One of our newest associate editors, Raymond Schroth, S.J., a name most likely familiar to many of our readers (he has a long history with America, Commonweal and NCR and is the author of many well-respected books--including what looks like a fascinating new book, soon to be published, on Robert Drinan, S.J.) turns his attention to the new George Clooney film "The American." Among the characters in the film are a Catholic priest....perhaps not surprising when you see the photo to the right of George Clooney apparently escaping from an ordination!
The eccentric little-village Italian priest is a stock, usually lovable, literary character. We remember the Don Camillo novels and Graham Greene’s Spanish Monsignor Quixote, and Hollywood’s temptation is to go with a stereotype. But one of the graces of "The American" is that it is not a Hollywood, or even an “American” film. Father Benedetto is old, homely and overweight, and, unlike cliché priests, never paternally addresses Ed as “my son.” He takes a pastoral initiative without coming on too strong and cooks dinner for him, the closest the film comes to a Eucharist.
Ed is posing as a photojournalist. "Do you study our history?" the priest asks. "No," Ed replies. "That’s the trouble with you Americans," says Benedetto, “You think you can escape history.” Which is what Ed is trying to do, extricate himself from a history of murdering people.