The world of cinema and television has accustomed us to see from time to time films and TV dramas whose topics discuss specifically the presence and the extraordinary action of the demons in human life and the fight against them faced by the Church. Although submitting these questions to the masses might encourage knowledge of topics mostly considered to be nothing but legends in the modern culture, the way in which the presence of evil, diabolic possession and prayer of exorcism and liberation are presented is disappointing and unacceptable.
Generally speaking, we are witnessing exaltation of superficiality where emerges the image of the evil whose destructive force has the terrifying contours of monsters and so on, worthy (or unworthy) of quite different film genres. And again, it helps the affirmation of doctrinal topics, biblical facts, names and places stuffed with inaccuracies and legends, not to mention the psychological rereading of Catholic faith and of proposals of secular individualism as opposed to the faith and the norms of the Church. What disappoints the most are the different messages transmitted to the users of this scenic fiction (fiction, let us repeat it), which contain little truth.
As priests who have received from the Church the task of helping people who need the ministry of exorcism, the hidden nature and the lack of care about the wonderful, amazing presence and action of God jump at us in these films – including its powerful victory over evil – and especially the absence of Our Lady in the fight against evil. As we experience continuously in our exorcist activity, the devil is forced to affirm the truth of our Catholic faith with gestures, reactions and words even when he does not want to do so.
It does not add anything to what we already know, of course, but experiencing it in such a blatant way and at the same time, see how God draws evil towards good is consoling and edifying. For example when, in the course of the exorcism. the possessed faithful is sprinkled with holy water, the Devil, manifests utter disappointment through him, to the point of reacting in a violent manner. The devil is compelled, therefore, to bear witness to the function of the blessed water which is used, as we read in the Roman Missal for “the forgiveness of our (venial) sins, the defense from the snares of the evil one and the gift of divine protection”.
When the devil reacts to the presence of a relic and shows he knows also who is the saint it belongs to, he is forced to testify the holiness of the person and to the divine origin of holiness itself.
When the devil speaks or shows that he knows a language familiar only to the exorcist and not spoken by the possessed person, he bears witness to his identity, distinct from that of the possessed. When listening to a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary, he manifests all of his aversion towards her and, at the same time, his fear of Jesus’ Mother – giving also the reason why he fears her – he is forced to confirm that the Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God and Mother to every human being, the Immaculate who ascended to heaven body and soul, the Queen of the Universe who is next to her Son Jesus Christ, the mother who intercedes for the entire humanity. Certainly such behavior does not supersede or add anything new to the Sacred Scripture, but it reflects the truth.
These considerations along with many others leave space to the thought that in movies and fiction about exorcisms there is a common background which censures those aspects which confirm the substance of the truths of the Catholic faith, and proposes esoteric principles and Manichean Dualism instead. Not by chance, these two non-Christian elements are always contained and clearly shown, backing the stories about exorcisms represented in films. The presence of two principles is clear: light and darkness, good and evil. These principles are co-eternal, but independent and in contrast one with another, two divinities in a perpetual struggle, which affect human behavior and all the fields of our life (Manichaeism).
This is not what God reveals us in the Bible. Satan is not the god of evil, opposed to the God of goodness; he is a being created good by God, who together with some angels, whom God had created good as well, were transformed into evil creatures, because with their free and irrevocable choice, they have rejected God and his kingdom, giving origin to hell. They are trying to involve man in their rebellion against God; but God consolidates his safe victory over them. Satan and other spirits from hell in his service are not almighty beings therefore, they cannot work miracles, they are not ubiquitous, they may not read our thoughts and cannot know everything about a person, nor can they know the future. People who live in prayer, humility, penance and trustful abandonment in the arms of God, are stronger than the devil and all his diabolical hordes. This truth does not emerge from the films about the devil.
Whereas esoteric details which have absolutely nothing to do with Catholic faith emerge, such as the indication of secret doctrines whose teachings are reserved to the initiated, to whom the possibility of revealing “certain” occult truths is entrusted (or better, they are passed off as hidden from the Church) and of concealed meanings. Doctrines about exorcisms put forward by the world of cinema hide also a kind of neo-Gnosticism wherein, man, or better, his dominant essence, possesses a form of superior and enlightened knowledge, fruit of the quest for truth which passes through the overcoming of the natural world, perceived through senses, to reach another world, which the uninitiated, who are considered to be profane, cannot grasp.
In the light of this simple analysis it seems to us that we are trying to pass off as Catholic a message whose nature is Gnostic, which tends to produce in the spectators a Manichean knowledge which induces to distance themselves from the Church and lay the foundations for the construction of a class of “higher beings”, whose status (profoundly secular) will be the present and future energy of a world which is substantially different from what Jesus’ Christianity proposed and continues to propose us. Catholics are accustomed to disregard their own faith formation and are, unfortunately, neither prepared nor able to discern fiction, or better, falsehood, from reality. What initially could have been a good service to the Church and faith, becomes thus Satan’s customary and subtle attack on the foundation of the Catholic Church.
(source: Osservatore Romano)
Father Bamonte, President of the Italian exorcists