October 14, 2018

The Reputation of the Catholic Church

The Conjuring 2 logo
The Church's ability to help people depends on its reputation.
- Line of dialogue from The Conjuring 2

I really liked The Conjuring. I liked it so much so that I added it to my pathetically small Blu-ray horror collection several years ago. Not surprisingly, I was eager to see The Conjuring 2 when it came out. I thought it was good, but I couldn't help being somewhat disappointed as a result of the high expectations I had based on the first one. As much as I liked it, I did not think it was quite as good as the first. I watched The Conjuring 2 again recently and found myself enjoying it more than I had the first time. Once again, this seems to be a case of my unrealistically high expectations getting in the way.

Both of these films involve demonic possession, and it should come as no surprise that both sprinkle in the religious imagery. The Conjuring 2 goes so far as to include a demonic nun (who audiences liked enough that she received her own spin-off film) and some crosses that flip upside-down. Still, the more formal associations with religion are a bit looser than what we find in many films with similar themes (e.g., The Exorcist, The Rite, The Vatican Tapes). The Catholic Church is involved, as we learn that they were the ones who sent the protagonists to the U.K. for some paranormal investigation. A Catholic priest appears briefly. Still, I think it would be fair to characterize the Church's involvement in the second film as mostly taking place behind the scenes.

I don't recall noticing the line of dialogue quoted above the first time I watched The Conjuring 2, but I certainly noticed it this time. The reputation of the Catholic Church has been taking a well-deserved beating. This probably will limit their ability to help people. Not only have their frequent clergy abuse scandals and subsequent cover-ups made them look bad to most non-Catholics, but they have prompted some Catholics to leave the Church. I see little reason to think that things are not going to get even worse before they improve, and so I'd imagine that the reputation of the Church may continue to slide for some time. Not only might this limit their ability to help, but it might also limit their influence. I don't know about you, but I think I'd welcome some reductions on their influence.

As I watched The Conjuring 2 this time, I appreciated the creepy atmosphere, enjoyed the transition to the U.K., and appreciated some effectively scary scenes. As for the demonic nun, she didn't do much for me. I could not stop thinking that being possessed by demons - even very cool-looking ones - might be preferable to the real-life horror of being raped by a priest and having nobody believe you. And then an even more disturbing thought entered my mind and stubbornly refused to leave. How likely is it that early Catholics used "demons" as a way of blaming the victims of clergy abuse for their victimization? I have to imagine that countless children were accused of being possessed in order to discredit or silence them.

For more, see How to Leave the Catholic Church.