Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Siri Disciple to Venice

Over the years I've lost interest in the ins and outs of the Italian episcopal scene.  This article from Magister telling of the choosing of Bishop Francesco Moraglia as the new patriarch of Venice by the Holy Father though caught my eye.

Moraglia as Magister tells it is respected in various quarters.  He was ordained by Cardinal Siri of Genoa.  Moraglia's resume is impressive, though I am always interested in what these officials of the various institutes and offices in Italy actually do with their days besides shuffle paper.

Magister sums up with this:

With the appointment of Moraglia – who will be made a cardinal at the first consistory after the one that will be celebrated in February – the influence of the ecclesiastical disciples of Siri is growing, although with different sensibilities. In addition to Moraglia, in fact, others who were ordained to the priesthood by Siri are cardinals Bagnasco and Piacenza, and the newly created cardinal Domenico Calcagno. Without counting the apostolic nuncio Antonio Guido Filipazzi and the French bishop Marc Aillet. The current master of pontifical ceremonies, Guido Marini, was the last "train-bearer" deacon of Cardinal Siri, while the Vatican deputy foreign minister, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, although incardinated in the diocese of Rome, was also born and raised in "Sirian" Genoa.

The old-timers of the curia recount that once Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, the powerful prefect of the congregation for bishops during the last phase of the pontificate of Paul VI and at the beginning of that of John Paul II, criticized Cardinal Siri for training his seminarians and priests as if on an island separate from the Italian Church. And because of this, they were not taken into consideration to be made bishops.

"Yes, it is true," Siri is said to have replied, "we are on an island, but I have taught mine to swim." And to swim well, it could be added today.
 We'll see what happens.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Movie Review: Doubt (2008)

On Friday I watched most of the film Doubt from 2008.  I missed the last twenty minutes or so because I had to leave for 5:30 Mass, but I checked out the ending at Wikipedia.  The film stars Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn, Amy Adams as Sister James, and Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller.  The basic plot: in 1964, a black boy, Donald Miller, attends a Bronx parochial school where the student body is exclusively Irish and Italian (i.e. white).  Donald is taken under the wing of Father Flynn who is determined to help the boy survive.  However, doubt is cast on Father Flynn's motives in the minds of Sister Aloysius, the school principal, and Sister James, Donald's teacher.

All four of the lead actors are convincing in their roles.  I am always impressed with how Philip Seymour Hoffman has morphed from the weak George in Scent of a Woman and the manic Dusty in Twister to his mature roles in the last decade.  I never saw that coming.  Meryl Streep is always fine in her roles, though I admit I am not completely enamored with her like so many others.  Amy Adams as young Sister James and Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller, the mother of the boy, both did fine in their supporting roles.  The children who acted in the film were very believable.  I have no firsthand experience of teaching sisters and priests; I have read that some felt that Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman were not entirely convincing in their roles.  But I thought they did fine in that regard.

I enjoyed the location shooting.  The use of schools that evoked that time period really gave the film heft.  When certain films are trying to create an atmosphere, I think shooting in the autumn does a lot to help that effort and it shows in Doubt.  As events proceed in the film and the tension builds, several scenes involve the tilting of the camera so that the frame is not level.  This only adds to the tension, especially in the scenes with Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn.

Doubt came out about three years ago, so I am not going to hold back on the plot here.  If you haven't seen it and have read this far and don't want spoilers, don't read on.

The film is about suspicion and doubt on many levels.  Most obviously, Sister Aloysius suspects Father Flynn of abusing the black boy Donald Miller.  Sister sees things and has things reported to her by the young and naive Sister James that leads her to suspect, but she has no proof and Father Flynn when confronted adamantly denies any wrongdoing.  In the past when such issues came up, Sister Aloysius went through back channels to allies in the priesthood who handled the issue quietly, but in the case of Father Flynn, she has no one to whom she can turn with her suspicion.  In the end Father Flynn resigns and is reassigned; nothing is resolved.

On a deeper level, the movie examines the tide of change within the Church in 1964.  Vatican II is underway and Father Flynn and his attitudes represent that change to a kinder, friendlier Church.  Sister Aloysius represents the old ways that are now in doubt.  I wonder if the writer/director John Patrick Shanley realized the irony of Sister Aloysius when he was writing her given that she is determined to instill in her students and the sister-teachers under her the sense of hierarchy that she herself fights in dealing with Father Flynn.  Even the arrival of a black family in an Irish and Italian neighborhood foretells the upheavals that are to come with urban renewal and white flight to the suburbs.

Is the film anti-Catholic?  I wouldn't say so, no.  It certainly relies upon the Catholic milieu of the time and place in which it is set to tell its story and I can't fault it for that.  It tells a story well, its characters are not caricatures as far as I could tell.  I'll give it four out of five stars.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter Has Finally Arrived

Here in Iowa winter has finally arrived.  Earlier this month there were record breaking high temperatures; a few days there the high during the day was in the upper fifties.  But it did not last and the mercury bottomed out this last week at the same time as a few rounds of snow have covered up the faded greens and browns.

For those of you who are interested in such things, a consistory has been announced and with it the list of cardinals-to-be.  It's a pretty underwhelming list of names even when considered in the best light.

More recently, the Vatican approved certain 'celebrations' of the Neocatechumenal Way (Wiki link).  Again, that is looking at it in the best light in that 'celebration' does not mean the infamous form of Mass to which the Way subscribes.  On the other hand, many are of the opinion that it is an outright approval and even if it is not, the devotees of the Way will view this Vatican approval as general vindication, ignoring the subtleties of it.

Finally, this morning it is being reported by various sources that former Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno is dead.  There were erroneous reports that he died last night.  Earlier this autumn, Paterno was fired after being caught up in the Sandusky sexual abuse case.  The former coach, a Catholic, received the Last Rites.  Requiescat in pace.

Friday, January 06, 2012

A New Year

Merry Christmas! Happy Epiphany! Happy birthday to the Maid of France!

Tonight I saw an interesting commercial on the US cable channel TNT. It was for CatholicsComeHome.org, a website with a rather self-evident mission. The commercial I saw was the US national spot that can be viewed by running the cursor over the 'About' button on the main page, then clicking on 'Commercials' which should bring up a page with the commercials. Effective? It looked okay to me, but I'm sure sound would add a lot to the message.

There is a new movie in theaters now in the US, The Devil Inside. I caught the TV teaser for the very first time today, despite the fact the movie opens today. It claims to be a documentary with actual forbidden footage of exorcisms. This documentary style for horror films is in the grand style of The Blair Witch Project. The teaser for The Devil Inside had all the Hollywood trappings for the Catholic Church: priests in cassocks, sisters in habits, a priest genuflecting before a main altar (against the wall).

CatholicsComeHome.org might want to take notes: the visual trappings of traditional Catholicism sell.