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Striking ‘Compass’ From the Record

posted by Ellen Leventry

goldencompass.jpg
You know on “Law & Order” when the judge tells the jury to ignore the statement just made by the person testifying by saying, “Strike that from the record. Jury, please disregard his statement in your deliberations?” I always wondered how that worked exactly. The jury obviously heard the statement and as much as they try to disregard it, that statement will still be lingering in the back of their mind somewhere, influencing the outcome.
So when I heard a Religion News Service report this morning that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pulled their positive review of “The Golden Compass” from the Catholic News Service website thanks to pressure from conservative Catholic groups who find the film anti-Catholic and anti-religious, my mind immediately went to Jack McCoy and his merry band of A.D.A.s.


You see, the “glowing” review by Harry Forbes and John Mulderig of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — which called the film “lavish, well-acted and fast-paced” and gave it an A-II rating, roughly equivalent to a PG-13 recommendation – was cited in the cover story of the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.
In its coverage of the film, based on Phillip Pullman’s book of the same name, the magazine juxtaposes the concerns of Catholic League president Bill Donahue who condemns the Humanist author as hating the Catholic Church with the USCCB review which states that, “Most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the books or Pullman’s personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations, and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure.”
Indeed, the film has been criticized by some as being too watered down, but the books of Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy – of which “Compass” is a part – have been recommended as required reading by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, himself. Head of the Anglican Church, Williams commented in 2004 that the series should be part of religious education in the United Kingdom, stating, “Should teaching about religion include teaching about its critics? There is every reason for seeing this as a good thing. Clarifying objections is one way of clarifying what is being claimed.”
It’s unfortunate that the bishops’ conference dropped the review, giving in to political pressure and further characterizing the Catholic Church as a place where different opinions are not valued or welcomed. And the Catholic League is playing right into Pullman’s denunciation of organized religious groups, acting like the villainous, dogmatic “Magisterium” in its desire to quash the film.
But, even if conservative Catholic and Christian groups have won the small concession of the removal of the review from CNS, what did they gain in the long run? Like the judge asking the jury to disregard information in their deliberations, assuming that hundreds of thousands of Entertainment Weekly subscribers and readers would disregard what they’ve read and pay attention to a retracted CNS release seems just as implausible.



  • Jen

    This is a film that my children (ages 5 and 6) won’t watch until I have seen it and deemed it appropriate. If it is getting the = of a pg-13 movie, then they are too young anyhow and this is moot. I do think that young children, because everything in their world has a literal interpretation, may be confused by this movie. I can see where it would be entertaining for older kids.

  • jestrfyl

    Weak kneed ninnies!
    Either it is good or it is not (and I think it is). If they do not have the strength of their own convictions, they they ought to quit making pronouncements until they know – or are told – who they are. Once again the Orthodogs and Vaticanines are barking and baying at anything that bears even the scent of openness.
    Poor showing, guys. Some day you may tell us what you really think.

  • Cranberries

    As they used to say when I was in law school, “You can’t unring a bell.” This decision makes the church look far worse than anything in the movie does.

  • Erika Dralle

    hey, i think the movie is ok for kids. so don’t jugd things until u see them.

  • Margaret Schattilly

    Actually the negative publicity is most likely getting more people to go see the movie.I would of thought after the Divinci Code these people might have learned.I have seen the movie think it is good and properly rated.Yes you could read things in to it but if your not looking to and have a strong belief system personaly it is as think just good wholesome entertainment.Those who fear that it will lead people away from their religion have little faith in the teaching and the strenght of their followers.

  • Crickkette

    I have been a Catholic now for 60 years. I believe that in my lifetime I have been able to make responsible and accountable decisions for myself. I do not feel the church needs to intercede with my ‘free will’ in influencing my movie-going decisions. My youngest son, (who is 29), and I saw this movie and truly wondered what the hoopla was all about. Yes, I believe anyone of any faith can make something out of nothing, just look at what is happening in our world today. But, come on folks, why do we always have to perceive something as negative, when we don’t have to. We both came away with the feeling that here was just another movie that combatted good against evil. Guess what?? Good prevailed!!!! Like the old saying goes, “I think thou dost protest too much”!

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