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A tale of two bloggers

posted by awelborn

Anyone interested in the “Catholic reaction” to Gibson’s film would do well to take a look at the contrasting views of Peter Nixon and Mark Shea:

From Peter at Sursum Corda

I was just sickened by the flogging scene. It was the stuff of nightmares. It’s one thing not to turn away from the reality of Jesus’ suffering. It’s another for the camera to appear to take sadistic and voyeuristic delight in that suffering. Is our understanding of the moral and physical evil of human torture really enhanced by a graphic depiction of it? Would a film depicting a concentration camp victim choking to death on gas and then having his skin removed by Nazi doctors really tell us a truth about the Holocaust that we don’t already know?

From Mark at Catholic and Enjoying It

As to the complaints about blood and gore, I’m afraid that from a Catholic perspective, this only illustrates to me that most people don’t, at the end of the day, *really* believe what we say when we talk about the blood of Christ and the agonies of the cross and so forth. In the end, I suspect there is something of the spirit that whispered to Simon Peter on Caesarea Philippi at work: “No, Master! This must never be!” We say that because (we assure ourselves) we don’t want this “pornographic violence” (as the suddenly puritanical Andrew Sullivan and similiar critics have clucked). But, in reality, we are upset because we don’t want to face that fact that the man who endured this said, “Take up *your* cross and follow me.” It’s not him we’re concerned with. It’s saving our own skins–as Peter himself discovered. In our heart of hearts, our response to the message of the cross is, if we are normal, “No. No thanks. Not if it involved that. He can’t be serious.”

Two thoughtful, faithful men with different responses.



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TSO

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:37 pm


Wow. Peter’s reaction surprises me. The violence wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined it would be. I guess I’m desensitized even though I never watch horror movies. (Never seen any of the Friday the 13th or Hannibal movies for example.)
Just after the movie ended, two boys in their late teens walked out disappointed, grumbling that it wasn’t nearly as violent as they’d hoped. So I guess this is one of those “eye-of-the-beholder” type movies. I thought Braveheart was more violent than this, maybe because while I have grown up around the idea of crucifixion (i.e. the Stations of the Cross a yearly event), the idea of drawing and quartering is more foreign and so creates a much more visceral reaction.



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al

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:48 pm


Here’s a question regarding aesthetics and theology, which much of this debate seems to center around.
If the minimalist neo-Patristic art which kind of supplanted Counter Reformation art around the time of Vatican II, with a healthy (though now, in the clear light of day, less prevalent) does of Bauhausian iconographic aesceticism and abstraction, constitutes a kind of complement to Nouvelle Theologie and its return to patristics (as opposed to the Counter Reformation’s full blown scholasticism), what about this move is an authentic “inculturation” and what about it is simply a reactionary disdain for the full throated Catholicism of the Counter Reformation?
This seems an important question for those who want to define themselves in contrast to what came before the council–to what extent are you just the “reactionary” that many claim Tridentine Catholicism and its aesthetic were?
Many Nouvelle Theologians define themselves in opposition to Tridentine scholasticism, seizing on its abuse as an avenue to establish their dissatisfaction with its synthesis. Yet one cannot simply define oneself in reaction, especially when that reaction is to an authentic inculturation in its own right.



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Phil

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:51 pm


I’m not going to see the film for the reason I gave before (the “Gone of the Wind” rationale as explained in Mattingly’s latest column.) Having said that, I agree with the sentiments of the Peter Nixon’s quote excerpted by Amy.
This is not directly related to the movie, but while thinking about all this I came up with a question to which I don’t have a satisfactory answer. Why is it that among Christians graphic, detailed, and gory portrayals of violence in movies are more acceptable than the explicit and detailed portrayal of passionate sex between consenting adults? Is sex more depraved than violence?
As Amy said, the Bible is reticent about many things, not only about the crucifixion. So if a movie maker decides to film a movie based on a biblical story, many details will have to be filled. Let’s imagine that Mel Gibson decides to make another biblical movie. Say, a movie on David. Which scene will raise more objections among Christians: a graphic and gory portrayal of Absalom’s death or a totally explicit portrayal of David and Bathsheba engaging in passionate sex?
My guess is that David’s sex scene will scandalize more Christians than the scene portraying Absalom’s violent death.
Also, I have the feeling that a person who often watches graphically violent films would face less opprobrium than a person who often watches sexually explicit films. And yet, what’s worse, sex or violence?
Don’t think that in asking this I’m defending pornography or anything of the sort.



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Karen H.

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:52 pm


I was a little afraid that I would have the same type of reaction as Peter’s — that the violence would drown out everything else — but that turned out not to be the case for me. And I don’t really like violent movies that much.
One of the things that I got both from the scourging and from the carrying of the cross was Jesus’ willingness to go the distance, drink the cup to the dregs. Total, total, total self-giving.
Reactions to this movie seem to be pretty individual. Peter may be an unusually empathetic person. I’m afraid that I tend to be at the other end of the spectrum and so probably need this kind of in-your-face approach.



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al

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:54 pm


Or put more simply, in thinking about your aesthetic, do you say “I like this” or do you say “I like not that?”



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al

posted March 2, 2004 at 5:59 pm


Phil,
Watching sex is worse because that is private. Violence, while distasteful, need not be private to be just. Furthermore depictions of violence and sex are qualitatively different for the very reason that you can’t depict the Passion without depicting violence, but you can depict the entirity of our Lord’s life without depicting sex.



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Karen H.

posted March 2, 2004 at 6:11 pm


Phil,
I guess the main difference would be that the average person would find a sexually explicit film seductive, but would not have that reaction to one that was graphically violent.
However, I would agree that watching either type habitually would (or could) be a moral problem, because it would tend to desensitize the viewer.
(BTW, I’m new at this: how do I add formatting to a comment?)



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Peter Nixon

posted March 2, 2004 at 6:42 pm


Well, “unusually empathetic” is definitely a step up from “dangerously open minded,” which is how one poster described me a couple weeks ago! :-)
That’s a joke, by the way. I’m really very flattered. I don’t really think of myself as unusally empathetic (otherwise I wouldn’t have such an extensive knowledge of Gibson’s work), but I suppose it’s possible.
Havings kids does seem to have softened me up a bit. My emotions are closer to the surface than they used to be, and I react more strongly to violence than when I was a fairly hardened twenty-something. But then, I wasn’t much of a Christian back then either…



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Sulpicius Severus

posted March 2, 2004 at 6:48 pm


Anyone interested in a modernist Cardinal’s reaction (a cardinal whose Archdiocese is proximate geographically to Mr. Gibson’s Holy Family Chapel) see here.
Mahony: I know nothing about the Church in Malibu. It is certainly not in communion with the Universal Catholic Church nor the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
I have never met Mr. Gibson, and he does not participate in any parish of this Archdiocese. He, apparently, has chosen to live apart from the communion of the Catholic Church. I pray for him.

Wow, he’s steaming! Even denies catacomb Catholics even exist:
Actually, there is no such thing as the “Catholic traditionalist, modernist, movement.” Either one is in full communion with the Catholic Church, in unity with the Successor of Peter, or not. One cannot pick and choose which Pope to follow, especially dead ones, or which teaching to follow — and then set aside the rest. Such people may be very nice people, but that doesn’t make them “Catholic” in the true sense.
Wow, Mahony, you’re anger is getting you all confused — yes there is a modernist church: YOURS. And there is a Traditional Catholic Church — the one that’s been around for 1,960 years. Guess 1,960 years of Tradition can get tossed over just like that, eh? Guess your Gay ministries are catholic in the “true sense”? And now that Mr. Gibson’s movie is raking in the bucks, can’t wait to see him erect a Traditional Catholic Cathedral in L.A. to oppose your Taj Mahony!
Mahony’s steaming at Gibson & catacomb Catholics in CA because they oppose his modernism with Truth. He needs to see Fr. Amorth, stat. Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us.



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Mark Shea

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:31 pm


The solution to this seeming contradiction is simple: Peter is wrong and I am Right! Now let’s everybody get back to the Catholic Collective and plug into the GroupMind again. Independent thought just mixes people up.
Yoda of Borg am I. Assimilated you will be. Futile resistance is.



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Peter Nixon

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:42 pm


Mark:
In the words of Jean Luc-Picard, “the line must be drawn he-yah. This far and no farther.”
Besides, aren’t you supposed to have sworn off blogging for Lent…:-)



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Christopher Rake

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:53 pm


I’m with Peter.
I’m also amused, sorry, that is the most gentle word out a wider range of words I could use–I am amused that some observers are convinced that if others are repulsed by the violence and object to the movie on that basis, it represents some kind of spiritual failure. That is amazing.
I am behind on my encyclicals, however. Perhaps this movie was named the eighth sacrament.



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Glenn Juday

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:55 pm


Mark has a point. St. Paul found it necessary to be all things to all men in order to be an ambassador for Christ. If something doesn’t move people to Christ there are other things to try. We are made in various and wondrous ways, thank goodness. I can’t imagine a world full of people only like me. What a penance that would be!
On the other hand, there is always an other hand. Maybe now isn’t the time in a man’s life that God intends him to be moved. Maybe it will come later when he needs it more. Maybe the gap between some people’s rapturous reactions and one’s own impassivity will become an itch, and God will equip you to scratch it in a way that will speak to like-minded people. Who knows? God is very, very clever.



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David Kubiak

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:56 pm


I thought my opinion of Cardinal Mahony could not sink any lower, but his comments in the link above are truly shameful. He really does come off exactly like a member of the Sanhedrin (and more than one priest has told me that all he saw in those scenes of the movie were our bishops) — frightened and jealous that someone within his own religious tradition has done for the Faith in a week more than he has in his entire disastrous tenure in Los Angeles.
First, his analysis of the status of Catholics who attend independent chapels is directly contrary to published responses both from Cardinal Kasper’s dicastery and from the Holy Office. The former says that dialogue with such people does not fall under its perview because their position is ‘an internal matter of the Catholic Church’; the latter famously vacated the Archbishop of Honolulu’s attempt to excommunicate six people who were attending a SSPX chapel on grounds that their activity ‘did not constitute the crime of schism.’
It is unfortunate when any Catholic’s relationship to the Church is irregular, but it is erroneous and unjust to claim that they are not Catholics.
And the frosting on the cake is when the Cardinal is asked if Buddhist meditation can be done by Catholics: ‘Any form of prayer and meditation that helps us deepen our life in Jesus Christ is positive…we might call it a Christian mantra.’
Buddhist meditation is fine for Catholics, but the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated by a validly ordained priest is not.
Mother Angelica had this man pegged from the start.



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Mike

posted March 2, 2004 at 7:59 pm


To Sulpicius Severus:
While you may not approve of Cardinal Mahony, he is correct when he states: “Actually, there is no such thing as the ‘Catholic traditionalist, modernist, movement.’ Either one is in full communion with the Catholic Church, in unity with the Successor of Peter, or not.”
A traditional Catholic is someone who follows the Tradition of the Church and not someone who got stuck in a rut back in the 1950′s, 1910′s, or 1563. The Kingdom of God is going to be fulfilled in the future, not in some faux golden age of years gone by. God’s reign is not in my rearview mirror.
So Mahony is right in his discussion of Gibson’s religious observance.



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John Hearn

posted March 2, 2004 at 8:15 pm


Peter N.
Just wondering, what is your favorite “Jesus” or even religious movie?



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Patrick Rothwell

posted March 2, 2004 at 8:30 pm


“Actually, there is no such thing as the “Catholic traditionalist, modernist, movement.” Either one is in full communion with the Catholic Church, in unity with the Successor of Peter, or not. One cannot pick and choose which Pope to follow, especially dead ones, or which teaching to follow — and then set aside the rest. Such people may be very nice people, but that doesn’t make them “Catholic” in the true sense.
Even the media is beginning “to get it” about these groups. We must give full assent to the Creed and all that the Church teaches.”
Sounds a lot like the Bishop of Lincoln to me.



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Meg

posted March 2, 2004 at 8:53 pm


Someday, Sully, please do define ‘catacomb Catholic’. As I’ve said before, I find it very hard to believe that you & yours could possibly fit the original definition…so please give us your redefinition of the term.



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caroline_gissler@testlabs.com

posted March 2, 2004 at 9:28 pm


I’ve heard that the repetition of the hail Mary’s in the rosary are supposed to work like a mantra. You don’t think about the words you are actually saying (except for the Annunciation and the Visitation) but about the mysteries instead.
Reciting the mantra over and over is supposed to focus the mind on something else. If I say the rosary at all I have to use the Buddhist approach. I wouldn’t knock Mahoney on this one.



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al

posted March 2, 2004 at 9:51 pm


Its a little surprising seeing all this umbrage taken at people pointing out that whether or not the movie is to your taste, it is demonstrably a part of a long tradition of Catholic art (medieval, mannerist and counter-Reformation), and therefore largely immune from criticisms that impugn the “Catholicity” of its aesthetic.
No one has to like any particular piece of art, be it a Caravaggio, a Palaestrina, or a particular painting in the Roman catacombs. But if one is going to present as critique of an aesthetic (depiction of violence, use of prevailing cinematic technique. . . ) then one had better be prepared to entertain contrary views.
I remember back when the Groupmind decided that parochial school banning of headscarves was “pastorally ill advised.” It seems a similar set of issues. . .



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Sulpicius Severus

posted March 2, 2004 at 9:55 pm


Mike: Mahony’s definition of “Catholic” is wrong. He says Catholic doctrine and teaching can change. He says we can ignore the popes of the past, and he does ignore the popes of the past, including Pope St. Pius V, Pope St. Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius XII . . . This is standard for the modernists, for whom the church begins with Vatican II — a most UN-Catholic disposition.
Mel Gibson and other catacomb Catholics are a burr in Mahony’s modernist saddle. Mike, the future of Holy Church is preserved by the catacomb Catholics loyal to Tradition — not with modernist ecumaniacs like Mahony. When you look in your rear view mirror in a few years, you will see the scrap heap of the Vatican II modernist great facade, and if God’s grace through Mary so moved you, you will be viewing the crumbled remains of the Vatican II Novus Ordo Missae apparatus from the safety of the Traditional Catholic Faith. Praying Mary Our Queen is moving you in this direction. UIOGD,



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Donald R. McClarey

posted March 2, 2004 at 10:09 pm


Cardinal Mahony attempting to defend Catholicism is rather like Howard Stern posing as a paladin of the First Amendment: not very convincing.



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David Kubiak

posted March 2, 2004 at 11:29 pm


I don’t see how anyone can defend Cardinal Mahony’s attitude in this matter. Given the moral and doctrinal slime that has oozed from the Cardinal’s diocese it takes shameless nerve for him to tell Mel Gibson he isn’t a Catholic.
With all the loose talk about Mr. Gibson’s schismatic mentality it occurred to me to do something I haven’t observed yet on any of the blogs, which is to look in the new Catechism at how the theology of Christ’s Passion is presented. If you examine numbers 571-623 you will see that everthing that is in the movie and everything I have read and heard from Mel Gibson himself represents the most impeccable Roman orthodoxy. Number 613 is crucial: “Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men…and the Sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through ‘the blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And 617: “The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as ‘the source of eternal salvation’, and teaches that ‘his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.’ And the Church venerates his cross as it sings: ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”
How likely are Cardinal Mahony’s subjects to hear sermons preached from their pulpits on this theology? Or put another way, precisely what good is formal unity with Rome — which I would never give up for any reason ever — if you have lost the essence of the Catholic Faith?



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Mark Shea

posted March 3, 2004 at 1:34 am


Amazing how people can get from the proposition, “Cardinal Mahony is slippery” to “Therefore, it’s A-OK for me to be out of communion with the Church because of my personal holiness and grasp of traditionalist piety.” Even weirder is the strange notion that if you don’t buy that logic, you must therefore support everything Mahony says and does. Where’s Tom from Disputations? He’d have ever so much fun with this sort of slipshod thinking.



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Nathan

posted March 3, 2004 at 2:58 am


I’d first of all like to say that the man is not “Mahony,” he is His Eminence Cardinal Mahony, a Bishop of the Catholic Church, and a Successor to the Apostles. I may not agree with him on many things, but I would never presume to begin speaking of him the way some on this thread have spoken of him. Have you forgotten that he’s a Bishop?
Secondly, I don’t see what the big deal is about the violence in The Passion. Come on, folks, wasn’t crucifixion rather violent?



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kevin

posted March 3, 2004 at 7:03 am


On the “His Eminence Cardinal Mahony” thing vs. Mel Gibson’s status as a Catholic.
Last week on the February 24th show of Catholic Answers Live, Tim Staples stated that he had spoken with Mr. Gibson to find out his “Catholicity” if-you-will. Tim said that Mel said he felt the Chair of Peter is vacant. Thus, he is a sedevacanist.
Then, on the show on the 26th, Jimmy Akin told listeners that if one holds this postion as a sedevacanist they are schismatic thus not Catholic.
This is from Catholic Answers, NOT me. I am just relaying the message. You can bash them all you want, but it seems to me they are correct mucho more times than they are incorrect (say 99.9% of the time correct).
I agree with what Nathan said about the Cardinal.



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John

posted March 3, 2004 at 7:31 am


Who is more likely to be in communion with JP II, Mahoney or Gibbson?
Gibbson made the movie everybody is talking about. Most would agree that it is a good effort cinematically as well as theologically. When was the last time you agreed with Mahoney, on any thing?



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John Hetman

posted March 3, 2004 at 7:36 am


When I was in the Army (the US not the Roman), we were instructed that when we saluted an officer it was out of respect for his uniform (i.e., his position) not his person. Now, I find it comical that there are actually people who would demand respect for the office of a Catholic prelate in 2004 when the office has been dragged through the mud by the prelates themselves.. Comical also, in its quaint liberal nonsense of not being offensive when Christ was extraordinarily offensive to the religious authorities around him who provoked his wrath. Perhaps, St Paul was in soliloquy when he said to suffer fools gladly.
As for the violence…yes it is violent and I had to turn away from it on several occasions. But in this age of Hannibal Lector was it excessive? No. Violent in this age of court-supported partial birth abortions? Violent when S+M conventions are protected by the police out of concern for First Amendment rights? Violent when the rights of chickens trump the lives of infants? Violent when there is a rash of animal sexual abuse in Scandanavia and a German cannibal is selling rights to his book? Violent in this age of the bombings of the innocent on Israeli buses and sidewalks?
Was it out of place? Not if we want to comprehend the level of suffering of Christ. And not if we want to comprehend the level of the pain that we cause him as true man and true God by our daily violence. I don’t mean the obvious violence of murder and mayhem. I mean the violence of abortion, of reducing man to his petty, mean, sentimental lusts; the violence that lets a man sit with a paper cup across street from Tiffany’s and beg for a few lousy bucks; the violence that can so warp the mind that it elects moral scum to public office and puts it small children into the hands of government-funded and controlled “child care” programs and public schools. The violence that let’s a Bozo like Mahoney spend millions to erect a cathedral to immortalize his pukey self. The violence that passes itself off as academic superiority…the violence that quibbles.
The violence that can make blood-letting seem like acts of peace.
The violence of the human heart…when the face of Satan (so wonderfully portrayed in the film) smiles its andogynous, 21st Century smile upon the twilight of our civilization.
Those who protest the “violence” of this film are either: ignorant, stupid of malevolent. Take your pick.



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Mark Kasper

posted March 3, 2004 at 8:02 am


Classic comments being thrown around about Gibson. Although apparently true, it is nonetheless humorous that a person convinced of the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation is outside of it, while those who deny that necessity remain inside in good standing.
Funny how there is enough room on board for Hans Kung, Richard McBrien, Edward Schillebeeckx, Edward Kennedy, Tom Daschle and other radicals who deny most of the foundational truths of Catholicism, but not for poor Mel.
MKasper



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al

posted March 3, 2004 at 8:10 am


Mark Kasper,
True enough! Frankly, with the deference that’s owed to Cdl. Mahony’s office (and person) granted, I’m somewhat suspicious of giving his public “representations” the benefit of the doubt (after Fr. Baker, Fr. Sutliff. . . an other instances where he has knowingly, and publicly dissimlated).
If he wan’t to excommunicate Gibson let him do so (as Bruskewitz did). Let him be judged before God for the use of his office. Till then I think we can take his “assurances” of who’s in which parish with the grain of salt provided by his professed ignorance on a number of instances of which of his pastors are in which parishes!



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Phil

posted March 3, 2004 at 8:25 am


John,
I have not seen the film, but I read opinions from Christians that I respect who did object to the way Gibson chose to depict the violence in TPOTC. In your opinion they all are (Peter Nixon included) either ignorant, stupid or malevolent. Very insightful, John.
As Amy and many others have pointed out, it’s plain silly to think that all good Christians should agree on this movie.
I have my strongly held opinions about film violence. I have no respect for the way certain film makers depict it, including the makers of the Hanibal movies (which I have not seen except for “he Silence of the Lambs”), Tarantino, as well as Gibson (my feelings about this predated TPOC by many years.) And I don’t think that I’m ignorant about violence. In real life I have seen bloodied and mangled bodies and have seen people die. I also have seen films which depict horrific violence which felt very real but which also did not have this obscenely voyeuristic character.
A brief and last response to Al and Karen, since violence and sex is not really the topic of this thread (maybe it’s worth exploring at some other time.) First, thanks for your comments. Al, frankly, I’m not at all persuaded by your distinction: explicit sex in movies is a no-no because it’s private, while violence is okay because it’s public. Does that mean that the portrayal of a private instance of graphic and gory violence is as scandalous to you as sexually explicit scene between consenting adults? It seems to me that the portrayal of consensual sex should be less offensive than the portrayal of graphic violence, but somehow that is not the case.
Karen (sorry I don’t know how to format stuff here), I suspect that you are more on the right track, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. I think there is something out wack in the fact that most Christians are scandalized by explicit sex scenes while being fairly tolerant about graphically violent scenes.
Once again, this by no means is an endorsement of pornography or anything of the sort.



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al

posted March 3, 2004 at 8:54 am


Phil,
Its a scholastic distinction–that some acts are inherently private, and so therefore cannot licitly be depicted for whatever reason, because it is always taking them out of context.
But your statement: “It seems to me that the portrayal of consensual sex should be less offensive than the portrayal of graphic violence, but somehow that is not the case.” Is highly confusing. If you are saying it is better to depict consensual sex than violence (rather than say all images which are coarsening and assail purity should be prohibited–which is debatable, but not prima facie wrong) then that is not a moral or Catholic positions. Sex cannot be depicted. Consensual or otherwise.



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John Hetman

posted March 3, 2004 at 9:40 am


Dear Phil:
I have never tasted rattlesnake meat, but I have read articles from many gourmands whom I respect that it tastes like chicken. That you respect some writers does not in itself make them intelligent, bright or good in each and every opinion that they dare to put down in words. I deeply love and respect the Pope, but some of his political opinions are not worth more than the bagger at my supermarket.
Don’t be a cheapskate, go put down your $8.75 for “The Psssion.” Take a rosary with you (for the Sorrowful Mysteries) when the violencebecomes “excessive.”



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Phil

posted March 3, 2004 at 10:10 am


Al,
Although I would not go for “prohibition”, I do think that some depictions of violence are much more coarsening and assail purity than depictions of consensual sex. Why is the depiction of consensual sex more inmoral than coarsening depictions of violence? Is that really what the Church says? If so, I find that puzzling and confusing.
Although it should be clear from what I have written before, let me make two points: (1) in my view most (but not all) sexual scenes in movies actually detract from the value of the movie and too many of them are indeed coarsening; (2) not all portrayals of violence in film are coarsening.
One more note on violence. A common defense for the depiction of graphic violence is that nowadays we don’t know what real violence is, that we are not exposed to it in real life, that we are much too soft in that regard. I don’t buy that rationale. For better or for worse, people who have never been exposed to bloody violence quite quickly rise (or descend) to the occasion once they are exposed to it. Before the war, the generation that fought WWI in Europe did not have our level of visual exposure of graphic violence. Before the war most of them did not see people dying a violent and gory death (either in real life or in movies) and yet when the war came they were more than capable to deal with it–most of them did not shirk away from it. Some of them became noble heroes others became coarsened souls. The same can be said about the generation that fought WWII. Actually, it almost seems that it was the Vietnam generation that was more traumatized by the violence, even though by then depictions of violence in popular culture (TV and films) were much more common than before WWII. (Of course, what people saw in the 1960s was very tame compared to what we see now.)



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David Kubiak

posted March 3, 2004 at 10:16 am


Mr. Shea seems to be cheating here and there on his Lenten blogging fast, but deserves an answer to his question above.
It muddies the waters when people who do seem to be formally schismatic write in defense of Mel Gibson and object to Cardinal Mahony, but the ‘slipshod thinking’ lies in drawing from that fact the conclusion that Mel Gibson deserves no defense and Cardinal Mahony is an ornament to the Faith.
Of course Mr. Gibson and everyone else in his situation would be better off if their status were regularized, but what is the best way to achieve that end? If I were the Ordinary of his diocese I would ask him to come see me so we could talk about what he is thinking. And I suspect if Mr. Gibson were president of the local inter-faith Rainbow Coalition he would get the invitation. But I don’t think Cardinal Mahony wants to talk to him because he doesn’t want to hear about an understanding of the Faith he left behind long ago. For reasons best known to themselves the Roman authorities don’t seem to mind the Cardinal’s various heterodoxies; I don’t see why that means either we or Mel Gibson shouldn’t.
And on such a crucial point as sedevacantism I think we need not reports of reports about what Mr. Gibson has or has not said, but a confirmed statement in black and white.



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Phil

posted March 3, 2004 at 10:54 am


John, you wrote:
“Those who protest the “violence” of this film are either: ignorant, stupid of malevolent. Take your pick.”
When I said that I know Christians I respect who did not like the movie or who thought that its depiction of violence was excessive, you wrote:
“I have never tasted rattlesnake meat, but I have read articles from many gourmands whom I respect that it tastes like chicken.”
Does that mean that these gourmands are either ignorant, stupid or malevolent? No. It’s simply a matter of taste: they like rattlesnake meat, while you are repelled by the idea.
“That you respect some writers does not in itself make them intelligent, bright or good in each and every opinion that they dare to put down in words.”
You see, if I disagree with an opinion that does not mean that the opinion is not thoughtful or intelligent, and it would certainly be arrogant and unkind for me to assume that if I disagree with a person’s opinion then this opinion is necessarily ignorant, stupid or malevolent.
“I deeply love and respect the Pope, but some of his political opinions are not worth more than the bagger at my supermarket.”
I also disagree with some of the Pope’s political opinions, but I do not dismiss them as ignorant or stupid.
About seeing or not seeing the movie, who knows, I may change my mind in the future. Although I had misgivings about seeing it, I intended to do it. Then I read a Mattingly piece that made it clear to me why I was being so hesitant and I decided that I rather not see it. Here is the link of the column, in case you are interested (even if you disagree with it, I hope you don’t find it ignorant or stupid):
http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/2004/02/25/



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Peter Nixon

posted March 3, 2004 at 11:25 am


Someone asked me what my favorite Jesus movie is. No contest: Zefferelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” It was first showing on TV around the time of my confirmation prep and, full of the sort of piety one has at that point, I completely fell in love with the movie. So I’m probably unable to judge it objectively. But there’s your answer, for what it’s worth.



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Phil

posted March 3, 2004 at 11:37 am


Peter,
I did not see Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth”. Many years ago I did see his movie on St. Francis, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” and found it too sappy for my taste. If you have seen both movies, did you find Zeffirelli’s portrayal of Jesus less sappy than his portrayal of St. Francis?
Just curious….



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Mark Shea

posted March 3, 2004 at 11:59 am


Just to clarify. I do not regard poking my nose into comments boxes as cheating on my Lenten fast from blogging. I believe I mentioned some while back that I would be popping into comments from time to time.



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al

posted March 3, 2004 at 12:28 pm


Phil,
I think they are qualitatively different (despite what the secular apologists would have us believe when they equate them for purposes of showing us more sex) and if you look into it (meaning analyses of depictions of violence vs. sex) you can see the difference.
Just offhandedly, most violence that goes on is bad, but most sex is (or at least used to be, when it was predominently confined to marriage) good, so there is something right there that points to a qualitative difference. If depictions of both are frowned upon, then it is for different reasons.



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David Kubiak

posted March 3, 2004 at 12:39 pm


A perceptive — as often — comment from the “Lord of the Rings” star Sir Ian McKellen I saw last night. When asked what he thought of the movie he said: “I think it is only of real interest to Christians, and I am not a Christian. People who are not Christians would be more interested in the life and teachings of Jesus than in his death.”
No offense intended to good Christians who for one reason or another didn’t particularly like the movie, but I think he makes a telling point apropos certain discussions of the film.



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John Hetman

posted March 3, 2004 at 1:03 pm


With all due respect to Sir Ian, the life and teachings of Jesus point to this climax: his suffering and death. Not only does Jesus point to the “narrow road” and the few who find it, but he demands that we, in our own way, also be able to suffer whatever it is that the Lord sends us. I suppose in an age of botox, it might be hard to imagine any suffering beyond growing old(er) and not having one extremity or another made out of “steel”.
Perhaps Sir Ian might want to start with the “Old Testament” and the suffering servant and lead through the Macabees into Jesus. Perhaps also reading about Christian martyrs, past and present may also help.



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Maclin Horton

posted March 3, 2004 at 1:33 pm


Phil–
Re “Jesus of Nazareth” and “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”–there’s no comparison. I share Peter Nixon’s opinion of the former and am even more negative about the latter than you. I strongly disliked it and would say “sappy” is better than it deserves. Zeffirelli must have changed a lot between the two.



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Peggy

posted March 3, 2004 at 4:25 pm


I saw the movie knowing it would be brutal and violent. Indeed, it was painful to watch and hear graphically the brutality to which Jesus was subjected for our sins. I also have always understood, however, that the story of Jesus’ suffering is very much about his physical suffering. I further think that Mel G’s intent was a meditation on this physical suffering. It was not his point to spare us the suffering of Jesus, I believe.
I would think that if our salvation centered more on His spiritual suffering of carrying our sins, rather than physical suffering b/c of our sins, it would be too abstract and we would not “get it.” Certainly, I might not take it so seriously. I can even be accused of not being sufficiently moved by that horrid physical suffering, too, many a time. Look how much of the world is so unmoved by the physical suffering of Jesus beyond pity for human suffering? My body shuddered with each whipping in the film. I thought I was going to throw up at times. It sure was unpleasant, but that’s what it was. Those indeed were rather brutal times. I don’t think that we were intended to be spared this violence. The movie was called “The Passion,” not “The Resurrection,” not “The Nativity”…It’s a far cry from the exceedingly joyous birth of a little, newborn baby boy who would be King.
Well, that’s my opinion….



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Dust in the Light

posted March 3, 2004 at 6:57 pm


When the Obvious Isn’t

Amy Welborn quotes from two reviews of The Passion of the Christ. You can follow the link(s) for that topic, but what caught my eye was an example that Peter Nixon uses in such a way as to indicate that…



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alias clio

posted March 4, 2004 at 9:39 am


About depictions of violence versus depictions of sex in the movies: both may sometimes be valuable as elements of human experience that deserve the consideration of great artists.
I suppose that watching violence on film is often coarsening, but I don’t know that it’s any more so than watching depictions of sexuality.
The big difference between the two, in my opinion, is that human beings are so constructed that most of us are aroused to lust by depictions of sex, by the sight of naked flesh, and so forth. Most of us are NOT similarly aroused to anger by depictions of violence, even when portrayed in obviously manipulative ways designed to provoke a strong reaction. And if we are, it is unlikely that we’ll have either the desire or the occasion to act on it, unlike the case of lust, where we may have many opportunities to do so, and in highly inappropriate ways.
Thus a film depicting sex is MUCH more likely to be a near occasion of sin than one depicting violence.
I’m slightly embarrassed to confess that I love the beautiful bodies shown in advertising and film, and part of me would hate to see that side of popular culture suppressed. But I know my own weaknesses too well in this respect not to know that it isn’t very good for me!



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Phil

posted March 4, 2004 at 10:57 am


Alias Clio,
Your comment makes a lot of sense. Thanks for writing. I think that’s also what Karen was getting at when she responded to my question.
In general most of us have negative reactions to excessive scenes of both kinds: graphic violence and explicit sex. Nonetheless, I still think that our reactions are out of wack, not proportional to the “sin.” We are much more scandalized by sex than by violence. But I think your reasoning goes a long way in explaining why this is so.



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