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A Really Big Shew

Although I have confessed quite publicly that I watched much too much television as a child in the 1950s, there were a few popular programs I never watched regularly. The Ed Sullivan Show was one of those I hardly ever watched during the first twenty years of my life (1951-1971) that the program was on the air. My parents hadn't watched the show when it debuted as The Toast of the Town (the name of Sullivan's tabloid celebrity gossip column) in 1948 on CBS-TV. Thus, it wasn't surprising that I hardly ever watched it, nor ever developed a desire to watch it on my own as I grew older. However, Sullivan's catch phrase ("We have a really big shew tonight") was well enough known to me to try to imitate to entertain adults who came over to our house for dinner. Turns out that Sullivan's work has been continued in the past twenty-six years by a former actor and playwright from Poland.

Yes, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, has turned the papacy into a theater of the absurd. Not only have we been subjected to the horror of all manner of sacrilegious spectacles during the midst of Papal Masses in the Vatican and around the world, but the weekly General Audience in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall has become a scene reminiscent of vaudeville, which was pretty much what Ed Sullivan brought to the small screen from 1948 to 1971. Pilgrims dance and sing, sometimes in highly immodest attire, if any attire at all, in front of the Vicar of Christ while he waves his hands and gives his blessings to the performers. Pope John Paul II certainly does give visitors to the Vatican a really big shew.

Among the most recent "performers" to enthrall the Holy Father were a group of Polish "break dancers," who spun around to the beat of music emanating from a boom box placed near the Papal throne in a hall in the Papal residence in the Vatican on Sunday, January 25, 2004. The Pope waved his hands to the odious music, giving a blessing to the "dancers" as he thanked them for their "creative hard work." Even if "break dancing" is a morally neutral act, the fact that this kind of silliness can be displayed in front of the Vicar of Christ demeans the papacy. This is a far cry from Pope Pius XII, who noted upon viewing a clip of Elvis Presley's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, "This man is demonically possessed." Those who show signs of demonic disturbance are now the beneficiaries of papal approbation and benediction.

All of this is prelude to how the Holy See has handled the quote attributed to the Pope by Steve McEveety, the producer of The Passion of the Christ. As related by McEveety, Archbishop Stanislaus Dziwisz, the Pope's long time personal secretary, told him that the Holy Father said, "It is as it was" after he had watched a DVD version of Mel Gibson's epic about the Passion and Death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As is pretty well known by now, a firestorm erupted, especially among ultra-liberals (as opposed to the ordinary liberals) in the Vatican and among some in the American hierarchy, including the Archbishop of Baltimore, William Cardinal Keeler. Various Jewish spokesmen and groups were incensed that the Pope had given his imprimatur to the movie. According to a column written by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on January 22, 2004, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls, told McEveety in an e-mail to keep using "It is as it was."

Perhaps it is best to see how Noonan herself described the unfolding of events as her description summarizes in a nutshell the blindness of so many "conservative" Catholics in the "springtime of the Church":

"When questions surfaced challenging the quote, Mr. McEveety e-mailed Dr. Navarro-Valls and asked for his help. He answered by e-mail advising Mr. McEveety not to worry, to use the phrase 'It is as it was,' and to repeat those words 'again and again and again.' Mr. McEveety sent me a copy of the e-mail.

"It seemed to me obvious that some in the Vatican were disturbed that the pope's comment had become public and was being used to defend the film. Several important Vatican figures had praised the film on the record in the past few months, but the film continued to be controversial--and the Vatican hates unneeded controversy. But I knew of Dr Navarro-Valls's encouragement of the use of the quote, and assumed that at some point he would acknowledge that encouragement.

"Instead, intrigue. Yesterday, Jan. 21, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News e-mailed Dr. Navarro-Valls and asked him about the e-mails the spokesman had sent to Steve McEveety. How could the Vatican deny the pope's quote when you told the producer to use it again and again?

"Dr. Navarro-Valls quickly replied. He told Mr. Dreher that the e-mails were not authentic. He was suggesting that they were fabricated.

"Mr. Dreher, a friend who used to be my neighbor in Brooklyn, contacted me and asked for my reaction. I told him I was flummoxed. I immediately wrote Dr. Navarro-Valls and asked him to confirm his e mail to me.

"The return address on Dr. Navarro-Valls's e-mail to Rod Dreher was the same as the one on his e-mails to me. We did some checking on Dr. Navarro-Valls's e-mail to me of Dec. 17. It was sent via an e-mail server in the Vatican's domain, and the IP address belongs to a Vatican computer.

"I have not yet had a response from Dr. Navarro-Valls, but hope to. I have also written to Steve McEveety and asked if he has any response to Dr. Navarro-Valls's assertion that what Steve said were e-mails from Dr. Navarro-Valls."

Poor Peggy Noonan. The glory days of having written speeches for President Ronald Reagan are far behind her. She can't imagine that her hero, Pope John Paul II, could let this sort of confusion go on and that his spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls, who belongs to an organization that specializes in the mental reservation and obfuscation, Opus Dei, could lead someone to believe that an e-mail sent from his e-mail address was not authentic.

Well, Miss Noonan got her answer by way of a dispatch from Zenit, which is a news service run by another ecclesiastical enterprise noted for obfuscation, the Legionaries of Christ. Perhaps prompted by Miss Noonan's column, the January 22, 2004, dispatch was headlined: "Vatican Confirms Pope Has Seen Mel Gibson's Passion." Included in this dispatch was the following statement from Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls: "The Vatican confirmed that John Paul II has seen Mel Gibson's film on the passion and death of Christ but has made no official comments about the movie. 'After having consulted with the personal secretary of the Holy Father, Archbishop Dziwisz, I confirm that the Holy Father had the opportunity to see the film The Passion of the Christ,' the director of the Vatican press office, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, said in a statement today. 'It is a common practice of the Holy Father not to express public opinions on artistic works, opinions that are always open to different evaluations of aesthetic character,' the statement added."

There you have it. Navarro-Valls leads Rod Dreher to believe that Steve McEveety was fabricating e-mails telling him to continue using "It is as it was." After Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service quoted Archbishop Dziwisz as saying that the Pope had never made such a comment, the web of lies became so tangled that Navarro-Valls issued the January 22, 2004, statement that the Pope had "made no official comments about the movie," which is pretty much indicating that the comments were made but are not to be taken as an ex cathedra pronouncement made by His Holiness.

There's a lot going on here beneath the surface of this intrigue. Let us start first with the Holy Father and confusion, using the controversy over girl altar boys of 1993-1994 as just one of a zillion examples.

I was told by Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., in December of 1993 that a nun of the Missionaries of Charity had heard from Mother Teresa that the Holy Father had told her that there would never be altar girls as long as he was the Pope. Father Fessio felt fairly confident that the remarks were accurate. So did I, believing in my waning days as a true believer in all things papal that Pope John Paul II would hold the line on this abomination. When word reached me in March of 1994 that the Pope was about to permit altar girls, I telephoned Father John A. Hardon, S.J., who had heard the same thing about Mother Teresa having been assured by the Holy Father that there would never be altar girls in his pontificate. Father Hardon instructed me to track down Mother Teresa and to ask her to call the Holy Father directly to plead with him not to permit altar girls.

Well, it took some doing, but I tracked down Mother Teresa to Hong Kong. She came to the phone when I explained to a nun the purpose of my telephone call. She was very kind. I told her that the Pope was about to announce permission for altar girls. There was silence on the phone for a good twenty seconds. Mother then said, "This will be a disaster for the Church. They will be pushing for women's ordination next." She assured me that she would try to call the Pope, which I was told later that she did. She spoke with then Monsignor Dziwisz, who told her that the matter had been decided. I am told that Mother Teresa was stunned by the Pope's change of mind.

True to form, though, Navarro-Valls dismissed all criticism of the unprecedented novelty of altar girls as the carping of some "extremists," to quote exactly the term he used at the time in April of 1994. His boss had spoken, and anyone who took issue with his boss was simply an extremist. Navarro-Valls thus showed himself to me for the first time as a man who was willing to step on yesterday's allies in order to preserve his own position of power and influence, which are vast, in the Vatican. The gospel according to Joaquin Navarro-Valls is this: reality is what we say it is. He is the one of the Vatican's most artful practitioners of positivism. That the Holy Father let confusion fester about the issue before he reversed field was lost on many Catholics around the world. Indeed, there is a book, The Great Facade, that Miss Noonan must read if she wants to familiarize herself with all of the confusion and untruth telling that has characterized the postconciliar Church.

There is a second dimension, though, to how Navarro-Valls handled the controversy over "It is as it was." He is a Spaniard who has on at least one occasion let down his hair about his resentment over the pressure exerted by Jewish individuals and groups on the Church. When he was asked by a reported in the late 1990s to comment on a priest in Connecticut who was being sought for a major insurance/stock swindle, Navarro-Valls said, for the record, mind you, "What you have to remember is that the man is a Jew." The priest in question was a convert from Judaism. Thus, it is not hard to fathom Joaquin Navarro-Valls encouraging Steve McEveety to keep using "It is as it was" as a way, quite legitimately, I should add, to put a thumb in the eye of Jewish critics of Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ. Little did Navarro-Valls know that his e-mails to McEveety would become public or that Dziwisz himself would lie to Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service. Peggy Noonan thus wound up putting Navarro-Valls on the hot seat, and that prompted his January 22 statement that the Pope had made no "official comments" on The Passion of the Christ.

There is a little problem with Navarro-Valls's January 22, 2004 statement: the Pope does comment on movies, including at least one whose theological character is open to great question. Apart from endorsing Roberto Benigni's movie, Life Is Beautiful, Pope John Paul II read a prepared statement to the producers of a movie shown on CBS-TV in 2000, Jesus. The statement, which appears in the DVD version of the movie as a special feature, reads as follows:

"Gentlemen, ladies: I am pleased to meet you and welcome you, the representatives of Lux Vide and of the co-producers of the film Jesus, which will be broadcast in the next weeks on the televison channels of many countries.

"I welcome Mr. Ettore Bernabei, President of Lux Vide, and I thank him for the address he made also on your behalf. I also welcome each of those present, and I congratulate them on the evangelization commitment which characterizes your activity. I would like you to convey my gratitude to those who in their various capacities, have cooperated and cooperate to the production of television films on religious issues, and, in particular on Biblical issues.

"My strongest hope is that such films will contribute to give the men of our times a better knowledge of the revealed message, by giving a satisfactory answer to the questions and doubts they have in their hearts.

"I also hope that your film productions will be a valid help to the indispensable dialogue which is presently developing between culture and faith. Especially in the field of cinema and television, where history, art and communication languages meet, your work as professionals and believers appears particularly useful and necessary. Culture itself is communication: among men and between the environment they live in. Enlightened by faith, culture is able to reflect the very dialogue of men with God in Christ. Faith and culture, therefore, are required to meet and to interact on the ground of communication. Especially in our times, which are marked by the development of the mass media, culture is conditioned and, under many respects, moulded by these new communication potentials. This should, therefore, be taken into account. I hope with all my heart that your work may be a vehicle for evangelization and may help the men of our times to meet with Christ, the true God and perfect man." (Pope John Paul II, November 25, 1999, quoted in L'Osservatore Romano on November 26, 1999, as reproduced at the end of the DVD version of Jesus.)

The statement is not an official endorsement of the movie as such. However, the statement is being used by its producers as a de facto endorsement of their work. The Vatican must certainly be aware of it. Some Vatican officials probably have a copy of the DVD. And if the Pope or others in the Vatican actually view the movie they will see that it contains nudity, implies that Our Lord was in love with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, before He "discovered" His mission, and contains a scene in which the man playing Our Lord is talking to the actor playing Saint John the Baptist on the eve of Our Lord's symbolic baptism by Saint John in the Jordan River. The actor playing Our Lord asks John for baptism. The actor playing John said that he would baptize him if he repented of his sins and dedicated his life to God, to which the man playing Our Lord said "Of course." This is both heretical and sacrilegious. Thus, the Vicar of Christ issues no "official comment" on The Passion of the Christ as it is open to different aesthetic evaluation but permits a general statement about Lux Vide production company to be used in such as way as to constitute a de facto endorsement of a movie about Our Lord containing heresy and sacrilege. And remember those break dancers? I guess their "art" is not open to "different aesthetic evaluations." Ah, yes, once again, Joaquin Navarro Valls covers himself in glory and consistency. The man has no shame at all.

Let's be honest about what's going on here: the Vatican is afraid of the Jews. Plain and simple. Thus, an archbishop of the Catholic Church and a man who has been the personal secretary of the Pope since he was the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, must lie to keep Jews and the bishops who enable them in their dead religion happy. It is more important to keep Jews happy than it is to state clearly, openly, and officially to all Catholics in the world that The Passion of the Christ is a wonderful movie that moved the Pope to say "It is as it was."

Mind you, we pray for the conversion of all people, including the people from whom Our Lord took His Sacred Humanity. Indeed, their conversion is an important sign of end times, as the Church has taught traditionally. We hate no person. We will the good of all people. And the ultimate good of each human being is their conversion to the true Faith and their persisting until their dying breath in a state of sanctifying grace. Nevertheless, truth is what it is. And many Jewish leaders today are just as hostile to Our Lord and His Holy Church as they were in the Church's first few centuries. A Jewish rabbi from Australia said, quite frankly, that there will never be any peace between Catholics and Jews until Catholics deny the Divinity of Christ, which is exactly what was sought by those persecuting the Apostles following the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them and Our Lady on Pentecost Sunday. It is because of the fear of criticism from some vocal Jewish leaders—and a loss of faith on the part of many within the Vatican and the hierarchy—that the people of the Old Covenant, which has been superceded by the New and Eternal Covenant instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper and ratified by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross, have been told by the Holy See that they are saved by that old, Mosaic Covenant and do not need to convert to Catholicism to be saved, thus making a mockery of God Himself. The Passion of the Christ is not about the Jews: it is about the horror of what each one of our sins did to Our Lord in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death—and about the love Our Lord has for us to have endured the punishment inflicted by our sins.

There is a silver lining, though, in all of the transparent spin-doctoring going on in the Vatican over The Passion of the Christ: some conservative Catholics may finally have the scales lifted from their eyes to see the fact that lying has become a way of life for the Vatican in the past forty years or so. Oh, sure, yes, intrigue and deception are nothing new to the corridors of the Vatican. Granted. However, the intrigue and deception of the past forty years deal not with petty power struggles and matters of international statecraft only. No, the intrigue and deception of the past forty years concerns articles contained in the Deposit of Faith and the proper worship of God Himself. If the Vatican is capable of lying about a movie in order to placate Jews and ultra liberal Catholics, then might it not be capable of lying, say, about the Third Secret of Fatima or about the claim that the new Mass is simply a "restoration" of a simpler, purer Roman rite that existed before the "accretions" of "triumphalism" and "clericalism" set in around the fifth century or so? Might more than one or two people see that the claim, made recently by some members of the hierarchy, that Fatima message is about "inter-religious" dialogue is just an abject lie and a debasement of the Mother of God?

As noted briefly before, Christopher Ferrara's and Thomas Woods's The Great Facade convincingly list the many lies that have been told in behalf of the novelties of the past forty years. A full recitation of them here would produce another book length manuscript. Suffice it to note for present purposes, however, that almost all of the traditional teachings of the Church, including the Social Reign of Christ the King, have given way to a universalist, near-Masonic approach to dealing with the problems of the world, problems that have their origin in Original Sin and can only be attenuated by the conversion of souls to the true Faith and by their cooperation with sanctifying grace to scale the heights of personal holiness.

The web of deceit that has been woven to cover up or obfuscate Pope John Paul II's reaction to The Passion of the Christ should inspire us to pray ever more fervently, especially before the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God, that the men who are charged with shepherding us safely home to Heaven will recover their Catholic minds and their Catholic hearts, united as they must be to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The way of the world leads to ruin. The way of Our Lord His Most Blessed Mother leads to salvation. "He who is ashamed of Me and My doctrine before men, I will be ashamed of before My Father in Heaven."

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

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