'Hollywood trash' is not so harmless

{mosimage}When it comes to Hollywood trash, you can’t beat the combined efforts of director Ron Howard, novelist Dan Brown and actor Tom Hanks.

Angels and Demons, their first collaboration since The Da Vinci Code, features the usual slanders against the Catholic Church, along with dollops of the occult, a suppressed secret society and a smattering of advanced science. The official Vatican newspaper has described the resulting farrago as “harmless entertainment.” I’m not so sure.

    Movies speak to a common bias

    {mosimage}Angels and Demons, which opened May 15 in North America, is the type of movie that can fill large theatres for weeks with people who like murder mysteries filled with action, interesting settings and suspense to the very end. It also takes the type of liberties with church history and modern-day reality that usually characterize movies with a strong Catholic component.

    The movie is a prequel to The Da Vinci Code and describes a vendetta against the Catholic Church by a “centuries’ old secret society,” the Illuminati. Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, is asked by the Vatican to crack a secret code after the Illuminati kidnap four cardinals considered front-runners to be the next pope, and threaten to kill one an hour and then explode a bomb at the Vatican.
Unlike The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons is not a direct challenge to the foundations of Christianity. (The Da Vinci Code’s plot was based on the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children together, whose descendants live today.) While there are enough errors and stereotypes in Angels and Demons to annoy many Catholics, even the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has dismissed it as “harmless entertainment,” and jokingly suggests that bored moviegoers could entertain themselves by counting the mistakes.


      The good and bad of modern communications

      {mosimage}Nobody reading this needs a lesson from me about how deeply modern communications technologies have penetrated our lives. You probably watch television, listen to the radio, keep in touch with family, friends and business colleagues by telephone, and you likely have a cell phone.

      Even if you don’t toil on a computer to make a living, you may have one at home for everything from online banking to social networking. You might also use your computer to keep up with church news: the Vatican recently launched its own YouTube channel with a message from Pope Benedict XVI.

        No silencing the March for Life

        Next week, thousands of pro-lifers will gather in Ottawa for the annual March for Life. As they have every year for the past 12 years, they will promote respect for life at all stages, from conception to natural death, through prayer, Mass and a walk through downtown streets ending at Parliament Hill. Some MPs will attend. Clergy and at least one archbishop are planning to attend. There will be witnessing by members of the Silent No More abortion awareness campaign. Last year there were about 8,000 marchers. This year, there may be more.

        If you’re a member of a pro-life group or Catholic media organization, or a regular Register reader, you probably know all this. If you only know what the mainstream news outlets carry, you probably don’t. Despite a large number of attendees and the presence of senior clergy and parliamentarians, the march has rarely attracted much media attention. Sometimes a handful of pro-abortion protesters will show up and make noise, creating a photo opportunity or two. Last year a police officer was injured directing traffic, but news reports still didn’t name the event that had caused the need for traffic direction. In the United States, the annual March for Life is at least 10 times as big, but the media situation is about the same.

          Nuclear deterrence theories are obsolete

          {mosimage}Most people in 21 countries, nuclear-armed and not, now support the elimination of nuclear weapons, according to a survey conducted late last year by the Washington-based polling organization World Public Opinion.

          In 20 of the 21 nations surveyed — the total included Canada, the United States, Russia and most European powers — majorities ranging in size from 62 to 93 per cent favoured an international agreement that would lead to the destruction of existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology to countries that don’t have it. (The single exception to this pattern was Pakistan, where only 46 per cent favoured such a scheme.)

            Easter Contest 2011

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            Ages 6-8 Part 1

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            Ages 6-8 Part 2

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              Obama the right man, despite pro-choice stance

              {mosimage}Along with a clear majority (54 per cent) of American Catholics who voted in the recent U.S. presidential election, I cast my ballot for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. And along with at least some of these Catholic voters, I picked Obama after a time of soul-searching.

              I agreed with his liberal, interventionist policies on the economy, his ideas about America’s relationship with its friends and enemies, health care reform, the deplorable war in Iraq and other matters. I disagreed with Republican candidate John McCain’s stands on virtually every issue, from economics to Iraq.

                Love for God, neighbour, antidote to fundamentalism

                {mosimage}The first decade of the 21st century will be remembered as a good one for the sacred books of the West’s great religions, but not so good for those getting the Book thrown at them.

                Women in the sheikdoms and Islamic republics, for example, beat up by Qur’an-quoting police for accidentally flashing an inch of ankle, and moderate Muslims having their TV sets snatched away and destroyed by their more righteous brethren. Arabs thrown off their land by Jews obsessed by some pages in the Old Testament promising their ancestors most of the known world. These, and myriad others, have been victims of militants mouthing the same justification for wreaking holy terror: The Book told them to do it.

                  Let's learn from this 'teachable moment'

                  For all the damage it’s doing, the crisis shaking the foundations of the world’s financial system has spawned at least one booming industry: economic punditry.

                  If you haven’t been camped out in Algonquin Park for the last two months, you are surely familiar with what I’m talking about: the endless parade of experts before the cameras of cable TV news networks, each with learned opinions about what’s gone wrong with the world and what’s to be done about it. Finger-pointing abounds. Some blame consumers, chronically addicted to the cheap, easy credit of the last several years. Others confidently blame “predatory” lenders, or absent-minded regulators, or the profligacy of public-sector spending by governments living far beyond their means.

                    Christian persecution stains India

                    The worsening persecution of Indian Christians by fundamentalist Hindus is a black mark on India’s modernizing democracy and a violation of Hinduism’s basic principle of tolerance for other religions.

                    Western Christians should stand in solidarity with our Indian brothers and sisters who are being murdered, mutilated and driven from their homes, whose houses are being burned and whose churches are being desecrated and destroyed. In this Canadian election season, we should exact a promise from our prospective members of Parliament that they will urge the next government to encourage Delhi to beef up its current, woefully ineffective campaign to halt the violence.

                      Education leads us to human fulfilment

                      {mosimage}Throughout his remarkable visit to Paris and Lourdes in mid-September, Pope Benedict XVI showed France and the world what is best about contemporary Catholicism. He reached out with great warmth to all the people he met, from the mighty of this world — his first stop was a conversation with French President Nicolas Sarkozy — to sick pilgrims and intellectuals, the youth of Paris, Jews and Muslims.

                      He preached the Gospel with zeal, witnessed to the love revealed 150 years ago at Lourdes, and encouraged the French clergy and others called to dedicated lives to stand firm in the face of Europe’s deepening unbelief. And he did these things with shining charity.