Author Interview with Matt Baglio

Author Interview with Matt Baglio
Lyn: It appears that there is a disconnect between factions in the Catholic church and church leadership over exorcism. You wrote, "In 2007, the Vatican's chief exorcist revealed an initiative to install an exorcist in every diocese worldwide. Three days later, the Vatican denied the story." Was an explanation given in the exorcism class for the Vatican's denial?

Matt: This is a quote from the movie trailer and not directly from my book. However in my book, I did interview Father Gabriel Amorth who is responsible for this quote. He is probably the most outspoken exorcist about the need for the Church to appoint more exorcists, and claims that he and his fellow exorcists are maligned and overworked. The course was an idea that came about when a few exorcists, theologians, and priests got together to formulate a unified approach toward exorcism that was in keeping with the teachings of the Church. There was no call from the Vatican to have such a course. It was more organic and something exorcists like Fr. Amorth supported because it helped to educate priests about the reality of exorcism and the devil as they saw it. There is a disconnect between “factions” in the Church who on the one hand see exorcism as a remnant of a medieval past and on the other a necessary ministry. You might even say there is a third group that believes in exorcism but would rather not have the rite publicized. I would tend to lump the hierarchy of the Church into this latter category. The Church obviously believes in exorcism because it has a specific Ritual, but it doesn’t see the need to publicize this ministry because it is so rare and in the Catholic tradition secondary to the sacraments.

Lyn: You've stated that you were more of a "cultural Catholic". Did your experience in the class and in observing exorcisms change your view of Christianity? Are you now a practicing Catholic?

Matt: I did reconnect to my faith, but I wouldn’t say that makes me orthodox. I definitely pray more, and writing the book taught me the importance of a person having prayer in their life. The book also helped me to understand the value of spirituality. I had to do a lot of research and read numerous books on theology and the process really helped me to see the spiritual side of the Catholic faith, something that I had lost touch with.

Lyn: What would you say to people who view Satan as an allegorical figure?

Matt: If you are a Catholic then the official teachings of the Church are pretty clear that Satan is a personified entity. However I understand how some people may believe that but push it to the side, since the Church has never really tried to emphasize the devil. In this way I feel it’s possible intellectually to ignore the devil but still follow the teachings of the Church and pray and partake in the sacraments so as to strengthen your relationship with God and protect yourself from the influence of evil (without focusing on what the nature of that evil may be). And I think this is the approach that many modern Catholics use, in part because pop culture and modern science has made the concept of a devil seem so ridiculous. But theologically the devil was important to Jesus’ ministry, and clearly He believed, so ultimately it’s a question that most Christians will have to confront at some point.

Lyn: How involved were you with the movie? Does the movie version of The Rite take cinematic privileges or do you feel the portrayal of possession and exorcisms is accurately represented?

Matt: The movie was written concurrently while I was working on the book, which was fine with me since I wanted to concentrate on the book and get that right. I did collaborate with the screenwriter by answering some of his questions and proving him with finished chapters, notes, interviews, and anything else that I thought might help him. (I even took him to see some real exorcisms in Rome.) The story is slightly different from my book, but I feel it really does capture the spirit of the book and address exorcism in a realistic manner.

I was on the set for most of the shoot as a technical consultant, and I was very impressed with the professionalism of everyone who worked on the film. The director and actors were really keen to portray exorcism as realistic as possible and I think they succeeded. There are a few scenes in the film that match up identically with what I saw in Rome. I also feel that the tone of the film is very serious and will pleasantly surprise people who go into this movie expecting a silly and superficial representation of the topic. It’s also an intelligent movie and I appreciated the filmmaker’s intent to challenge people about the nature of evil and faith without just going for cheap thrills, which really matches up with the tone of my book.

Lyn: Thank you, Matt. I truly enjoyed the book! I think I, like many others, had a distorted view of exorcisms. Your book helped to dispel many myths and was very informative.

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