On the Mel Gibson film:

Source: FSSPX News


The controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ allows us to observe that agreement within the episcopacy is far from being unanimous. Thus two bishops, Mgr. Rey of Toulon, in France and Mgr. Leonard of Namur, in Belgium, have not hesitated to encourage their flocks to go and see the film, in spite of the highly critical opinion of the Permanent Committee for Information and Communication (COPIC), signed by no less than six French bishops: Mgr. Jean-Michel di Falco, president of COPIC, Mgr. Georges Pontier, vice-president of the French Bishops Conference, Mgr. Thierry Brac de la Perrière, Mgr. Jean-Charles Descubes, Mgr. Jacques Perrier, Mgr. Jean-Yves Riocreux. (see integral text of the “Position of COPIC on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ” in DICI 94) – The Cross of Christ is always a sign of division, and thanks to The Passion of the Christ, that division becomes manifest, within an episcopacy one would have believed to be rock solid.

The texts which follow are comments from Mgr. Rey and Mgr. Leonard on the film, and we add the doctrinal Note by Fr. Philippe Vallin, secretary of the doctrinal commission of the Bishops Conference of France, as well as an interview which he gave to the bulletin of the French Bishops Conference, SNOP of April 5, 2004. This interview throws light on the doctrinal note, whose style is particularly abstruse.

Behind the clichés, it is easy to discern the extreme discomfort and pathetic embarrassment of a theologian who only dares use the term “satisfaction” for the sins of men, holding it at arm’s length, and his voice slips to no more than a whisper, to say that the Council of Trent “suggests”, where in fact, the Council of Trent defines. On the other hand, Fr. Vallin regains all his courage, when he speaks of the “claims” of Jesus, “claims” which, according to him, would have excused the Jews for not having recognized the Messiah.

1. Episcopal collegiality ruptured?

Comments by Bishop Rey, published on the website of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, April 5, 2004.

The virulent and noisy polemic surrounding the film by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, has already ensured its commercial success in the United States, after the scriptwriter had purged his work of the scenes which would have sullied it with anti-Semitism. An audience of more than 100 million. Box office takings of around 300 million dollars (for a production costing 10 times less). And this is only the beginning! The scenario is the account, in the languages of the epoch (Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, Greek), of the final eleven hours of the life of Christ.

I went to see the film with an open mind. The work of the American director, who describes himself as a Catholic traditionalist, is intended to be realistic, in line with a long artistic tradition, which goes back to the thirteenth century, of which the crucifixion by Grünewald, in the fifteenth century, is the most beautiful example.

Certain commentators speak about his “compulsive bombardment with violence”, “of the obscenity of the torture spectacle in a flood of hemoglobin”, “A disservice rendered to Christianity”, “An anti-Christian work” (Fr. Valladier). And yet, the violence here does not exceed, by a long way, the hackneyed, and gratuitous violence which millions of television viewers or internet surfers drink in every day! These forceful images may hurt some sensibilities and deter certain people from going to see the film (which is not allowed in France for children under 12).

But this cruelty, shown with no holds barred, faithfully represents the brutalities suffered by Christ, such as actual scientific, historical and archeological knowledge, allows us to reconstruct. We can not accuse Mel Gibson of making the Passion other than what it is: the kind of death that was inflicted on Jesus! The director invents nothing. The torture suffered leads the audience, inexorably to the prophecy in the book of Isaiah concerning the Suffering Servant: “There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him… He was offered up because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter…and he shall not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53: 2, 7). Has not the apostle Paul always presented the Cross as a scandal? (1 Cor 1: 23)

On the contrary, the lynching which Christ suffered, highlights His determination to go right to the end, His humble submission to the will of the Father, in a spiritual combat where, in the film, the Evil One, an androgynous figure, is ever lying in wait.

The Christ fights with bare hands. His response to the violence is the giving of Himself. The gentleness of Christ echoes that of his Mother. Her constant and silent compassion accompanies her Son throughout the film, and takes Him all the way to Golgotha.

Mel Gibson wants to make each member of the audience suffer, in his senses and in his soul, the horror of the outrages and injustice, which assail the Innocent One. His purpose is to put the aesthetics of a drama full of density and intimacy, at the service of a contemplation of the sacrifice of Christ. The poignant rhythm, the rhapsody of the flashbacks, the sumptuous play of light and shadow which the filmmaker says is borrowed from the universe of Caravaggio, the power of representation, and the quality of the actors’ interpretation, the slow motion sequences, or the laments, the subtle symbolism of signs and gestures, expressed throughout the film (for example, the theological link between the sacrifice of the Cross and the institution of the Eucharist, or the link between the water of Pilate and the washing of the disciples’ feet, the wood of the Cross and that of the carpenter…), makes of this film, an historic, sometimes iconic fresco, and at the same time, a moving commentary on Christ’s offering of Himself.

Is Mel Gibson’s film a must?

As regards the reservations expressed by an Episcopal Committee, a publication improperly entitled, “The Church in France strongly advises against Mel Gibson’s film”. So, a return to ecclesiastical censorship…which John Paul II and several bishops present in Rome for the film’s world première, will have defied!

Having seen this document, which in many ways is deeply disturbing, I strongly recommend a distanced re-reading of it, a posteriori.

Certainly the film is not above all reproach. For example, the too insignificant allusion to the Resurrection. There seemed little room for hope, in this descent into hell in the midst of suffering. Or again, the addition to the biblical texts of words or scenes taken from “private revelation…”. Certain caricatures (the Roman army rabble, drunken and undisciplined) and certain clichés. No work of art can claim to penetrate the mystery of Christ, and in particular his redemptive Passion. Faith alone may grant us this.

Nevertheless, Mel Gibson’s film, despite some limitations, is presented to a French public little accustomed to this kind of thing, as an effective medium of evangelization, even a first catechesis, that it would be absurd not to experience.

Several testimonies vouch for its missionary impact, and for the Christian entering into Holy Week, Mel Gibson’s work will help him to discover in prayer, how and to what extent, “the Son of God loved me and delivered himself for me” (Gal. 2: 20).

2. The comments of Mgr. André-Mutien Léonard, appeared on the website of the diocese of Namur, April 7, 2004.

I cannot recommend highly enough seeing Mel Gibson’s film: “The Passion of the Christ”. I had the occasion to see a preview in Brussels on March 18. In one sense, any film about Christ is disappointing, since, by fixing the Gospel narrative in images, it always limits the impact of the latter. This reservation applies equally to this present film, which represents the Passion, drastically cutting the preaching of Jesus and the faith in His Resurrection. In spite of this and other limitations, you must go and see it, if only to be able to discuss it with others.

Mel Gibson is a convert. He wants to speak to a world which is no longer Christian, which hardly knows Christ and has little interest in him. He knows also, that he is addressing a culture which is inundated with gratuitous violence: that of all the terrorists and other warmongers; but also virtual violence, and even more gratuitous, of all the films of horror and carnage. Therefore he deliberately wants to shock, by showing the violence suffered by Jesus, because of the sins of the world, and for the salvation of the world. A violence which flows in to our senses. That is why the film opens with the poignant text of the prophet Isaiah: “Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows….But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins” (Isaiah 53: 4-5).

We know by historical witness, what flagellation was at the hands of the Romans, with leather straps carrying spiked metallic balls, capable of tearing the flesh. We know also, that the crucifixion was a terrible torture. The Gospels evoke the cruelty of the Passion, very soberly and in few words: the spittle, the slaps in the face, the blows, the mockery, the whipping, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion with the nails. Mel Gibson’s film shows all of this very explicitly. And the blood flows on screen, just as it did historically. Yet the admirable flashbacks bring gentleness and tenderness to this torrent of brutality. And the spiritual significance of this pain is continually suggested, as when Mary and Mary Magdalen collect, one might say liturgically, the blood which has been shed. Or the evocation of the Last Supper: “Take and eat, this is my body, given up for you; take and drink, this is my blood, shed for you”. The audience is led to recognize that the Mass is, indeed, in an unbloody manner, the same sacrifice of love which was offered by Jesus on the Cross.

The film has been conceived so that each member of the audience feels personally involved, and understands that the Passion of Our Lord was lived out for him. He did what he did for you, and for me. That is why Mel Gibson wanted it to be his own hand which held the first nail driven in to the hand of Jesus. Here it is my responsibility, and not that of others. Faithful to the Gospel on this point – even if on others he could have been more so – the film shows the role unquestionably played by the Jewish religious authorities, by Pilate, the cohort of the Roman soldiers, Jesus’ own disciples and, behind all that, Satan in person who led the dance; he is evoked in a striking manner by an androgynous figure who observes what is happening with a mocking smile. To say that the film is anti-Semitic is an unwarranted accusation.

The admirable scene where Mary holds in her arms the body of Jesus covered in blood, after He is taken down from the Cross, points to the intention of the film. After having looked at the body of her Son, as in all evocations of the Pietà, Mary slowly lifts her eyes towards us and fixes her gaze on us, as if to say: “What have you done to Him? What have you, personally done to Him, in your life?” It is difficult to resist this look. And difficult not to weep with shame…

Despite some lack of taste, some excessive insistence and a little too much brutality, this film will touch, move, overwhelm. The love of God has loved me to this degree…

2. A very revealing embarrassment

Doctrinal note on The Passion, the film by Mel Gibson, by Fr. Philippe Vallin, secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the French Bishops Conference.

1. We must salute the personal commitment of an actor and talented film maker, who has put considerable resources of his expertise at the service of a testimony of faith. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of this enthusiasm for Christ, the “Suffering Servant”.

2. At the same time, no Christian can be sure of producing a chemically pure witness. It would be unfair to reproach Mel Gibson for personalizing his view of the Lord, by blending in shades of his own spirituality. This film, therefore, like all works of art, inspired by the four Gospels, represents the mysteries of Jesus from one particular point of view, and it can not escape the distortions, some of them significant, imposed by his choices.

3. However, this testimony of a sincere Christian must be submitted, more than others, to the vigilance of the pastors of the Church, for two reasons:

* Mel Gibson has succeeded in making a powerful film, whose technical feat, in the same style as Gladiator, will encounter the tastes of a public used to the cinema and, in particular, to young people, even those ignorant of Christian convictions: violence, and its current codes of dramatic representation, in a mixture which is made with notions that are sacred, allusive or indistinct, corresponds with the very strong, but highly suspect, expectations of the public. Some people term this world of strong and mixed sensations as “gothic”. The scenes featuring the Devil have an exaggerated part in it, exactly as in Gibson’s film, which goes beyond the letter of the Scriptures several times….Having said this, what Christian artist can refrain from making, in the name of a simple gesture of an unobtainable universal aesthetic, from corresponding in some way to a public such as he finds it, such as it is?

* In this world, a film is not the facet of a retable, hidden in some discreet provincial museum: the Crucified One of the retable of Issenheim in Colmar, is also of an unbearable literal violence. But its impact has a less invasive cultural nature, than a film whose launch is worldwide.

4. In the judgment of the theologian, the most perilous aesthetic option of this film, rests in the stand taken to isolate the Passion from the preaching of Jesus, on the one hand, and from the narrative of the Resurrection on the other. In isolating the scenes of the Passion, the literality of the violence takes on, an almost absurd brutality, scarcely illustrated by the flashbacks to the public life of Christ, and the three years of his preaching. It is possible, but by no means certain, that the millions of Americans who have seen the film, have a sufficient biblical culture in order to compensate for, and thus confront the terrible lack of motives and reasons, in which this story of Jesus is immersed from the first scene of the agony.

At any rate, for the French public, those in particular whom the aesthetics of the film are likely to fascinate, aesthetics probably made known by word of mouth amongst the young, it is regrettable that all the complex motives are hidden which, little by little, deepened the attachment of the crowds to Jesus, and also the polemics surrounding His person, His intentions and His mystery. The mentions in the film are much too allusive, particularly when addressing an audience unenlightened in the Christian faith.

Yet Jesus did shock; that which theology has taken the habit of naming his claims (to forgive sins, to go against the letter of the law of the Sabbath as master of the spirit of the Sabbath, to relativize the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, etc.), provoked legitimate questions among his brother Jews. The replies he provided were not automatically convincing and presupposed that a Pharisee, a Roman centurion, a tax collector, a leper, would bow to His unheard of authority by a radical act of faith. – It should be noted that the term “claim” indicated by the author is typical of modernist theological writing and is unknown in tradition.

The hour of the Passion comes only after many other hours of the life of Christ among men – not among brutes – hours which were difficult or happy, bright or gloomy, irenic or controversial. The utterances of the Word Incarnate, true Word of God, came long before the terrible silences of “the silent lamb led to slaughter”, and they were always meant to be understood “in accordance with the Scriptures”. The less informed viewer runs the risk of understanding, in these two hours of horrific lynching, nothing other than a sort of erratic event, an outbreak of furious, demented, wholly incomprehensible violence. Worse still: it is not impossible that the attitude of Jesus might be interpreted according to the surrounding categories of the paradoxical system of non-violence, or even the neurotic structuration of sado-masochistic correlation. He who does not defend himself, in short, brings down blows on himself. The Gospels, far from this kind of perspective, are very subtle, multiple and above all, they are imbued with the great freedom of the Savior: they completely escape such crude mechanisms.

On the other hand, the Resurrection is shown here, contrary to the spirit of the Gospels, as an event on its own, and perceptible in itself, prior to the logic of meeting and of the witness of the apparitions. Yet the accounts of His appearance imply the mysterious connection of love of the Resurrected One for the witnesses He carefully chose, and the re-attained communion among the disciples.

5. This choice of isolation of the Passion leads to another theological ambiguity of great significance: the sin of the world, and faced with this, the objective of salvation and forgiveness which guides the existence of the Son of God among men, are not faced with the necessity, again mechanical, of negotiating at the price of blood. As if God, in His Almightiness, was, from all eternity, subject to a sovereign rule which obliged and constrained Him, even He, the infinitely free God: the injustice of men could only be made good, corrected, or cured by the justice of God the Father, but at the price of the suffering and death of the Son.

On the contrary, Jesus says, “my life, no one takes it, but it is I who give it”. “No one has taken the life” of the Christ, even less, as a kind of abstract rule of compensation. It is on the contrary the love of God and His mercy, which have represented before us, in order to convert our hearts, the deadly logic of sin. Logic at work in the history of this world and among us, a logic which attacks even the Just Man, the Good Man, the Innocent. So intimately joined by the logic of sin in this world – the agony – Christ Jesus is, however, going to live and even to show, in His death, His unlimited love: His total freedom to love comes to dominate the mechanical necessity of sin. –Behind these tortuous considerations on the alleged automatic determinisms, one can easily see that Fr. Vallin lacks the very clear words of theological tradition: sacrifice and propitiation. Hence it is so true that the propitiatory reality has become strange, even a stranger, to conciliar thought, which can envisage only thanksgiving and praise.

There is no longer anything here alienating, nothing calculating, nothing abstract: this man is God, and He alone was able to love us beyond our sins, to that incomparable, unique, unexpected hour of the Passion. In this sense, He has “satisfied”, the Council of Trent suggests, after St. Anselm: another word to assert, like Mr. Gibson, the mysterious prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). – Did the Council of Trent make only suggestions, without dogmatic definitions? And was light not thrown on this mysterious prophecy, when it was realized historically by the Messiah?

We must not say that our film maker is a stranger to this mystery of divine mercy. But the necessity of propitiatory blood is in great danger here of obscuring the filial decision of love. He has given less place to the reasons of mercy to be expressed, than to the unreasonableness, and even the insanity of sin. Here again, Christians very sure of their faith could themselves fill in the gaps. But as for the others…

6. The Cross which the Church celebrates, is that which Jesus asked his disciples to take up and follow Him. But Mel Gibson’s film shows the Cross as inimitable, repulsive, absurd. It seems, however, that one could believe, with the Gospel of John, that the Mother of God and “the beloved disciple” in front of Christ crucified, were able, in an infinite act of faith, to go beyond the ultimate in sorrow, and that they received at that time, the grace to contemplate something of the ultimate in love. It was this love only that must be emulated. Before us and for the whole Church, they were both beginning, perhaps, to experience what the witnesses of Easter Day would communicate to all Christians, the mystery captured in this cry which one would like to utter for the benefit of Mel Gibson: “This Cross we have found beautiful!” Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, Maximilian Kolbe did not embrace any other Cross than that of infinite love, the glorious Cross, the Cross of life. – Imprisoned in these categories of the Pascal Mystery, our author is unable to comprehend the Cross of Christ in its plenitude, and wants to eliminate its Poverty, Darkness and Suffering.

Seeing this film, one almost wonders if the only authentic disciples of Mel Gibson’s Jesus would not have been these exotic candidates to imitate the Crucified One, which the television shows us every Good Friday, entering into an exact mimicking of the torments of Christ (blows, wounds, nails), but extraneous to the depth of love, and so very out of place. We can find an indication of the right equilibrium in the Church’s liturgy: the Passion is read publicly on Palm Sunday and Good Friday only. On the other hand, at every Eucharist, the Cross of Our Lord is bound to his glory, in the power of God Who is Love.

7. One must refrain from mounting an investigation against the author of this film on the subject of anti-Semitism. But it is still true that, objectively, the stand he has taken, to show nothing of the violence of the polemic between Jesus and the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, results in this effect of mechanical mutilation: the Jews of the Sanhedrin are here, largely deprived of expressing their motives, received from Revelation itself, that they must, to say the least, have been surprised, offended, contradicted by the Rabbi of Nazareth. They are shown, at the hour of the trial, as at the hour of an insane anger, unyielding and underhand. This is, to say the least, lying to the integral drama of the Gospels. But unlike the Roman soldiers, who do not have any heirs in the France of 2004, the Jewish people, through the gift of God, have an indisputable historical continuity. How could they fail to be hurt at the truncated representation of the clash, that Jesus, the Mediator of a New Covenant, knowingly provoked among his friends, by his claim to accomplish? Shock of the greatest love, assuredly; but those of us who know it, know it through the gift of the Holy Spirit. - Note: “His claim to accomplish” this sibylline expression, without complement, (accomplish what? the prophecies? the spirit of the law in its plenitude?) is remarkably explained further down in the interview of Fr. Vallin by SNOP, in the name of current theology, that is, interreligious dialogue. May we advise the secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the French Bishops Conference to re-read – in the Gospels and particularly that of St. John – how Jesus-Christ Himself condemned the blindness of the Jews, who rejected the Messiah, the Son of God, in spite of the prophecies and the miracles?

This film will be seen by many: may they draw nearer to the mystery of Jesus through the discussions they will enter into, according to the wisdom of the faith, having left behind the turmoil of sensitivity.

2. Interview with Fr. Philippe Vallin in the bulletin of the French Bishops Conference, SNOP, of April 5, 2004

SNOP: Is The Passion of the Christ, in your opinion, a successful film?

Fr. Philippe VALLIN: I would not say that it is a successful film, since it is very difficult to make a successful film which evokes the Mystery of Christ. The cinema is too mimetic: it believes it shows everything and fails to show what can hardly be seen. The Christ of the Gospel, for example, is an resistible God: you can say yes or no to His immense love, while the Christ of this film leaves us no such liberty: he gives us an irresistible blow which takes our sensitivity hostage. How can we say yes or no to the horror of such suffering?

On the other hand, it is an effective film, with a very good cast, likely to touch the cinema -going public, with very powerful sensations. In fact, it is a shattering film in the literal sense: it robs us of our freedom of judgment, and thus the freedom of listening, necessary for the act of faith.

SNOP: Is not Mel Gibson’s intention to make a film with a large budget on the Passion of the Christ, a praiseworthy thing?

Fr. Vallin: One must salute the personal commitment of a film maker who risks his reputation in order to bear witness to his faith. This is not something that happens frequently. Having said that, if there is no reason to doubt the Christian sincerity of Mr. Gibson, yet his witness is not wholly pure. That of Michelangelo, in the frescos of the Last Judgment, is not either! A film which blends elements of the four Gospels, which claims to merge accounts of the four witnesses into one, cannot escape the distortions imposed by his choices.

(We note here with dread, the condemnation of the whole of Tradition, starting with St. Ephraim, celebrated Doctor of the Church, who wrote around the year 370, a magnificent commentary of the Diatessaron, a kind of “Four Gospels in one” written around the year 180 by Tatien).

And here there are some distortions of serious import. On the other hand, this harsh witness definitely questions the faith of French Catholics, victims of a probable dulling of their vision of Christ. No doubt, too much water has been mixed into the message of Christ, Who is the New Wine.

SNOP: The film has been criticized for isolating the Passion from the rest of the life of Christ…

Fr. Vallin: In his film, Mel Gibson throws a pallid light on the end of the road, without showing the way of Christ: we do not know where He has come from, neither where He is going. In isolating the Passion from the preaching of Jesus, on the one hand, and from his Resurrection on the other, this film erases essential aspects of the life of Our Lord, and this isolation of the scenes of the Passion leads to an almost absurd brutality. The violence – which is doubtless not exaggerated – reduces the dramatic art of the Passion to a lynching. It is especially regrettable that all the complex motives which aroused at the same time, the support of the crowds for Jesus and the controversy surrounding His person are passed over. By separating the Passion of Christ from His words, one eclipses the fact that He wove with his listeners bonds of mutual understanding and misunderstanding, bonds tied at the common bedrock of the Scriptures and the prophecies. How many hours were spent telling the crowds of the living Word of God! The terrible silences of “the silent lamb led to the slaughter” only come after these endeavors of love which speak and listen.

One enters, with Mel Gibson, into a paradoxically non-violent system: he intensifies the violence because Christ seems never to have resisted the wicked, and He seems almost to ask them to strike Him. But the Jesus of the Gospel has no psychological predisposition to masochistic non-violence, as the film would have us believe, through neglecting to show all the controversies. Jesus was not a sugary prophet: He was the Christ of strong and new preaching and ambition. The Gospels are full of the freedom of Jesus and of His supreme initiatives. And the act of the Cross itself is the height of an act of power, and not of resignation: the divine power to love.

This choice of isolating the Passion leads to another theological ambiguity of great significance: the intention of salvation and forgiveness which guides the existence of the Son of God, dwelling among men, is not a priori under requirement to negotiate at the price of blood, according to a kind of abstract rule of compensation, which would put God himself under an obligation. “My life, no one takes it but it is I who give it,” says Jesus.

SNOP: “And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 27): what does the film say about the Cross?

Fr. Vallin : This is one of the limitations of the film. It shows us a Cross which is repulsive and inimitable. Here the ravings of violence are expressed more often than the motives of love. They are busier with the betrayal of Judas, worked in a fascinating way, than by the much more mysterious fidelity of the “beloved disciple”. One scarcely grasps the reasons for the faith and love which leads the latter, with Mary, to follow Jesus all the way to Calvary, whereas one is surrounded by the ravings of the Sanhedrin. If Mel Gibson had shown the public life of Jesus, the motives of the disciples would have been understood, as well as their renewed vigor after the Resurrection.

There is much more than despairing compassion in the people who follow Jesus right to the end: we should have been shown more faith than pain, more Agape, more charity received from God, than visceral devotion in Mary standing before the Cross. Did she not understand that the new story began there? Did she not contemplate in the Cross of her Son, something of the summit of the love which surpasses forever the nadir of evil. It is this love that should have been imitated at the invitation of Jesus. There is not enough love in the Cross of Mr. Gibson.

SNOP: People have accused this film of conveying an anti-Semitic message: what is your feeling about this?

Fr. Vallin: I do not believe that there was any anti-Semitic intention. On the other hand, the choice not to show the very strong disputes, between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees, resulted in an effect of a mechanical mutilation. The film shows only the hypocrisy and the sin of the Jews of the Sanhedrin, hiding their much more legitimate motives, like this resistance to the claims of Jesus, exorbitant in their eyes, that God is His Father, a claim sustainable with great difficulty in the eyes of the Old Testament itself, at least in its letter. (We must unfortunately affirm that our author errs totally in this reply and does nothing less than deny purely and simply, the explicit teaching of the Gospel: “If I had not come, and spoken to them they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” (John 15: 22-24))

In making it appear as a trial animated by a demented and underhand anger, the film delivers a shortened representation of the shock which Jesus provoked among his brothers by his “claims”, as current theology says. Moreover, Mr. Gibson referred, it seems, to the private revelations of Catherine Emmerich, with references to devilment, doubtless very cinematic, but liable to cause old anti-Semitic mirages to resurface (such as the child with a deformed face who bites Judas’ hand and draws blood).

SNOP: Would you advise people to see this film?

Fr. Vallin: Objectively speaking, a convinced Christian has no need to go and see this film, which could even throw him off balance in his relationship with the Cross. At the same time, Christians should feel it their duty, their responsibility, to go, in order to respond to the questions of all those who have no, or little faith, in order to bear witness to the integral mystery of the glorious Cross and the Cross of life. In any case the positive side of this film must be recognized, which is that thanks to its release, Jesus is once more back in the limelight. It would be better from our point of view if He find there the opportunity to come into the hearts!