Taunted in Taunton; exorcised in Rome

TWO Christian crazies are in the news today: a street preacher in Taunton called Michael Overd, 47, and the Vatican’s “Chief Exorcist” Father Gabriele Amorth, 87.

Street screecher Michael Overd, left, and the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, Fr Amorth

The former is on trial before Taunton magistrates for threatening a gay couple with hell, and the latter has just written a book – The Last Exorcist – My Fight Against Satan – in which he claims that Pope Ratzinger “inadvertently” exorcised two men who were possessed by Old Nick.

Overd, 47, from Creech St Michael, is accused of verbally abusing Craig Manning and Craig Nicholl last July in the town’s high street. He denies two charges of using threatening words or behaviour, and his defence lawyer – fellow Christian zealot Paul Diamond of the Christian Legal Centre – claims that:

Overd was exercising his right to free speech, and was “merely” reciting a passage from the Bible, 1 Corinthians, which reads:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The court heard it was the second time the pair had been targeted by Overd, who spied them holding hands in October 2010.

The court heard that the lunatic had deliberately singled out the pair in public. Said Nicholl:

He looked at us and pointed … His voice was quite loud and very clear. I felt angry, embarrassed and ashamed. It was a really busy day and I felt that everyone was looking at us when he was saying these things to us.

Overd, who came to court wearing a comical yellow “The Lord is my Shepherd”  tie, denied this, saying:

I was not trying to draw to the public the fact that they were homosexuals, I was drawing the public to the fact that they were sinners.

Prosecutor Gordon Richings asked him:

You believe that sinners who die and are not redeemed are going to end up in hell?

Mr Overd replied:

If God says it (in the Bible) that is good enough for me.

The trial continues today.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reveals that ancient old loon Father Amorth is claiming in his new book that:

It is no mystery that the Pope’s acts and words can enrage Satan … that simply the presence of the Pope can sooth and in some way help the possessed in their fight against the one who possesses them.

And he tells the story of how he and two assistants brought a pair of “possessed” Italian men – Marco and Giovanni  – to one of the Pope’s weekly audiences in St Peter’s Square in May 2009. As the Pope approached them, the men began to act strangely: they trembled and their teeth chattered.

When one of the assistants asked Giovanni to control himself, he said “I am not Giovanni” in a voice that was not his own, Father Amorth claimed.

As soon as the Pope stepped down from his “Popemobile” the two men flung themselves to the floor.

They banged their heads on the ground. The Swiss Guards watched them but did nothing. Giovanni and Marco started to wail at the same time, they were lying on the floor, howling.  They were trembling, slobbering, working themselves into a frenzy.

He continued:

The Pope watched from a distance. He raised an arm and blessed the four of them. For the possessed it was like a furious jolt – a blow to their whole bodies – to the extent that they were thrown three metres backwards. They stopped howling but they cried uncontrollably.

Note: at this point I began howling uncontrollable, so loudly that I woke up my partner who peered bleary-eyed into my office to check if I was OK. When he saw tears of mirth rolling down my cheeks, he grumpily snorted, “Bit early in the day to be having fun” and went back to bed.

Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, disputed Amorth’s account, saying Benedict was not aware of the men’s afflictions and had not intended to carry out an exorcism.

Amorth is a controversial figure whose outspoken views have embarrassed the Vatican in the past.

In November he branded yoga as “evil”, claiming that it leads to a worship of Hinduism and other Eastern religions based on “a false belief in reincarnation”.

He has also railed against Harry Potter, saying the children’s books seem innocuous but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry.

Hat tip: Marcus Robinson (Overd report) and Canada Dave