Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In America, we didn't need the council

  • Who killed Extreme Unction? From the mainstreamish First Things, a big neoconnish tent that includes some Catholics like me, convertodox (intelligentsia self-hating Westerners), and high-church mainliners (women clergy but good liturgical sense) if I recall correctly. As the Catholic liberals fade away you'll see more criticism of the council like this. Fellay for cardinal; Lefebvre for saint (give that at least 50 years to happen).
  • By the '40s we had arrived in American society. Our hosts made and watched Boys Town and Going My Way, listened to Msgr. Sheen on the radio, followed Notre Dame football, and cheered for Joe DiMaggio. We didn't need the council. It undid almost all that we had worked for. (My archdiocese is finally broke, merging, closing, and selling things off.) Even with all the efforts to turn our holiday about God made man into a festival about presents and snow (well-meant to include Jews), American Christmas is when the Protestants forget their objections to us and want to come home: they put up statues of Jesus and Mary, light candles, and sing in Latin. The Incarnation's that powerful.
  • Christ renews creation (instaurare omnia in Christo) but the faith, the church, isn't about creating another reality but accepting and redeeming the one we've got: seeing things as they really are. Reality, objective truth = Aristotle and the Schoolmen. (But can you dance to it? Good name for a band. By the way, did you hear that Hank Igitur and Agnes Dei ran off together? The cops caught them and the captain said, "Dominic, go frisk 'em.")
  • The church in the movies:
    • One thing I like about The Godfather III (which by the way, in isolation from the rest of the trilogy is still a pretty good movie) is the depiction of the aged Michael Corleone as the archetype of the steely-haired Catholic businessman. Living where I do, I see these guys all the time: members of the Knights of Columbus and/or Knights of Malta; they donate liberally to or outright run Catholic charities, hobnob with the bishop, are active in the local Republican Party, and are generally upstanding members of the community. And they're also kind of shady. Or at least street-smart.
    • The Godfather III is pulp fiction, made more interesting because we care about the Corleones because of the other, better movies. But it's not the dreck that people say it is. (And Sofia Coppola's attractive.) Though it does make the church look bad (ripped off from David Yallop's In God's Name). Someday I'll have to read Mario Puzo's novel; I've been told it's more nuanced. There's a whole subplot about the Frank Sinatra copy; Vito's rise to power, betraying other Italians, is more detailed; the Corleones really wanted to assimilate and didn't care about the church - Michael was disappointed that Kay converted.
    • Monsignor with Christopher Reeve: I love that movie! Gets it almost right, even with the soap-opera affair with the postulant or novice (Geneviève Bujold). One of my all-time favorites, getting the period, the church, and church people, good and bad, right is True Confessions, a one-off part for Robert DeNiro as a rising young Irish-American monsignor in '40s LA with Robert Duvall as his cop brother; a fictionalization of the Black Dahlia still-unsolved murder (woman literally cut in half). Based on a book. If you want to see Bobby DeNiro as a traditional (but not super-pious) priest again, see Sleepers.
    • True Confessions was a beautiful movie and the Mass was done very well in the Tridentine Rite (as was the Tridentine Rite Baptism in The Godfather I) and also the priest at the end who was a social climber and considered an up-and-comer reconciles with his brother and is redeemed through his more humble work.


  1. My all-time favorite Catholic movie will always be *The Song of Bernadette.* It leaves stuff out and futzes with some details, but it's reasonably accurate (for Hollywood). Its portrayal of the Soubirous' poverty is gritty and realistic. And Jennifer Jones is luminous, radiant, absolutely perfect as Bernadette. I need to watch it again.

  2. I agree about Godfather III. Sofia Coppolla may have been attractive, but her acting was very poor. It hurts the movie but it doesn't ruin it. Everybody else is great.

    Another interesting Catholic film---the Cardinal (1963 and looks it). Not a great one (the title character just isn't that compelling), but a lot of great stuff in it. John Huston made a wonderful Archbishop of Boston.

    One film I really need to see sometime is the Austrian flick "Embezzled Heaven" (1958). One of the scenes in the film depicts an actual audience with Ven. Pius XII in St Peter's, and watching it on Youtube brought tears to my eyes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1S9kvnwaeE

  3. As Jack Nicholson's character says that the beginning of The Departed, back in the day, "we had the Church, which meant we had each other."


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