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
"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
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 leadersand a loss of faith on the part of many
within the Vatican and the hierarchythat 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 Deathand
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
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray