The Devil and his minions are back in the news, and they're ready to rumble:

• A 25th anniversary version of the film The Exorcist prompted some reporters to discover that Roman Catholic archdioceses in large cities (Boston, Chicago, New York) employ authorized exorcists.

• Pope John Paul II spent 30 minutes in conversation and prayer with a teenage girl who was "screaming insults in a cavernous voice" during a general audience at the Vatican. The pope's intervention seemed to have only a temporary effect on the teenager, but Catholic theologians stressed that exorcism is almost never easy or rapid.

• In an amazing interview with the Catholic weekly newspaper Our Sunday Visitor, novelist William Peter Blatty explained that he wrote The Exorcist as a demonstration of God's power to vanquish evil. "It was not my intention to frighten anyone, which you can take as a confession of titanic failure, I guess," Blatty told journalist Rod Dreher. "I set out to write a supernatural detective story. ... That footage, a full reel of film, disappeared, and with it the moral center of the film, and all the spirituality that was intended." (This year's Exorcist restores that footage.)

In a culture that often trivializes the occult into a pop-culture phenomenon (Ouija boards, The Blair Witch Project, Sabrina the Teenage Witch), The Exorcist presents the blasphemous and lurid face of evil. Many readers or moviegoers will feel just as scandalized, or terrified, as they were 25 years ago.

Exorcist-related news stories have furrowed the brows of those religionists embarrassed by the supernatural. Ex-priest Robert McClory, for example, told a fellow journalist at The Chicago Reader: "At one time the church was fraught with this kind of stuff—the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.