Requiescat In Pace: William Peter Blatty

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William Peter Blatty died this week at age 89.  He had a long career as a screenwriter and an author.  Despite his multiple marriages, his latest in 1983 and which would last to his death, Blatty remained a Catholic and in the latter part of his life a fervent one.  Best known as the author of The Exorcist Blatty often complained that the work was misunderstood.  He viewed its themes as being that there is a God and that the universe has a happy ending.  Most recently, he spearheaded a drive to have the Vatican find that Georgetown University, his alma mater, was in violation of its papal charter.  The Vatican in 2014 stated that the petition sent in by Blatty was well founded and then promptly did nothing.



“There it lies, I think, Damien … possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very rarely in extraordinary interventions such as here … this girl … this poor child. No, I tend to see possession most often in the little things, Damien: in the senseless, petty spites and misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Between husbands and wives. Enough of these and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves … for ourselves.”

William Peter Blatty, Father Lankester Merrin in The Exorcist


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  1. “In the end Satan wins, two dead priests and the family rejects God”

    All isn’t always as it seems….Satan never wins.

  2. It showed the devil as ugly and evil; priests as having power through Christ; and was rebuke to the “oh so sophisticated” brand of post-conciliar Catholicism which was embarrassed by the devil (Fr. Damien and the piano-playing socialite Jesuit priest were dismissive of the idea of possession), it took an old-school Jebbie to come along and show the modern cynical priest the truth. I think it’s a great modern parable of faith vs. worldly unbelief.

  3. Neither read the movie nor saw the book. RIP. Ora pro nobis.

    I have read “Possessed,” a 1993 book by Thomas B. Allen which recounts the true story behind “The Exorcist.” I thought it was good.

  4. In the comic section of our Sunday paper, my favorite section, Opus once ordered two thousand nine hundred and sixty two Salad Shooters from Ronco. That’s the type of person who sits terrified thru demon-involved Glitterati assembly=line ( I can’t think of any more adjectives ) movies. Timothy R.

  5. As a definitely naive youth attending St Louis University in the last 1970’s, one of the Jesuits one day pointed out to me the now-venerable but still quite impressive-looking Fr. William S. Bowdern, SJ, (d. Apr 25, 1983) as “The Exorcist” (principal exorcist) of the now-perhaps near-legendary 1949 “St Louis Case”. What stayed with me about Fr. Bowdern —whether I had known or not that he was “The Exorcist” —was that he conveyed a rare sense of great spiritual gravity about him, even the impression in his appearance of being of greater-than-average-height (even though he probably was only about 5′ 11″ or so) and great bearing in his slender frame, also an ascetic and profound gravity about him on the occasions I saw him outside Jesuit Hall at SLU, or at St Francis Xavier “College Church” on the campus, the latter a neo-Irish Gothic structure on the campus, at the rectory of which the exorcisms were conducted during the several months of exorcizing “Roland Doe” (one of the AKA’s of the possessed boy that was brought to the St Louis University Jesuits for help).

    I have only been around a few extraordinary Catholic priests in my life that had a “presence” that got your attention: Fr. Bowdern was one that I will never forget.

  6. And I guess I have to say that I never bother to see the movie “The Exorcist” because I was pretty well-informed by some primary sources then among the St. Louis University Jesuits, who [then] were an impressive lot, about “the real exorcist” and the real case. One of the then-scholastics who were burly enough to hold down the boy (one on each limb) and were sometimes tossed flying by him, said that people don’t realize how exhausting exorcisms are—they go on for weeks, months, even into years—just about every evening (when things were quieter and the rectory door could be locked to keep matters away from ordinary typical daily parish business). It was physically and mentally exhausting, and just when things would calm down, the boredom would be ignited by a few minutes of extraordinary terror.

    However, the good side did win in the end, according to the real witnesses, unlike the contradictory outcome of the movie.

  7. As to “reader’s” comment above regarding the book by Thomas B. Allen (“Possessed”), I would not consider his “take” on the matter as credible: he has an [atheist] axe to grind, I believe, and doesn’t think there could be anything supernatural going on in the St Louis –or any–Case. Allen interviewed the few still-living individuals, including Fr. Walter Halloran (d. 2005), a burly ex-football player who helped to hold down the boy—but Fr. Halloran was diffident with Allen about concluding anything supernatural occurred. However,that was typical, in my view, for Fr. Halloran.

    [ Fr. Halloran reportedly said, “No, I can’t go on record, I never made an absolute statement about the things because I didn’t feel I was qualified.” That was perfect for Allen’s pre-established rationalist atheist narrative. Those who cant admit the possibility of God and a warfare with a personal evil will always be confirmed in their pre-conceived results. Congratulations.]

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