When Mel Gibson's masterpiece The Passion of The Christ swept across our lives like The Holy Ghost slapping us with the magnitude of God's loving sacrifice for our salvation, many people, including myself, longed for a similar treatment of our Lord Jesus Christ's Nativity, when God became Man in order to set in course that transcendental journey.
Sadly, all indications are the Mel is not interested in providing us with such a treatment which, given his genius, devotion and faith, would certainly have been as powerful and profound as The Passion was. In fact, it would have answered those critics who were so upset that The Passion's violence supposedly erased any message of love and mercy. These were the fools who were either too ignorant or too biased to see that The Passion's very violence was consistent with and integral to the very love that Christ represents. One can only sigh in wonder of what The Nativity Story in the hands of Mel Gibson would have evoked in our souls, hearts, minds and lives.
With Mel off in the jungles of the Yucatan filming Apocalypto which opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this past Friday, we are left, tragically, with New Line Cinema's The Nativity Story. Frankly, I intended to see this movie for this piece, but upon reading scores of reviews and a concerned warning from a Catholic couple, Daniel and Kathleen Heckenkamp online, I chose to consolidate and organize their troubling observations instead. I fear that had I seen this film, my observations would have been even more negative and detailed.
I find that I have increasingly grown weary of seeing how the media defames what is holy and sacred and expects us to fawn in awe at the fact that they even tried to depict such things at all. While I respect the fact that the screenwriter and producer both admit to being inspired to do this film by Mel's Passion, I get the sense that their Protestant biases have greatly distorted their work. Such biases are not removed by the director's background either, and an unhealthy dose of teen angst, and obsession with depicting the characters as infinitely more human and defective than holy, completes the damage to true Catholic belief and doctrine.
As I contemplate this film I am reminded of how I felt upon seeing Joan of Arcadia, where a defiant, sulky, sullen and sarcastic teenage girl was regularly contacted by God Almighty posing as everything from a DJ to a gothic teen reading an occult book. When I blasted that program in my article Beyond the Glamor and the Glitz, I was roundly criticized as being insensitive to the efforts of Christians to get God on the screen at all. I was mocked as being clueless as to the process and difficulty of getting God airtime when He is not the most popular topic. Clueless teens whose faith was so confused and superficial that Arcadia actually improved it attacked me as being insensitive to their path to faith, to what works for them spiritually.
My argument with Arcadia was that while it is nice to see people trying to get God on the screen given the tide against that, Catholics should not be content with that. It is not enough to get God on. We must stand up for what we believe about God, about His Only Son Christ and about His Most Pure and Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, our heavenly Mother. The evil one wants to shove inferior or even heretical versions of what we believe to force our hand. Reject those versions and we're portrayed as stubborn, narrow-minded, arogant and elitist. Accept those versions and we have begun the slow, painful and tragic journey to our Faith's ultimate oblivion. We must not succumb to this hellish trap, and side with depicting our Creator, our Lord and our heavenly Mother as They deserve to be depicted or not at all. They have never compromised in their love for us, and we can do no less. We can never compromise our love for Them.
The Nativity Story is, at best, a Protestantized distortion of The Nativity, and at worst a vile attack on our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception, on The Virgin Birth and on Christ's Divinity. It is defamation upon the Name and Person of our heavenly Mother hidden in a warped and biased version of Christ's birth.
It is especially troubling that it should be playing in theaters during two of our Lady's most visible feast days - the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this Tuesday. What is more troubling is that it premiered - are you ready for this? - in Vatican City at Paul VI Hall on December 1 and received the stamp of approval no less by the conciliar church! Do you see the conundrum here? Mel's magnificent film, totally true to the Gospel, Catholic doctrine, and approved revelation was never afforded such an endorsement, while a blatantly Protestant version is given carte blanche by those who have sold out their Catholic patrimony for the approval of man. And one wonders why conciliar churches are emptying.
An Attack on The Immaculate Conception
The dogma of The Immaculate Conception, issued by Pope Pius IX in 1854, declares that Mary was conceived free of sin and was never touched by its stain. The Nativity Story depicts a young Mary participating in some impropriety with friends to the point of being corrected by an upset and stern St. Anne. The entire first part of the film shows Mary as a normal 14-year old given to sullen, sulky moods and defiance toward her parents.
Any Catholic knows, or is supposed to know this is ridiculous for Mary was preserved from all sin and therefore would never entertain sulky moods and certainly not defiance towards her parents, especially such obedient and loving ones as St. Anne and St. Joachim.
Frankly, I am not surprised by this depiction in the film, given the background of the director and the warped sense, held by many clueless Catholics and others, that we make the holy more accessible, more believable and something one can more easily relate to by dragging it down to a strictly human level. Mary is no big deal to Protestants. Sure, She may have been a "model of patience, beauty and love" as director Catherine Hardwicke, a self-described "Texas Presbyterian" observes, but she readily admits that "Presbyterians don't really get into the cult of Mary." Hardwicke, definitely not the ideal model of modesty, adds that she did not "want to make a sugar-coated version of the nativity story." Given the tone and nature of this film, I think Hardwicke has definitely achieved her dual purpose of not holding Mary too highly and avoiding too nice a version of the events. In other words, she has succeeded in truly misrepresenting the Incarnation and the events leading up to and following this singular landmark event of salvation history.
Of course Hardwicke's background is superficial at best and the only other film she directed, Thirteen, was a coming-of-age drama that celebrated and condoned sexuality and temptations, and conveyed to viewers the type of young girls that she translates such a possible mindset, albeit in a more demure way, to the young teens in The Nativity Story. It is a far, far cry from Thirteen to The Nativity Story in content, but Hardwicke's left-leaning, permissive-thinking modernist philosophy saturates the film, and, in so doing, should greatly offend anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and why He honored His Mother so. This film does no honor to His Mother and therefore greatly offends Him despite what the modernist Vatican may say to patronize Protestants.
To give you an idea of how her warped thinking has permeated this film, consider an interview she did with a Toronto magazine three years ago in which she claims that the main character in Thirteen was based in actuality on Hardwicke's own life for Hardwick sees the girl's rebellion as something most girls go through, stating, "I'm from a little tiny hick town in south Texas, and it was major make-out parties in seventh grade. Our parents didn't know anything about it. Dark rooms, drugs, lots of drinking. We had the Mexican border close by, and you could go over there and drink at any age. Ten years old and you could be in a bar – like, woohoo!, tequila shots all night. I walked into a bar over there with my Girl Scout ID card." And she's proud of this? The interview gets even more graphic and I choose not to include that for it is offensive to God, but that is something that evidently Ms. Hardwicke cares little about per the evidence she provides in The Nativity Story. Will someone please tell Hardwicke that Mary is not like most girls, but unique - as in the only one ever chosen by Almighty God to be conceived without sin. So instead of the Blessed Mother becoming a role model, Hardwicke molds our Lady to fit her own misperceptions, and, in doing so, obliterates the message of the Nativity.
An Attack on The Blessed Mother's Virginity
The Nativity Story is steeped in Protestant inferences that Mary and Joseph planned to have a large family in contradiction of the Catholic belief that both mutually consented to live virginally in the married state. But it seems that Hardwicke has a Planned Parenthood mentality in misportraying that the decision was left solely to Joseph and Mary and, consequently, there is no indication anywhere of this vow of virginity, which both our Lady and her chaste spouse took before God. That is a fact, and it is also a fact that the creators of this symbiotic film either do not believe that such a vow existed or find it unrealistic and beyond the ability of anyone, especially teens like Mary, to relate to.
A Degradation of The Annunciation
The Annunciation is depicted as anything but heavenly and holy. Mary is seen reclining under a tree at midday while others work nearby and the Archangel Gabriel, looking anything but celestial, sports a modern Afro hairstyle, and is seen at a distance, not in the typical traditional way he has been illustrated for centuries. All part of the political correct damn the torpedoes in skewering history and tradition.
A Truncation of the Visitation
While the actual meeting between Mary and Elizabeth is touching, Mary's reason for the journey appears more to get away from Joseph and the stress of the situation than charity for her cousin. The beautiful Magnificat is entirely left out of the scene and only partially narrated at the end of the film, conveniently leaving out the first half in which Mary proclaims that "all generations shall call me blessed". Clearly, the intent here is to avoid presenting Mary as anything beyond a loving, good woman; a far cry from what I wrote nearly three years ago The Magnificat.
A Belief and Acceptance in The Occult
Even the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem may be the best part of the film, even there they are depicted as accepting fortune-telling when they smile to and thank a sorceress for predicting that Mary would have a son. Duh, so she was right 50% of the time. What I wonder is did the movie show the scene of Zachary prophesizing as he does in St. Luke 1: 67-79? Or did they feature Simeon in the temple who, as we read in St. Luke 2: 34-35, knew in an instant that this tiny babe Mary held in her arms was the Messiah and that this Blessed Virgin's soul would be pierced by a sword. No doubt this film is one of those bludgeons.
An Attack on the Virgin Birth
Probably the most offensive of scenes are the birthing ones. Mary is shown looking on in horror as Elizabeth gives a very graphic birth. While Mary's cousin may very well have had labor pains, the Blessed Mother would never look upon such a miracle with anything but wonder and joy. Even worse, at the Nativity Mary herself is shown going through a painful labor. This is pure heresy for, again, the Virgin birth was mystical and miraculous from conception through the Holy Ghost to delivery. St. Augustine described it best as light penetrating glass. Voila, the Child was there. No pain, no labor. But Protestants can't accept this mystery or that Mary was forever free of sin and so they lower the scene to the state of one shackled by Original Sin undergoing all kinds of torment in delivering the child.
Even more insulting was the culmination of Joseph raising her dress somewhat and putting his hands between her legs to deliver Jesus. This is a slap in the holy face and reputation of this most chaste saint who would never think of such an act. First of all, he trusted totally in God and, secondly, he respected Mary, her purity and virginity and his own vow of celibacy to perpetuate his spouse's virginity so that he would never have allowed himself to even think of touching our Lady. Contrary to modern thought, they forget that the Jews of that time were very strict in observance of the commandments and the role of husband and wife. Husbands had no part of midwifing. There were no human midwifes present except for the angels, countless angels there to praise and worship the Son of God. I hear that in the movie they then follow the propaganda of Roots and The Lion King by depicting Joseph raising a bloodied Jesus up toward the sky. This scene clearly implys that there was anything but a Virgin Birth.
An Attack on Christ's Divinity
What is quite appalling and shocking, if you will, is that the entire Nativity scene is devoid of any sense of adoration or worship of the newborn Savior. Neither Joseph nor Mary inspires this feeling. The shepherds appear more as zombie-like drones with no real purpose for visiting the newborn Babe except out of curiosity, and the Three Kings inspire more a comic sense than one of reverence. A living Nativity Scene culminates the film. Yes, folks, they actually spent money on this, but then since the ACLU is trying to snuff out nativity scenes across this nation and in schools, this is the sad result of the political correctness we're stuck with. It is also the conciliar claptrap we've been fed where miracles and wonderment are taken out of the occasion for fear of offending those who, in truth, need to be whacked upside the head to wake them up to the fact there is only one Church, only one Faith, and outside that Faith, there is no salvation. Of course, you won't hear that today from the conciliar church since Vatican II for that would be offensive to those who prior to Vatican II were correctly referred to as "heretics and schismatics", as "perfidious Jews to be delivered from their darkness", and as "those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or Islamism and refuse not to delivered out of darkness into the light and the Kingdom of God." You see before Vatican II Catholics weren't afraid to speak up for truth and God. Today, they cower just as the producers and directors cowered in giving us a lukewarm presentation of one of the most wondrous events in salvation history.
An Old Friend's Review
In my July, 2004 my article The True Catholic Faith Has Nun of This! I included Sister Rose Pacatte, Director of The Pauline Center for Media Studies, as an example of a religious who was distorting the role and purpose of nuns. Although far less controversial and radical than the other nuns mentioned in that piece, Pacatte nevertheless has her share of questionable contributions to the issue of distorting and not respecting Catholic beliefs.
Pacatte found The Passion to be more a "horror" movie than anything else and was "repelled" by its graphic violence. She clearly favored the Protestant view that the Resurrection, and not the Passion, is the core "Christian" belief. This woman found Bruce Almighty, in which a man sleeping with his girlfriend uses God's powers to lift a woman's skirt, "extremely funny". She also clinically analyzed The Last Temptation of Christ without regard to its sacrilegious nature. With regard to Joan of Arcadia, the television show I blasted, you guessed it, she loved the program. Simply put, Rose Pacatte is a New Age Roger Ebert, regularly rejecting true Catholic doctrine and beliefs in favor of a Protestantized view where the Holy is downplayed and the human is focused on.
Predictably, Pacatte loves The Nativity Story, calling it a "certain…classic for all Christians" and describing it as "layered with meaning so that the youngest child to the wisest adults can experience Christmas anew." Although the film obliterates the beautiful Magnificat, Pacatte claims to have been inspired by its rendering of the shreds that remained.
Simply put, my experiences with the perspectives and review of Sister Rose Pacatte have consistently been that the less a film is Catholic and the more it is Protestant, the more she likes it. The more a film tears down the holy while pretending to show humanity, the more she likes it. The media often treats God and holy subjects with a certain arrogant bias. It apparently believes that audiences of faith will fawn over whatever depiction they throw out in the marketplace, so desperate and spiritually "easy" as they must be in an age where society expects people to apologize for believing in God.
Sadly, clueless "Catholics" like Pacatte are too ignorant, too defiant or too lazy to expect, defend and demand respect for true Catholic doctrine and teaching.
Sadly, I have gotten to the point where if I see that Pacatte loves a religious film, I approach that movie with some suspicion. In other words, run the other way!
I suppose that, as happened with Arcadia, many will argue that we should be happy that any film about heavenly matters is out there. I further suppose that others will contend that Catholics should embrace religious themes, even if they are steeped in the distortions and biases of other faiths, in the spirit of a common purpose and goal.
While I can respect the efforts of the creators, producers and director of The Nativity Story, I cannot simply smile, sit by and be glad that Bethlehem has been brought to the big screen. No matter how sincere or genuine the efforts of some involved in this film may be, the fact remains that others clearly intended to depict our Blessed Mother in way that defames, downgrades and diffuses her Virginity, her holiness and her proper place as Queen of Heaven and Earth. In all conscience I cannot accept any depiction of our Lord and our Blessed Mother in any way that confers upon Them anything less than the full respect, honor and adoration that Jesus eternally deserves and must have and the respect and honor of His holy Mother.
I have always said that the evil one is as shrewd as he is cunning. This film is yet an even more treacherous and subtle attack on the core of our true Catholic beliefs. Any Catholic who fails to denounce that attack is either ignorant, lazy or, worse still, complicit against and defiant of those true Catholic beliefs and doctrine. We must demonstrate to the world and to paper "Catholics" that, when it comes to depictions of The Almighty, our Lord and our Blessed Mother, we are not "easy".
As Mr. and Mrs Heckenkamp so perceptively put it, this film offends and blasphemes the Immaculate Heart of Mary in all the five ways described by Our Lady to Sr. Lucia of Fatima by defaming her Virginity, her Divine Maternity, her role as Mother of all mankind, implanting indifference to her and insulting her Sacred Image. In so defaming the Mother of the Church, her divine Son's Church is defamed and reduced to one among many as the conciliarists are so willing to concede in selling the farm to appease man for the sake of human dignity and respect. They do not realize how it so offends God and disrespects all He has wrought.
Even if many who worked on this film did so with good intentions and a genuine intent to honor God, Catholics who truly respect and uphold our Faith must hold their efforts misguided and harmful to that Faith. As is so often the case, we are called upon to denounce compromise and defiance of what truly makes us Catholic. Once again, we are asked to choose between the truth and distortions of that truth. May God grant us the strength, courage, conviction and perception to always choose the latter and avoid The Nativity Story like the plague, for, in truth, it is, infecting souls with the deadly cancer of proposing that Protestant opinion trumps Catholic Truth.