Vatican Exorcists Denounce Russel Crowe’s New Horror Film ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’

Russel Crowe’s new horror film, “The Pope’s Exorcist,” is being criticized by the International Association of Exorcists for being “pretentious, unreliable, splatter cinema.” 

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Russel Crowe’s new horror film, “The Pope’s Exorcist,” is said to be “inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican,” according to the movie’s posters. Crowe is playing Amorth, who is told to investigate a young boy’s possession in the film. Throughout the plot, Crowe’s character “uncovers a centuries-old conspiracy that the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.”

According to a statement from the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), the group finds the title of the film alone to be “pretentious,” claiming the plot poses “unacceptable doubt to the public as to who the real enemy is, the devil or ecclesiastical power.”

Amorth helped found the IAE in 1994 within the Vatican. The statement from the official group discussed their opposition to the film and what it’s trying to convey.

“The end result is to instill the conviction that exorcism is an abnormal, monstrous, and frightening phenomenon, whose only protagonist is the devil, whose violent reactions can be faced with great difficulty. This is the exact opposite of what occurs in the context of exorcism celebrated in the Catholic church in obedience to the directives imparted by it.”

The statement made by IAE is based on the group’s viewing of the trailer for the film, explaining that they would be commenting further once they see the full length film. 

The film is currently on general release, becoming available worldwide last week, on Good Friday. Crowe himself has not made any official statement regarding the backlash to the film. A Vatican-based Catholic journalist, however, recently stated that his reluctance to comment made sense considering his 2014 drama, “Noah,” was also labeled as a “missed opportunity that ignores God,” by similar parties.

Dr. Joseph Laycock, an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University and the author of ‘The Penguin Book of Exorcisms,’ has also released a statement claiming that the IAE may be “trying to have it both ways.”

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“I think they are fully aware they’ve benefited immensely from films like The Exorcist and the general interest in exorcism that horror movies have created in the public. At the same time they’re saying: what we do is very serious, and this is just a movie. I see this a little bit as biting the hand that feeds them.”

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When it comes to the history of exorcism’s within the Catholic church, the religious institution initially published the ‘Rituale Romanum’ in 1614, which stated the rules of how exorcisms should be performed. The church itself was also interested in televising these rituals as recently as the 1990s, however, today the concept of an exorcism is viewed as a controversial issue. 

Dr. Laycock also suggested that Pope Francis’ role within the Catholic church has had to be a bit of a balancing act when it comes to the two perspectives on exorcism’s within the church; those who think the concept is “embarrassing” and those who subscribe to the ideals of demonology and exorcisms. 

The Catholic church in the US and Italy both, however, actively promote and subscribe to exorcism ideals in certain ways. The Colegio de Exorcistas Arquidiócesis Primada de México is an organization that provides training to priests who want to be ordained internationally as exorcists. Technically, every diocese is also supposed to have their own exorcist.