Some Christians watch The Passion of the Christ as a Good Friday spiritual exercise. Others wonder if they should but are hesitant to do so because of the intense nature of the film's depiction of Christ's sufferings. Some have even been told that they have an obligation to watch the film.
A recent caller to Catholic Answers Live fell into the latter category. She said that she had been told that she needed to watch this every Lent in order to be a good Catholic.
To some that claim would come as a bit of a surprise. How on earth did people manage to be good Catholics before Mel Gibson released the film--just a few years ago? Or perhaps the pope has added a new precept of the Church so that, in addition to observing the Church's marriage laws, supporting the Church according to our means, and fulfilling our Easter duty, etc., we also now have the Lenten duty of watching The Passion of the Christ.
Most people--including, I'm sure, the caller--would recognize that people managed to be good Catholics before the movie came out and that the Church has not imposed a legal obligation on Catholics to watch it each Lent, but there can still be a feeling of being torn about whether or not to watch it.
On the one hand, it can be a powerful devotional exercise. On the other hand, it can be emotionally wrenching.
There can even be a kind of scrupulous compulsion, a fear that if you don't watch it then you aren't doing what you ought.
So let's look into the issue . . .