The movie of The Rite: better and worse than expected.

Okay, so the trailer I saw was not what happens in the movie. Anthony Hopkins is playing a diocesan exorcist and a priest. At least at first. (Whether or not he gets possessed later in the movie, which I assume he does.) Steven Greydanus says there’s a generally positive portrayal of Catholicism, particularly once they get to Rome, and a non-magical view of exorcism. There’s also a main female character who doesn’t make it her business to stalk and capture the seminarian or the priest. So some major positives. This is something you don’t have to cringe about, when your non-Catholic friends tell you they’ve been to see it.

All the same, if you’re a nitpicky person like me, go to a theater with a liquor license. You’re gonna need it.

1. It’s really hard to get accepted into a bishop’s seminary program, and sometimes you even have to apply to go to school at a seminary outside your diocese, increasing the difficulty level. But in the world of the movie of The Rite, it’s so easy that your father can use seminary as the easy part of an ultimatum. Seminary or mortuary business. Yeah. Even though the mortuary business is also a competitive job requiring extensive schooling and licensing. Even though the US is very big, and there’s no real reason for an adult to stick around accepting such ultimatums.

2. Seminaries particularly try not to accept people pushed into religious life by their parents. An unwilling priest is the opposite of a good offering to the Lord. But nobody notices the ultimatum thing.

3. This movie depicts the BIG HUGE SIN of attempting to administer a Sacrament without the power to do so. The seminarian guy is confronted by somebody dying who mistakes him for a priest. Instead of just urging contrition and praying, the guy pretends he’s a priest and has the power to hear Confession and give Anointing of the Sick and last rites. This combines a sin, an abuse, and an offense against canon law (Canon 1378, Section 2), as well as against the right of every Catholic to receive honest treatment. He would automatically be interdicted (similar to excommunication). If he’d become a deacon, he’d be suspended automatically from his clerical deacon faculties. The bishop of his diocese would have to write up the initial report to the CDF. So grave an offense could only be judged by the CDF, and so great a sin only absolved with permission of the Pope. Serious serious stuff.

4. A seminary only sends good students to Rome, not slaves of their parents who refuse to deal honestly with the dying. They might help send the guy to Rome to be judged by the CDF, but he sure wouldn’t be getting near any kind of ordination. So the idea that a seminary head would send this guy to Rome for further training, on pain of having his student loans come down on his head, is silly.

5. You can’t even get into a seminary with student loans outstanding. That’s why we have funds for that.

6. They don’t let seminarians take exorcist training. A mature priest with plenty of experience dealing with people and a lot of solidity, who’s also someone living a blameless life with lots of personal prayer — that’s who they choose for exorcists. It talks about it in the book, remember? The book this movie is supposed to be based on?

7. Diocesan exorcists don’t have sidekicks. If they did, they wouldn’t be confused seminarians under canon law indictment and automatic interdict.

8. As you’d imagine, exorcists are always running into people with psychological problems and having to shunt them to shrinks and doctors. Weeding out such folks is part of their job, and pretty much everybody they see gets a psychological evaluation first. People with legitimate possession problems often have psychological problems too. This is one of the big points of the book, but is only used as a Scully comment in the movie.

I suppose that if you lurk outside the theater, and wait until the movie gets to Rome, you’ll spare yourself at least half of the stupidity. The movie house’s liquor license may help you bear up under the rest. OTOH, if you can ignore Hollywood and only see the good parts, this looks like a good movie.

UPDATE: Check the comment box for important ameliorating info! And hello to everyone coming over from The Anchoress. I’m afraid you get to see me as my most protective and my most pigheaded….

But it’s essential to pre-judge movies based on their marketing. I’m not made of money or time, and it’s the movie marketers’ job to convince me to give them some of both. When I do give people access to my mind, I’m not the sort of person who can turn off what I’ve seen when the screen goes dark. There’s no point going to see a movie if it’s going to raise my blood pressure for the rest of my life, as well as costing me eight bucks.

I did try to go see the movie yesterday, but it was a case of “the best laid plans of mice and men/Gang aft agley”. I’ll see it soon, though. And I did finally get to see True Grit.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “The movie of The Rite: better and worse than expected.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The movie of The Rite: better and worse than expected. « Aliens in This World -- Topsy.com

  2. TexCath

    Why do almost all of your posts read like backhanded complements (including Fr. Z’s blog)? Do you enjoy being happy only when you’re not happy?

  3. anonymous1

    A couple of thoughts…
    1.) I would suggest seeing a movie before it is reviewed, since most, espeically ones involving the church, have several levels of understanding and anyone viewer can miss part of the picture, and that naturally gets blown out of proportion through passing along.
    2.) Your understanding of entering seminary is a little off, In reality, in terms of difficulty to enter, it is somewhere between what you believe is the case, and what the movie seems to portray (according to the summary). It is very very exhaustive into looking at the man desiring to enter, but difficult is not accurate. Your are right, they will make sure the person has a desire to enter, even if they are unsure of a vocation to priesthood at the time of entry. Also, loans do not have to be paid off, all student loans are able to be placed into deferment while back in school. Some dioecese may require a total payoff but most do not. The case is different in a religous order. Rome is not just reserved for the best and brightest. Now there are plenty of bright men there, but it does not necessarily follow that all those in Rome are superior and those else where inferior.
    3.) Most exorcists are trained via apprenticship type of scenerios, so that may be seen as a ‘sidekick.’ Although it would not be a seminary in this situation, you are correct on that.
    I am not trying to say that some of your concerns are incorrect, I can not say since I have not seen the movie, but I would recommend not exagerating or fabricating truths in order to “overpush” your view or understanding. Just state the facts and let the truth speak for itself.
    Thank you for you time though in posting this.

  4. Pingback: “The Rite” Roundup – UPDATED | The Anchoress

  5. Emery Gerhardt

    Seeing the movie before reviewing it is a good idea. Better than that; read the book, then see the movie, and then comment. I found the bok to be quite respectful of the Church.

  6. Milites Domini

    In regard to point no. 6. : “They don’t let seminarians take exorcist training.” Unfortunately diocesan seminaries do not (most unfortunate, however, we are seeing signs that many current diocesan seminaries will return to the glorious traditional seminaries they once were), but traditional seminaries do. There are two excellent ones in the U.S. In these Traditional Seminaries, the progression and advancement toward priesthood includes Minor, as well as Major Orders: Porter, Lector, Acolyte, Exorcist, Subdiaconate, Diaconate and ultimately Priesthood.

  7. Stephen Mc Elligott

    well it sounds like a good movie regardless of the good points you made/make. Movies though are often never as good as the book. However, if there is any good to be brought out of this film. It will bring lapsed catholics back to the practice of the faith. And inspire many non-catholics to convert to the true Church established by Christ himself.

    It can be said without doubt that the movie is inspired by God to reach us, but this is the battle ground and the enemy always manages somehow to make his stamp on the project. However the good points outweigh the bad so that is good.

    http://www.loyaltothemagisterium.wordpress.com

  8. Suzanna

    First, Hopkins plays a Jesuit priest. He is neither a diocesan priest nor is he a diocesan exorcist. He is a Jesuit who is also an exorcist.

    Secondly, Novak is wearing a collar when he bends over a dying woman, who is laying in a street that runs past a seminary. I think her mistaken him for a priest is quite understandable. And if a dying woman is begging you, a transitional deacon, for a blessing before she dies, and the nearest priest is laying in a gutter unable to walk, what are you going to do?

    Thirdly, in the book, Fr. Thomas (upon whom Novak is loosely based) is sent to apprentice with an exorcist. This is a common arrangement and the best way to learn.

    Fourthly, from what I can infer from the book, it’s probably a good guess that how exorcism is handled here in America and how it is handled in Italy are completely different.

    Fifthly, the father never gave Novak an ultimatum. We never see that happen in the movie and we are never told it.

    Sixthly, I really think you need to read the book and then go see the movie. Preferably without involving alcohol.

  9. Rose

    Milites Domini,

    The minor order of exorcist only referred to the minor exorcism at baptism. It was not referring to the exorcism of demons.

  10. I’m not really sure why people are being so snitty about raising issues before actually seeing the movie. The post isn’t a review of the movie, and doesn’t claim to be; it’s a collection of gathered information about it — in a snarky way, admittedly, but that’s allowed! It’s sheer nonsense to suggest that prior to seeing a movie one shouldn’t make an assessment of it or talk about that assessment; otherwise we would never decide what movies to watch and not to watch, and never be able to compare assessments.

  11. From the reviews I have read – Steven Greydanus, Sr. Helena Burns – the good overweighs the stupid and that overall it is a good movie and respectful of faith. But the doubting priest/seminarian seems to be the latest trope.

    The book itself was excellent, though it appears the only thing the movie shares with the book is the title.

  12. Joe Seminarian

    I just saw the rite and as a seminarian myself I thought it to be an accurate and respectful depiction of the Church and exorcism, if not a somewhat dull cinematic experience. Just to reiterate what others have pointed out:

    -at the beginning, the main character, who is a Deacon, does not perform last rites but simply gives the dying person a blessing, which a Deacon can do.

    -There is not ultimatum given to the main character by his father which forces him to enter seminary.

    -It is most certainly the case that you can have student loans
    and be accepted into seminary, I am a living, breathing example of this. After I am ordained, the diocese and I will mutually begin to pay off my outstanding loans.

    Even if your not intending to write a review of the film you really should still see it so as not to pass off factual errors concerning the movie as if they were truth, which you in fact do.
    Instead of viewing everything in the culture through the lens of cynicism, why not true to find what is good and true in the world and use it to bring more people to the Church. The tradition has consistently done this, as far back as the Fathers of the Church. If you don’t believe me, read St. Augustine in De Trinitate when he speaks of using the gold of the Egyptians (a metaphor for using what is good and true in pagan thought for the betterment of the Church).

    I don’t mean to be snarky myself but just wanted to add my thoughts and put a more positive spin on this post.
    God Bless!

  13. Thanks to the commentators for letting me know that the original blogger had evidently not yet seen the film. discard blog until after seeing its subject.

  14. joy

    What a kerfufffle! I don’t know whether to comiserate with you my dear or congratulate you for stiring things up. Anyway, Ebert did give the film a good review, but I will probably give it a miss because I am easily freaked out and don’t need nightmares about demons. I have enough trouble with my own personal demons Cletus and Wormwood who are constantly tempting me to hang out on line instead of grading papers. Oops! Avaunt!! Ps: excuse the spelling.

  15. Joe Seminarian,

    I don’t think there’ s any way the original post could actually be read as “passing off factual errors concerning the movie as if they were truth”; there are several statements that strongly imply that the post is not a review of the movie but is instead gathering what information can be had about it from other sources. At least, on my very first reading I recognized that this was what the post was by the fourth sentence, and I zip through reading posts — so it can’t be that difficult to see what’s going on.

  16. Pingback: Links roundup, 1.28 | Saint Socrates Society

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