Remember this story? It had a few people scratching their heads — including some at the Vatican.
The Los Angeles Times offers an update:
News broke last week that Discovery Channel plans to launch the 10-episode series sometime this spring through an unprecedented partnership with the church. An initial report, confirmed by Discovery executives, said the Vatican was cooperating with the production and allowing access into its investigations of demonic possession.
A Fox News story on Monday, quoting a Vatican communications source, now questions the church’s involvement. But producers of “The Exorcist Files” insist that church officials gave the go-ahead because, without it, the ordained priests who work as exorcists would not have been able to participate in the project, which has been two years in the making.
“The stories we’re telling come from the actual priests who have made this their life’s work,” said show creator and executive producer Gary Auerbach. “Each one had to get permission from his bishop to participate, so it was sanctioned at the local level.”
He also met personally with several cardinals and bishops at the Vatican, whom he briefed on the show, “as a courtesy,” but there was no formal deal, nor did he need to secure Vatican approval to go forward with the series, said Auerbach, whose GoGo Luckey Productions has churned out supernatural-themed shows before, along with the soapy “Laguna Beach.”
In other words, the Vatican-based officials that Auerbach met with didn’t disapprove, which could have derailed the program, but they didn’t actively partner on the series. The Vatican has its own branded and carefully controlled media outlets.
UPDATED: (Later Monday evening, Discovery officials released the following statement: “To ensure the accuracy and integrity of our content, we did meet in an unofficial capacity with individual members of the Vatican staff. We didn’t intend to imply that we had a ‘sanctioned’ partnership.”)
It sounds more forceful for a TV series to have backing from the Vatican, the Catholic Church’s powerful administrative body, but network and production executives said they didn’t purposely overstate that involvement. Auerbach wondered if it could be sensitivity to media coverage of a hot-button issue that prompted the church statements on Monday, though he said “The Exorcist Files” should come as no surprise to the church hierarchy.
Discovery issued this statement: “‘The Exorcist Files’ centers on the first person accounts of individual Catholic priests who have performed exorcisms and other religious experts. Many of these stories are being told for the first time.”