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.