In our second On the Square article today, Mark Armstrong gives a review of Hollywood’s most recent foray into Catholic culture, The Rite out in theaters today:
The producers of the film have billed it as, “Inspired by true events,” which will, no doubt, leave many moviegoers bedeviled as to what in the film is real and what is made-up. Originally the story of The Rite began as a book proposal by Matt Baglio, a reporter living in Rome who wanted, as a Catholic, to understand the motives behind the Vatican’s 2007 plan to reinstruct the clergy on the rite of exorcism with the goal of installing an exorcist in every diocese worldwide. During his research Baglio befriended and shadowed an American priest, Fr. Gary Thomas, who was sent by his bishop to take exorcism classes in Rome in 2005.
The film is purportedly based—loosely—on Fr. Gary’s experience in Rome and his training with Italian exorcist Fr. Carmine De Filippis, but the fictional character of Michael Kovak and the very real Fr. Gary seem little alike. While Kovak doubts, Fr. Gary faithfully reports that the Devil is in indeed real. And while the exorcist in the film are portrayed as “pushing the darkest edges of his spirituality in the service of God” to quote the press release, Fr. Gary describes an experience much more methodical and at times bureaucratic.