Raymond Schroth on 'The Rite'

The Number One movie in the country is about...Jesuits and exorcism.  Raymond Schroth, S.J., associate editor, takes a look at the hit film "The Rite," starring Anthony Hopkins as the jaded-and-soon-to-be-bedeviled exorcist.  

Perhaps the writers made Hopkins a Jesuit because Jesuits, with their 13-year training, have the reputation (deserved or not) for approaching complex issues more intellectually. But Lukas lives not with a Jesuit community but up a hill in a run-down, perpetually dark house, with a cluttered back yard, no shelves of books or apparent intellectual interests. In the film, Mike represents rationality with his questioning, while Lukas represents “faith”—to Mike, belief in what seems unbelievable.


Over time Mike witnesses a string of exorcisms, as if Lukas’ house is a doctor’s office with patients streaming in and out for a blessing or, if necessary, a wrestling, screaming and blessing session in order to “name” and expel the evil spirit.  Mike and Lukas pin down and bless one young “possessed” pregnant woman bouncing off the wall and writhing around the floor. Mike wonders whether this violence has injured her unborn child. The next day she attempts suicide and she and the child die in childbirth. It does not occur to Lukas that exorcism was not the proper response to her condition.

But then Lukas himself becomes possessed, and it is up to our young hero, accompanied by Angeline (Alice Braga) a pretty young female journalist who is writing about his adventures, to yank his mentor from the devil’s grip. In the film’s climax, Anthony Hopkins, tied to a chair, spews insults, reveals the inner thoughts of Mike and Angeline, and contorts his face into its most ugly expressions, while Mike, holding his exorcist’s handbook in one hand and the crucifix in the other, does battle. Meanwhile, the soundtrack crackles with grunts and screams.

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ

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7 years 10 months ago
I have a couple comments based on what Father Schroth wrote:

Does Fr. Schroth believe in Satan?  He makes the comment that the movie implies that one must believe in Satan to believe in God.  If one doesn't believe in Satan, then can one be a Catholic or a Christian?

The other thing that hit me was the statement that Jesuits are more extensively trained and as a result can supposedly approach complex issues more intellectually.  Do we have evidence of this on this site and on this issue or other issues.  I do not see any insight into exorcism, Satan, or the Church's position on it expressed here or on past threads on exorcism.  There have been at least two others.

Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Norman, that's very interesting.  Would you happen to know what factors were considered in order for the study commissioned by Pope John XXIII to have concluded that Satan is a real being. 

I have not heard of Malleus Maleficarum, but I do follow your reasoning as to it's necessarily concluding that Satan is a real being.  It seems to me that those who thought killing witches was a good way of limiting the influence of Satan were pleasing Satan no end by their actions, given that we know from the Bible that it's love, not fear or hate, that defeats Satan.  Killing witches is a little like trying to kill all the germs so that we don't get sick when our health is really more dependent upon our immune system than the absence of germs. 

Probably the sentiment to which I was referring was not handed down from Malleus Maleficarum but more likely something related to exorcism movie and literature advertising.
7 years 10 months ago
''No. It is the 'absurdity' part that got my vote.''

It's nice to know that you think Christianity is absurd and has been for 2000 years.
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago

It's difficult to digest several thousand years of  thinking on the nature of good and evil in order to affirm or refute various understandings of Satan and God that are presently held by people of various faiths.  Probably, there is plenty of room for a literal understanding of Satan as a being speaking through a snake as well as an understanding of Satan as an allegory for natural human actions and thoughts that have a negative effect on others.  I don't see that the two are mutually exclusive for the person coming from the understanding of Satan as an actual entity, though I do see that holding to the allegorical perspective might mean wanting to refute the idea of Satan as a being.

My perspective is that there is no proving absolutely that one perspective is correct and the other is wrong.  However, my experience is such that I tend to believe that Satan is not a physical entity, but an actual separate force from God of which God makes good use, but that not enough people guard against by reconsidering their thoughts and actions.  I think many people blame other people for their unhappiness, for example, when they may be experiencing the influence of Satan on their minds.
Marie Rehbein
7 years 10 months ago
Raymond Schroth, S.J, in his review, says that the message of the film is that one must believe in Satan in order to believe in God.  I have not seen the movie, and likely will not.  However, I have heard the sentiment that if one believes in the reality of Satan, then one must believe in the reality of God, the idea being that Satan is so evil and strong that only something perfect and stronger would make it possible for our world to exist.
Brian Gallagher
7 years 10 months ago
I'll be happy the day Hollywood retires the exorcism genre.  The "faith versus reason" subplot is just middlebrow cover for what is clearly marketed as another exorcist horror flick. The prevalence of these films is probably what made a celebrity out of Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, abuser-exorcist.

Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent, <s>the devil</s> the abusive Catholic clergy, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
7 years 10 months ago
The presence of Satan is a revealed dogma, not one that someone can come to by reason.  Though as seen in Manichaeism and in Greek and Roman religions and in other religions there was frequently more than one god or powerful being at odds with each other to explain the world.

But for Catholicism and Christianity, Satan is a necessity.  No Satan, no Fall, no need for redemption, no need for the Son of God to become human, no need for a Crucifixion and Resurrection, no need to promulgate this nonsense.  So there is 2000 years of absurdity if there is no real Satan.
7 years 10 months ago
''My sentiments, exactly.''

I am glad you agree that Satan is real and a force in this world. 


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