March 20, 2004
Saturday
vol 15, no. 80

"Blind
guides..."

"Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate"
Christ to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23: 28

    "Wo to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: who tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier things of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23: 23-24).
By Gary L. Morella
      Editor's Note: The following is Traditional watchdog Gary L. Morella's insightful and absolutely Catholic response to a Jewish leader's criticism of 'The Passion of The Christ' It is a further enlightenment of why the Jews are so afraid to admit the truth, but fall back on the same hackneyed excuses, bring up ad nauseum the Holocaust which has nothing to do with Scripture or religion, but in actuality politics and culture, and, like the Scribes and Pharisees whom Our Lord exposed so succinctly in the entire 23rd Chapter of Saint Matthew, men like Tuvia Abramson are like unto the Pharisees: "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Mt 23: 24) for Abramson refuses to recognize Who Christ truly is. Because this film so clearly shows Christ as the Son of God, Abramson fears the truth and so lashes out and tries to turn the tables that we must build bridges. Bridges can only be built on solid foundations. One side, the side of Christ is solid, the other side, those who deny Him, will crumble as would the bridge. Gary's comments are in regular sized type, Abramson's words in smaller size maroon font color.

   To say that the death that Jesus suffered for our redemption led to the Jewish Holocaust is to ignore completely the supernatural reason for the Passion of Christ. Blaming Christians for dastardly acts such as the Holocaust of the Jews is to attribute to Christianity the work of the devil, which is blasphemy. There have been other holocausts that are equally diabolical, i.e., Stalin's Holocaust of twenty million Ukrainians, and the modern Holocaust which eclipses all of them, the killing of upwards of forty million innocents in the womb via the oxymoronic concept of "legalized abortion." Hopefully and prayerfully, these tragedies are not ignored by you.

   The following are my comments on Tuvia Abramson's article "The Passion,' as seen through the eyes of a Jew," which appeared in the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania. Abramson is the executive director of Penn State Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. His words are in maroon.

    Last Monday evening, I invited an Argentinian Jewish couple to have dinner at my house. I told them that I was writing an editorial column on the movie, "The Passion of The Christ." During our conversation, they told me that all their lives when they lived in Argentina, they were called "Jesus killers."

    Upon hearing their story, I decided that this editorial should be written like an open letter to the Christian community.

    I am writing this article two weeks after seeing the movie. It is written with only one goal in mind: to explain to my Christian friends my feelings about the movie. Please continue reading, even if you disagree with some of my opinions. It is important for me to try to convey to you my feelings as a Jewish person.

    It is equally important for Christians to convey their feelings to you. This is not a one-way street, given the historical evidence of the brutal persecution of Christians throughout the ages, which is ongoing in many parts of the world today especially in Moslem Africa.

    We all went to the same movie but what I saw was totally different from what you saw. What I felt was probably different from what you felt. If any good can come from this movie, it can come only if we build bridges, not increase the gap.

    My attempt is to begin to build that bridge.

    Bridges must be built on solid ground, i.e, absolute Truth, not on a watered-down relativized version of it to appease the masses interested only in an earthly utopia, which is impossible since the devil never sleeps, instead of a "Kingdom not of this world."

    Lights out. The movie begins. For you, it is about the son of God. For me, it is about a Jewish man.

    The fact that "for you it is about a Jewish Man" does not change the Truth that it IS about the Son of God Who is Perfect Truth, i.e., THE answer to Pilate's question was staring him in the face.

    We start these two hours of watching the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, according to Mel Gibson, from totally different assumptions. You know one story and I another, and we both believe that "we" know the truth. As the movie progresses, the gap between these two assumptions becomes bigger and clearer.

    The canard that this is Jesus' s life solely according to Mel Gibson is not true in light of the painstaking attempt by Mr. Gibson to adhere strictly to Scriptural accounts of the Passion. This is underscored by the comments of orthodox Catholic Scripture Scholars to include many in the Church hierarchy.

    Christians see the source of their faith, the source of good and forgiveness. I see the source of hate and destruction, the beginning of "blood libel" and the definition of Jews as "killers of the Messiah." From the first scene when money changes hands, through the betrayal, torture and crucifixion, we see the Jews (all Jews) as ugly creatures who betray, who laugh, spit and kick -- we see them as a mob without values.

    What about Jesus, Mary, and the apostles, who were Jews all? Have you forgotten them?

    Not all of the Jews, by a long shot, are painted with such a brush in this magnificent film about the Catholic Faith. There are High priests of the Sanhedrin who objected to what was going on. There is the poignant scene with Veronica, a Jewish woman, wiping the face of Jesus on His road to Calvary. There are the weeping Jewish women begging for a stop to the crucifixion of the God-Man, the most innocent individual Who ever lived that was condemned to die. There is the Jew, Malchus, who had his ear miraculously healed by Christ, realizing that something special had just happened - an encounter with the God-Man, the Savior of the world. Then there is another Jewish soldier and Jewish men turning their faces in sorrow at what is happening to Jesus as He traverses the Stations of the Cross from his scourging at the pillar to the crucifixion.

    You have seen what you predetermined that you were going to see before you ever entered the theatre, i.e., you could have written your review as canned without ever seeing 'The Passion of the Christ.' And yet you ask the rest of us to "build bridges" so that your gross misconception of the Faith is given credence. Believers are not required to build such bridges. Moreover, in Christian charity, they are obliged to correct your errors out of unconditional love for the sake of your immortal soul.

    Their leaders are corrupt and ruthless, and they, not the Romans, are ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus. In this movie, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, is presented as humane and as a protector of Jesus.

    Pilate and his wife are portrayed exactly as related in Sacred Scripture in that his hand was forced by the Jewish leaders. That is an undeniable fact. That does not condemn a race because of the actions of a few who, as is also related in Sacred Scripture, were want to do exactly that by saying that "May Jesus' blood be upon us and on our children." It is not believers who said that; it was those following the lead of the Jewish leaders of that time, again not all of whom, wanted to see Jesus crucified.

    What you conveniently ignore is that Jesus on the Cross asked the Father to "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." To "Love your enemies since it is easy to love those who love you, as what merit is there in that?" That is the Christian message of this religious masterpiece. Love cannot be manifested without first telling the Truth!

    I was sitting in a comfortable seat in a climate-controlled room watching horror on the screen. How a good man was being tortured minute by minute ... more blood, more violence and more ugly Jews.

    The horror that you were watching is the horror of what sin can do to man as exemplified by what it did to the God-Man Who willingly gave His Life so that man might have a chance at eternal life. The physical horror that is accurately portrayed in the film is nothing compared to the supernatural eternal horror that awaits man in hell if he rejects God, something that the young visionaries at Fatima were made aware of by being given a vision of a very populated hell by the Mother of God.

    The Jews are presented as hooligans who throw a shackled Jesus over a bridge. I had to take a break. I stood up. The pastor who sat next to me and with whom I spoke before the movie about my hatred of violence, gave me a supportive pat on the back.

    Again, it is related in Scripture how Jesus was repeatedly beaten from his seizure in the Garden to Calvary by Jews and Romans alike. You are asking people of Faith to deny their Faith by denying the inspired Word of God in Sacred Scripture because for you the entirety of the New Testament is anti-Semitic, given the Jewish denial of the Incarnation.

    The night outside was cold. The air was fresh and pure. No violence. All is calm. I looked at the stars and wondered.

    According to Judaism, we are all born pure. We humans are given the choice between good and evil. It is our choice as to how to live our lives. In the movie, it seems that none of us has chosen to be good.

    In Judaism, if we make mistakes, we have to ask for forgiveness, first from the people we have offended and then from God. Nobody -- nobody -- should die for our sins. Our sins are our responsibility, and we must change our ways accordingly.

    But this is not a movie about Judaism. It is a movie about the crux of the Faith, in particular, the Catholic Faith, which Christ founded upon the Rock that is Peter. It represents the Truths of that Faith beautifully in relating the Supreme Sacrifice of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, for man's redemption to the unique continuation of it in an unbloody manner at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the altars of Catholic Churches daily in the world, which is EXACTLY what Christ intended when He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist via the transubstantiation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood at the beginning of that First Mass on Holy Thursday which was completed on Good Friday.

Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands, and having raised His eyes to heaven to Thee, God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, blessed it +, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: "Take ye, and eat ye all of this:"

HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM.
FOR THIS IS MY BODY.

In like manner, after He had supper, taking also into His holy and venerable hands this goodly chalice, again giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it +, and gave it to His disciples, saying: "Take ye, and drink ye all of this:"

HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUINIS MEI,
NOVI ET AETERNI TESTAMENTI:
MYSTERIUM FIDEI, QUI PRO VOBIS
ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDETUR
IN REMISSIONEM PECCATORUM.

FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,
OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL TESTAMENT,
THE MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH FOR YOU
AND FOR MANY SHALL BE SHED
UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS.

"As often as you shall do these things, you shall do them in memory of Me."

    I looked at two middle-aged men sitting by the ticket office of the theater. I asked them for a cold drink. I needed something to crush the fire that was burning inside me. I was angry and I needed to talk to someone. I told these two men how much I was bothered by the violence in the movie. They nodded their heads. Yes, they said. They had seen the movie. They said it is "cruel but all true and is based on historical facts."

    All you needed to "crush the fire that was burning inside you" was to have eyes to see and ears to hear the loving message of a God Who gave His Only Begotten Son so that you could have eternal life within you. That message was clearly annunciated throughout the movie per the teachings of the Church rooted in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Did you close your eyes to Jesus saying that "I am the Good Shepherd, I lay down my life for My sheep?" Jesus did this freely of His own accord because He had the power with the blessing of the Father to give up His life and take it up again on the Third day.

    I challenged them.

    I told them that I will be writing an article about the movie from the Jewish point of view. I explained that I researched and read hundreds of pages before coming to see the images on the screen.

    What you did not read was that the New Testament supersedes the Old when, at the Death of Jesus on the Cross, the Temple curtain was rent. As such your criticism is biased in the extreme because you willfully dismiss the Faith of Christians out-of-hand by saying that they must build "bridges" by denying the Truths of the Faith, i.e., the Incarnation.

    Then I proceeded to tell them that most historians do not accuse the Jews, but the Romans, of killing Jesus. The way Jesus was killed, by crucifixion, was the way the Roman court executed political prisoners.

    Some historians also trash Christianity via historical criticism replete with errors to the point of denying the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, saying that "He was nothing more than a Jewish Mediterranean peasant Who died a beggars death on the Cross with His Body eaten by ravenous dogs" - this courtesy of the Jesus Seminar who would fallaciously have us believe that all of the New Testament was the invention of a later Christian Community, believing in only a "spiritual" Resurrection, instead of the eyewitness accounts of those Who saw the Resurrected Christ. Thus, we are to believe that all of the early martyrs suffered horrible deaths for an "idea", not a seminal Christian Truth.

    And thousands and thousands of other Jews were also crucified by the orders of Pontius Pilate, who, according to historical facts, was a cruel, sadistic murderer with total control over the lives of the Jews. Historically, he was not a "good human being" as portrayed in the movie.

    Christians are not obliged to equate what happened to "other Jews" to what happened to the Son of God. Your inference that they should arrogantly trivializes the Faith. Certainly in the group that you mentioned there were some who were guilty of serious crimes ala the murderer Barrabas and the Bad Thief, Gesmas, who was also crucified on a cross at Calvary. This admission is made by the Good Thief, Dismas, the third person on a cross at Calvary, in making his confession to Christ by acknowledging that he was rightfully condemned for his crimes but that Christ was innocent of any crime, being unjustly condemned. For this statement of Faith Christ promised Dismas paradise during His absolution of Dismas's sins on that First Good Friday.

    How can someone be considered a "good human being" who did not have the courage of his convictions to stand up for his belief that Jesus was innocent of the charges against Him in the face of a mob who would not hear it? Pilate is portrayed exactly as Scripture records he was. In the end, he was lukewarm, a candidate of the Church of Laodocia in the Book of the Apocalypse. Barring repentance, he will have much to answer for.

    One man, who sat next to the door, responded by saying that he is not an expert and really does not know much about that period in history. The second man looked at me and said, "I have seen this movie. It's a great movie. I believe it is all true." Then he added, "But don't worry. I'm Christian, and I have forgiven you (the Jews) for the death of the son of God. Jesus," he added, "died for our sins, yours and mine."

    I was quiet for a moment, trying to control my anger.

    In your hardened heart were you not moved even a little by the suffering which the Mother of God endured along with her Son? She was also there on the road to Calvary. Can you fathom what Mary must have gone through seeing her flesh and blood suffer such a horrible ignominious death, knowing by the testimony of her fiat to God's will via her beautiful Magnificat, which is recorded in Sacred Scripture, that Jesus is the Son of the Living God? Mary was Jewish, was she not, as were practically all of Christ's disciples. So, again, how can you say that ALL Jews were portrayed as villains in Gibson's film when the most important person next to Jesus is Mary?

    You are a very angry man, which is a reflection of those who do not want to hear One Who says, "I am the Way, Truth and the Life." They want to do everything "their way."

    And then I responded.

    "You have it all wrong. It is we, the Jews, who should forgive many Christians for 2,000 years of torture and death that eventually led to the Holocaust.

    To say that the death that Jesus suffered for our redemption led to the Jewish Holocaust is to ignore completely the supernatural reason for the Passion of Christ. Blaming Christians for dastardly acts such as the Holocaust of the Jews is to attribute to Christianity the work of the devil, which is blasphemy. There have been other holocausts that are equally diabolical, i.e., Stalin's Holocaust of twenty million Ukrainians, and the modern Holocaust which eclipses all of them, the killing of upwards of forty million innocents in the womb via the oxymoronic concept of "legalized abortion." Hopefully and prayerfully, these tragedies are not ignored by you.

    For you, this is a turning point -- the birth and death of Jesus was the birth of a new faith. For us, it was the beginning of suffering. For the last 2,000 years, as a result of the 'blood libel,' the followers of Jesus mounted ongoing attacks on the Jewish communities throughout the world. Jesus' death, for us, was the opening page of death and suffering. It did not bring us new faith. It did not bring us new values. It brought destruction to the lives of many Jews and many Jewish communities throughout the world."

    "The beginning of suffering" is directly related to the ignoring of the Words of the Bread of Life, an absolute requirement for eternal salvation, per the Gospel of John. It has not brought you a new faith because you willfully choose to ignore the loving message of God for the sake of your eternity. There were similar sufferings that the Jews historically brought upon themselves in regard to their worship of a Golden Calf while Moses descended Mount Sinai with the Old Law that Jesus came to fulfill, not abolish. The sufferings inflicted by the wrath of God in that instance were so severe that no generation present at that idol worship saw the promised land. That was not God that caused this to happen, but rather the Jews themselves. Similarly, it is not Jesus that is responsible for the suffering of Jews, but rather their own rejection of Him as the Messiah.

    I returned to my seat in the theater. The pastor on my right squeezed my hand as to say, "welcome back." The horror on the screen continued. Jesus is carrying the cross and continually being beaten by the Jewish mob and the Roman soldiers. The only good Jewish person we see appears. He is forced by the Romans to help Jesus carry the cross. Scene by scene, play by play, Gibson shows us the suffering of Jesus. But it is not a real suffering. It is not real blood. It is all artificial.

    How can you say that the only "good Jewish person we see appears" in reference to Simon of Cyrene given the aforementioned account of all of the good Jews in this film? You are blind to the Truth, Who is a Someone, not a something. This blindness is echoed in your hurtful comments to the Christian Community that the sufferings of Christ as portrayed are all artificial, equating the movie's special effects with a plastic artificial Jesus. I would recommend reading the accounts of Christ's suffering via the Shroud of Turin evidence, and a book entitled "Doctor at Calvary." You would soon see that what is portrayed in the movie does not take into account all of the horrible physical suffering that Jesus went though on the Cross for our sins. Again, you completely ignore the supernatural, which is the ONLY reason that Jesus did what He did, the ONLY reason for the existence of the Church, i.e., to give man a chance at going to Heaven instead of hell.

    It was not filmed in Jerusalem but in Europe. It is a movie where the director chose to show us his interpretation of the suffering of Jesus, his interpretation of "history" and his interpretation of the evil of the Jews.

    Again, the canard that you are floating here will not wash, given the many praises of this film by Christian apologists, and clergy in the hierarchy of the Church, as to its accuracy. Most recently, the actor who so vividly portrayed the sufferings of Christ was received in a private audience with the Pope who recognized in The Passion of Christ the Truths of the Catholic Faith.

    The movie progresses. I look all around me. Hundreds of churchgoers, religious leaders and children are watching. The climax of the movie arrives. Jesus is nailed to the cross. I saw Mel Gibson's hand hammering the first nail. I had had enough -- the staging of so much violence and the defamation of the Jews. I got up and left the theater.

    There are many who get up and leave today, not wanting to pick up their crosses and follow Christ's example, so you are not unique here. Your preconceived bias, in fact, your anger, betrays any hint of objectivity in your review of this religious epic which will far outlast its critics for its message of "What greater love is there than to give one's life for his fellow man," and "My (Jesus's) command to you after I am gone is to love one another as I have loved you."

    It is important to overcome the hatred people feel when they see so much violence in a movie based on someone else's interpretation of history. Hatred against the Jews is not only because of the death of Jesus, but because the Jews have not accepted Christianity as their faith, as the Romans have. Nobody ridicules and tortures them.

    When it comes to "overcoming hatred", you need to take a look in the mirror. There is not one iota of hatred for the Jews on the part of anyone who is authentically an orthodox Christian, but rather only love for the sake of their eternity. How any true Christian can feel otherwise is anathema to the Faith, as evidenced by the forgiving words of Christ, which you completely ignore. Did you also step out of the movie when those were displayed on the screen for all to see?

    In the beginning of this article, I wrote about building bridges. Building bridges needs the cooperation from both sides.

    The foundation of the bridge must be built on Christianity's acceptance of Judaism as an equal partner, not as somebody who needs to be shown the "right way."

    Do you want to build a bridge? What about acceptance, respect and trust as the foundation?

    You want to "build bridges" on your terms only. Respect and trust begins with telling the Truth, Who is Christ. Thus, you demand that Christians reject their Faith for specious pluralistic reasons of syncretism and indifferentism. Who are you to be so arrogant to criticize a movie about the centerpiece of the Christian Faith when you know NOTHING about it? That is an observation made by many Jews, for your information, Jews who recognize that any anti-Semitism arising from Mel Gibson's movie will be directly due to the hysterical unwarranted criticism of it by Jews like you.

    Christians are concerned about building metaphysical bridges to the supernatural, not the natural. The Christian Faith is eternal. Nowhere is this better shown than in the sufferings of the God-Man, and His Bodily Resurrection which DEFINES the Christian Faith. For that accurate portrayal, the world owes Mel Gibson a debt of gratitude for being an instrument of God in reminding us that without the Cross there is no Resurrection, i.e., no Faith.

Gary L. Morella

For past articles in "Father, forgive them...", see "Father, forgive them..." ARCHIVES


    March 20, 2004
    vol 15, no. 80
    "Father, forgive them..."