The 2016 International Exhibition of the Venice International Film Festival has sought to reward the documentary film “Free Me”, the filmmaker and anthropologist Federica Di Giacomo best film of her section Horizons; a prestigious award to be added to the Prize Solinas, assigned in 2014 for the best documentary. The official date of its release and distribution is set for September 29.
At the end of the film, “a special thanks goes out to all those who have made this film”: among the names mentioned there are some members of the Gris (Group of Research and Social-Religious Information) and speakers of the course on exorcism and the prayer of deliverance hold annually at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum (Apra), in Rome, where some scenes of the movie were filmed.
We certainly do not want to object anything to the professionalism with which was realized Free Me, for that matter, sometimes it takes on the features of a real movie rather than a documentary, investigation, or reportage.
Nothing to complain about not even to the respect and even the appreciation expressed by the director with regard to the ministry of exorcism, from the point of view of anthropology, it is a new kind of social assistance offered by the Church.
We want to emphasizes that the film describes a way of exercising the ministry of exorcism that is entirely subjective, a ritual, and away from the official teaching of the Church that the Course APRA and Gris tries to explain.
We begin with unacceptable details: some hasty and simplistic diagnoses and sometimes the interference of laic helpers, narcissism, and the irresponsible arrogance with which they turn openly to the devil, the latter attitude is explicitly forbidden by the ritual of exorcism, as stated at n. 35 of the General Introduction.
But beyond all the details and without debasing the real dedication and empathy of the exorcist protagonist of Free Me, there is the management of the entire sacrament that is unacceptable. In fact, not always exorcisms take place behind closed doors, when the new exorcism ritual recommended at point 19 of the General Introduction: “Avoid making it become a spectacle for the audience. During the exorcism, do not allow the media and, both before and after the celebration of the rite, both the exorcist and everyone else who were present have to avoid disseminating the news, keeping an appropriate reserve.”
We assist also at group Mass, propaedeutic to the true exorcisms, while “it is absolutely forbidden to insert such prayers of exorcism into the celebration of Holy Mass, the sacraments, or the Liturgy of the Hours” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Prayers for healing “of 14 September 2000, Article 8).
Besides distorting the structure and purpose of these liturgical actions, it is inevitable for such celebrations cause them what they do not hesitate to call – out of any metaphor -, a veritable pandemonium, i.e., a kind of synergy or contagion. Here, no one is able to distinguish between the spread of authentic occult action or malevolent and the trigger of a process of suggestion and collective psychosis, in which the environment still offers all the ingredients: the centrality of the “charismatic” priest, the presence of people already in a trance due to possession, the screams, sometimes spasmodic expectations of liberation and, why not, the simple curiosity or expectation of an extraordinary phenomenon.
The alleged effect or cathartic value that is more or less evoked in favor of these celebrations does not debase the wisdom, prudence, and balance of the Church’s rules, aimed to ward off the lurking danger of fanaticism, but also to protect dignity and privacy of the victims who, in the film, are freely and repeatedly shooting and one of which is a girl maybe just eighteen.
The devil, in short, continues to sow confusion, but directives to face him help to exorcise him and should be followed, to protect everyone…
François-Marie Dermine O.P., GRIS National President