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RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY: AN EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST

THE CESNUR 2003 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
organized by CESNUR, Center for Religious Studies and Research at Vilnius University, and New Religions Research and Information Center
Vilnius, Lithuania, April 9-12 2003  

Italian Martyrs of Satanism:
Sister Maria Laura Mainetti and Father Giorgio Govoni

by Andrea Menegotto (CESNUR)
A paper presented at the CESNUR 2003 Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

1. The background: satanism and satanists in Italy[1]

The statistics on organized satanism (also called «adults’» satanism) can be reconstructed in a fairly precise way, as it is practically impossible that an organized group may completely escape the survey carried out by experts and police organs. An estimate to calculate the number of the people adhering to the organized group of satanism in Italy (referring to the year 2003) can count up about 240 members and can be summarized in the following table:

Adherents to groups of organized satanism In Italy
Source: CESNUR 2003

Bambini di Satana

50

Chiesa di Satana (rationalist)

20

Chiesa di Satana (occultista)

20

Minor groups

150

Altogether

240

Therefore, despite the many more relevant numbers often supplied by mass media – those who propose such numbers should, of course, be capable of supporting their statements with evidence as far as we can see from the numbers right now – the groups of organized satanists only represent an insignificant percentage of the Italian population even if, of course, the experience lived can be extremely hard for the people involved. The organized satanism is therefore a phenomenon that is often overrated, as a matter of fact, it concerns only a few thousands of people all over the world.

Of course, these statistics cannot include either the activities of isolated satanists - in fact, criminals often say to kill «for the taste of killing» inspired in that by the demon - or the juvenile satanism (also said «acid satanism» for its association with drugs) composed of small groups of young people under 18 (very rarely with the presence of some adults). They are lacking in a ritual and organizational continuity and contacts with the groups of the «traditional» satanism. In fact they perform savage satanic rituals under the influence of films, TV programs, some comics, a certain musical subculture, but they are also affected by some reports on satanism made by mass media which appear as emphatic and astonishing as not relevant to truth.

Even if the phenomenon of satanism is much more diffused, the statistics on the juvenile one are hypothetical, owing to the sociological features of the phenomenon itself, and, as a result, many groups can be found out only in case they commit a crime. In addition, from the police data, which concern different Italian regions, we can presume that in Italy the phenomenon in question involves about a thousand people while a more restricted circle (2.000-3.000 people) adopts styles typical of the satanic subculture (clothes, symbols, gestures...) without yet taking parts in any real activities of the juvenile satanism groups.

Just the savage satanism which is much more difficult to keep watch on for the police forces, often reveals itself to be really dangerous. It is in this context that, on an international level, though some episodes also took place in Italy, crimes of various kind and seriousness occurred: vandalism, violation of churches and cemeteries, rape and murders like that of the nun, Sister Maria Laura Mainetti (1939-2000) whose case we will deal with afterwards while treating the story, which has a different nature and genre, and that saw the involvement of a clergyman, Father Giorgio Govoni (1941- 2000).

2. The case of Sister Maria Laura Mainetti

On the night between the 6th and the 7th of June 2000 at Chiavenna, a little town in the province of Sondrio, in Lombardy, on the border between Italy and Switzerland, a catholic nun, Sister Maria Laura Mainetti, belonging to the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross, was killed with nineteen stabs by three girls. Two girls were seventeen and one was sixteen. The Sister, who was well known in the small town she lived in, and in the surroundings[2], for her social and charitable commitment to young dispossessed and poor people, fell into a well planned trap. During the night, under the false pretext of a pregnant girl who found herself in serious difficulties and needed her help, the three young murderers were able to draw the nun into an ambush, leading her to an isolated place. Sister Laura didn’t suspect any danger being well accustomed to frequently doing such charitable deeds.

According to the reconstruction done by the investigators and the elements emerging from interviews to the three murderers, the nun was, at first, hit on her head with a small cube of porphyry and with a stab, then the three murderers obliged her to kneel, as a gesture of submission, in compliance with a symbolic ritual. She was repeatedly hit by them that in the meantime were hurling abuse at her. They made use of two knives to carry out their macabre rite, while the nun was praying and was granting them her forgiveness. The three girls were found out and arrested by the policemen twentytwo days after the murder. At first, they said they had only had the intention of playing a game in order to break the monotony of their boring existence in the small town in which they lived; then, from the jails, they confessed to have wanted to make a sacrifice to Satan. When the inquiry was closed, the investigators, that in their numerous searches carried out in some adolescents’ and young people’s houses, were able to find out the unsuspected existence of a satanic subculture present in several boys coming from good families, individuate in Satanism the keyword for the interpretation of the whole story. From their investigations, some more details relevant to ritual gestures also emerge, which can be attributed to a satanic subculture.

Some months before the murder, the three girls had made an oath of blood, to strengthen the allegiance between them and to their cause. After making a cut in their hands and their wrists, as a sign of mutual fidelity, they poured their blood into a glass and they drank it; the girls themselves yet confirmed that one of them, deeply disgusted, had refused to take part in their ritualistic action.

A second action, this time of vandalic type, consisted of the theft of a Bible (which was afterwards burnt) from a church, would have involved also three friends of theirs, who are however believed to be innocent as regards the murder of the nun. From their jails where, at present, they are locked up, the young murderers show to be repented.

The procedural story

On 5th February 2001, the trial starts with a summary procedure that causes wild arguments among experts. Some of them say that the girls are to be punished while others, instead, say that, at the very moment they committed their crime, they were mentally incompetent. During the three hours of her final speech, the public prosecutor Cristina Rota many times points out the fact that the reason for the crime lies in the satanic rite, defining Sister Maria Laura an innocent sacrificial victim immolated to the devil. Therefore she asks for severe sentences lasting between 10 and 15 years, ultimately believing Amber, the girl that on the contrary will be considered not guilty in the judgement of first instance, to be the real inspirer for the terrible crime.

According to the verdict being brought in August 2001, the crime was committed with malice aforethought, however at the moment the girls can get the benefit of a reduction of a third of the penalty guaranteed by the abbreviated rite . The judge for preliminary hearing in Court, Anna Poli, chooses a third way indeed, by reducing the penalties requested for the adolescents by the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office, condemning to eight and a half years two of the three girls charged with the «satanic crime», and absolving the third girl, that is believed to be mentally ill.

The girl who was found not guilty, was immediately sent to a judiciary reforming house for, at least, three years, whereas the two girls condemned for mental semi-illness (Veronica and Milena) have a common lot after their release.

The sentence of Milan Appeal Court in April 2002 confirms, instead, the Public Prosecutor’s thesis. In fact, it doesn’t recognize the girl, considered not guilty in the verdict of first sentence, the state of mental illness and thinking she is the leader of the three young murderers, condemns her to an over twelve and a half years’ imprisonment (the severest penalty), while it confirms the first instance judgement for her two friends.

An appendix to the procedural story regards Amber’s temporary exit from prison in January 2003 for expiration of the terms of preventive detention before the verdict of the Supreme Court of Cassation, to which, after the sentence, differently from Veronica’s and Milena’s legal advisers, the girl’s defence lawyers appealed. Therefore, on 23rd January 2003, the Supreme Court of Cassation(Last resort Court) confirms the judgement of the Court of Appeal, believing the girl to be guilty.

3. The case of Father Giorgio Govoni

Father Giorgio Govoni, a catholic priest and a person who is very socially engaged in the geographic area of the so called «Bassa modenese» (president of an association of voluntary services), is accused by some children, but, as a matter of fact, just by psychologists, and social assistants of the local Health Unit (ASL) of Mirandola (in the province of Modena), who assert to be able to interpret the children’s tales. He is considered guilty of organising satanic rites, during which children are abused. The facts he is accused of, date back to the years from 1997 to 1998. He is charged with having abused of thirteen children (the youngest was just four months, the oldest was thirteen), together with some of their relatives (parents, uncles, grandparents and a brother) and a teacher. The inquiry he is involved in, set up in 1997 from the confessions of a child (well known to the social services for his hard family life). He starts talking to the Mirandola Health Unit team (ASL) about sexual abuse, carried out against him in a domestic and extra domestic background and in a context that is seen, or interpreted, by the team, as ritualistic satanic, being the episodes described by the child occurred in a cemetery. The investigations spread in all the directions: 13 children are separated from their families and entrusted to the Modena Health Unit and Court of law. They are fostered to Communities for Children and to custodian families. According to the interpretation of the psychological team of the local Health Unit, while being interviewed, they themselves acknowledge to have been victims of episodes of paedophilia and they point out the adults involved in satanic abuse. In particular, Father Giorgio Govoni is charged with being the leader of a group of paedophiliac satanists. They are supposed to have acted in the cemeteries between Mirandola e Finale Emilia, executing, while the rites are being celebrated, among the other things, false funerals, beheading children in Satan’s honour and throwing their heads into the water of a river. Afterwards, it was however dredged without finding any human remains which might have been relevant to rites.

Even though there is no evidence to convict him[3], as we will see, the Public Prosecution, supported by the psychological team of the local Health Unit, demands for passing exemplary sentences against the identified adults. As for Father Giorgio Govoni, he keeps on pleading his not being guilty supported and believed innocent by his parishioners, by his Bishop, by the Curia and by the whole Diocese of Modena-Nonantola.

The procedural story [4]

The procedural story linked up to the case of Father Giorgio Govoni is articulated and complex chiefly for the great number of people involved in the searches and in trials. With a synthesis effort and neglecting some very important elements emerging from the huge quantity of procedural acts in relation to the cases of other people involved in the reports drawn up by the experts, by the numerous interviews intervened between children, social assistant and psychologists, and by the various experts reports[5], such a judicial story, can be described into four phases.

1) With a judgement of first instance on 5th June 2000, the Modena court files 15 convictions with penalties varying between two and nineteen years. As regards Father Giorgio Govoni, the Court declares his crime discharged because «of the death of the guilty». It means that the request for a 14-year sentence is well grounded and that the priest’s guilt is recognized, but he dies of heart stroke in his lawyer’s office on 19th May 2000, just few hours after the pleading of the public prosecutor who believes him to be guilty.

2) On the 16th January 2001 the Council for the defence of Father Giorgio Govoni deposits at the criminal office of the Modena Court of Law an act of interposition of appeal at the Court of Appeal in Bologna) in order to clear his client’s memory.

3) The Bologna Court of Appeal (second Criminal Section), with the sentence of the 11th July 2001, demolishes the theorem that believed in the existence of a group of paedophilic satanists. According to this theory, they would have committed paedophilic acts for their satanic rituals particularly inside some cemeteries in the «Bassa modenese» land. On this theory, the judgement of first sentence was based. The judgement of second sentence confirms or reduces the condemnation, just for seven of the 15 people considered guilty but it is necessary to point out that the facts they are accused of, refer to acts of paedophilia committed inside home environment. By demolishing the satanic track and by clearing a lot of the criminals from their charges, the figure of Father Giorgio Govoni, is in actual fact, cleared, with great satisfaction of all those who, above all in the clerical circles, had always believed in his innocence[6].

4) The Supreme Court of Cassation, at the end of November 2002, confirms the judgement of second instance.

4. Two different stories but the same destiny: the martyrdom

The case of Sister Maria Laura Mainetti and Father Giorgio Govoni, at first, sight seem to be very different, but actually they have an element in common: in both the cases the Bishops responsible for the Dioceses to which the Father and the Sister belonged, spoke of them as «martyrs», even if they don’t interpret the term in a technical sense typical of beatification cases[7].

A.   Some remarks on the case of Sister Maria Laura Mainetti

The lives of the three young murderers of Sister M. Laura don’t make us think of frequentations or contacts with officially organized satanist groups, but of a sexuality lived in an excessive or obsessive way. The «tedium of life» boredom, unrestless adolescence, great fascination for subjects such as death, drugs and despair, are the themes object of an endless correspondence and their diaries also report various mottos drawn from the songs of the controversial rock singer Marilyn Manson[8]. All that emerges from the studies of the memories of their PC, carefully examined by the enquirers is deep attraction to satanism as it is referred in the journalistic reports or satanical phenomena from which a pathological and constant interest in the satanic rites, comes into being through the purchase, reading of books and the practise of domestic primitive rituals up to the very serious deed they committed. From these considerations, we can draw two confirmations: first of all, that one in favour of scholars specialized in the study of contemporary spiritual trends and also in religious minorities[9], who have insisted for years on the fact that juvenile Satanism, for its own features, and for its savage character is the most dangerous form of satanism and it is in this context that criminal episodes of various type can take place. Sometimes they can obviously get to a dramatic ending as happened in the case of Sister Maria Laura Mainetti. However, it should be noted that the nun’s young murderers aren’t among the people fond of this genre, as instead stated by some «fundamentalist» local trends (which are also spreading throughout Italy recently). In fact they are taking up a critical position towards some horror or fantasy literary and cinema products dealing with a magic theme, charging them with approaching children and adolescents to the world of magic and satanism[10]. Differently from many young people having their same age, the three young murderers can’t be numbered among the readers and fans of the «little wizard» Harry Potter, the hero of the novels written by Joanne K. Rowling. For lack of further evidence, we are however enabled to assume that the reading of Harry’s adventures, characterized by a sharp distinction between the spheres of good and evil, might only have been of great help to the three wretched girls.

The second confirmation that we can get from the tragic story of Chiavenna ( this is also in favour of the theses experts have been supporting for years) lies on the fact that juvenile satanism can be basically assuming the form of a phenomenon of deviance and unease. Consequently it should not be analysed first with the categories of sociology or religious movements, but with those of the juvenile deviance and unease. The stories of the young satanists refer to the frequentation of deviant surroundings, of drugs, hooliganism, small criminality, tedium of life, excessive sexuality, and monotony (some of these elements can be found in the profile of the three young girls of Chiavenna).

Sharing this thesis, Joyce Mercer interprets, therefore, in an absolutely proper way, juvenile satanism like a mask of unease and deviance[11]. On the other hand, as Massimo Introvigne states while analysing the attitudes of a number of disabled young people, who are crowding the scene of juvenile satanism or adopting a satanic subculture in their life style, «[…..] in a world where sex and obscene language don’t cause any scandal [….], may be only Satan remains actually provoking»[12].

B.   Some remarks on the case of Father Giorgio Govoni

Father GiorgioGovoni is without any doubt a victim of false charges but, according to us, also of a circle seized by panic owing to mass-media reports on satanism that, on the contrary, excited the three murderers of Sister Maria Laura Mainetti. Even tough his human drama doesn’t lose importance, the «poor» Father Giorgio has been cleared (restored) and proclaimed innocent «post mortem». However it is worth stopping for a while to examine the context in which his story can be placed, to easily understand that it represents another tragic chapter of the enormous and controversial psychiatric literature based on the so called «rediscovered memories» and on supposed «satanic abuse» committed by adults against children[13].

Fortunately in Italy the «plague» of the «rediscovered memories» by children or by adults who, on the small bed of the psychologist, falsely charge adults with satanic criminal rites and with satanic ritual abuse, has had few marginal manifestations, the most important and tragic being given by the fact we are presently interested in[14].

On an international level, in the years between 1988 and 1991, such plague caused remarkable damage in English language countries, until it was blocked by a series of sentences and reports commissioned by public authorities. In particular, in 1994, two official reports, and an English one commissioned to the sociologist Jean La Fontaine by the Health Ministery[15], and an American one of the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect, give a final stroke to the taken for granted belief in the thesis relevant to the existence of «ritual satanic abuse». Now, instead, as in the case of «refound memories», after the not guilty verdict of supposed satanists, social assistants and psychologist are obliged to answer for charges with slander and defamation in Court. The American report states that, on 12.000 denunciations of supposed satanic ritual abuse, no case can have been supported with evidence, even if in a little number of cases we were able to get to the conclusion that individual paedophiles or couples (but not organisations), claim to have relations with Satan or use this pretension to frighten their victims.

Massimo Introvigne, CESNUR (Centre for the Study of New Religions) manager, was one of the consultants of Father Giorgio Govoni’s defence team in the Modena Trial and on such occasions he prepared a wide, complex, articulated account drawn up on a precise request of Father Giorgio Govoni’s defence team on «The myth of the rediscovered memories and the supposed satanic ritual abuse»[16]. Such a report, yet not taken into any consideration by the judges of the first Trial, was instead implicitly kept in a very high account in the second Appeal Judgement. Concerning this subject, it is worth pointing out that the present report represents the first intervention of an expert of religious minorities in a case of supposed satanic ritual abuse (while, of course, there are many more cases abroad than in Italy).

Acccording to the American sociologist and criminologist Philip Jenkins, the spread of theories and the promotion of legal proceedings on satanic ritual abuse have made, the reputation and the popularity of the job as a social assistant rush to its lowest levels in English language countries. As a result, it has led governments to revise the rules relevant to the job as a social assistant, by decreasing its powers and warning about leading questions asked to children in case of supposed abuse[17]. According to the scholar himself, among moral panics [18] which have revealed in our century, the only one that can be said to have actually ceased (in English language countries) is that concerning satanic ritual abuse, since it has been completely discretited either by Courts of Law, most times with appeal sentences, or by political authorities as well.

To the judges and to their charges at the Trial Court of First Instance for the case of the «Bassa modenese», to avoid enormous miscarriages of justice - the verdict of guilty was fortunately revoked in the Second Instance - involving innocent human beings with tragic consequences, long before the reading of the above mentioned report and of the scientific literature on the theme of satanic ritual abuse, we should suggest the vision and a deep reflection on the film (1995) of the famous American director and producer Oliver Stone (directed by Mike Jackson): Indictment: the Mc Martin trial, broadcast in Italy from RAI with the title L’asilo maledetto («The cursed nursery school»). The film accurately tells the events connected with the case Mc Martin in 1983, ended with a verdict of not-guilty of the people charged with satanic sexual abuse to detriment of hundreds of very young guests of the Mc Martin preschool, a luxurious nursery school, managed by the family Mc Martin at Manhattan Beach, an elegant suburb in Los Angeles. The judicial Mc Martin case has been used as a model for a hundred similar cases, and it reveals remarkable similarities to the stories of which Father Giorgio Govoni has unfortunately been a victim.

Sister Maria Laura Mainetti and Father Giorgio Govoni, everyone in his own way, have been martyrs of an unsuitable and emphatic way of facing the question of satanism by mass-media and, consequently, by public opinion and bodies. To avoid their cases happening again, it would be necessary that, above all, mass media should point out the fact that satanists are actually few and that their really criminal activities are rather infrequent. They aren’t powerful «lords of the darkness», but rather, in many cases, just poor souls.


Notes

[1] With particular reference to the Italian situation, cf. the important studies made by Massimo Introvigne, Indagine sul satanismo. Satanisti e anti-satanisti dal Seicento ai nostri giorni, Mondadori, Milano 1994 (cf. the revised and refreshed French edition: Enquete sur le Satanisme. Satanistes et Antisatanistes du XVIIIe Siècle a nos Jours, Dervy, Paris, 1997, too) ; and : Il satanismo, Elledici, Leumann (Torino) 1997. For a classification of satanism within the widest magic current, cf., more shortly, my work: «L’attuale panorama del sacro», in Via Verità e Vita, n. 193 (monograph: Magia, occultismo, satanismo... Quali provocazioni per la catechesi?), May-June 2003, pp. 8-14. On the recent controversies on satanism: James T. Richardson - Joel Best - David G. Bromley (ed. ), The Satanism Scare, Aldine de Gruyter, New York 1991.

[2] A memory having «agiographic» frames about Sister Maria Laura Mainetti is traced by the report of the congregation Sister Maria Laura belonged to: cf. In semplicità («In simplicity»), the Cross Congregation Sisters’ magazine, a special issue in July 2002.

[3] It is enough to remind in this place that, from the reading of the trial proceedings, we may note a medical survey intended to prove the occurrence of sexual abuse and where it is stated that the violated virginity of a maiden could rebuild by itself.

[4] The procedural story is composed by these important document (the author of this paper has read these completely) :

1. Tribunale di Modena, Sentenza n. 87/2000 del 5 giugno 2000 (Galliera e altri), Reg. Trib. n. 166/99, RNR n. 1381/97. Depositata in Cancelleria il 2 dicembre 2000.

2. Atto di interposizione di appello imputato Govoni Giorgio (alla Corte di Appello di Bologna) dell’avvocato Pierfrancesco Rossi, del Foro di Modena, difensore di don Govoni. Depositato presso la Cancelleria Penale del Tribunale di Modena il 16 gennaio 2001.

3. Corte di Appello di Bologna - Seconda Sezione Penale, Sentenza dell’11 luglio 2001. Registro sentenze n. 1657. R.G. n. 2001/7041. RNR n. 1381/97. Depositata in Cancelleria l’8 ottobre 2001.

4. Corte Suprema di Cassazione - Terza Sezione Penale, Sentenza n. 2234 del 26 novembre 2002. Registro Generale n. 10739/2002. Depositata in Cancelleria il 22 gennaio 2003.

[5] For a general and critical setting of the matter: cf the volume of the member of the Senate, Sen. Augusto Cortelloni: Pedofilia e Satanismo. Risorge l’Inquisizione. Quel Pasticciaccio della Bassa Modenese («Phaedofilia and Satanism. Inquisition Revives. That Modena Lowland’s Bad Fix»), n.p.o.d., available in e-book version at URL: http://www.falsiabusi.it/documenti/Cortelloni_Augusto.pdf.

[6] Cf. the note of the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on 13th July 200, «Don Giorgio Govoni era innocente: riabilitazione postuma in appello».(Father Giorgio Govoni was innocent: his posthumous rehabilitation).

[7] The two «martyrs», for a curious coicidence (a twist of fate ?), seem to suffer their martyrdom nearly in that very same instant: sister Maria Laura Mainetti is killed on the night between the 6th and the 7th June 2000, whereas father Giorgio Govoni, actually already dead because struck down by a heart attack on 19th May 2000, is considered guilty during the judgement of first instance on the day before (on 5th June of the same year).

[8] Brian Warner’s pseudonym (born in Canton, Ohio, U.S.A., on 5th January 1969) that claims to draw on the two «myths»: Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) an undiscussed and celebrated sex symbol and Charles Manson (1934-) the inspirer of the Los Angeles slaughter in which the pregnant actress Sharon Tate (1943-1969), the wife of the director Roman Polanski (1933-), was killed. On this matter, you can refer to: Massimo Introvigne, Indagine sul satanismo, pp. 301-311. In 1994 Marilyn Manson meets Anton Szandor LaVey (Howard Stanton Levey’s pseudonym, [1930-1997], on this matter you can refer to pp. 265-291) and adheres to Satan’s church, which had been founded by LaVey in 1966 with his friend Kenneth Anger, an underground director (Kenneth William Anglemayer’s pseudonym [1927-]). According to Marilyn Manson’s several biographers, this meeting deeply inspires the various themes and messages that emerge from the texts of his songs. Numerous biographies on Marilyn Manson are available, both in volume and on web; he has became the idol of many young people that imitate his lifestyle inspired to a subculture with references to satanism and to different types of transgressions. These biographies and the terms used are to be obviously examined critically because sometimes the different authors and fans tend to present the singer in «legendary» terms; such as Chuck Wainer - Marilyn Manson, Marilyn Manson in his Own Words, Omnibus Press, London, 2000; Gavin Baddeley, Disecting Marilyn Manson, Plexus Pub, Medford (New Jersey, U.S.A.), 2000 (Italian translation: Anatomia di Marilyn Manson, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano, 2001); Kalen Rogers, Marilyn Manson: The Unautorized Biography, Omnibus Press, London, 1997; and, in Italian language: Chuck Wainer, Marilyn Manson, Lo Vecchio, Genova, 2002.

[9] Cf., in particular, the above mentioned books on satanism by Massimo Introvigne.

[10] On the matter and for some critical considerations on the «fundamentalist» trends in the approach to some genres of the popular culture, you can refer to: Tra Fondamentalismo e Magia. La Strana Controversia su Harry Potter («Between Fundamentalism and Magic. The Strange Dispute on Harry Potter»), paper presented at the meeting «Trovare Dio in Il Signore degli Anelli e in Harry Potter» («Finding God in The Lord of the Rings and in Harry Potter», 31st May 2002, organized by the Centro Studi Oriente Occidente («Centre of Eastern-Western Studies», Rectorate Hall of Ancona University. Available on the Web site of CESNUR at http://www.cesnur.org/2002/potter_008.htm.

[11] Cf. Joyce Mercer, Behind the Mask of Adolescent Satanism, Deaconess Press, Minneapolis 1991.

[12] M. Introvigne, Indagine sul satanismo, above-mentioned, p. 362.

[13] On the matter, cf. Jean La Fontaine, Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge - New York 1998; Jeffrey S. Victor, Satanic Panic. The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, Open Court, Chicago - La Salle (Illinois) 1993 and M. Introvigne, Indagine sul satanismo, above-mentioned, pp. 321-382.

[14] To be precise, «Modena’s Lowland» episode takes place mainly in the context of the supposed satanic ritual abuse not having all the specific features to be set in the field of «refound memories».

[15] J. La Fontaine, The Extent and Nature of Organised and Ritual Abuse: Research Findings, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Londra 1994.

[16] Cf, to the author, Parere pro veritate in relazione al procedimento penale n. 166/99 (Galliera e altri) - Tribunale di Modena.

[17] Cfr. Philip Jenkins, Intimate Enemies, Aldine De Gruyter, Hawthorne (New York) 1992. As regards the role of the social assistants and of the Juvenile Court of Law it must be pointed out that in consequence of «Modena Lowland’s» case, Sen. Augusto Cortelloni has introduced a bill on the people’s initiative «for the abolition of the Juvenile Court of Law and established departments specialized in family matters and for the people under 18 at ordinary Courts of Law» (cf. above-mentioned, pp. 79-86).

[18] The concept of «moral panic», developed in 1970’s to explain how some social problems, characterized either in the media display or in the political institution by a disproportionate reaction compared to the real menace, are hyped and caused excessive fears. Moral panics often based themselves on picturesque statistics which, even if they are not corroborated by scientific or academic studies, spread from one medium to the other and may suggest political measures. According to Philip Jenkins, that is one of the main scholars of the question, in dealing with moral panic, it is important to underline the role of «moral entrepeneurs» that have some interest in making specific fears, perpetual. In addition, according to Jenkins, «the panic reaction doesn’t take place owing to a rational evaluation on the scale of a particular menace», but it is instead «the result of not well defined fears that eventually find a dramatic and simplified centre in a single incident or stereotype that therefore acts as a visible symbol for the discussion and debate» (Pedophiles and Priests. Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, Oxford University Press, New York - Oxford, 1996).


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