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:
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?
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.