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I’d Be Happy to Know I Was the Only One Who Missed This…

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From FOK Nick Ripatrizone

In related other belated news, the man behind the swiveling heads and green projectile liquids finds out if he was right all along…

ADDED: Well, now, this is something (else!).

The First Word on Silence . . .

. . . which is to say the novel, Chinmoku, will always belong to Endo. After reading Mark Lickona’s article I had a few questions, so I went back to my well-worn copy of the book and read a couple of paragraphs from an interview with the author in 1967 (the year after Silence was published). The first should seem familiar to readers of Korrektiv—or anybody’s inner existentialist. With a Japanese twist:

For a long time I was attracted to a meaningless nihilism and when I finally came to realize the fearfulness of such a void I was struck once again with the grandeur of the Catholic Faith. This problem of the reconciliation of my Catholicism with my Japanese blood . . . has taught me one thing: that is, that the Japanese must absorb Christianity without the support of a Christian tradition or history or legacy or sensibility.

Say what? “Without the support of a Christian tradition or history …” How is that possible? What does that even mean?

Good thing there’s another paragraph:

But after all it seems to me that Catholicism is not a solo, but a symphony … If I have trust in Catholicism, it is because I find in it much more possibility than in any other religion for presenting the full symphony of humanity. The other religions have almost no fullness; they have but solo parts. Only Catholicism can present the full symphony. And unless there is in that symphony a part that corresponds to Japan’s mud swamp, it cannot be a true religion. What exactly this part is—that is what I want to find out.

I’m really not sure what to make of the first paragraph, so please, if you can, enlighten me with your comments below. But the second paragraph I rather like, and not just because he uses music as a metaphor. What I find stirring is the resolution he exhibits as he looks ahead to the next thirty years of his career. And even more than that, perhaps, is his ready admittance that he isn’t exactly sure what he makes of the predicament in which he finds himself.

And since Scorsese’s version has fallen upon awfully rocky ground in these parts, I’ll provide a link here to a 1971 Japanese version, directed by Masahiro Shinoda from a screenplay by Endo himself with the director. It differs from the novel in several ways, but I won’t give the game away here.

Last of all, here’s a look at the author himself, shilling for something called the “Bungo Mini”. And coffee:

Yeah, I know…

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It’s a downright radical (or reactionary) publication (for the sake of complete transparency, I have a lifetime subscription), but this pre-Vat. II take on the flim-flam of films is, I think, right on. It was, after all, written by a member of the “greatest generation” – how could it be wrong?

“[P]erhaps you like the ‘progressive’ type priest better than the more old-fashioned kind. But don’t you see, even the old doddering padre, the one who’s made to appear as a typical ‘traditionalist’ or ‘conservative’ in the ranks of the Catholic clergy, is a far cry from what I would call a real Catholic priest. Because to all appearances he values his parish mainly in terms of a church building which it has taken him a lifetime collection drive to build. True, he doesn’t only take in money via raffle tickets and church pew collections, but in a kind of Robin Hood way he also pays back an occasional alms to the parish needy. Then, in moments of financial parish crisis, when the mortgagor’s handwriting appears in bold letters on the wall—the old padre seeks to revive his inner faith by an admittedly human, but hardly a very priestly way: he reaches dodderingly for his favorite bottle of scotch!”

I think of Spotlight winning this year’s onanist Oscar and can’t help but think that if the late and venerable Mr. Matt is right, he’s more right than he thinks…

Thank God for J.F. Powers…

 

Cinematic Sacerdotes

Steven D. Greydanus is compiling a list of priest movies

HERE.

Thanks for doing our work for us, SDG!

The Jewish Cardinal

The-Jewish-Cardinal-0001.showcase_3Oh, look – a film in which religion is taken seriously. In particular, the way that religion influences a person’s identity, and the way experience influences religion. It’s full of the kind of ecumenical politicking that gives JOB gallstones, but other than that, it’s outstanding Catholic Family Viewing. Very fine performances, especially Aurelien Recoing as John Paul II.

The Next Is Silence

Deadline Hollywood‘s Mike Fleming, Jr. has the scoop:

Martin Scorsese will finally realize his long-held dream to direct Silence, an adaptation of the Shusaku Endo novel about 17th century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. Financing for the film has been secured […]. The plan is to shoot in Taiwan in July 2014 […].

When I interviewed Scorsese for Hugo during our awards season coverage two years ago, I asked him about why his passion for Silence has never waned. Here is what he said:

DEADLINE: You’ve tried to adapt the Shusaku Endo novel Silence, about 17th century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. It isn’t commercial, it has been hard to finance, but it looks like you’ll finally get your chance to make it. Why has it been so important to you?

SCORSESE: My initial interests in life were very strongly formed by what I took seriously at that time, and 45-50 years ago I was steeped in the Roman Catholic religion. As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. […]

DEADLINE: We Catholics are always struggling for answers.

SCORSESE: There are no answers. We all know that.* You try to live in the grace that you can. But there are no answers, but the point is, you keep looking. […]

Roger Ebert and the Catholic Church

Catholic film critic Steven Greydanaus has written a fine essay and appreciation of Roger Ebert.

Ebert: “I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God.”

More here: How I Believe in Roger Ebert

We’re a nation of puss cakes…

Walt knows it.

Do you?

 

In light of Cubeland Mystic’s suggestion that we go back to the desert…

…here (again?) is my proposal for THE CLOISTER.  Think Duvall as the Rector, Malkovich as Tomaso, Kenneth Branagh as McManus.

The “one-strike” policy drafted by the U.S. bishops at their meeting in Dallas has become policy – all cases of sexual abuse by priests are now to be reported to the police.  The police and the courts, for their part, pursue these cases with vigor, and priests begin ending up behind bars.

Once there, they are treated very poorly – even by other sex-offenders.  They are at the very bottom of the prison’s social order, and more than one jailed priest ends up dead.  Nobody is especially upset by this – there is a general sense of justice being served, since the offenders went unpunished for so long.

The protagonist, Father McManus, is a priest in his late-30s who has sought to “hide” in the priesthood.  (As part of a class that never marries, he will never have to resolve any questions he might have about his own sexual leanings, which tend toward other men.)  Though promiscuous in his youth, he has taken his vow of celibacy seriously, and has sought to remain chaste as he serves as pastor in a SoCal parish.  But when a young Hispanic prostitute who has come seeking refuge offers himself in gratitude, the temptation proves too great.  Of course, McManus is caught – he’s one of those people who never gets away with anything – and soon finds himself before the bishop.

The bishop informs him that because there are no outraged parents involved, and because the prostitute is not interested in pressing charges, there may be a way to avoid prison and its attendant evils:  The Cloister.  The Cloister is a monastery in the California desert, long abandoned by the order that built it.  It is not officially inhabited – there is no power to the building, no water, no mail, nothing to place it within the grid.  But the diocese still owns the land, which it quietly acquired from the original order when it disbanded.

Since the adoption of the one-strike policy, the monastery has begun to serve a new purpose:  as an intra-Church correctional facility for sexually-abusive priests.  The bishop, reluctant to send his charges into the prison environment, has begun sending priests there whenever he can prevail upon parents/victims to permit it.  Parents/victims, while not told about The Cloister itself, are given every assurance that the offending priest will not be “shuffled” – sent to simply carry on being bad somewhere else.  Rather, they will be subjected to the Church’s own form of incarceration and rehabilitation – and kept isolated from underage youth – for a minimum of five years.  (If they slip back into their old ways after that, they are duly reported to the police.)

The cloister is run by a throwback – some would say medieval – rector:  a Jesuit who has been allowed by his now-liberal order to go where he pleases, as long as he stays out of their hair.  He is old-school, a big believer in penance, prayer and fasting, a disciplinarian who sees obedience as the first virtue for creatures under God and under him.  He is a tough old bird – he seems to enjoy his repudiation of “niceness” a little too much, and he is stubborn and hot-tempered – but he is not a monster.  He sincerely believes in what he is doing – attempting to get priests to master themselves so as to be better servants of God – and wills the good for those in his care.

Nor is he a hypocrite when he rages against The World, The Flesh and The Devil.  He punishes his flesh in an attempt to curb his temper.  He does not require the inmates to join him for 2 a.m. rosary in the chapel, but he is there every night.  And when a grateful bishop sends him a bottle of good Burgundy, he hesitates only a moment before sending it to the kitchen to be used as cooking wine.  (As for the inevitable charge that he preaches to sexual predators because he himself is sexually repressed, it will go unanswered here.)

The rector’s power comes from the fact that only he can determine that a priest is fit to leave The Cloister.  He is served by a cadre of monks – they wear black robes, as opposed to the gray robes of the inmates – who serve as a sort of prison guard, keeping an eye on things, making sure the life of The Cloister proceeds as it should.

Naturally, his strict discipline and emphasis on striving for old-fashioned holiness make him enemies among the inmates, particularly Father Tomaso, an intelligent old priest who was the rector’s classmate at seminary.  Tomaso’s faith has shriveled; he is a hardened predator who has no hope of ever leaving – he came only to avoid prison.  Another priest, Father Boudreaux, is one of a group that sees celibacy as outdated and damaging, part of an overall failure of the Church to deal properly with sexual matters.  They know they have sinned, but they see themselves as victims of a backwards institution.  They see the rector as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the Church today, the biggest impediment to its being a true messenger of Christ’s love.  Boudreaux and his friends see themselves as banding together to become a force for change when they get out.

McManus, on the other hand, resents the rector the way a child resents the parent who disciplines him.  He believes the parent is right, but he feels shame at being corrected, and so resents the one doing the correcting.  He is also attracted to the rector (called ‘ the rectum’ by more than one inmate) because the rector is a forceful, confident personality who seems to know something.

One day, waiting in line for mandatory weekly confessions and late for kitchen duty, McManus notices that the line for the rector’s box is all but empty.  When he asks why, his question is met with knowing chuckles.  Unwilling to be cowed, he steps into the box and begins his confession, only to be interrupted by the rector, who lays out the sins of McManus’ life for him.  (It is the rector’s gift to be able to read the souls of other men when they come to him in the confessional.)

The story would spend some time documenting the life of a monastery/prison functioning without any modern amenities, and illustrating the tension between ruler and ruled.  A clipboard hangs next to the bus delivery platform (the bus arrives with necessities once a week); anyone who wishes to leave and face the authorities is free to sign up.  The various factions would be introduced, along with the Cloister policy on sexual congress:  anyone caught having sex spends a week in the caves in the surrounding desert.  (“Nothing between you and God out there except your own ugly self,” comments the rector.)  Basic needs are provided for, and one of the brother-guards visits regularly, but it’s still a harsh experience.

Things begin to go sour when a frail young offender – a weak man like McManus – enters the Cloister. Tomaso immediately seduces him, the two are caught, and both are sent to the caves.  But the frail young man is found dead after only two days – snakebite.  Tomaso seizes the opportunity to foment rebellion against the rector, whose hard policy is surely in some way to blame for the man’s death.

The rector, unnerved by the event, begins to falter, and eventually collapses at Mass.  He leaves McManus – who has become something of a disciple – in charge while he is taken to the hospital to recover.  Once the rector is away, the rebellion gains force.  McManus resists, but eventually wavers out of fear and uncertainty.  By the time the rector returns, there is open revolt:  howls during the consecration at Mass, subtly defaced icons, the meat locker raided on Friday, etc.  Fido, the rector’s dog, is found slaughtered.  None of the rebels seem to care that the rector will never let any of them go – because plans are afoot to eliminate the rector altogether.  (Church officials would have a hard time opening the investigation to the public eye, since The Cloister isn’t supposed to exist.)  Again, McManus wavers, and tries to warn the rector during confession, but the rector will not acknowledge him.  (He knows what is coming – he can read McManus’ sin of intent – but he is ready to let it come because he feels it will expiate for the death of the novice.)

In the end, McManus steps in to thwart the attempt on the rector’s life, draining a consecrated (and poisoned) chalice at Mass before the rector can drink it.  He collapses on the altar, and the rector, after closing McManus’ eyes and saying a prayer, continues with the Mass.  The scene ends with the rector staring out at the congregation and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  Happy are we who are called to his supper.  Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

 

Act I:  Introduction to McManus, his fall and introduction to the Cloister

Act II:  Introduction to the life of the Cloister, the factions, and the rector, culminating in the death of the novice.

Act III:  The rebellion, McManus desertion of the rector and subsequent repentance, culminating in his death on the altar.

The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)


“You don’t know what it’s like to be up to your neck in nuns.” That’s what the housekeeper says to Fr. O’Malley (Bing Crosby) upon his arrival at St. Mary’s. The priest Fr. O’Malley is replacing has been sent away to some unspecified treatment center or home for addled priests or some such. But Fr. O’Malley does just fine, of course, because he is in reality a smooth, suave, golden-throated singer from Spokane, Washington, with more than a few man-of-the-world style tricks up his priestly sleeves. Ingrid Bergman as Sister Benedict is positioned as Fr. O’Malley’s ostensible nun-nemesis, but the two of them generate such a warm glow that all the rest of the movie has to do is meander around them and bask, which it does in pretty fine fashion. The ostensible Mr. Potter-like villain of the movie is played by the same actor who would, the following year, appear as the angel Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life, and that just about says it all. Everything is wonderful here. The villains are actually angels, and the problems are actually just occasions to sit down at the piano and knock out a little tune while doing good and being tricky in the service of the good. And then there are the nuggets of wisdom like this from Sister Benedict: “You don’t become a nun to run away from life, Patsy. It’s not because you lost something but because you found something.” Enjoyable.

Overall: B+
Priest factor: B+

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