MARCH 2003
volume 14, no. 9

E-mail       Print

Catharine Lamb

Provoking passions over "The Passion"

Mel Gibson's stirring and true portrayal of Christ's Passion and Death has stirred emotions as ignorant journalists seek to instill their own anti-Catholic politically correct prejudices into something never intended, all at the expense of a few good men's good name - Christ, Mel Gibson and his Dad.

    "Although Berkowitz says he is troubled by Gibson's 'recent foray into Catholic Church-building and crucifixion filmmaking,' there's something else that really troubles Berkowtiz: Gibson is guilty of some of the top ten sins according to liberals: opposing abortion, favoring capital punishment, opposing birth control and publicly taking a stand against homosexual behavior. Although Gibson's moral stand has nothing to do with building a church or 'crucifixion filmmaking,' it is very important that Berkowitz spell out his own anti-Catholic bias within the first few paragraphs of his Gibson-bashing article."

   Does Bill Berkowitz have a Catholic problem? Apparently so, if one considers his recent article about Mel Gibson's supposed "Jewish problem" in his recent unfavorable article Does Mel Gibson have a Jewish Problem?. I don't know why anyone wouldn't be concerned about the ridiculous remarks and half truths spouted by Berkowitz in his attempt to paint an ugly picture of Mr. Gibson and the Catholic faith.

   In a flaming example of journalism gone awry, Berkowitz cleverly twists some remarks supposedly made by Gibson's parents into an anti-Semitic issue and then attempts to place the blame for anti-Semitism on the shoulders of traditional Catholicism. Berkowitz seems to believe that anyone who seeks to film an authentic and historically accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ must be against the Jewish people and part of a conspiracy minded underground movement replete with half-witted conservative followers.

   Right from the start, Berkowitz reveals his intention to make toast of Mel Gibson, describing him as the "darling of conservatives." Although Berkowitz says he is troubled by Gibson's "recent foray into Catholic Church-building and crucifixion filmmaking," there's something else that really troubles Berkowtiz: Gibson is guilty of some of the top ten sins according to liberals: opposing abortion, favoring capital punishment, opposing birth control and publicly taking a stand against homosexual behavior. Although Gibson's moral stand has nothing to do with building a church or "crucifixion filmmaking," it is very important that Berkowitz spell out his own anti-Catholic bias within the first few paragraphs of his Gibson-bashing article.

   Although Berkowitz would like us to think he is an authority on Catholicism and Catholic beliefs regarding the Jews, he does not offer one shred of evidence from any official Church document to prove anything he has to say about the traditional Catholic faith or Vatican II. Without any documentation, he blatantly leads readers to believe that the Catholic Church taught anti-Semitism prior to Vatican II. The best he can do is quote the major media pundits such as ABC which, for many Americans, serves as the authority par excellence. According to Berkowitz, ABC News says,

    Catholic traditionalism…seeks to return the faith to its pre-1962 period, before the Pope issued what is known as Vatican II, a series of proclamations that did away with the notion that Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus."

   Despite the fact that Vatican II was not what ABC claims it to have been, clearly this bogus information is an attempt to proffer the lies that

  • (1) traditional Catholicism is something other than the authentic Catholic faith
  • (2) that traditional Catholics are caught in a time warp seeking to return to the past,
  • (3) that the Church prior to the 1960's officially taught anti-Semitism, and
  • (4) that Vatican II "was a series of proclamations" that reversed official Church teaching regarding the crucifixion.
Along with much of the rest of the world, ABC has adopted the belief that the Catholic Church changed its official teachings and beliefs after Vatican II.

   It is a fact that the Catholic Church has always taught in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, that Christ freely laid down His own life for the salvation of man (John 10:15). The Holy Scriptures themselves attest to the historical fact that it was an assembly of Jews who cried out in demand that Christ be crucified. Although the soldiers are the ones who fixed Christ's body to the cross, St. Augustine says that the Scriptural account of the crucifixion clearly implies that "the Jews had Him crucified since they cried out, "Crucify him!" rather than those who executed the orders of their chief" (Gospel Commentary, Gospel of St. Mark, Welcome to the Catholic Church, Harmony Media Inc. ©2001).

   The Catechism of the Council of Trent reiterates the centuries old teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Christ's passion and death and never once refers to anything which could realistically be misconstrued as anti-Semitism. In fact, when speaking about the blame and guilt for Christ's torments and suffering, the Catechism states,

    "This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of [St. Paul]: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory;"(1 Cor 2:8), while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on Him." (CCT Article IV, Part II).
When speaking of the bitterness of Christ's passion, the Catechism of Trent - THE Roman Catechism - goes on to say, "Furthermore, men of all ranks and conditions were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ (Ps 2:2). Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the minister of His Passion" (ibid., emphasis added). So you see, we're all guilty. By the way, I have yet to find a pre-Vatican II catechism book for any age group that teaches hatred for the Jews.

   Contrary to what ABC and Berkowitz think, there is no evidence within Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II Council document which pertains to Catholic-Jewish relations, that repudiates any prior teaching of the Church regarding the Jews and the crucifixion. The fact that some members of the Catholic Church have been guilty of hatred toward Jews, does not serve as proof that such an attitude was part of official, infallible Church teaching. Such a teaching would be impossible to the Catholic faith because it would directly conflict with the infallible Deposit of Faith. As we are painfully aware in our own day of modern Catholicism, the Catholic Church always shoulders the blame for the evil actions of any of her children, despite the fact that she has not endorsed such behavior or attitudes. It is important to note that there have been past popes who spoke out against the mistreatment of Jews, such as Pope Calixtus II, in his Papal Bull Sicut Judaeis, but such facts are conveniently forgotten.

   Then there is, of course, the very clear short encyclical Papal Protection of the Jews by Blessed Pope Gregory X in 1272 during the first year of his papacy in which he decreed, "Even as it is not allowed to the Jews in their assemblies presumptuously to undertake for themselves more than that which is permitted them by law, even so they ought not to suffer any disadvantage in those [privileges] which have been granted them." Gregory, as did Blessed Pope Eugene IV, Pope Alexander IV and Pope Clement IV as well as Pope Callixtus II, all recognized the dignity of the Jew and that no Israelite must be forced to convert to Christianity for without free will the "forced convert" would not possess the true faith. This has always been the Church's position. This differs greatly from the idea introduced recently that Jews don't have to convert to be saved.

   Even when addressing the relationship between the Jews and the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council attempted to deal with certain attitudes that had developed among some Christians over the course of time, and especially since the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust had only recently come to light. In fact, during the Council sessions, Cardinal Bea offered up the opinion that the chief causes of anti-Semitism were "not of a religious, but of a national, political, psychological, social, or economic nature" (The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Father Ralph Wiltgen, p. 172). Likewise, Archbishop John Heenan stated, "the question of the culpability of the Jews for the death of Jesus has been given an altogether exaggerated importance." The Archbishop didn't believe that most Christians, "think of the Jews, when thinking of the passion and death of Our Lord," but rather for their sins since "it is of faith that Christ is the victim of sin and that all sinners- Christians as well as non-Christians-are in this sense responsible for his death" (Ibid. p. 174).

   It has been proved over and over that Pope Pius XII - the "last Traditional Pope" - went out of his way to protect and shelter Jews during World War II as noted Rabbis and men of integrity have come forward to put to the lie the slander that the secular Zionist press and publishers have launched over the charges that he did nothing to help the Jews, but rather hindered them by not speaking out. Rubbish. Pure rubbish and finally, though the present modern Vatican does little to defend him, the truth will set this good Pope of happy memory free. The expectations of this man in retrospect are impossible to satisfy his detractors. While some blame him for allowing the holocaust, others blame him for allowing the reforms of Vatican II to germinate in men he had appointed. Few give credence to the fact that he banished and exiled, or isolated most of those who would later do damage, including Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini and practically every other prelate and presbyter who would become members of the periti of Vatican II because of the liberal bent of Pope John XXIII.

   The ambiguities of the documents hide the point that Vatican II did not reform Church teaching regarding the historical facts concerning the crucifixion, but reiterated the Church teaching that God calls us to love one another which rules out persecution, hatred, racism and discrimination. Perhaps Berkowitz would like to read Nostra Aetate for himself and get the facts. However, since Vatican II, the modern Church, under the political pressures of Zionism and fear of being considered anti-Semitic in any possible way, has purged her ancient, official liturgy and prayers of any reference to the conversion of Jews (as well as those of other religions.) While once the Church prayed most lovingly for the conversion of the Jewish people, the conversion of the followers of Islam, etc. she now stands silent.

   With Vatican II the Church embarked on a journey of dialogue and friendship with the Jews. While this may appear to some as a "reform" of Church teaching, it was simply a "pastoral" move in the name of ecumenism; an attempt to be best friends with everyone, tolerant and accepting of all religions to the point of kissing the Koran and praying in mosques. It is in this light that Mel Gibson correctly maintains that the modern church has "stopped being critical….has relaxed" to the point of no longer offering the truth of the Catholic faith in its entirety.

   Berkowitz would like to associate Catholics who love the Tridentine Latin Mass with people who are not in favor of friendship with the Jewish people. Because he obviously knows little if anything about Vatican II, he calls traditional Catholicism a "revisionist version of Catholicism" (which is completely untrue) and would have readers believe that anyone who rejects Vatican II is also rejecting the Jewish people. This would be laughable if it weren't so frighteningly stupid.

   By using survey results reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Berkowitz tries to convince us that people are anti-Semites if they think the Jews control the media or Wall Street. Apparently you can also be an anti-Semite just for believing the historical fact that a group of Jews around the year 33 A.D. were responsible for Christ's death. According to the survey, "The Christ-killer charge remains a pervasive belief." Following this logic it is apparent that we might also be anti-Semites if we believe the head surgeon at the hospital is Jewish or that the folks who run the grocery store are Jews. Today's definition of anti-Semite knows no boundaries regarding fact or fiction, and is really a disservice to true Jewish people.

   Now, considering that Berkowitz brings into play the reports that Mel Gibson's dad and stepmom supposedly have doubts regarding the Holocaust is a sly way of casting a shadow on the authenticity of their Catholic faith. After all, Berkowitz spends ample time in his article attempting to paint traditional Catholics as miscreants. Why not top it off with this bombshell! What Berkowitz doesn't seem to realize is that Hutton and Joye Gibson are not speaking for the Catholic Church or on the part of any traditional Catholic belief or practice. The Gibsons are free to doubt the Holocaust if they want without having this misconstrued as anti-Semitism by Berkowitz and other mean spirited reporters such as Christopher Noxon. These reporters are blatantly ignoring Gibson's own testimony that this film, which has nothing to do with his parents, is not intended to upset the Jewish people. Says Gibson, "...He [Christ] died for all mankind and He suffered for all mankind. So that, really, anyone who transgresses has to look at their own part or look at their own culpability." This is not about placing blame on the Jews, but Berkowitz and his ilk are determined to do their best to ensure that the Jews will believe this is really about them, inciting them to be upset, no matter what! This is nothing less than a media attempt to ignite anti-Christian sentiment and stir up strife among the Jewish people.

   Such bottom dwelling "journalists" think nothing of perpetrating their own brand of "research" which can be twisted, turned and used at whatever cost to belittle someone in the eyes of millions. They must be glorying in their accomplishment. Not only have they tried to smear the reputation of a fine actor and descent person, these men have attempted to publicly ridicule his parents and family. Berkowitz and Noxon have worked hard to brand traditional Catholics as quacks and anti-Semites, no questions asked. If that weren't enough these reporters have cast suspicion and contempt on the Catholic faith in its time honored traditions, practices and liturgy, while speaking about subjects they have not honestly researched, taking as their authority hearsay and popular media tripe. Neo-Catholics, to deflect the crumbling foundations around them, will undoubtedly jump on the bandwagon and the Novus Ordo bishops won't say a word in defense of the Faith, even while the corruption within the modern church of Vatican II continues to rot everything it touches.

   The dénouement of Berkowitz' article appears with the outright laughable comments from Jack Englehard, the author of "Indecent Proposal." Englehard, after seeing a clip of Gibson's "Passion" was disturbed that Gibson "depicts the crucifixion in a most bloody, gruesome manner. Nothing is left to the imagination or to good taste. Gibson conceded, gladly, that it's never been done so vividly before. He's very proud of showing the suffering in all its minute-by-minute horror."

   Imagine; the author of "Indecent Proposal" calling the kettle black! Look out for tomorrow's headlines, "Hollywood Censors Gibson's Film: Too Gruesome; Nothing Left to Imagination." Could it be that Englehard wants the truth downplayed and the crucifixion cleaned up to make it more politically correct? Doesn't he really want to know what Jesus Christ went through? Was he also "disturbed" at the filming of "Schindler's List" which graphically depicted the horrors of the Nazi death camps without leaving anything to the imagination? We can be certain that if Gibson's film was about anyone other than Jesus Christ, people like Englehard wouldn't give it another thought. If they really cared to criticize films today that are gruesome, in bad taste, and leaving nothing to the imagination, they'd have a full time job of it and "Indecent Proposal" would never have hit the big screen. If they ridiculed all the actors and directors of the Hollywood garbage like Berkowitz and Noxon are trying to do to Mel Gibson for authentically depicting the passion of Christ, the motion picture industry would get cleaned up in a hurry because few if any actors/directors/producers could take the heat. Where were they when the blasphemous "Last Temptation of Christ" came out and that was done by a supposedly 'Catholic' director, none other than Martin Scorsese?

   Despite all the personal injury Mr. Berkowitz and his ilk try to inflict upon Mel Gibson and his family, despite the untrue picture painted in the media regarding the traditional Roman Catholic faith, the real pain in this situation surrounds the ongoing passion and suffering of Christ, Who even now is persecuted in His Mystical Body, the Church. The fact remains the same as it was 2000 years ago; a great number of people don't want to know the truth about Jesus Christ or see Him crucified. No wonder the progressivists did away with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Like the mobs depicted in Gibson's film, it seems the modern "mob" will stop at nothing to discredit His messengers and incite the crowds to turn against them. It's a very familiar story in the history of the Church, and one that will accompany her disciples through time. But we have His promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

   I pray that Mel Gibson's movie will bring glory to God and compassionately reassure the people of the Old Covenant that Jesus Christ is the light of the world for which they have been waiting. Thank God for heroes like Mel Gibson who, unlike the bishops, is not afraid to stand up for his Faith and beliefs even when the path narrows further just as Christ assured was the only true road to take.

Catharine Lamb

MARCH 2003
Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 9
Shears and Tears of a Lamb

CREDO & CULTURE on the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church   FEATURES & ARTICLES in our op-ed section   DEVOTION & REFLECTION section   DAILY NEWS & INFORMATION   MAIN PAGE of the most current text issue