I very much enjoy John Anderson’s film reviews, but I have a quibble with his recent “Lives of Christ” (3/14). In the first part of the review, which focuses on “Risen,” Mr. Anderson notes that one of the most humorous parts of the film occurs when “half the men bashfully raise their hands” after being asked, “Who knows Mary Magdalene?”
Even though Mr. Anderson parenthetically admits that this joke is based on something that has absolutely no basis in Scripture, I found this part of the film in poor taste, poorly informed and not funny in any way. As an instructor of college students—the majority of whom believe that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute—this portrayal of the saintly “Apostle to the Apostles” must end. It is past time for us to call out directors and authors who impugn this holy woman, whose fidelity to Christ was unmatched in the Gospels. It is not humor but calumny.
Re “Voter’s Complex,” by John Keenan (Reply All, 3/7): In response to “The Greatness of a Nation,” by Bishop Robert McElroy (2/15), Mr. Keenan writes that because of the politics of abortion, “voting for the right candidate is not so complex after all.” I have struggled with the question: Should I be more concerned with charging the “other” as being immoral (as would be the case of a man, who will never face the question, charging a woman who sought an abortion) or should I be more concerned with my guilt for being complicit in a community that is, at the least, blind to true social justice or is, at the worst, systemically unjust?
I do know that it is much easier for me to point to the immorality of the “other” (especially when I, as a man,will never be in the place of the other) than to accept my personal and corporate guilt when I refuse to consider the possible injustice in the systems that I promote. If I remain more interested in only pointing out the wrongs of others, then Mr. Keenan is correct—voting for a candidate is pretty simple.
Sound But No Solutions
Re “Mind the Gap” (Current Comment, 3/7): I feel obliged to say that this comment is underwhelming: Do the editors search out problems to raise? Do they propose solutions?
Fairfax County, Va., and McDowell County, W.Va., are separated by 350 miles, about a half-day’s drive. Residents of Fairfax County are among the longest-living in the country: Men have an average life expectancy of 82 years and women, 85, about the same as in Sweden. In McDowell, the averages are 64 and 73, about the same as in Iraq.
Would you consider moving people from Iraq to Sweden or Fairfax County—or vice versa—to solve this issue? I ask because a) differences among us seem to be “inequalities” and b) cursing the darkness rather than lighting a candle seems to be a trend today. If we each try harder to love God and love our neighbor, the important stuff will be accomplished. If we simply decry the status quo we waste time and energy and sound like Donald Trump.
In “What Will Francis Say?” (2/29) Gerard O’Connell looks ahead to what Pope Francis might say in his upcoming apostolic exhortation on the family. I do not understand. Will he reaffirm the indissolubility of marriage and then, in direct contradiction, say a person can indeed dissolve a marriage, enter into an adulterous relationship and receive Communion? I do not believe I am the only one who is totally exasperated by this papacy. Why bother taking up one’s cross and making the effort to live by the church’s moral teachings if Francis will just say “don’t sweat the details”? I will continue to try and live by the catechism rather than Francis’ teachings. He has lost me.
Thanks to John Conley, S.J., for his column “Lenten Freedom” (2/29). I still do not understand why the church became more and more lax after Vatican II. Were we confused or ashamed of our ascetical practices? Did the church think that purging practices like fasting and abstinence would lead more people to attend church and come to God?
I am at the age where I attend more and more funerals. The local parish priests tell us at each one that the deceased is now in heaven—even when the deceased themselves were quite determined to make it to purgatory at best. If most Catholics think heaven is their next stop after death, then it is no wonder Lenten asceticism is more and more rare.
Re “Create in Me a Just Heart,” by Megan McCabe (2/8): There is no victimless pornography, and in the world of Internet and amateur porn the possibility that someone, somewhere not of age or not able to freely consent was coerced into the production of the video is quite high. The impact of pornography on the common good must be judged by its victims, not by whether the more violent scenes are acted out in any private or public sphere. A strict focus on personal morality perpetuates the myth of the male sexual drive tempted by the female body and fails to consider the entirety of the victimization of the industry on all genders.
Catholics must address porn as a matter of both personal and social morality. Ms. McCabe’s article underemphasized the role of lust in first luring, then hooking and literally addicting men (and women) to pornography. Indeed, her article did not even mention sexual addiction, from which so many men and women suffer. That vast social and economic structures—fueled by profit—promote, inculcate and reinforce women (and men) as objects, there can be no doubt. Both lust and its cousin “control-domination” are incited and aroused by porn.
Pornography is diabolical precisely because it uses one of the most tender, sublime and beautiful gifts of God—our human sexuality—and perverts it to consumptive use, abuse and violence. It is yet another manifestation of what St. John Paul II called the culture of death.
Re “What’s Catholic About It?” by the Rev. J. Michael Byron (2/8): It is ironic that a representative of the theological academy seems so perplexed by the rise of the Catholic studies curriculum. I see it as a beast of their own creation. Its inception in the 1980s was no doubt a response to the pervasive lack of respect for and dismissal of church history and magisterial teaching in Catholic universities in the 1970s and beyond. Perhaps the “John Paul II and Benedict” Catholics think it a worthwhile venture to study the teachings of pontiffs who actually participated in the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis is not the sole proprietor of the breezy “spirit” of the council, as he has indicated well in his writings. Alas, here is another fabricated division in Catholicism where there need be none.
A Tradition of Service
In “Wading Into the Deep Blue” (2/8), a review of “Blue Bloods,” Nicholas Sawicki writes, “One of the biggest criticisms of the show is that it tends to be too archetypal in the way it portrays the Reagan family...with the three oldest men in the Reagan family being veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps, each of whom served overseas in three different wars.”
I think not. The show is successful because it is so real. My father was a part of the New York City Fire Department and served in the Navy in World War II; I served two tours in Vietnam and had a U.S. Army career. My son went to the U.S. Military Academy and served a year in Iraq. In the show, the Reagans have a divorced daughter, a difficult teen, some serious family fights, marriage stresses, a grandmother who died too young and more. Their faith is real, and it helps them to fight many negative forces and to stay together—while keeping their Catholic identity.
In the article “Our Reason for Being” (2/1), Michael Naughton, Don Briel and Kenneth E. Goodpaster rightly fault Catholic education for falling short of being faithful to the “updating” called for by the Second Vatican Council and required by the long-accepted principle that “faith supposes reason.” Reason supposes informed understanding; but when understanding is misinformed and faith follows it, faith runs amok. In part, the ecological crisis—advanced in Christian colonialism—results from such misunderstandings.
Pope Francis’ impassioned encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” identifies human ecology as evolved in and with nature’s ecology. If the church is dismissive of evolution and the evolution of symbiosis, it presents to the faithful faulty premises of understanding. St. John Damascene defines God as “a sea of infinite understanding.” It is of the waters of God-understanding we must drink if we would get nature right, evolution right, reason right and faith right.