Skip to comments.Gibson's Passion forced to find sanctuary
Posted on 02/28/2004 6:34:54 PM PST by ultima ratio
Gibson's Passion forced to find sanctuary
"ECCE homo." The words of Pontius Pilate - "Behold the man" - with which he exhibited Jesus, scourged and crowned with thorns, to the hostile crowd have inspired many devout works of art down the centuries. Yet only now has the cinema, the popular art form of our time, the challenge of portraying what Christians acknowledge to be the defining moment of human history, with the release of Mel Gibsons film The Passion of the Christ.
Since it is not due for release in this country until March 26, it would not be possible to offer a conventional critique of this production - the actors performances, quality of direction, photography and all the other elements by which a film is normally assessed. The need to suspend judgment on such technicalities, however, should not inhibit believers from taking a stand on the issues with which the enemies of the faith are assailing Gibson and - by extension - the entire Christian canon.
The first point of controversy that must be addressed is the distraction - for that is what it is - of the claim that the film is anti-Semitic. There could be no better way of dismissing this canard than by invoking responsible Jewish opinion, as voiced by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, an American organisation that exists to build bridges between Jewish and Christian communities. Rabbi Lapin has excoriated the activists persecuting Gibson with a robustness that few Gentiles would have dared to exhibit.
Two weeks ago, Lapin predicted that the film "will become famous as the most serious and substantive Biblical movie ever made" and that "the faith of millions of Christians will become more fervent as Passion uplifts and inspires them". Pity no Catholic bishop has gone on record in equally enthusiastic vein. Lapin went on to denounce "Jewish organisations insisting that belief in the New Testament is de facto evidence of anti-Semitism". With heroic objectivity, he also condemned the offence given to Christians because "Jewish groups are presuming to teach them what Christian scripture really means".
The rabbis remarks follow upon an even more devastating broadside he delivered five months ago, on the same theme, when he insisted that protests against Gibsons film "lack moral legitimacy". He cited the exhibition of blasphemous art shown in 1999 at the Brooklyn Museum, when Arnold Lehman was director, including a Madonna smeared with elephant dung. He also pointed out, with a directness that no Christian could contemplate, that Martin Scorseses blasphemous film The Last Temptation of Christ was distributed by Universal Pictures, run by Lew Wasserman, and posed the question "why Mel Gibson is not entitled to the same artistic freedom we accorded Lew Wasserman?"
Rabbi Lapins moral integrity and plain speaking have done more for Christian-Jewish relations than a thousand futile ecumenical symposia and weasel-worded scriptural trade-offs brokered by pressure groups and Vatican appeaseniks. It seems reasonable to hope that he speaks for a majority of his co-religionists, rather than the strident protesters. That said, the most vitriolic enemies of the film and its message are not Jews: they are drawn from the forces of militant secularism and the Fifth Column within the Catholic Church.
For, make no mistake, this is an intensely Catholic film. Mel Gibson is a traditional Catholic who rejects the humbug and chaos of the Second Vatican Catastrophe - as do an increasing number of the disillusioned survivors stumbling around in the ruins of the once-mighty Roman Catholic Church. The faithful translation on to film of the scriptural narrative of Christs passion and resurrection would, 50 years ago, have presented Catholics with an image that was totally familiar. Bishop Joseph Devine, bishop of Motherwell, is one of the few in Britain to have seen the film and has described it as "stunningly successful... a profoundly religious film."
Yet, today, the Easter People, the dancers in sanctuaries, those who claim They Are Church and all the assorted Lollards and Fifth Monarchy Men who have converted Catholicism into a crankfest regard the Passion with as much alienation as any atheist.
Religion should be nice. It should have no doctrines, since that would create division. There are no moral absolutes, no objective truths. In an ideal world, you should not be able to put a cigarette-paper between a Catholic and a Buddhist. Since we are all going to Heaven, regardless of our conduct on earth, what is the point of all this violence on Calvary? Of course, we need some ritual and collective spirituality: so, lets go and hang some cuddly toys on the railings of Kensington Palace. What we need is a one-size-fits-all, syncretic religion, centred on the United Nations; an ethical code that does not restrict us from the perpetual gratification of all appetites.
You will find little dissent from those propositions among the smirking, blue-rinse nuns of the post-Conciliar Church, or their ecumaniac male counterparts. To them, the crack of the centurions whip and the thud of the hammer on nails are distant, alien sounds - a disturbing echo of Holy Week long ago, of Gregorian plainsong, of ferias in Seville. In a word - ecumenically unhelpful; best washed away by a few more cups of tea at Scottish Churches House.
The militantly secular world is also keenly alert to the challenge of the Passion. In responding to Gibsons initiative, no double-standard is too blatant, no inversion of truth too shameless. Critics are queuing up to denounce "pornographic violence" (the now favourite weasel phrase) in the literal portrayal of the crucifixion.
These are the self-same people who acclaimed every sadistic and pornographic obscenity with which Hollywood has poisoned the world over the past three decades, who vigorously denounced "censorship" and promoted the "pushing of boundaries". Now, suddenly, they are alarmed about pornographic violence.
Yet, amid all the sound and fury, the most contemptible phenomenon is the trahison des clercs. The Catholic Church will not embrace this film, despite the Popes verdict on it ("It is as it was!"), because it expresses a faith it now finds embarrassing. The Passion was made with as much religious dedication as the crafting of an Orthodox icon. The Tridentine Mass was celebrated on the set every morning and there was at least one conversion to Catholicism during the making of the film. Small wonder that modernist Roman theologians are galled by the fact that Tradition has produced the most triumphant artistic articulation of faith and that evangelical Protestants are flocking to experience it.
The Mass, as the bloodless continuation of the sacrifice of Calvary, was the perfect complement to this artistic tribute to God. At the elevation of the host, the Catholic believer knows - although he can scarcely comprehend the fact - that he is as close to Christ as were Our Lady and St John at the foot of the cross. That is the cosmic drama of redemption that is re-enacted on the altar: "Behold the man".
Of necessity I will continue to oppose your ideas when you must argue against the Holy Father John Paul II, but never again will I ever doubt that you are a Christian soul of good intention. It is a great grief to me that I have impugned and maligned you before, and I do beg your forgvieness.
I believe that all people should see this film. And as your bishop, I would urge all Catholics of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to see this film. But do not expect to view it objectively or without being changed. It will not leave you the same person you were before - you will never again not be able to picture the scope of our Lord's suffering, and the terrible price He paid in order to save us. And consequently, you will never again be able to think of yourself as being innocent, or only relatively involved in the events of His Passion. That is a result of the true artistry that Mel Gibson has brought to the production, along with the work of an amazing cast, and cinematography that elevates this film to a place among the greatest ever made. But most importantly, it is a result of Mel Gibson's faithful adherence to the words and the spirit of the Gospel.
This writer makes such a number of good points and has such a way with words, but here are a few highlights:
Rabbi Lapins moral integrity and plain speaking have done more for Christian-Jewish relations than a thousand futile ecumenical symposia and weasel-worded scriptural trade-offs brokered by pressure groups and Vatican appeaseniks.Yes! one Rabbi Lapin makes up for a number of Eisners and Katzenbergs and Harvey Weinsteins, and for a number of Cardinal Kaspers and Keelers as well.
For, make no mistake, this is an intensely Catholic film. Mel Gibson is a traditional Catholic who rejects the humbug and chaos of the Second Vatican Catastrophe - as do an increasing number of the disillusioned survivors stumbling around in the ruins of the once-mighty Roman Catholic Church.What a great phrase, one that will have to enter my lexicon -- Second Vatican Catastrophe. Let's not pussyfoot around with obfuscation about the "spirit" of the "implementation." Vatican II was a catastrophe starting with the opening speech of Pope John XXIII which won him Time magazine Man of the Year.
"the Easter People, the dancers in sanctuaries, those who claim They Are Church and all the assorted Lollards and Fifth Monarchy Men who have converted Catholicism into a crankfest" and "Of course, we need some ritual and collective spirituality: so, lets go and hang some cuddly toys on the railings of Kensington Palace."Anyone still participating in the "one-size-fits-all, syncretic religion," take a look in the mirror.
I also keep you and your family's entrance into the Catholic Church in my prayers.
But things are going along swimmingly. We've been attending the same parish for about a month now. I'm singing in the choir - much to my amazement (1) same hymns I sang in my old church - only one "wings of eagles" type hymn snuck in and I can live with that now and then (2) TWO anthems I have sung before just in one month (both English) and more to come. We meet with Monsignor next week for a more formal introduction and to go over what he requires for fledglings . . . :-D
Am glad you like our Archbishop. He seems like a good, faithful, no-nonsense cleric to me.
Actually, you don't even have to suspend judgment on these matters. This is probably the greatest piece of religious art produced in the last couple of hundred years.
The thing that truly amazed me when I saw the movie last night was not only the impact of the religious message, but the fact that I was actually seeing genuine art. It's like seeing Velazquez, El Greco, Murillo, etc. all rolled up into one, with touches of Breughel and Goya in the crowd scenes, and all of it brought to life.
The music was also stunning, and, in fact, I have already bought the CD (although I'm not exactly sure what would make a suitable situation for listening to it).
Your heartfelt comments to ultima were very touching and demonstrate great courage and humility that the rest of us could imitate. At the same time, I think all of us need to wake up and see that someone has been running the Church for the past 25 years. None of this happened in a vacuum.
If you say that it wasn't JPII, that he was just an innocent dupe of evil Vatican apparatchiks, then I ask you, "Who is the only person in the entire world who is closely associated with the new doctrine of personalism which has entirely replaced traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and family with a new and impenetrable philosophy of interpersonal relationships that has destroyed the Thomistic foundations of Catholic philosophy?"
There has been one person who best fits that description and it is not Cardinal Kasper or Cassaroli or Jean Jadot or Suenens or Bea or Karl Rahner or even Cardinal Ratzinger. It is Karol Wojtyla himself.