The Exorcist


Screenwriter William Peter Blatty was still a Catholic when he was inspired to dramatize the real-life story of the exorcism of Douglas Deen. The depiction of priests as spiritual warriors in a battle with all-too-real demons led one critic to call it “the biggest recruiting poster the Catholic Church has had since the sunnier days of Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s.” The sensationalistic and graphic presentation of demonic possession, however raised objections from many Catholics. The split was evident in the reaction of two Jesuit priests. Fr. Thomas Bermingham, the a vice provincial for New York Society of Jesus, had encouraged Blatty and Bermingham played the part of the president of Georgetown University in the movie. But Fr. Patrick Sullivan of the U.S. bishops’ film office disapproved of the movie and, over the imploring of Bermingham, refused to permit its church scenes to be shot in a Catholic Church.

Source: Les and Barbara Keyser, Hollywood and the Catholic Church: The Image of Roman Catholicism in American Movies (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1984).