Maybe you’ve heard about this movie, scheduled for release next year on Ash Wednesday, that former Catholic Mel Gibson promises will be the definitive screen treatment of Christ’s passion and death.
Predictably, most of the elite media are in a frenzy over this, and, just as predictably, are wrong on almost everything. As an informed Catholic layman, allow me to set the record straight on several issues.
LA times media writer and noted Leftie Tim Rutten’s column of August 6th is typical of the media reaction. Most of the commentary in his article is based on reaction to an early script that was circulated by Gibson—a script that was changed before filming. A number of people (referred to by Rutten as “right-wing” commentators) including Peggy Noonan, Kate O’Beirne, Linda Chavez, Matt Drudge, Laura Ingram, and Rush Limbaugh, have actually seen the film. None of them was consulted for the article. One would assume that they liked the movie. As it is, nothing positive about the pic was contained in his article.
The first concern raised is that of “anti-Semitism.” Regardless of how much one sugarcoats the story, and MUCH sugarcoating has gone on in the last 40 years, it is impossible to escape the fact that Jesus ran afoul of the Jewish establishment, which was quite interested in His demise. To be sure, Jesus died for all of us, and had to die as part of the divine plan, but to remove culpability from the Jews—whether this refers to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, or the Mob—is specious sentimental theology of the worst order.
There is nothing in Vatican II that absolves ALL Jews of ALL guilt. Rather, the point is that Jesus had to die, and died for the sins of all. Still, it must be said that many conciliar documents appear to be written purposely in a manner to promote confusion. If Gibson has problems with certain Vatican II documents, he is in good company, but this is no reason to leave the Church. By leaving the Church, he is not a “devout Catholic,” but is only a heretic.
Rutten then mysteriously ties in Gibson, and other members of splinter groups, with the late Boston Jesuit priest, Fr. Leonard Feeney. Despite a wealth of material that would have been available to Rutten given 15 minutes of Internet research, he repeats the terrible calumny that Feeney was “rabidly anti-Semitic,” and was “excommunicated in 1953 by Pope Pius XII for preaching heresy.” How sad that these lies are still being spread 25 years after Feeney’s death.
In the mid-1940’s, Feeney was regarded as a premier Jesuit theologian, and a star of the order. However, by late in that decade, he got into trouble with the hierarchy of the Boston archdiocese for at least two reasons: He was converting Protestant offspring of Boston Brahmins, and the parents were complaining to then Archbishop Cushing. At the same time, Feeney was openly making a big fuss about the ordination of many gay priests. (You think he was on to something?)
Feeney was never formally excommunicated, and, in fact, late in life was publicly “brought back” into the Church, in an embarrassing episode, that was done mostly to ease the conscience of the miserable Boston chancery, that up until the recent resignation of Cardinal Law, stunk to high heaven. Still, the mere talking about possible excommunication, along with forged or incomplete documents was enough to create the calumny on Feeney. Likewise, the fact that Feeney engaged Jews on the issue of their own salvation, might have been enough to earn him the label “anti-Semitic.”
Gibson is attacked for the views of his father, Hutton, said to be a
“well-known traditionalist theologian,” who also happens to be a Holocaust denier and sedevacantist, (“the seat is empty” in Latin), who believes there has been no pope since the conclave that elected John XXIII was subverted by a Jewish/Masonic conspiracy.
It is irresponsible in the extreme to refer to a heretic as “traditionalist.” As far as the “Holocaust denier” moniker, one must be very careful. Some, like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, would use that term to describe anyone as innocent as a reader who noted inconsistencies in the diary of Anne Frank, yet the term implies to the uninitiated that he believes that no Jews were killed by Hitler. In all candor, I have no idea what Hutton Gibson believes on this issue, but given the rest of his statements, would assume the worst.
As to sedevacantism, this is simply nonsense, and, in this context, near atheism, since Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail over the Church.
Finally, Rutten makes the ridiculous mistake of attributing the doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation) to Feeney, even though it is an infallibly defined Church doctrine, going back to the beginning of the Church. Admittedly, it is surely soft-pedaled in these times of goopy sentimental theology.
Feeney became inexorably identified with this doctrine, when he tried to justify his evangelizing to Cushing and his Jesuit superiors. Infamously, Cushing and company, ever worried about human respect, and being invited to the right cocktail parties, retreated from this doctrine, at the peril of their souls. Ironically, in the ceremony which supposedly brought Feeney back into the Church, he recited the Athanasian creed, which essentially echoes extra ecclesium nulla salus.
Rutten could have made the point that Gibson is defying this very doctrine by leaving the Church, but that would have interrupted the nonstop mudslinging.
Judging from the pre-release hysteria, I’m almost looking forward to the reviews more than the movie.