Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let's Do the Time Warp Again --- NOT

Paul Nichols's Catholic Cartoon Blog had me in stitches and he's back after a brief haitus. You can see some of his work on this blog in the far right (what else) column

Ironically, the radicals of the 1960's are today and tomorrow's pensioners who spend their retirement golfing and shopping in Florida during the winter months. Those who sat-in with dissidents like Charlie Curran et al., can now barely stand without a walker. Kumbaya has been replaced by Kyrie Eleison. "Long Live the Revolution" has been replaced with "Long Live the Reform of the Reform."

Here's real irony: the youth who wanted 'Folk Masses' in the '60's are now the cranky old codgers having nightmares about today's youth who want the Latin Mass (whether ordinary or extraordinary forms), just like their great-grandparents before them.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Hollywood Will NEVER Produce

Coming in 2008 from ICONOCLAST Pictures, Inc.

The Copper Dredil

Long ago, in a place far away from political correctness, there was a land, a prophecy, a villian and a hero. Critics rave about the upcoming film for its bold, daring and provocative attempt to insult two of the three major monotheistic religions.

Since Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, have already been dissed, trashed and ridiculed by Hollywood seventy times seventy times, the tables have now been turned. Ron Boward produces and directs this innovative cinematic masterpiece intended to even the score once and for all.

Synopsis – an ancient prophecy predicts that the thousand year reign of evil tyranny will end only when the magic Copper Dredil is returned to its proper place. Before that can happen, however, it must be rescued from the clutches of the malevolent Synagogue of Zeon, a super-secret society of fanatical fundamentalists who claim the only true magic comes from the Book of Spells. They are always at war, however, with a competing faction, the Mosque of Mira whose adherents reject anything and everything in the Book of Spells. They maintain the only true and valid incantations are the ones not written down but are spontaneously created by the individual wizard. The Mosque of Mira has declared a Jihad on the Synagogue of Zeon. There can be no victory until one side is no more.

Meanwhile, while the forces of darkness battle each other for control of the world, a small group of rebels known as the Sacerdotes, led by the wise and aged Pontifex Maximus, seek to fulfill the prophecy given millennia ago. Visitors from another world came in peace to share their knowledge: scientific, philosophic and theological. They only wore scarlet red clothing and were called by the natives, “Cardinals.” The Cardinals had no agenda and no ulterior motives. That was not the case with their enemies, however.

Cardinals insisted on worshipping their deity facing East and in an old, archaic language only spoken in their temples. They also wear elaborate costumes when they worship.

The biggest obstacle, however is that the Cardinals refuse to dilute their teaching which is as much moral as it is religious. An alliance between the Cantors (local authorites from the Synagogue) and the Imams (secret police from the Mosque) occurs when it is learned that the Cardinals have something which promises eternal life.

Before the mysterious element is discovered, however, war breaks out and all the Cardinals are killed, save one. Catzinger lives long enough to prophesize that a hero will find the Copper Dredil which has the power to render enemies powerless and thus enable the quest for the Missal, the special book that allows the Priest to make present the source of eternal life.

Until that day arrives, the mysterious artifact lays hidden and protected in a Basilica by an order of Knights called the Krewsaydurs. Hildebrand, our hero, leaves the safety of the monastery to seek the Copper Dredil and free his people from slavery once and for all. He is accompanied by Zozimus, the sacristan; Jerome, the lector; Edmund, the extern; and Sylvester, the Acolyte. Together, they form a brotherhood sworn to return proper worship back to their temple. Forbdidden for centuries, the ancient language of their forefathers is still secretly used by our champions. VERITAS VINCIT (truth conquers) is the motto of this coalition for victory.

But it is only fiction, so why should anyone be offended??? Hear that before?

Of course, you'll NEVER see such a film EVER attacking or even making satire of Judaism or Islam. Yet, Christianity is perpetually being parodied and in fact persecuted by mainstream Hollywood. Catholic Christianity is the usual target, as evidenced in THE GOLDEN COMPASS where the enemy is the Magisterium (a term unique to Catholicism) and punctuated with villians who are 'priests.' Why not renegade rabbis or imams? Because that would rightly offend Jews and Muslims who would not tolerate it. They resist blasphemy while our people ignore it. Hollywood should either attack ALL religions (not a good choice) or NO religions (best option).

Good Advice from Father Timothy Finigan

Families can do a lot to promote vocations:

A. "Nothing impure in the home"

1. Keep mainstream mass media out of the home, period. This will go a long way toward creating a prayerful, peaceful, joyful home.

2. Afford no opportunity for the children to develop friendly regard and admiration for atheist uncles, lesbian aunts and the like. Keep all such far, far away, period.

B. "Whatever things are true ... honorable ... just ... holy, etc. ... think on these things."

1. Lives of the saints. Read these to the children from their earliest years. Many lives of saints begin, "When Johnny was a little boy his mother used to read to him from the gospels and the lives of the saints." So began the life of the Cure of Ars, patron of priests.

2. Read other good, uplifting literature that "baptizes" the imagination, esp the Chronicles of Narnia and the like.

3. Children have a phenomenal memory and want to learn much earlier than we think. From age four work with the catechism 20 minutes per day. From this the children will learn that you value the faith very highly. They will also come to have a love of learning and desire for God and a respect for their own accomplishments.

C. "Pray always ... "

1. Pray often but briefly with the children, for example before they go out to play put your arm around them and pray for their physical and moral safety, but also that the Lord will bless them today and every day of their lives. With our children that scene was replayed three times a day or so till they were nine or ten. It was the most natural thing to hear, "Dad, will you pray with me? I want to go out and play!"

2. Pray often for the children, especially that the Lord will keep them from everything harmful, but also that He will lead them into His highest and best for their lives.

3. Have a prayer life yourself, and ratchet it up as the years go on. Dad pacing the hall with a rosary in hand should be the most natural thing in the world.

D. Also,

1. Visit old churches with beautiful stainglass windows, and let the beauty of the place catechize and inspire your children.

2. Encourage your son to serve Mass.

3. Sit right up front with your children so they can see what is going on at Mass, rather than making it a tedious experience of their staring at the back of someone's overcoat for 45 minutes.

4. Speak well of the priests.

5. Encourage a spirit of self-sacrifice in your children ala Louis and Zellie Martin.

6. As a couple, read out loud "The Story of a Family- the Home of St. Therese of Lisieux" by Fr. Piat.

7. When your son is a little older, take him on retreat with you.

8. Let it be known that you are very open to your children pursuing religious life or the priesthood and would feel greatly blessed if they pursued such a life, but for pity's sake avoid all semblance of nagging or propaganda.

wise words

Monday, December 10, 2007

A True Timelord

Stellar Observation of a Master

"Much water has flown under the Tiber's bridges, carrying away splendor and mystery from Rome since the pontificate of Pius XII ..."

"The banalities and translations which have ousted the sonorous Latin and Greek are of a supermarket quality which is quite unacceptable. Hand shaking and embarrassed smiles or smirks have replaced the older courtesies; kneeling is out, queuing is in, and the general tone is like BBC radio broadcast for tiny tots ..."

Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000)

courtesy Matthew Doyle

Alec Guinness converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 1954 while filming his famous Father Brown (based on the stories by G.K. Chesterton) He attended Mass with Grace Kelly while he was working on a film in Los Angeles. His wife and son also became Catholics. Sir Alec is famous for his part in Star Wars (1977) as the old mentor, Obi wan Kenobi, who trained Luke Skywalker. Yet, his career spanned more than 70 years. He played Emperor Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964); an Arab Sheik in Lawrence of Arabia (1962); a Cardinal behind the Iron Curtain in The Prisoner (1955); Pope Inocent III in Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972). My favorite Guinness film is Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) second only to his George Smiley spy films, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982).

obiter dicta

Smells & Bells (to the tune of "Jingle Bells")
thanks to Fr. Z.

Processing into church
It’s the TLM today
Doing liturgy right
Chanting all the way (Glo-ri-a!)

Bells at the sanctus ring
Raising our spirits high
Oh how great to have Mass and tradition back in line!

Smells & Bells

Smells & Bells
Liberals cough and fuss
Oh what fun it is to serve in cassock and surplice

Smells & Bells
Smells & Bells
Hippies start to fume
Thanks to the 16th Benedict for Summorum Pontificum!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

U.S. Bishops give Golden Compass a pass, and why we shouldn't.

AMERICAN PAPIST has an excellent critique of the move The Golden Compass

This post is rather long and is divided into two parts. If you want to skip down to my short essay on why I find this movie problematic, scroll down until you see the text bolded in red.

If you want my commentary on an advance review of the movie, read on:

CNS news hub introduces the USCCB's "much-awaited movie review of 'The Golden Compass', which they rate suitable for A-II: adults and adolescents. The story is being marketed primarily to children.

My comments and interspersed with parts of the review, which begins by praising the movie as a "lavish, well-acted and fast-paced adaptation" from "Philip Pullman's much-awarded trilogy, "His Dark Materials":

The film has already caused some concern in Catholic circles because of the author's professed atheism, and the more overt issue of the novels' negative portrayal of his (very much fictionalized) church, a stand-in for all organized religion.

The fact that the church described in the novels is "fictionalized" does not matter so much in this case. Pullman wrongly proposes his caricature of the Church not as caricature but as the actual reality.

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. This is not the blatant real-world anti-Catholicism of, say, the recent "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" or "The Da Vinci Code." Religious elements, as such, are practically nil.

Just because this movie is not the blatant real-world anti-Catholicism of the movies noted does not rule out the possibility that the Golden Compass may also be offensive for different, but significant reasons.

(As an aside, it's no surprise to find the "excellent voice work" of homosexual-activist/anti-Catholic British actor Ian McKellen as the the great polar bear. But who knows, maybe it's a slow time of the year.)

Even if Pullman's fanciful universe has a patchwork feel, with elements culled from other fantasy-adventure stories -- most especially "The Chronicles of Narnia" (a work Pullman disdains) -- there's hardly a dull moment, and the effects are beautifully realized, including the anthropomorphized creatures like the polar bears whose climactic fight is superbly done.

"Disdains" is a very sublimated way of describing Pullman's systematic, energetic rejection of C.S. Lewis's art and belief. To use a culinary analogy to make my point: if I only disdained domino's pizza I would not set out to create an alternative pizza that I marketed as better, more appealing and then insult anyone who still professed a preference for domino's pizza. Pullman more than disdains C.S Lewis, that's certain.

Whatever author Pullman's putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz's film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.

First of all, Pullman's motives aren't "putative", they are explicit and intentional. The traditional struggle of good and evil, and the rejection of authoritarianism, moreover, are warped in his storyline into an invective against the Church, again falsely attributing to it the attributes of "evil" and "authoritarian." Movies are cultural moments, and those who resist this movie are doing so to build up a culture of respect for the Catholic Church and in so doing militantly oppose those artists who insult and denigrate it. Correctly, I would argue.

There is, admittedly, a spirit of rebellion and stark individualism pervading the story. Lyra is continually drawn to characters who reject authority in favor of doing as they please. Equally, only by defying the powers that be, can a scientist like Lord Asriel achieve progress. Pullman is perhaps drawing parallels to the Catholic Church's restrictive stance towards the early alchemists and, later, Galileo.

Again, Pullman is not "perhaps drawing parallels." This is to grant him an absurdly-merciful benefit of the doubt. And since when do we support drudging up the hackneyed relationship between the Catholic Church and Galileo? Isn't that getting old? Even a cursory analysis of the myriad of circumstances that obtained in that controversy make it clear that focusing on a minor aberration in Church history does a disservice to the Catholic Church's vibrant, pervasive tradition of encouraging the sciences! Fair's fair.
The script also makes use of some of the occult concepts found in the books, such as the diabolically named "daemons" -- animal companions to each person, identified as their human counterpart's visible soul.Again, occult? daemons? visible souls? Such material in a children's book is a serious matter. A child's imagination is a precious thing that should be guarded carefully.

Will seeing this film inspire teens to read the books, which many have found problematic? Rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.

Clearly, it's absurd to argue that every child who sees this movie is in danger of losing their faith. Parents, however, are charged with the education and formation of their children. "Thorny philosophical issues" are constantly the proximate cause of genuine crisis among youth, and sometimes it's best to nip them in the bud, not buy popcorn and absorb them in vivid technicolor dolby surround at a theater.

The religious themes of the later books may be more prominent in the follow-up films which Weitz has vowed will be less watered down. For now, this film -- altered, as it is, from its source material -- rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.

Intelligent, well-crafted entertainment is not an end in itself if it betrays fundamental human goods and divorces beauty from truth. The fact that New Line is evaluating the sustainability of these latter, presumably more offensive films based on the ticket sales of this first one further council a prudent consideration of whether one can support it. In essence, there is more at-stake here that artistic integrity.

Let me elaborate:

I've been thinking about the Golden Compass and trying to better formulate why I'm so opposed to it. I have not seen the movie, nor have I read the books. Here's what I came up with that might be helpful.

One could easily argue that movies are the contemporary medium of popular art. Within this medium, there are, I would submit, two great movie series vying for the imagination of the next generation. The Lord of the Rings, clearly, is the greatest. Second to that is the Chronicles of Narnia (the second film in that series, Prince Caspian, will be released in spring of '08). The authors of these two series are both brilliant intellectual Christians who employ fantasy in different ways to communicate transcendent truths about man, the world and God.

The production of these two series have provided a wonderful opportunity for a wider audience to familiarize themselves with stories long cherished by Christians in general and Catholics in particular. They are excellent tools for evangelization (and I don't meant that in a utilitarian sense), just look at the bevy of books they have prompted. Their beauty, and the richness of the worlds they create, lead towards truths concretely realized in the Christian revelation. They are "ours", and we are only too willing to share them with others.

Enter into this scene Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. New Line Cinema, who is producing this series and also produced The Lord of the Rings, is explicitly in their advertisements attempting to draw a parallel between the two works (I blogged about that strategy here when I first heard about the Golden Compass, and stated my problems with it then). They claim it is a continuation of Tolkien.

Now, while Pullman does share in the same broad category of "fantasy" as Lewis and Tolkien, he is also at-odds with their more fundamental philosophical and religious worldviews. Pullman has been named the "anti-Lewis" for a reason. New Line Cinema may not realize it, but Tolkien and Pullman are not peas in a pod. In fact, they aren't even Jacob and Esau. They are more like Gandalf and Sauron, more like Aslan and Jadis.

The fate of our corporate "movie imagination" balances on the edge of a knife. Catholics, I think, realize without completely understanding why, that Pullman's movie is a danger to what has so fortuitously come about as a result of Hollywood's storyline vacuum - a vacuum filled so-far, and happily, with the accumulated wisdom and beauty of Tolkien and Lewis. Pullman is poised on the brink of entering into what has been so carefully assembled, and blast it to pieces. If I may be permitted a moment of cynicism, I suspected that the avowed anti-Lewis is content to see his series of books become the new cinematic anti-Narnia, and by extension, anti-LOTR.

I remain open to the possibility that I'm making too much of all this, but I can't shake the sense that part of building up a Catholic culture, in this instance, involves sedulously resisting the lure of His Dark Materials.


As a postscript, I am aware of the argument that any attempt to boycott or vocally criticize this movie will supposedly only play into the hands of those who want to see the film do well (a la The Da Vinci Code). At the same time, of course, I think it is important to inform Catholics and Christians about the true nature of this film. Many people simply don't know why it problematic because and it is not overtly anti-Catholic or anti-God. There is already a very large movement to boycott the film, and a brief look at the social networking site Facebook reveals literally hundreds of thousands of folks doing so. In other words, this little post is just a drop in the bucket. And we should also refuse to be marginalized from these public debates. That's a sure path to defeat.


Incidentally, my previous posts on this topic have been receiving a large influx of visitors from search engines who are looking for background on the claim that this movie is anti-Catholic. I've written this post in part as a service to those new readers who might not be aware of the issues involved. Towards that end, you should also consider my previous posts on this topic, which in turn include links to other good commentaries and sources:

*update 2: New Line Cinema uses favorable USCCB review to advertise in Catholic publications

*update: Catholic League slams USCCB for positive review of Golden Compass

*Actor Daniel Craig: "They sell Dan Brown now in the Vatican"

*Golden Compass author Philip Pullman calls critics "nitwits"

*The word is getting out about The Golden Compass

*The Golden Compass is pointing towards anti-Catholicism

*Related: Posts on Philip Pullman and other dark materials

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