Podcast 50: HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL

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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

We’ve all seen movies like The Exorcist or the The Exorcism of Emily Rose, both about a young girl being possessed by the devil, and wondered if these incidents are really based on “true stories”, as they say.

Well, if you believe a former Jesuit priest, Malachi Martin, these things are not only true, they’re happening all the time.  And not only that, it’s much worse than you think.

Hostage to the Devil is a feature length documentary (now available on Netflix), that chronicles Fr. Martin’s life in America as an exile priest.  Born in Ireland, Martin grew up Catholic and was ordained a Jesuit priest, serving as a professor at the Vatican’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he took part in helping to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Disillusioned with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), he broke from the Jesuit order and moved to New York City. There, he embarked on a second career of sorts as a writer and exorcist extraordinaire.

Based on the eponymous book described as, “a chilling and true account of possession and exorcism in modern America”, the film tells the story of Martin’s life and mysterious death, purportedly by the hands of a demonic force.  Through interviews with friends and enemies, as well as archival footage of Martin himself, Hostage to the Devil presents a portrait of a complex man who, ironically, struggled with his own demons as he battled the dark forces afflicting others.

Produced by Causeway Pictures and Underground Films and directed by Martin Stalker, watch the trailer here:

WHAT DID WE THINK?

It’s sometimes difficult to believe that in this post-modern era exorcisms and exorcists still exist. For many in the secular world, this practice is an antiquated throwback to medieval times.  Yet, here we are in 2017 still debating the phenomenon.  In fact, if recent news reports are any indication, the demand for exorcisms seems to be on the rise.

What could possibly be the reasons for this?  Obviously, there is a relationship between the apparent rise in fundamentalist thinking and beliefs in old-fashioned superstitions.  Is this a reaction to all the uncertainty in the world?  After all, simplifying the world’s complexities down to a battle between good and evil does seem to provide a kind of comfort to many; a place of refuge for those who’ve lost trust in the secular institutions who no longer seem to have all the answers.

Is this a still, as yet, undiscovered manifestation of the human psyche?  A kind of rare and extreme form of mental illness or psychopathology that eludes even the best psychiatrists and neurologists?

Or…

Are there really demonic powers possessing innocent souls?  An actual external entity imbued with all the dark forces of hell.

In short, does the devil really exist?

Malachi Martin certainly seems to think so and, in fact, explains his reasoning very simply that, “if you do not believe in evil, how can you ever believe in, or know, what is good.”  In other words, you cannot have one without the other.

Was he a con man, charlatan, or sincere crusader?  The film doesn’t offer any definitive answers to this, but it does reveal a fascinating, albeit flawed, human being.  One revealing excerpt, to us, really sums up Malachi’s philosophy when he says that, “God loves purity, compassion, beauty, but above all that He loves repentance and loves to exercise mercy, thus evil exists so that people could repent and He could grant them mercy.  This is why he gave Satan power to tempt man.”

To our mind, this is a rather sadistic view of a supposed all-knowing, all-loving, supreme being.  And it encapsulates, for us, Malachi’s own raison d’ etre, and explains why he believed what he did.

However, regardless of whatever one believes about the man himself, it cannot be denied that his life story is immensely compelling.

We give the film a 4/5 rating.  Definitely check it out.