The question the film raise (whether it means to or not) is how will the Church see itself and its mission in the coming decades. Early on Amorth is admonished by an American cardinal who is intent on making the Church more ‘relevant’ to the modern sceptical generation. He sees little use for the office of exorcist, and seems to disregard the supernatural as fantasy. As Amorth investigates the possession he learns the dark truth of the Abbey and its role in the Spanish Inquisition. He is confronted with the pernicious persistence of sin – his sins, the sins of those around him, and the historic sins of the Church.
The film is very much speaking into the moment. What is the supernatural, and does the Church even believe in it? What is evil, and what does it mean for a man and for the Church to truly deal with sin? How can the Church speak into a world that does not believe, and yet is not equipped to confront the reality of evil?
As the film reaches its conclusion it becomes clear that the Enemy does not wish to simply possess a child, but wishes to possess the Church. Watching the film in view of the present struggles the faith faces – a struggle over the very definition of sin, evil, redemption, etc – one can read the demon as a stand-in for the Spirit of the Age. Whether it means to or not, The Pope’s Exorcist asks the viewer to genuinely tackle the question of who ought to direct the Church – contemporary mores or the eternal truth of Christ? The final scene gives a hopeful answer while also hinting at the possibility of sequels. It is camp, it is silly, but it affirms life, goodness, truth, and faith, and I wouldn’t say no to another outing for Crowe as Amorth.