December 2, 2015

Two Movies Show the Church is a Human Institution With a Divine Mission

The Catholic Church has been variously described as an institution of human beings [i.e. fallible men and women] with a divine mission [to spread the "Good News" to all corners of the earth in the imitation of Christ.] Two movies in theaters this month illustrate both the human frailty of the Church Militant and the selfless charity of the Church's divine mandate as prescribed by Jesus and lived out by the faithful.

Spotlight, the story of how reporters from The Boston Globe uncovered the scandal of child molestation and enablement within the Archdiocese of Boston, demonstrates how individual priests sinned mortally and exhibited a grievous lack of fidelity to their sacred vows amid a culture of denial and deception within parts of the Church's hierarchy.

[For the Church's response to the abuse scandal see Pope Benedict XVI & the Sexual Abuse Crisis.]

In a favorable review of the movie for the National Catholic Register, Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus notes the following:
Are there issues with this picture? Certainly. Characters perpetuate the common misuse of "pedophilia" in connection with abuse involving minors of any age. According to the 2004 John Jay Report, less than 5% of clerical offenders from 1950 to 2002 were pedophiles [who target prepubescent children rather than adolescents or teenagers]. Sipe’s 6% figure — based on his clinical experience, not controlled studies — is apparently validated in Boston, though nationwide, from 1950 to 2002, about 4% of clergy were accused of abuse, with four in five of these accusations substantiated.
Spotlight never mentions that rates of abuse among Catholic priests have not been found to be higher than among other clergy, in other fields such as public education, or among the general population — or that rates of clerical abuse peaked in the 1970s, with sharp declines since then. Characters reinforce the common but unconvincing platitude that sexual orientation has nothing to do with the fact that the vast majority of victims [more than 80%] are male. And while end titles conclude with a long list of locations where scandals have occurred, there is no mention of the extensive measures the Church has undertaken in the last decade and a half to protect minors.
It would be easy for Catholics to seize on these and other issues and defensively dismiss the film as a hatchet job, but this would not be accurate or helpful. The film reflects the perspective of the Spotlight team; it offers a fundamentally negative view of Church leadership, one that is narrowly and one-sidedly grim but undeniably based in fact.
Spotlight is a painful movie to watch because it portrays a widespread pattern of abuse and the lack of accountability in the Church. Greydanus writes: "For Catholic viewers, clerical and lay, it [the movie] can be seen as a dramatic witness to the profound need to expect and insist on a culture of openness, transparency and accountability." Indeed, the Catholic Church is called to be the light of the world. Let us never fear spotlighting, in fraternity and love, our own activities and shortcomings should the need arise to do so.

A second movie, premiering in theaters this Friday [Dec. 4th] shows the Catholic Church at her very best, as seen through the life and personal letters of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. [I maintain a special devotion to Mother Teresa, having met her in person while studying at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary. She placed in my hand two Miraculous Medals which I, in turn, gave to my parents. That summer, I worked alongside Mother Teresa's sisters at the Missionaries of Charity's Gift of Hope Aids Hospice in Baltimore Maryland.]

The Letters is a candid look at the future saint's earthy pilgrimage; in both her struggles and her successes. From the movie's website:
Mother Teresa, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of modern times. Her selfless commitment changed hearts, lives and inspired millions throughout the world. The Letters, as told through personal letters she wrote over the last 40 years of her life, reveal a troubled and vulnerable woman who grew to feel an isolation and an abandonment by God. The story is told from the point of view of a Vatican priest charged with the task of investigating acts and events following her death. He recounts her life’s work, her political oppression, her religious zeal and her unbreakable spirit.
Blessed Mother Teresa's life is proof that sainthood is possible for us today. Lord God, may she one day soon be numbered among Your saints! [Please pray for the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.]

The Letters - Official Main Trailer

1 comment :

Genesis Feminist said...

I'm looking forward to seeing both these movies. I'm glad they are coming out around the same time.