tomás de Torquemada, is a prime example.
When people thought of religious fanaticism at that age, they immediately thought of Toruqemada, a hardened man who approved of torture-based confessionals and burning at the stake as an acceptable form of punishment. Given his intimate relationship with Queen Isabella I in his role as religious advisor, his presence seemed more than coincidental.
The Pope’s Exorcists’ Spanish Inquisition Being Started By A Demonic Possession Is Fictional
Since the historical Alonso de Ojeda was an explorer and not an exorcist, the statements made by The Pope’s Exorcist about the beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition can be safely disregarded as fiction. There is no evidence from the time period of the Inquisition to suggest that the fear was sparked by a demonic priest.
Friar Alonso de Ojeda, who was possessed by a demon, reportedly persuaded the Spanish monarchy to launch the Inquisition. The priest would fulfill Asmodeus’s wishes and bring dishonor upon God and the Church if he acted in this way. In the end, everything unfolds like some wild hypothesis of conspiracy.
The Pope’s Exorcist claims that the Vatican has kept hidden for centuries the fact that the Spanish Inquisition had its roots in Satanism. There has been no official statement from the Vatican to determine the Inquisition’s roots of supernatural aspects like Asmodeus, despite the Catholic Church’s reputation for secrecy. Massive works like Joseph Pérez’s The Spanish Inquisition: A History makes it obvious that Ferdinand and Isabella only ordered the Inquisition because they found that persistent torture was an efficient method for consolidating royal power across all the countries they ruled.
The Real Father Amorth Claimed The Vatican Was Infiltrated By The Devil
The Pope’s Exorcist takes certain liberties with the truth when it comes to Father Amorth’s assertions. The film does a good job of capturing one historical fact, though: Amorth’s firm belief that the Vatican had been penetrated by Satan. Amorth made the brazen allegation that the Vatican is occasionally taken over by demonic forces during an interview with ABC News in 2010. He uses the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II in 1981 by Turkish fugitive Mehmet Ali Aca and the 2009 assault on Pope Benedict XVI at Christmas Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica as examples.
Even though the Vatican didn’t give Father Amorth official authorization this time, he nevertheless tried to examine the disappearance of Orlandi to see if demonic activity was involved. In his interview with ABC, Amorth admitted that he has a hard time providing evidence for Satan’s existence, but that his handiwork is undeniable.
Cardinals and other prominent church leaders who did not believe in Jesus were in league with the devil, in his view. He went on to suggest that the church’s pedophilia problems and the brutal death of a Swiss guard’s commander and wife in 1998 were both the devil’s doing. Amorth never presented any proof for his assertions.