The Passion of the Movie Patrons
There's a great outcry right now over the graphic violence in The Passion of the Christ (“Box Office Passion,” Feb. 22-28).
Experts who barely raised an eyebrow over the brutal and gratuitous violence of Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre have been transformed into guardians of the moral order after watching Gibson's film. What is it about this particular movie that has changed these men and women into watch-dogs of morality? Why have they drawn the line at this particular film?
We would cheer, of course, if the transformation were real, but no one with any sense can imagine it is. Besides, the Passion detractors' moral protest over the movie's violence has merely exposed their moral obtuseness. They've got everything upside down and backwards about the film. It is exactly the moral dimension of Gibson's film that they have most completely failed to comprehend.
The moral uplift to be gained by a thoughtful — or, better said, prayerful — viewing of Passion is its single purpose and its most impressive accomplishment. The violence here isn't titillation aimed at selling tickets; it is cruelty calculated to show up the immense and conquering power of the love of God, which cannot be overcome by any extremity of evil.
The film, like the true event it artistically depicts, calls forth the highest moral response from the viewer. Most people are walking away touched and transformed — grateful and adoring, giving more now in their own lives and counting less the cost of that giving.
J. FRASER FIELD
Powell River, British Columbia
The writer is executive officer of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center (www.catholiceducation.org).
What has Mel Gibson accomplished? He has the entire world considering the Crucifixion. In one moment, he has set before the eyes of our agnostic culture the sacrificial death of the God-made-Man, by which the entire universe is reconciled to the Father. Period!
He is not making any anti-Semitic statement. Nor is the movie designed to incite wholesale slaughter of the children of Abraham. As Pope Pius XI stated in a public audience in September 1938, in a statement aimed against Hitler's anti-Semitic laws: “We are all spiritual Semites.”
We are all sons and daughters of Abraham, in fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham that his offspring would be more numerous than the sands of the sea. We are his offspring — spiritual offspring, of greater importance to God than those merely of his flesh and blood, because all are heirs through the blood of his Son.
What has Mad Mel done? He has turned the world's attention away from itself and toward Christ on the cross. The world does-n't know what to do. In its confusion, the media cries foul and hurls politically correct accusations. Yet, in the present anti-Christian culture, and specifically anti-Catholic climate, the accusations sound as hollow as they are. The statement was made years ago that “anti-Catholicism is the antiSemitism of the intellectuals.” And it is true. There is more in the protests against the film than meets the eye. But, despite the howling, the fact remains: Christ crucified is at the heart of the discussion about this movie.
Maybe, just maybe, Gibson's movie can be used by the all-powerful Father to melt hearts hardened by this world and by their own pride to come closer to him through Christ crucified — whom they are now forced to look upon and consider because of this film.
MSGR. STEPHEN M.DIGIOVANNI, H.E.D.
- March 14-18, 2004