As many of you may be aware the newest movie dealing with demons as well as the devil himself, is The Rite. Excited by the trailer of what I thought would be a horror movie, I decided to go along with the rest of the family to watch it.
I soon realised that although this movie had all the horror themes too it, it simply wasn’t scary. Yes it had an eerie feel to it and some scenes made you jump, but a scary movie it wasn’t. Instead it appeared to me as a quest for one man to find his place and re-connect with not only his faith, but also his God.
Maybe it was because I was expecting a modern tale of the classic 1973 movie The Exorcist, but I felt disappointed in the film. Anthony Hopkin was as brilliant as ever, however not even him could save the audience from the slow pace the movie had.
Although disappointed in the move, partially due to the expectations I held, it did attempt to teach people about the Vatican’s view on exorcism and in doing so opened up a lot of questions. Is the church’s positions on exorcism outdated?
The movie itself was based on the book “The making of a modern exorcist” by Matt Baglio, a journalist who attended several of these religious rituals and the famous course the Vatican has recently introduced. This two month long course at the Regina Apostolorum are open to priests and theology students and deal with demons, Satan and how to perform an exorcism. This course is very controversial particularly for priests of an older and more traditional generation, however some argue it’s a necessity to deal with the dramatic increase in the popularity of the occult. I personally, don’t particularly see this dramatic increase but I can appreciate that this is a bold move for the church, who has up to now tried to distance itself from the subject.
In keeping with modern times, this course attempts to make sure their students are taught properly by having plenty of guest speakers in the way of criminologists and particularly psychiatrists. This is important, as up to only recent times mental illness issues were often thought of as denomic possession or interference, and so this to me shows a positive move by the organisers. So exactly what are these priests taught to look out for? Well according to the Vatican there are three main signs of possession:
- Abnormal strength
- Understanding unknown languages
- Knowledge of unknown things
Furthermore they are also told that one suffering from a possession will have a severe aversion to the sacred, meaning an actual inability to pray or say the names of sacred people such as Jesus or Mary. Meaning that if someone comes to a priest claiming possession and asking for the priest to pray over them, then the chances are they need professional help, and not in the form of the priest.
To me this is where it starts to come undone. This theory implies that the so-called demon has to be of a Catholic or at least Christian origin. What happens if they are a Hindu demon or dare say, an Atheist demon! I don’t mean to joke, but this outlook is very limited and takes one giant presumption.
Even the actual exorcism rite is all just prayer and therefore ineffective if the above scenarios apply. The Vatican state that an exorcism isn’t just a one shot deal, it takes several visits and rituals to weaken the demon down. If the person is genuinely possessed, isn’t this dangerous? There is however a big market for it, with priests in Rome having to cut an hour long exorcism to a twenty minute session due to the fact they have a waiting room full of people to deal with. This in itself raises a lot of questions!
Even priests admit that most of these “patients” needn’t bother waiting as 90% of them aren’t in need of an excorism. But what about the other 10% I hear you cry! Well Father Carmine (mentioned in Matt Baglio’s book) has said that he has indeed had some dramatic encounters to say the least. He says that the most common thing is screaming and yelling, often in uncanny and in an inhuman tone, accompanied by convulsing. Also to all you fellow “Exorcist” fans he states vomiting is very common, although projectile isn’t mentioned.
In one of his encounters he claims to have seen a woman vomit up a black toad, still alive! As he went to catch it, it dissolved into saliva. Now I don’t want to call a priest a liar but I may have to see that one for myself..
So although this course is moving in a good direction in terms of recognising people with severe mental health issues, it’s whole foundations are based on the fact that demons are afraid or weakened by Catholic religious imagery and too me, that’s flawed. I suppose it comes down to what you believe demons to be. Are they the devils “henchman” of non-human origin or are they very bad people who have stewed in their own hell for years, but that’s a whole new post…..