When a friend asked me to see The Conjuring with her, I feared the worst, because as much as I love scary movies, I am also a very critical viewer – it’s hard to find a decent scary movie these days! So I didn’t expect much and maybe that’s why I ended up pleasantly surprised. There was, however, one aspect of the movie that pissed me off and I couldn’t shake the feeling of discomfort no matter how many times I told to myself that it was just a movie.
You see, I’m not at all comfortable with the whole Catholic Church versus witchcraft scenario and there are two reasons why:
The first reason is that everyone probably has a different image popping in their mind upon hearing the word “witch.” Someone will picture Harry Potter, another person might fondly remember Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, yet another will visualize the crazy cat lady who used to live in his neighborhood when he was five. And that’s all good, except that most of us don’t realize one thing: There are people between us, for whom the word “witchcraft” means their spiritual path – and they are very serious about it.
Unfortunately, the word has such a stigma to it that even these days, when we should know better, there is a significant number of folks in our country who are hiding their spirituality in the closet because they don’t dare to admit in public that they are practicing Witches, Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, Druids, and gods know what else is out there, because they fear judgment and persecution. Erin Dragonsong, who has been practicing the Craft for more than 20 years, and as such probably knows what she is talking about, warns on her website that outing a person who is not ready to be “out of the broom closet” is just about the worst thing that a novice Witch can do to a colleague. Apparently there are still many places in America where people can (and will) make your life living hell when they discover that your spiritual practices differ from the mainstream. And that’s seriously NOT okay in my books!
Unfortunately popular culture, including movies like The Conjuring, perpetuates this stigma, if unintentionally. But every time when a family finds out in a movie that a witch used to live in their house and that she was a Devil-worshipper (in this particular case willing to sacrifice her own baby to the Him), I feel like screaming at the movie screen with my mouth full of popcorn: “How can you just accept it without questioning, you idiots?! Witches don’t worship the Devil and never have – if anything else than because they don’t believe he exists in the first place!!!”
I know, I know, a pet peeve! But it’s surprising to me how many people nowadays are still buying into the myth that witchcraft equals Satanism. I found out several years ago at my community college, where I defended Wicca in one of my three mandatory speeches for the general ed requirement, that out of twenty people in the class not a single one had a clue that Wicca has been officially recognized as a religion in the United States since 1985. And that no, Wiccans/Witches (be careful here; some folks use these two terms interchangeably, but some don’t) did not worship the Devil, did not engage in wild sexual orgies in the forest, and did not make little dolls to stick pins into – sorry to disappoint you, fellas!
Frustrating… But how can I blame people when every movie they see tells the same story!? And that brings us to the second reason why movies like The Conjuring consistently raise my blood pressure: The Catholic Church and its members are continuously portraited like the ultimate good guys. Apparently, even people who are not Catholic and don't go to church tend to call for the priest every time when spooky stuff starts happening in their house.
I’m not trying to pick on Catholics here - at least not any more than I do on other Christian churches. I have met too many of them in my life who were good people (come on, you know who you are!). But even the most devoted Catholic, unless he downright refuses to face historical facts, would have to admit that the Church doesn’t exactly have the most pleasant history when it comes to dealing with people of different beliefs. I personally find fascinating that an institution that gave us the Inquisition has the nerve to still act like God-appointed warriors against evil. Check out Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the Chief Exorcist of Rome, who supposedly performed “hundreds of exorcisms” over many years. I don’t plan a trip to Italy any time soon, but if I ever had the opportunity to bump into Fr. Amorth, I would probably ask him whether he would consider spending less time and energy hunting demons, and put some thought into hunting down children-molesting priests instead.
I’m sorry if I sound too snarky, but I saw way too many drawings and engravings from old chronicles depicting a bunch of dudes in cassocks standing around a naked woman in chains, trying to establish whether she is or is not a witch, usually with the help of sharp-looking objects. The Catholic Church has committed so many despicable acts of evil over the centuries that every time I hear someone in a movie to decide “let’s call the priest to cleanse the house!”, I start smelling burned human flesh and hearing the screams of tortured women, and I have to fight an urge to yell out loud: “Oh, you gotta be kidding me!”
All things considered, if I had to choose between hearing ghostly footsteps in my house and calling for help a representative of the Catholic Church, even (or especially) if it were Fr. Amorth himself, I would take footsteps any time. And it’s up to you, my dear readers, whether you will consider me overly sensitive, or just, you know, aware ;)