Msgr Calkins writing on Fr Gabriel Amorth

GABRIEL AMORTH, S.S.P., The Gospel of Mary:  A Month with the Mother of God trans. Edmund C. Lane (New York:  Alba House, 2000) pp. ix, 124.

     Father Gabriel Amorth is particularly well known in the Italian-speaking world because of his many years as editor of the popular Marian monthly Madre di Dio published by the Society of St. Paul of which he is a member and perhaps even more because of his present position as chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome.  In this latter capacity he has written three books about spiritual warfare, the first of which has been translated into English as An Exorcist Tells His Story (Ignatius Press, 1999).

     These two areas of Father Amorth's expertise are obviously inter-related because of the unique role which God has given to Mary in the battle with the powers of darkness.  She is the Woman of Genesis 3:15 and the Woman of the Apocalypse, the one who is locked in deadly combat with Satan according to the eternal plan of God.  Father Amorth is very conscious of God's plan and Mary's place in it by his deliberate design.  Whether or not he is conscious of it, in An Exorcist Tells His Story he writes about it from a Scotist perspective:

     All too often we have the wrong concept of creation, and we take for granted the following wrong sequence of events.  We believe that one day God created the angels; that he put them to the test, although we are not sure which test; and that as a result we have the division among angels and demons.  The angels were rewarded with heaven, and the demons were punished with hell.  Then we believe that on another day God created the universe, the minerals, the plants, the animals, and, in the end, man.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve obeyed Satan and disobeyed God. thus they sinned.  At this point, to save mankind, God decided to send his Son.

       This is not what the Bible teaches us, and it is not the teaching of the Fathers.  If this were so, the angels and creation would remain strangers to the mystery of Christ.  If we read the prologue to the Gospel of John and the two christological hymns that open the Letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, we see that Christ is "the firstborn of all creatures" (Col. 1:15).  Everything was created for him and in the expectation of him.  There is no theological discussion that makes any sense if it asks whether Christ would have been born without the sin of Adam.  Christ is the center of creation; all creatures, both heavenly (the angels) and earthly (men) find in him their summation.  On the other hand, we can affirm that, given the sin of our forebears, Christ's coming assumed a particular role:  he came as Savior.  The core of his action is contained within the Paschal mystery:  through the blood of his Cross, he reconciles all things in the heavens (angels) and on earth (men) to God.  The role of every creature is dependent on this christocentric understanding.

       We cannot omit a reflection about the Virgin Mary.  If the firstborn creature is the Word become flesh, she who would be the means of the Incarnation must also have been present in the divine thought before every other creature.  From this stems Mary's unique relationship with the Holy Trinity (An Exorcist 19-20).

     I have taken the liberty of providing this rather lengthy quote because in the book under consideration he begins with the same Scotistic approach, even though it is less explicitly developed.  That is why he can say that

     To understand the role of Mary and how her appearance signaled a decisive turn in the unfolding of the plan of salvation, it is necessary to begin with some concept regarding the divine plan of creation and hence of the absolute centrality of Christ (1).

Clearly his starting-point is effectively the Franciscan position of the absolute primacy of Jesus and Mary.

     This books humbly presents itself to us as a book of 31 meditations, one for each day of the month, but, in fact, it is far more.  Its subtitle could also be "An introduction to the Mystery of the Mother of God" or "An Incentive for Devotion to Our Lady" since each brief chapter ends with a well-crafted reflection.  This little book is, in effect, a primer on Our Lady which could be put in the hands of anyone with good results.

     While the bulk of the chapters are based on scripture, they are also rich in references to the great tradition.  There are also chapters treating the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Marian consecration and Mary as Mediatrix of all graces.  Although there are no footnotes or bibliography, one can see that Father Amorth has done his homework besides the fact that he speaks from his heart.

     My one point of disagreement with Father Amorth is his acceptance of the "adultery hypothesis" i.e., that Joseph suspected Mary of adultery (22, 30-31).  I am much inclined on the basis of philological and other grounds to believe that Joseph hesitated to take Mary to himself out of holy fear [cf. Ignace de la Potterie, S.J., Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant trans. Bertrand Buby, S.M. (New York:  Alba House, 1992) 37-65].  However, I readily admit that Amorth's position is held by the great majority of theologians and commentators today.

     This is an excellent book which could have many uses.  I recommend it without hesitation.

                                       Arthur Burton Calkins

Version: 13th March 2002

Section Contents Copyright ©; Mark Alder & Named Authors 2000