“I don’t have to think; Hollywood does it for me!”

And here is what Hollywood tells me to think: Catholics who take their church seriously are foolish, hypocritical and failures in love.

Normally, since there is a movie trailer involved, I’d just send you over toward the Deacon’s place, to watch it, but since I have something to say, I’ll post it here:

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By the way, we often are foolish, hypocritical and failures in love but that’s part of the human condition and nothing exclusive to Catholics.

Knowing nothing about this film beyond what I’m seeing here, I shrug a little. Who knows? Maybe the thing becomes an intelligent look at the nuances and complexities of Catholic teaching and its marriage to classical reasoning, which some might call, you know…thinking.

Or you know, it may be some formulaic mess that just takes pot shots at the church and whose main character finds her redemption in secular enlightenment by the third reel.

For fun, I imagine the voice-over:

By the makers of “I don’t have to think; I’m with the officially cool kids, and they tell me what to say.”

Produced by the guys who take the cheapest and safest shots possible and call themselves brave.

Directed by the creative geniuses who preach “tolerance” but can only think in caricature.

Developed by people who probably cannot articulate why the church teaches anything it does, but know it’s all wrong.

Probably ghost written by Maureen Dowd! :-)

But seriously — we’re supposed to be a sign and a contradiction; if the culture was not telling us we were doing it wrong? We might well be doing it wrong!

It’s okay. We’re Catholic. We can take it. And we’ll still be here, imperfect, and faulty, talking deeply about things others jeer at or want to skim over and settle in the easiest and “feelingliest” ways possible (and with as much name-calling as they can manage) long after the “tolerant” folks have passed. We’ve survived skinning and beheading and being crucified upside down; we’ve been thrown into death pits and survived decades-long imprisonment and isolation and exile and firing squads.

Because the church survives by the grace of the Holy Spirit we know we will survive this, but we are in a long season of penance for sins of commission and omission. This stuff is going to keep coming. As John Paul II once said to his seminarians, “do not forget who you are.” And as he said to the rest of us, often, “do not be afraid.”

“The world will hate you for my sake”:

If we are secure in what we believe, a cartoon does not take us down, no matter how perverse and offensive, because Christ is alive, and Grace abounds, and because just as an Abbess or Abbot is entitled to use whatever resources his or her community contains to advance the stability of the abbey, the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding us by using what is out there in the world – sometimes very surprising things and people – to do the will of the One.

Pray for those who hate us. There is power there. And don’t be afraid of a “what if.” Bad times might come. So, what? “If in all things thou seeketh Jesus, doubtless thou shall find him.” (St. Theresa of Avila) and “All things are alive in the sight of their King” (Avila, again). Christians are joint-heirs with the Chosen people – it makes perfect sense that we might taste some of the sting and poison the world keeps offering His people, Israel. There is nothing to fear, here. Changing situations in the world are nothing in the face of the Unchanging.

Yes, as Katrina says, sometimes being a Catholic is so very hard.

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Wyjoe

    Richard Chamberlain as a priest? I mean it’s good that he’s working, but casting should have considered the optics.

  • http://elizabethk-fthnfort.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth K.

    Wait–was he in Thornbirds? As a priest gone wild? I was young, then.

  • Daybrother

    I hate to be judgmental when all I’ve seen is a trailer but I can’t help thinking this is just going to be another film that portrays people of faith as cartoon characters spouting dogma at inappropriate times so that no matter what the plot, the church will appear to be be completely out of touch and Catholics ignorant bumpkins and fools.

  • Billiamo

    Like the Mormon matriarch in Angels in America, the Catholic matriarch here (played by Kathleen Turner), will have grown by movie’s end. My hunch, anyway.

  • http://WarmSouthernBreeze.wordpress.com K.L.B.

    [Comment removed by admin, who really doesn't like it when people snottily call her "Liz" without asking if they call her "Liz", snottily or not. - admin]

  • Naive

    My environment thinks “Catholics who take their church seriously are sometimes stupid, sometimes naive, but always terribly unhappy and lonely in their private lives”.
    Well, the last one may be the truth. More than half my friends “serious Catholic” didn’t marry although they terribly wanted to. In the early forties … well, the chances are very, very slim.
    On the other hand, all my atheist /cafeteria Catholic friends/relatives/collegues are blossoming. None of them has a single problem. I’m not exactly envious but sometimes I feel pretty bitter … starting to think that we are paying the next life with the misery of this one :-(((

  • http://www.rosaryworkout.com Peggy Bowes

    I doubt many will fork over $15, or whatever it costs to go to a movie these days, for this ridiculous movie. I’m just surprised that Sally Field isn’t starring as this is right up her alley. One can hope that the gay daughter and wayward son will repent through the fervent prayers of their mother and that the priest (Richard Chamberlain? Ugh!) will provide gentle but firm guidance to the family, but I really just don’t think so. It will be a small blip on the radar that most people will ignore.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    What, Richard Chamberlain, again?

    Is he going to be re-playing his “Thornbirds” role?

  • Mark

    K.L.B. — I think Elizabeth makes it clear that she is not completely able to judge the entire film. But if the trailer is a Catholic-bashing piece of trash, it’s entirely possible to judge the trailer. And it’s entirely reasonable, I think, to assume the remainder of the film does the same. After all, it isn’t as though the trailer leaves a lot to the imagination. It is the same with the majority of trailers these days: we pretty much see the entire movie most of the time.

    By the way, what you call “obviously a comedy,” I call “obviously propaganda.” This is a hit piece designed to portray Catholics as unthinking bigots who could never possibly imagine one of their own family experiencing homosexual attraction or could never possibly imagine experiencing something that would cause them to question what they’ve been taught. The propaganda is clear: Catholics are simpletons who do not deserve a voice in the public square until they’ve put aside what their Church teaches. The isn’t the first such swipe from Hollywood.

    Finally, I don’t believe Elizabeth is attempting to do “movie reviews” or “film criticism” on this site or by way of this post. I think she is attempting to call out the bigotry and the mindless parroting that passes for thoughtfulness and progressivism in Hollywood these days. As with many blog posts, it was intended to be a rant or complaint, not a form critique. And I think she did a fine job.

  • Peggy m

    Your links provide much food for thought. In an earlier post, you remarked that “obedience” is a bad word in our culture. Fr. Longenecker adds other unpopular concepts: purity, virginity (I would add chastity), submission. Tim Muldoon’s article made me think about your post on George Will’s celebration of his son’s life. Some of your readers observed that pro-abortion advocates want perfection (here I would add “control”), a futile pursuit but there you have it. So Muldoon’s inclusion of Rilke’s poem is apt: “What we triumph over is the small,/and the success itself makes us small”.

  • sonny

    This might be the right time to refer to some pics that Hollywood got significantly right: A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, THE CARDINAL, THE HEART OF THE MATTER, THE NUN’S STORY, THE PASSION, MARCELINO PAN Y VINO, LORD JIM, BECKET, APOCALYPTO, THE MISSION, et al …

  • sonny

    PS: … OF GODS & MEN. And my fantasy wish, a movie about Thomas Merton or Ignatius of Loyola, written for cinema by the writer(s) of OF GODS & MEN. Pax vobis!

  • http://www.sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com sherry

    Based on the trailer, I’m guessing it’s designed to walk Catholics into being Okay with what Hollywood decides we shouldn’t get worked up about by putting us in the position of “growing with the heroine as she comes to term with the messiness of life” which apparently we know nothing about because we’re Catholic.

    Yeah. We Catholics don’t wrestle with the big questions. We don’t understand how hard reality is. We don’t understand suffering or get that the desire to be happy often makes us want to suspend our knowledge of sin. Based on the trailer? Bleah.

  • Mandy P.

    Just watched the trailer. *Sigh.* “I don’t have to think. I’m Catholic.” Really? Two millennia of deep thinking and this is what they reduce us to. The arrogance of modern man never ceases to amaze me. Catholics have spent over two thousand years *thinking* and it’s all to be ignored because we are apparently so enlightened in the year 2012 that we don’t need any of *that* kind of thinking. Nevermind that the vast majority of how we got here philosophically has a lot to do with all those Catholics thinking for all those centuries. No, let’s pretend that modern man magically leapt forward out of ignorance all by himself and only in the last thirty years or so. Sheesh!

  • Victor

    Folks, we must remember that “Jesus” “The Christ” left U>S (usual sinners) in this state but “I” have no doubt that “HE”, “HIS FATHER” and “THE HOLY SPIRIT” will bring U>S all through “IT” in “HIS OWN GOOD TIME” and if “HE” doesn’t, “I’M” sure that “HIS BLESSED MOTHER’S WILL” wills “IT” but in the mean time and as most Catholic know that “Time” can be pretty mean so during and/or in the mean time just take a pill! :)

    I hear ya! Ya! “IT” is easy for you and your imaginary friends to say sinner vic cause Victor let’s you get away with “IT” all the time and no body really pays any attention to you any more! http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/2012/05/national-day-of-ironic-prayer/#comments :(


  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Peggy, Sally Field and Richard Chamberlain in the same movie would be extremely bizzare.

    It would be a kind of disharmonic convergence of sheer cheesiness!

  • Katherine

    I’m not watching the trailer but this made me laugh:

    It would be a kind of disharmonic convergence of sheer cheesiness!

  • Gail Finke

    I loved Richard Chamberlain in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, in which he played a future priest. Unfortunately, I once saw him live as Henry Higgens — he was awful. About this movie I have no comment, not going to bother with the trailer even.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    I didn’t listen, just watched the visuals, but I can’t help but imagine the uproar if a Catholic production got the details of a gay couple’s household and life as stereotypically and idiotically wrong as this film (from the trailer) gets Catholic life, or if a Catholic film had a gay character say “I don’t have to think, I’m gay.” I don’t think that stuff like this does any real damage to Catholicism, but it’s always interesting to me to see how useful we are to the world as a straw dog.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    Films that got Catholic right: the Mission, Romero, maybe Doubt.

    I love science fiction, but I love science even more. If you want a list of movies, some of them even good as films, that got the science totally wrong, I could write a daily blog on it for years. Why we would think that a film is going to get the Catholic right and do our job for us–I don’t know. Don’t we have Fr Barron all over that?

    I wish some Catholics would get over this victim schtick.

  • vox borealis

    Todd, do you see a difference between a film that gets science wrong and one that is patently insulting and offensive to a group of people (be they Catholics or whoever)? I don’t care if a film “gets Catholicism right”—I expect the average film maker to err on the details. But I do care if a film appears to be openly hostile and indeed insult my faith.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com Todd Flowerday

    Vox, the difference is in the intent. Does a filmmaker intend malice against the faith? That’s a difficult thing to prove, unless the person is evidently anti-Catholic. I’m inclined to think of this stuff as a lazy plot device, a way to conjure conflict and create dramatic tension. It’s more a cliche than an attack. Not having seen the movie, I don’t think I’m qualified to judge more than that.

    Some people seem to absorb insult more often than it is intended. I’ve seen enough of that in the Catholic blogosphere to think that is a more likely dynamic. But if there’s evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears. and/or eyes.

  • enness

    ‘By the way, what you call “obviously a comedy,” I call “obviously propaganda.”’

    I have noticed this too, that people think they can get away with anything if it’s ostensibly a joke. What I have pointed out to others — to HOPEfully get them to try seeing things from someone else’s perspective — is that the targets of said “joke” don’t find it so charming after hearing it for the hundredth time from people who make no such pretense, but are deadly serious.

  • K Gerard

    Just go to Kathleen Turner’s website, she’s not looking to be balanced, she’s in charge of Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates. She WANTS to portray the church in the worse possible light. It’s time to stop being fools regarding what major media / hollywood personalities want. They want Catholics silenced and their values ostracized.


  • Kristen indallas

    comedy vs propaganda = Sister Act vs this movie
    Sure, the nuns were fairly cliche, there wasn’t a whole lot of prayer and I’m not sure where those musical numbers would fit into an approved liturgy… BUT it’s not Catholic Cinema it’s hollywood, so we suspend disbelief and at least it offers up Catholics who are real, morally grounded, and good people (who just happen to like save lounge singers from mobsters). It was Sister Mary Clarence who had the pre-concieved notions and ended up growing, and it made me smile in spite of myself. The movie above… not so much.

  • LisaB

    oh goody, a Hollywood film based on one tawdry cliche after another, how original!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I dunno, Todd; Islam, for instance, expects us to “Get it right” every single time, no excuses. And, when someone doesn’t get it right, the elite usually sympathize with them, and blame the cartoonists/movie-makers/novelists/etc. for offending Islam.

    Christians and Jews, of course, never get to be offended—”It’s agin the rules!” Or something. (Just for a laugh, google the history of a movie called, “Mohammed, Messenger of God!”)

    Science fiction is, well—fiction. And, to be honest, when it’s not fiction—when it’s supposed to be just science—yeah, I do expect whoever’s doing it to try and get it right. I enjoy “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”, but I don’t watch stuff like “In Search of Ancient Aliens” or “They Cloned Hitler’s Soooper Sekrit Time Machine,” because they’re pushing fantasy as science.

    And, when someone’s making a movie about real life Catholics, or Buddhists, or history, or things as they actually are—in short, making movies that purport to be about real things and real people, they do have some obligation, I think, to at least try and get it right.

    I do wish, by the way, that progressives would get over the victim schtick! Remember how they went ballsitic when “Passion of the Christ” came out? You’d think the Spanish Inquisition had returned! (No one expects it!) As I recall, back then, there was no talk about how “C’mon, it’s only a movie!” or, “Hey, it’s just a joke!” Nup, nup, nup! They saw “Passion” as a threat to civilization. They also get upset when some cartoonist, somewhere, is so insensitive as to draw a picture of Mohammed, or if somebody puts up a cross in a veterans cemetery. They are also constantly offended by Rush Limbaugh. . .

    *Does anybody remember Molly Norris?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    LisaB, tawdry cliches is what Hollywood does best! Well, that and disharmonic cheesiness! (I’m still twitching at the thought of Richard Chamberlain playing Henry Higgins! “The Rain/in Spain/Stays main-leee/on/the/play-yun!” Auuuuughhhhhh! And Sally Field, dressed as Eliza Doolittle, comes flying in overhead, as the theme from “The Flying Nun” plays.)

    Now just shush, and let good ol’ Hollywood do your thinking for you! Come on, you don’t really need that brain of yours, do you? (“I’ve grown accustomed to her faaaaaace”—-Arrrrrhhhhggggh!)

    Katherine, :)

  • LisaB

    Rhinestone, I can’t think of anything to say but that I really, really needed that laugh!! Thanks! Except I can’t get that visual of Sally Field out of my head, don’t forget the Union sign. ;)

  • Joshua Gonnerman

    Could you possibly email me at jgonnerman85@gmail.com? I have a request to make of you.

    In Christ,

    [oh, I am the shy sort and never email strangers. My email is theanchoress@gmail.com -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    LisaB, if you chant “Meka-leka-hi-meka-hiney-ho!” often enough, the visual of Sally Field should (Hopefull) fade! If that doesn’t work, visualise Captain Kanagaroo, or your favorite Warner Bros. cartoon!


    (you’re very welcome, any time!)

  • Liz

    Didn’t we have almost the same discussion on the web a few months ago when “GCB” premiered? And weren’t Protestants lectured to lighten up, that it’s not condemning Christianity, just those mean, holier-than-thou Christians who use their religion to judge others and elevate themselves? Sorry, not giving Hollywood the benefit of doubt anymore. Especially when no comedian, TV show, or movie can make even the slightest gay or ethnic joke without having to apologize profusely to the offended community.
    Sadly, Catholics need to create movies outside of Hollywood, like the folks who made “Fireproof”, if they want to see their faith portrayed with respect.

  • John

    Went to this site and posted a comment that was wryly critical and was blocked within minutes. This is Hollywood propaganda–say no more. I’m on board to counter it.

  • YouGoAnchoress

    “I don’t have to think, I’m Catholic.” What?? This isn’t even a cliche; it’s a Hollywood fantasy. Such characters simply don’t exist in reality. Catholics overall are an extremely well-educated, diverse, and thoughtful bunch.

    Father Dwight posted recently about the attempts of those in some circles (Hollywood etc.) to portray Catholics as anti-intellectual. It seems we are being confused with another group. Whatever the case, we must be doing something right if “the world” hates us so much.

  • dry valleys

    There was a film parodying would-be jihadists actually.

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  • Bryan

    “Catholic woman of the year”? That’s the plot driver? Unless the Misfit shoots everybody at the end, this just won’t work.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    seriously, yes—-Christians need to make movies outstide of Hollywood. (Look at the mess Hollywood made of the last two Narnia movies!)

    And, remember when the first Narnia movie came out? The critics were all so concerned that “The chuldurn” would have their poor little minds warped, by this awful Christian propganda!

    Because Hollywood wants a monopoly of the telling-you-what-to-think business.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Can you imagine someone making a movie about Moslems, where one of the characters says something like, “I’m Islamic, I don’t have to think!” Can you imagine them actually getting away wtih it? Several years back, some well-meaning, but naive folks, attempted to make a movie about Mohammed’s life—a sympathetic one, not a mocking one.

    Riots, and all sorts of mayhem ensued!

  • Liz

    RS – And wouldn’t it be hilarious is if in this movie about a Muslim family, the father – who is up for some position of honor at the local mosque – has to contend with a son who declares his homosexuality and a daughter who becomes engaged to an atheist white boy? Something tells me the resolution of THAT storyline would be decidedly different from the eventual empathy and acceptance of her kids’ imperfections that the Kathleen Turner character most likely has in “The Perfect Family.”

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Or, lord, yes, Liz!

    The outcome would be totally different! Something about “Respecting traditions” and “Standing in solidarity with one’s people”, and “The Beauty of our Abrahamic faith!” Or something!

    And, no matter what the ending was, the Islamic community, and elite pundits, would find it all very offensive.

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  • Todd

    Turner was asked about the movie at the Onion’s entertainment site, AV Club, and she says that the character is excited to get this Catholic Woman of the Year award because it will absolve her of her sins. Link here: http://goo.gl/mtHSE

    Now, it’s possible she didn’t understand what the award meant in the story’s universe, although since she’s the principal actress that seems hard to believe. If this is really a major plot point in the movie, it is so completely wrong about Catholicism that it boggles the mind. It is creating a fictionalized world of Catholic belief, that, depending on the success of this movie, has the potential to affect popular understanding of Catholic practice.

  • James

    I’ll tell you one thing this movie gets right, though (at least from what I see in the trailer): the liturgical situation in typical American parishes. I’ve seen my share of “Eucharistic Minister” power struggles, alas.

    Most Hollywood films still seem to think it’s 1955 when you walk into a church door.