Tuesday, December 23, 2008

E.M. Vidal watches The Bells of St Mary’s
Such films were 1940s Hollywood’s public-relations gift to the Roman Catholic Church, signalling the larger, Protestant American society’s (more) acceptance (rather like in the same period every war movie had its Tony from Brooklyn in the platoon, and outside the cinema Notre Dame winning at football and the unworthy big nothing JFK’s win 15 years later) and managing to be entertaining without preaching or even saying much if anything about the Catholic faith and the church themselves. (IIRC you never see Fr O’Malley celebrate Mass or hear confessions like you do Robert DeNiro as a 1940s priest in True Confessions, one of my favourites.) The Trouble with Angels with Hayley Mills 20 years later is very similar that way (actually that was made because director Ida Lupino was fascinated by the dynamics of an all-female community, both in the convent and the boarding school) as of course is the monster hit The Sound of Music.

At the same time though there were actually religious Christian films made by mainstream studios (owned by Jewish families but making products that appealed to everybody because they sold well) from biblical extravaganzas to the overtly Roman Catholic like The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima (which I like except for the Hollywood comic relief trying to ‘sweeten’ it).

Yes, Fr O’Malley and Sister Benedict are favourite targets.

As for ‘that church’ and things today (when it comes to denying the severity of the problems today I’m with Arturo and Hilary... in real life a lot of Fr O’Malleys and Sister Benedicts slinked off and joined the enemy in mainstream society, often while remaining at their posts... now they’re dying off and the few kids left are teaching themselves how to chant in Latin, Deo gratias), my parish priest and father confessor of nearly 13 years grew up with it all and loved every minute of it (except diocesan high school), and as a member of a religious order went through clinical depression after having it taken away from him 40 years ago. (Owing to my roots in Anglo-Catholicism, which has had the floor drop out from under it even more thoroughly, we understand each other.) He continues to pass the essence of it on to me and others. Benedicamus Domino.

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