By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Movies depicting exorcisms could be an important medium forshowing how God always triumphs over evil, but instead, they misrepresent the faithand exaggerate human and satanic powers over God, a leading exorcist wrote inthe Vatican newspaper.
Televisio nand cinema have accustomed people to recognizing "the presence andextraordinary acts of demons in people’s lives and the battle that the churchfaces against them," wrote Father Francesco Bamonte, president of theInternational Association of Exorcists, headquartered in Rome.
Portraying exorcisms in the world of fiction "could promote greater awareness"about the Catholic faith, however, "the way in which evil, demonicpossession, the prayer of exorcism and liberation are presented is disappointingand unacceptable," he wrote in L’Osservatore Romano Jan. 8.
While priests are entrusted by the church to help protect or liberate people from thepower of the devil, most movies hide or ignore "the marvelous, stupendouspresence and work of God" and the role of Mary in the battle against evil,wrote the priest, who is a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart ofMary.
A sexorcists witness through their own experience, the reality is that "thedemon, even if he doesn’t want to, is forced against his will to affirm thetruth of our Catholic faith," he said. For example, he said, when holywater or a holy relic is used in an exorcism, demons react — often violently– as they are forced to submit to the power of God every single time.
"When listening to a prayer to the Virgin, (the demon) shows all of his hatred andfear toward her, he is forced to confirm that Mary is the mother of God andthat she intercedes for humanity," Father Bamonte wrote.
While there are many inaccuracies about the faith in films, their most serious erroris presenting life as a battle between two equal principles or divinities:light and darkness, good and evil, the priest said.
"Satan is not the god of evil against the God of the good, rather he is a being who Godcreated as good and who, with some angels — also created good by God — becameevil because they refused God and his kingdom with their free and finalchoice."
"Satan and the spirits at his service, therefore, are not omnipotent beings, theycannot perform miracles, they are not omnipresent, they cannot know ourthoughts or know the future."
Nor is it true, as some movies make it seem, that salvation comes from people whohave access to secret or superior knowledge, he said. Such portrayals not onlyhelp drive people away from the church, they set the foundation for "aclass of superior beings."
People"who live with trusting abandon in God’s arms are stronger than the deviland all of his minions — these truths do not emerge in the movies," hesaid.
"What could have provided a good service to the church and the faith becomes theusual and subtle attack of Satan against the foundations of the CatholicChurch," the priest concluded.
Father Bamonte’s article appeared in the Vatican newspaper together with a filmcritic’s look at how the exorcism genre was the most "prolific" inthe evolution of "B movie" horror flicks.
William Friedkin’s 1973 movie "The Exorcist" is still today "one of themost terrifying horror films ever created," according to Emilio Ranzato,author and frequent movie critic for L’Osservatore Romano.
Linda Blair, the young actress who plays the 12-year-old possessed girl in the film,"ends up being a kind of Shirley Temple debased by the era of Vietnam andWatergate," he wrote.
While"no film in recent years has come close to reaching the same level"achieved by Friedkin’s masterpiece, "fine commercial productions"include "The Last Exorcism" by Daniel Stamm in 2010; "TheConjuring" by James Wan in 2013 and "Deliver Us From Evil" byScott Derrickson in 2014, Ranzato wrote.
"In order to find good films on the subject of demonic possession," he wrote,it’s better to skip more commercial productions and instead look at"art-house" films which are more at liberty to go beyond simplisticstorylines and "the generic battle of good against evil."
The film critic’s thumbs-up list includes: Brunello Rondi’s "The Demon"(1963); Lucio Fulci’s "Don’t Torture a Duckling" (1972); WarisHussein’s "The Possession of Joel Delaney" (1972); "Requiem"directed by Hans-Christian Schmid (2006); Derrickson’s "The Exorcism ofEmily Rose" (2005); and Andrzej Zulawski’s "Possession" (1981),which is "a surrealist masterpiece, replete with cryptic but excitingdetails, laden with meaning."