France : Reasons for the bishops anger against The Passion of the Christ

Source: FSSPX News


The film "The Passion of the Christ" by Mel Gibson comes out in France on Wednesday, March 31st. This film, even before its theatrical release, aroused a debate and a wide variety of reactions.

"The sincerity of the film-maker is not in doubt and the film will attract men and women who are trying to find out who Jesus is. In this film nevertheless, the face of the Christ shows through less than our contemporary obsessions : fear of evil, a fascination for violence, and the search for the guilty.

"The film-maker, immersed in a certain film culture, chose to put in images the last hours of the life of Christ, with an open desire to be historically accurate.

"These choices are not without consequence :

• The choice to isolate the Passion from the life and preaching of Christ on the one hand, and from the accounts of the Resurrection on the other shortens the message of the Gospel in a problematic way.

• The few flash-backs, too allusive, do not allow one to take into account the complex motives which little by little brought about the devotion of the crowds to Jesus, and the controversy on his person, his intentions, his mystery.

• In particular, this decision to isolate the Passion from the preaching of Christ causes a lack of understanding of the controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees, the scribes and the chief priests : the film first shows them, at the time of the arrest and the trial of Christ, in a mad rage. So, apart from the question of whether or not the film is deliberately anti-Semitic, it could be used to encourage anti-Semitic opinions.

• If the film starkly recalls the atrocity of the tortures undergone and the death on the Cross, it does it with a shocking complacency at the spectacle of violence. This violence, which overwhelms the spectator, ends up obscuring the sense of the Passion and more widely, the essential point regarding the person and the message of Christ : love carried to perfection in the voluntary gift of self.

• This extreme violence justifies its being forbidden to children under 12. Is it not paradoxical that a film on Jesus cannot be shown to children?"

There follows the signatures of six bishops who make up the permanent Committee for Information and Communication: Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco, President of the COPIC, Bishop Georges Pontier, vice-president of the Conference of French Bishops, Bishop Thierry Brac de la Perrière, Bishop Jean-Charles Descubes, Bishop Jacques Perrier, Bishop Jean-Yves Riocreux.

Bishop Francis Deniau, president of the Episcopal Committee for Relations with Judaism, even before seeing the film, hurried to say: "on no account can or should the debates which might accompany the production of the film alter the relations of brotherhood regained between Catholics and Jews. On the contrary, more than ever we want to approach together social challenges of this world, and the dialogue on what we both receive from God".

Cardinal Panafieu, archbishop of Marseille, declared in his Religious Week: "A recent film relates the Passion of Jesus in a Hollywood set. Violence flows and the paparazzi pursue Jesus with indecency on the road to Calvary, to seize in unbearable close-ups the battered face of the crucified and the hateful glance of the Jews of Jerusalem… Scenes of torture of an incredible violence. Blood on the front page!

"Can the Passion of Jesus be likened to a news item which awakens the basest instincts of man? Forgetting that Jesus is himself of Jewish origin manifests, in defiance of history, a virulent anti-Semitism.

"The comic strip became tragically blasphemous, as usually happens when on wants to translate the divine without having perceived its meaning." […]

In Switzerland, the information service of the Conference of Swiss Bishops, in ecumenical partnership with the Union of Switzerland’s Protestant Churches, made it known that this was a film "which can be passed up", by giving this clarification revealing an intemperate modernistic rationalism: "the different reports of the Passion, in the four Gospels themselves, do not claim to represent it as it was. The accounts contain explanations and theological emphases and cannot be read as a presentation of the facts. The Passion of the Christ is the filming of biblical literature and, as such, it is a mixture of interpretations, imagination, embellishment, simplification, of choice and underlining, elaborated with the most modern technical means of the XXIst century. In this sense, Mel Gibson cannot claim to be historically authentic."

In Germany, in a inter-religious common statement, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Protestant bishop Wolfgang Huber and the leader of the German Jewish community Paul Spiegel warned that the film could be exploited for purposes of anti-Semitic propaganda even if this is not its intention: "this is particularly dangerous in Europe where anti-Semitic tendencies are growing stronger."

In all these warnings, we would look in vain for the true reasons for all this Episcopal anger. This film, which explicitly affirms the propitiatory value of the sacrifice of the Cross renewed in an unbloody manner at Mass, contradicts forty years of ecumenism. That is why Le Monde of March 31st entitles its editorial "The Gibson regression". Only historian Jean Delumeau has the frankness to say out loud what these bishops are thinking in silence: "There was, in the history of Christianity, a fixation of the notion of redemption. Now, in the Greek Bible, what is rendered by the Latin redemptio, does not however bring up the idea of a repurchase against ransom. It has too often been interpreted in the sense of a fault so enormous, original sin, that only the sufferings of the Son of God could achieve redemption. This theology is rejected today. The future Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote quite precisely in 1976 that he rejected a God "whose inexorable justice demanded a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own Son. To the extent that this image is propagated, it is false. "It is very important not to put this theology back into circulation. It would end up alienating people from Christianity." (La Croix of March 31st, p. 28). Perhaps not all the cardinals, or all the bishops are in agreement with this unavowed reason. Then, let them say so loud and clear! The Church is visible, she must also be audible!