Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Biting the Hand


Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

Last night, the documentary Hand of God was shown on public television in this area. The director, Joe Cultrera, describes the film, which tells a story in the life of his brother, and its effect on him and their family:

"Back in 1964, a Catholic priest in our hometown of Salem, Massachusetts had sexually abused Paul at the Catholic school we both attended. After spending thirty years in a dark box of silence, he initiated his own investigation, uncovering some startling abuses of body and power. This occurred many years before these deceptions hit the headlines... [the film is] an interpretive dance. A weird visual mambo trotted around a straightforward narrative of a crooked happening..."

Personally, I enjoyed the stories of youth, of innocence, of the Faith as more than going through the motions, but a way of life, the very stuff of life. Had I been born five years sooner, and had grown up closer to the city, I might have had a taste of the same jubilant experience. In fact, it almost made me wish I had grown up Italian, as if I was otherwise cheated somehow. But the ones who were really cheated were the family that was torn apart by the sick and twisted behavior of one priest, and the malfeasance of those confreres who covered for him.

The film betrayed more than the loss of innocence of Paul Cultrera; it betrayed the crisis of faith within his whole family. This is the unspoken and unacknowledged message in the film.

No, not because they refuse to put some bishop on a pedestal. You see, that's where people get confused. They assume "the Church" is just a bunch of guys in robes. They become just as much promoters of the clericalist mentality as... well, the clerics. When another Italian, Catherine of Siena, wrote her letters to the Holy Father, at one point referring to the clerics around him as "wolves and sellers of the Divine Grace," she was not attacking the Church Herself or Her teachings. So why did these people have to? Somehow, the idea that they were going to all this trouble, for all this time, because of something Christ Himself founded, escapes them from the moment the camera is rolling. It is completely arbitrary to assign blame to a system of belief that, in its essential nature, is being ignored in a given situation by its own agents. Part of the "visual mambo" to which the director refers, includes the dissonant juxtaposition of sacred images, some of it quite artfully done, but in other cases bordering on the sacrilegious. We can only assume, then, that the events portrayed, cut deep enough to cause such damage to souls, as to lead to despair.


Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

Something should be made very clear at this point. Saying the above does NOT make light of anyone's suffering, or anyone's outrage, or anything like that. (If you think that it does, you're probably incapable of complex thought, and should stop reading this immediately before you get a headache.) If anything, it does exactly the opposite. In a sense, you almost can't blame the Cultreras. After all, to whom can they turn for the real deal? Everybody around them in a robe or a habit is in somebody's pocket. The conspiracy extends even to a Sister who could probably get away with dancing around a tree and praising Gaia, more easily than spilling the beans about some pervert on the payroll. It's as if the whole town of Salem was being taken over by the Pod People before they could get the word out that aliens had landed.

Near the end of the film, Joe Cultrera is confronted by a cleric outside the chancery office. It is here that we realize one aspect of the problem which, to his credit, the director uncovers: namely, that we're not really dealing with very smart guys here. The fact is, they exist in every bureaucracy, and this writer has met more than his share after a quarter of a century with the Federal government.

The scenario is all too familiar. Some middle-management operative needs to cover for himself, by covering up a problem over which he has little control, but for which he knows he will have to provide an explanation. So he reaches in desperation for a short-term solution. The problem goes away, at least for him. There are three deficiencies with this approach; 1) others in a similar position, and in the same environment, are solving their short-term problems in the same way, 2) as a short-term solution that leaves a long-term residue, it has a cumulative effect, especially when combined with those of others, and 3) others outside the sphere of influence are adversely affected by the consequences of 1 and 2. And so, the operative in question never had a handle on the problem to begin with. Yet he is consoled by the knowledge that he will have moved on when this matter comes back and bites somebody on the hindquarters.

Or so he thinks.

On the night Christ was betrayed, the apostles went running scared. Their successors, at one time or another, have been running scared ever since. I'll give credit to Joe Cultrera and company where it is due; they caught a few in the act of running, literally. I'll also give his brother Paul credit where it is due; if the film is any indication, he probably could have turned out a lot worse. To know that is to know that God works His Grace into the picture somehow, even in the midst of unspeakable evil. Saint Paul reminded us of how that might happen.


Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

But I don't have to believe their view of the Church Herself or Her teachings to acknowledge their pain. Nor am I required to excuse the incompetence of errant shepherds as a litmus test of orthodoxy. I am not a Catholic for the sake of Joe or Paul Cultrera, any more than I am for Richard Lennon or John McCormick.

39 Comments:

At 1/17/2007 06:00:00 PM, Anonymous Jon said...

" It is completely arbitrary to assign blame to a system of belief that, in its essence, has never been applied, even by its own agents."

I understand and agree with what you're saying in this article, Mr. Alexander, but the above quotation does not sound right. Surely, the saints have applied this system to their lives, no?

 
At 1/17/2007 06:20:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Jon:

I was confining myself to the context of this family's situation, not speaking as a whole. Obviously this is subject to misinterpretation. It shall be re-phrased. Thanks.

 
At 1/17/2007 08:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

I want to thank you for putting into words my own inadequate thoughts on the Frontline expose.
I think the numerous scenes of catholic imagery and substance (Eucharist hosts) did not just border on the sacrilegious but were just that.
I phoned my local PBS station and registered a complaint. I will no longer support them.

I cannot imagine the pain and misery suffered by the young boys, now men. The priest were evil. But why is it necessary for some people to equate clerics with the "Church" a living breathing body?
I feel for the parents of the author and subject of the show. Because they maintained their faith, they are perceived to be ignorant.
Faith is real, it see through evil and overcomes it and I admire them. Their own children are persecuting them.
I want to thank you for putting into words my own inadequate thoughts on the problem with the Frontline expose.

Linda H

 
At 1/19/2007 01:48:00 AM, Blogger Joe said...

"I feel for the parents of the author and subject of the show. Because they maintained their faith, they are perceived to be ignorant....Their own children are persecuting them."

Excuse me - but neither my brother nor I perceive my parents as ignorant. If you were standing in front of me I’d absolutely knock you on YOUR ignorant ass for even suggesting this. They are not presented as ignorant in our film - and of the hundreds of comments I have received about the film (80% positive) nobody has suggested this before. Hand of God is not about choosing sides in this issue. It is about finding faith in family when institutional faith fails you. I love, respect and admire my parents and I think that is extremely clear by the warmth in my film. They and my sister go to church. My brother and I do not. The making of this film allowed us to explain ourselves to each other. We respect each other’s opinions. Many of the biggest supporters of this film are faithful Catholics like my parents. I love them by the bunch. I do not share their approach to faith anymore, but I believe faith is an individual choice that should not impose on other people’s choices. I do not stand in protest of any faith or free thought. I stand in defiance of hierarchal members of an institutional religion that have committed criminal acts, yet continue on as if they are some sort of moral authority.

“I think the numerous scenes of catholic imagery and substance (Eucharist hosts) did not just border on the sacrilegious but were just that.”

On the subject of the imagery you find sacrilegious. I can only assume you are talking about the communion wafers that I bought on the Internet? First of all – it’s not like I urinate on them. The most that happens is that they are seen dropping into a collection basket with coins and dollar bills. The fact is that money is the Hosts that the lawyer priests have used to squelch the talk of priestly sins.

The imagery in Hand of God is a reflection of the state of mind that my brother and myself are in. I grew up in absolute reverence and fear of the clergy and the symbols they used. I used to think that if a priest consecrated a host, and it happened to drop to the carpet, it would actually burn a hole in it – as if the priests instilled some glowing power to it. As I grew older I became more skeptical. Over the last dozen years that skepticism has grown to a point where I see objects as they are. Communion wafers are manufactured in a factory in St Louis and can be bought like candy (in different flavors and designs) on the Internet. Those little statues we were given for first communion are made on an assembly line in Taiwan, and can be bought at a 99-cent store. It is all just stuff. None of it is glowing holy. Who has caused this devaluation in my mind? Not me. The hands of the clergy have devalued them. These hands went down the pants of altar boys before Mass, and then picked up communion wafers and fed them to their flock. Others used their hands to sign papers that re-assigned the dirty priest to new parishes where new victims awaited them. A lust for power and the accumulation of wealth has overtaken the teachings of Jesus in many corners of this institution - certainly in the corners that my family has traveled. This film is our experience. Maybe yours is different. I hope you can respect mine – even if you don’t like it. Don’t blame PBS, blame me for having lived the life I’ve lived.

 
At 1/19/2007 08:57:00 AM, Anonymous Carol McKinley said...

"Communion wafers are manufactured in a factory in St Louis and can be bought like candy (in different flavors and designs) on the Internet. Those little statues we were given for first communion are made on an assembly line in Taiwan, and can be bought at a 99-cent store. It is all just stuff. None of it is glowing holy."

Joe,
The the apple doesn't fall far from the tree does it.

If you were here, I'd knock you on your ignorant ass for even suggesting this. That is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ you exploit. How dare you.

A friend of mine called me last night to tell me how much I have to see your film, as we share concerns and heartbreak for victims of sexual abuse. I was appalled at what she described Bishop Lennon saying.

Now that I see the metamorphasis from a man into a pathetic maggot salivating to destroy Christ Himself - I think he hit the nail on the head.

 
At 1/19/2007 09:57:00 AM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Joe:

Thank you for taking the time to write. I am sure your work is getting attention nationwide, and we here at mwbh are flattered by the time you have taken to respond.

It comes as no surprise that you fail to see any significance to your use of the Hosts as symbolism. For those of Faith, this imagery has significance, one which you, by your own admission, have abandoned. As the saying goes: "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible."

Regarding the comment by "Linda H"...

"Because they maintained their faith, they are perceived to be ignorant."

...the perception is not necessarily yours, but can be construed by a viewer. Maybe not 80 percent, but that leaves 20 percent who might, plus those who chose not to view the film in light of how you might be perceived to touch upon their beliefs. There is, at one point or another, a failure of some family members (that is, some more than others) to distinguish between the faith itself and those who claim to teach it. The words are chosen in a state of bitterness, one which is understandable. That is not a reflection of what is truly in their hearts. That is what is in the film.

We know only what the camera tells us. Your confrontation with Bishop Lennon, for example, shows only that. It does not show anything before, after, or outside the periphery of the lens. Any of these things could affect that which is within the periphery. Any student of Film 101 would know that. So do you.

I believe every attempt was made to be fair to you and your family in the writing of this review. You might be interested in the comments of one Salem resident, Domenico Bettinelli, whose blog is linked in a follow-up piece entitled Return to Salem.

I wouldn't threaten to kick his ass, though. He's much bigger than you.

Stay in touch.

 
At 1/19/2007 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Carol McKinley said...

"I wouldn't threaten to kick his ass, though. He's much bigger than you."

May I suggest you review a story about tiny little man with the same name as you and a bully giant?

Having walked the gauntlet in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross - what happened before and after the confrontation with Bishop Lennon is left out of the documentary intentionally - as one would be disgusted at the violent threats and hostile venom spewed upon anyone going into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is enough to make your skin crawl.

Not withstanding the horror we all have for children exploited by sexual abusers - the dastardly conduct against innocent people who have no intention of diluting the teachings of our precious Mystical Body of Christ and the Sacraments shall not be tolerated.

 
At 1/19/2007 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Der Tommissar said...

May I suggest you review a story about tiny little man with the same name as you and a bully giant?


Yes, but Dom likes to fight and he's good at it.*




*I have no idea if Dom likes to fight, or if he's good at it.

 
At 1/19/2007 09:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ you exploit. How dare you."

Those were, I assume, unconsecrated hosts. In that case, they were simply hosts, and not the Body of Christ.
That said, the imagery remains, in my opinion, offensive.
This was probably a pointless clarification, and I don't intend to get involved in this discussion.
Have a good night.
AMDG.
Angela

 
At 1/20/2007 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your irritation with this movie, Mr Alexander, but your response sounds terribly like a game of "blaming the victim".

Dr Blosser comments: "PBS has shown a "clergy sex abuse" documentary recently in some markets entitled "Hand of God." David L. Alexander did a review ("Biting the Hand," Man with black hat, January 17, 2007), which, he says, not only elicited a response from the director, Joe Cultrera, but got him pretty steamed. "He helps to prove a point I was making," writes Alexander. "What a good sport!""

I am afraid that the idea that "getting people pretty steamed" somehow validates one's utterances is yet another neocath delusion. It does no service to the Catholic Church to suggest, as your rhetoric in practice does, that children abused by clergy are just a nuisance we don't want to hear any more about.

 
At 1/20/2007 01:36:00 AM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

Looking at the movie, I see your hostility to it is part of the neocath ideological battle. You cannot accept what the film shows about the stifling authoritarianism of Catholic culture back then with its fake image of priesthood. What disturbs me about the film is the sense that Fr Birmingham was acting out a script that a whole subculure of priests were involved in at the same time. Attacking the victims is NOT the answer.

 
At 1/20/2007 02:34:00 AM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

Dark, depressing, but a powerful dramatization of the crisis of faith caused by scandal. How far does the "dark side" extend and what new beginnings are now called for? I doubt if they can come from the exhausted, demoralized clerical church.

 
At 1/20/2007 08:39:00 AM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Fr O'Leary:

It would appear that your experience at Dr Blosser's weblog has taught you nothing. He's a much more reasonable fellow than I am. Around here, no one makes a claim about me that they cannot back up. And soooooo...

I defy you to find ONE STATEMENT where I actually "blame the victim" for his circumstances, as opposed to simply observing where he may be mistaken about one thing or another. (Try to establish it in one comment, as opposed to ten.) Otherwise, buzz off!

DLA

 
At 1/20/2007 01:40:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...

Another great day for Catholic behavior. David gets a rise out of Joe. Fr O'Leary gets a rise out of David. Is it worth keeping score?

"Because they maintained their faith, they are perceived to be ignorant...."

This seems to have been deleted from the original post. Good thing, because this would be an instance of blaming the victim.

 
At 1/20/2007 02:18:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Todd:

Once again, no one here was "blaming the victim." Having endured tragedy in our lives is not a get-out-of-hell-free card, so those who attack the Faith, for whatever reason, give cause for that Faith to be defended. As I said (over and over again), such a defense does not deny their tragedy.

The quotation was from another commenter, not me, and I gather it to have been a statement about how the family was presented by their son, the director. By the way, what I said was that Joe was "a good sport," and he is, because he didn't stumble upon this post, I sent him a link. I invited him. And in my commentary, I gave him and his brother credit where due. While I disagree with some of what he wrote, I think it was big of him to take the time to comment here.

If you're going to take one sentence and just run away with it, you can see things any way you want. There's no intellectual rigor in such an exercise.

Our Lord came, not to bring peace (at least as this world would know it), but a sword. He said brother would be turned against brother, and that others would hate us because of Him. So there will be contention here, whether as a result of people's genuine injuries, or the Faith being genuinely attacked.

That's "the Faith" as opposed to errant shepherds who deny Him.

 
At 1/20/2007 03:23:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

By the way, Todd, nice blog. Keep it up.

 
At 1/20/2007 05:25:00 PM, Anonymous Steve M. said...

David,
I thought your comment was very balanced. I have no doubt from watching the film that both Joe and Paul deeply love their parents. Because I graduated from Boston College with Paul (although I do not recall meeeting him), I think I can say I had the honor one sunny day in May 1971 of standing in his parents' vicinity. From Joe's comments above, and from comments posted by Joe at the Washington Post forum about the film, I think Joe regards his parents' belief as accepting magic. His reference in the film is to "magic", and the sequence in which hosts and coins are mingled in what looks like a chalice is intended to disturb. Joe was kind enough to hint in the film that these were not consecrated hosts, although that is only left as an implication. Andres Serrano did not need to use a consecrated host to create shock and pain, and a consecrated host was not needed for that purpose here.
Since the film's depiction of the preadators and their enablers was very truthful, it is a shame it had to be surrounded with an attack on Holy Communion.

 
At 1/20/2007 07:08:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Steve M et al:

"From Joe's comments above, and from comments posted by Joe at the Washington Post forum about the film, I think Joe regards his parents' belief as accepting magic."

That forum can be found here.

 
At 1/20/2007 09:45:00 PM, Anonymous Mike in Illinois said...

Since the film's depiction of the preadators and their enablers was very truthful, it is a shame it had to be surrounded with an attack on Holy Communion.

I'm sorry, but I don't think there's any way to regard that scene as an attack on Holy Communion.

 
At 1/21/2007 07:42:00 AM, Blogger Bubbles the Terrible said...

FWIW: I don't think a system of beliefs can even come close to adequately describing the church. Nor do I think that when priests do good, we get to coopt that personal deed and call it the Church doing good, but when priests do evil, it's just that man doing evil and "oh, my heavens no!" not the Church ATALL!!! That's crap-on-a-stick dumb, and a rather pathetic and cowardly evasion. The fact that it's standard operating procedure for so many Bishop's PR whor.., uh "dedicated professionals" and EWTN personalities must be considered beside the point.

At the same time, if we say that because Father Birmingham did evil, or because that revolting, preening priest in the Sophia Loren glasses was a fatuous, insipid, mincing, perilously self-involved little fop -- does that hold that Joe's parents being equally part of the church, are also evil or mincing little fops?

I don't think so.

Again, welcome to the downside of real communion.

 
At 1/21/2007 08:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you said: "It is completely arbitrary to assign blame to a system of belief that, in its essential nature, is being ignored in a given situation by its own agents."

This recalls Augustine's notion of the Church as a corpus permixtum. And concepts like this are hard to convey to the general public, including the press, which does not care or want to understand the nuances of Catholic belief. However, it would be good if priests and bishops were to preach about this, since people need to understand that the faith, as faith, is untainted by the vagaries of its agents, just as the sacraments are inviolate and efficacious, no matter by which cleric they are administered (saintly or sinful). This, of course, would not absolve those who performed the deeds or looked the other way, but would set God as the focus again.

Janice

 
At 1/21/2007 01:48:00 PM, Blogger Joe said...

David-

Just for the record - and this is the last time you will hear from me - it wasn't you that "ticked off the PBS producer " and got him to prove whatever point you think I proved (?). It was the quote from "Anonymous" about my parents. I on the other hand am not anonymous.

I apologize for acting like a Sicilian thug. It was not in the same calm spirit of my film or my general nature. The reason I made that comment is because I will always stand up for my family (I think my film attests to that), although next time I will be more choice in my words. In addition I will never again do it on these sorts of forums. Anyone with a clear mind who has seen Hand of God could not possibly come to the conclusion that I make my parents out to be ignorant. I think their comments in the film are quite wise. The countless people that have contacted us are of the same view. To come to Anonymous' conclusion, you would have to believe that continuing to be a Catholic is ignorant. The film does not offer this view. There is a clear understanding of the nature of the decision by many people to still attend church. I have made my decision and my other family members have made theirs and the film clearly shows how opposing approaches to a similar faith can coexist in one family (and thus in society at large). Do I wish they didn't attend? Yes. Do they wish I came back to the fold? Yes. We still love and respect each other.

About the editing of the confrontation with Bishop Dick Lennon. Part of what was trimmed out was due to bad sound (we were not wired for or expecting this encounter) and just a general tightening for expediency. What you missed was the camera walking up to Lennon after he asked us to stop filming the exterior of the building. He ignores me and asks questions to my cameraman who suggests that he talk to me instead. This is where the footage in the film picks up – with me explaining why we were there (it was the place my brother reported his abuse). The film clearly shows the end of the encounter – him walking off into the Chancery. We left the property shortly after the encounter.

I also cut out (because of bad sound) a small part of the encounter where – I mention to Lennon the various contributions of money and spirit that my family and I had given to the Church over the years and how they had their church closed on them. He replies, “You’ve given nothing. Your family has given nothing…” This is where the footage from the edited film picks up with him saying, “It’s all in your head sir, you’re a sad little man.”

Interestingly, about 20 minutes earlier a layperson that worked in the office building came out and also asked our purpose. I explained what we were doing in almost exactly the same words I would eventually use with Lennon. This person’s reaction was to the effect of, "I'm so sorry. How is your brother doing? How are your parents? Do any of you need help?" Very compassionate. Very Catholic in the true sense of the word. He then told me that as far as he was concerned I could shoot whatever I wanted.

My previous explanation of the symbolism is clear. You will hear and read whatever you want into that. Yes, they were unconsecrated. It is clearly not an attack on Holy Communion – but a reflection of how devalued such symbols now are to ME. I personally do not believe these objects are the body and blood of Christ, because I do not have faith in those that supposedly can perform such transfigurations. But even given this belief of mine, I did not take these objects from an altar, I bought them factory direct.

I want to close my blogger life by sharing with you a small excerpt of an email I received from a Catholic priest. He saw Hand of God the other night on TV and contacted me. Since I am not revealing his name or the specifics of his service (at a quite respected institution) I suspect he will not mind me quoting him. It is a testament to the film and to the fact that I understand that many clergy are above all of this:

“Dear Mr. Cultrera,

I write to thank you for your beautiful and powerful documentary Hand of God. As a priest of 34 years of age ordained in 2001, I am grateful to have this sensitive, honest reflection on the failures of the institution I still feel called to serve. It was not easy to watch, but so necessary…”

I have since dialogued with him. I asked about some of what I had read on Blogs like this one. Here is his reaction:

“…Let me tell you, I'm theologically conservative, if labels must be
applied... I'd like to think I'm neither stupid nor naive. There is literally nothing in this film that should be bothersome to "conservative" catholics or to priests or bishops, save the
behavior of priests and bishops which is so disturbing…”

 
At 1/21/2007 03:28:00 PM, Anonymous Steve M. said...

Since I am the person who specifically said that the film contained an attack on Holy Communion, I will attempt a brief reply to mike in illinios and Joe Cultrera. As a preface, please let me note that I could well understand if a person looking at the film as a whole regarded my focus, and that of others in this comment stream, on the use of hosts as a distraction from the main point of the film. My basic response to that would be that the director and producer chose to inject Holy Communion into the film--I did not make that decision.
As to whether the film includes an attack on Holy Communion, Joe Cultrera has, in both of his comments above, pointed to a fact he thinks to be relevant: that the host were commercially available. When Andres Serrano set out to make the photograph he called "Piss Chris," he acquired a glass jar and a small crucifix. I do not have the slightest doubt that he obtained these from commercial sources (rather than from an altar), and I am certain that fact has no relevance whatsoever to the question of whether Mr. Serrano was attacking belief in Jesus Christ. The commercial purchase of the hosts and the chalice--if that is what the gold cup used in the film as the recepticle for hosts and coins actually was--is likewise irrelevant to the issue of whether there was an attack on Holy Communion in this film.
Since Joe Cultrera appeared in his first comment to distinguish his use of objects from that of Mr. Serrano, I will work with the comparision he himself has raised. A crucifix may well be devalued in the mind of Mr. Serrano. That personal perspective of Mr. Serrano's may well have been in his thoughts when he created the photograph which Mr. Cultrera alludes to. But both Mr. Serrano and Mr. Cultrera have taken the images they created and put them before a broad public audience. In neither case were the images created for private use and then inadvertently exposed to the public. They were made with public exposure very much in mind. Both Mr. Serrano and Mr. Cultrera knew their images would shock part of their audience. In both cases, the creator of the image is attacking an object--if it were a consecrated host, I would say a person--to produce a painful reaction in a significant part of the audience.
Joe Cultrera would never think of visiting his parents' home holding hosts with a hole punched through them so that they could dangle from a string--to mention another image from the film. Nor would he enter his parents' home and plunk a host (with an embossed image of the Cross) into a glass, then switch that with a similar glass containing a bubbling alka seltzer tablet. Mr. Cultrera would never inflict that pain on his parents, but he was willing to do the equivalent to thousands of Catholic viewers.
I will end with a simple thought experiment. If a filmmaker displayed pages of the Koran in a cup with coins, or poked holes in pages from the Koran and dangled them from strings, would mike from illinios or Joe Cultrera really claim that this was not an attack on the Koran? Would hearing that the creator of such images was intending to express the subjective devaluation of the Koran in his mind change their view?

 
At 1/21/2007 06:45:00 PM, Anonymous midwestmom said...

Joe,

I understand your frustration and total distrust of the Church. What was done to your brother, and others, was heinous.

I do, however, hate to see the Church condemned as a whole after these situations. Christ is the head of the Catholic Church and he is all Truth. He would never have advocated such acts. The Truth of the Church remains for all eternity, no matter how many sinners are in it, or what positions of power they hold.

The priest and bishops who hurt your family defied the authority of the Church. They sinned. To turn around and blame the hierarchical structure of the Church for these individuals' sins is giving power to their rejection of authority.

If a basketball coach failed to teach the fundamentals or insist that his players play by the rules, we wouldn't call for the abolition of coaches and rules. The coach would be replaced.

Unfortunately, the institutional Church failed to do even that much in many, many cases. Nevertheless, it doesn't render the Church and our Catholic Faith null and void.

God bless you and your family. I'm sorry you've had to endure this nightmare.

 
At 1/22/2007 12:30:00 AM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

I think the use of eucharistic hosts is a red herring. What really upsets people about the movies is (a) its graphic rehearsal of a story we already know all too well, and of the deep scandal, and crisis of faith, that it causes; (b) its diagnosis, that traditionalist authoritarian catholicism, of the very sort that neocaths aspire to restore, is the matrix of this culture of abuse. Given the very negative feelings that (a) has induced in all Catholics and that (b) is calculated to induce in neocaths, the temptation to pounce on the director's imagery or on his personal choices is great. To affect anything like superiority faced with a man who has "lost his faith" because of clerical sex abuse (unlike Ph Blosser I put the former, not the latter expression in scare quotes) is in effect a method of blaming the victim or at least shooting the messenger.

 
At 1/22/2007 09:50:00 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

I don't think, Father, that the priests whose behavior in Boston underlay the scandal there were noted "conservatives."

And "neo-Cath" bishops such as Donald Wuerl in Pittsburgh and Fabian Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Nebraska who used their hierarchical power to make it clear through words and deeds that clerical misbehavior would not be tolerated have had very little in the way of problems in their dioceses.

 
At 1/22/2007 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous Ed the Roman said...

Fr. O'Leary,

Given that Mr. Cultrera no longer believes in the Real Presence, your putting scare quotes around 'lost his faith' is bogus.

 
At 1/22/2007 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be able to take "Hand of God" more seriously if the director had addressed the homosexual nature of the abuse more straightforwardly. But, he attacts the Church and gives the homosexual community a hall pass.

My brothers and the neighborhood boys were targetd by a gay priest. Using the unholy tinity of drugs, alchohol and pornography, he gained his hall pass into their lives. But he ignored my sisters and I. Where were his superiors? our parents? These are the right questions to ask. But just as responsibilty rests on their shoulders, the gay community that targets young men and boys needs to be examined just as importantly.

When Mr. Cultrera makes a film exposing the role the homosexual brotherhood played in the scandal, I'll take his work more seriously. Until then, he has addressed only part of the scandal.

 
At 1/22/2007 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, I'm wondering if you ever really had any understanding of the Faith in any mature way, from the heart from your following ways of describing what to you, Faith in Christ means:

I used to think that if a priest consecrated a host, and it happened to drop to the carpet, it would actually burn a hole in it – as if the priests instilled some glowing power to it. (the respect shown was the true belief that the Body of Christ was involved here - not only an appearance of "hosts". Most got it. Sorry if you didn't)

There is a clear understanding of the nature of the decision by many people to STILL ATTEND CHURCH.

I have made my decision and my other family members have made theirs and the film clearly shows how opposing approaches to a SIMILAR FAITH can coexist in one family (and thus in society at large).

I personally do not believe these objects are the body and blood of Christ, because I do not have faith in those that supposedly can perform such transfigurations. But even given this belief of mine, I did not take these objects from an altar, I bought them factory direct.

Wha?? Nothing like being confused by the already confused! Good thing for the eternal life for your soul that you DIDN'T take the Body of Christ and abuse it. Ever read the mystic's revelation of one who made a habit of doing just this? He was made by Christ who met him at the time of his death, in order to come to the realization of just what he had done, to accept the whip and beat the bleeding Jesus UNTIL he did come to this realization. It's very serious. Just as your cause is serious. And those few ministers who abused Him will meet His justice - with even greater responsibility. Don't make things even worse. There is a place for wanting justice for the harmed and then there is a place for the respect due to God, Himself, in His choice of Presence in the world.


SteveM:

The commercial purchase of the hosts and the chalice--if that is what the gold cup used in the film as the recepticle for hosts and coins actually was--is likewise irrelevant to the issue of whether there was an attack on Holy Communion in this film.

But both Mr. Serrano and Mr. Cultrera have taken the images they created and put them before a broad public audience. In neither case were the images created for private use and then inadvertently exposed to the public.

Amen, brother!

Don't claim naïve rationales when you make such a "statement" filled film and then not accept the faithful's reaction to such an approach. The "Hand of God" is definitely not in this approach. So, you don't believe and don't care, and hope that you can influence others by the use of the media to do or feel the same. Again, what a sad choice of direction. Rather than making a point that those of heart already realize, go after an entire culture that grows graver each day in its perversion of the innocent. Broaden the Globe "spotlight" to save the millions still being corrupted - by the media itself (even, shock, public radio and TV!) and the "social workers" of society, by UN refugee workers and the court authorities. That long focused spotlight has already burned a hole into its selected spot. Time to remind the atheists or agnostics or the duped evil doers to stop their own kind of corruption of the culture with their push to legally honor the perversion of the family and marriage, placing more innocents in the line for perverted bodily harm. Go after what's being promoted in "sex education" now even for pre-schoolers. You think NP radio or TV would focus there??? Education authorities or courts or media outlets or legislators are NOT similar idols to the naïve "believers" in the cultural church? Don't join them in dismissing one of the only worldwide "institutions" of faith that seems to be the lone voice crying the wilderness!

And, Fr. O'Leary, your easy dismissal of what "really" bothers the audience isn't the use of Eucharistic hosts and/or sacred images demonstrates just how the reps of the Faith have led believers to a lessening of faith. You don't speak for the repulsed believers here by far. The ministers themselves just don't get it. We run into such reversed rationale all the time when begging for Eucharistic adoration with such elitist type "pastors" or renewed devotions to the Blessed Mother in the cause of purity. Figures!

K.

 
At 1/23/2007 12:35:00 AM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

"Given that Mr. Cultrera no longer believes in the Real Presence, your putting scare quotes around 'lost his faith' is bogus."

I was thinking of the phrase "whose faith is known to You alone".

I admit that it is not only conservatives who are rattled by the clerical scandals and tempted to denial. A laid-back attitude to sex might be a liberal trait and the rationalizations of those who have sex with minors are very close to the reasonings of sexual liberals on other (non-illegal) fronts. So I add (c) liberals, whose liberalism is threatened by current orthodoxy about the evil of sex with minors etc.

On another blog I read that as far back as the 1930s in New Jersey the faithful viewed without fuss the practice of high school students having sex with priest for money.

 
At 1/23/2007 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Steve M. said...

Fr. O'Leary, a "red herring" is a deliberate distraction that someone creates in order to deceive. Sereval people, myself included, have made the obvious comment above that the use of hosts was very distrubing and detracted from what otherwise could have stood as a straightforward account of the great harm suffered by the Cultrera family. Fr. O'Leary, it may say more about you than it does about the comment posters you disparage that you are so quick to find deceit being practiced by people you have never met. I never encountered the term "neocath" before seeing you use it. Whatever a "neocath" may be, if you are its opposite, a "neocath" may have socially redeeming qualities simply on the basis of that fact alone.

 
At 1/23/2007 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. O'Leary wrote:

"So I add (c) liberals, whose liberalism is threatened by current orthodoxy about the evil of sex with minors etc."

WHAT? SO SEX WITH MINORS IS NOT EVIL, IT IS JUST CURRENT ORTHODOXY WHICH SAYS SEX WITH MINORS IS EVIL?

and:

"On another blog I read that as far back as the 1930s in New Jersey the faithful viewed without fuss the practice of high school students having sex with priest for money."

HMM. THERE ARE BLOGS THAT SAY THE HOLOCAUST NEVER OCCURRED AND THE US FAKED THE MOON LANDING.

THANKS FOR ESTABLISHING YOUR CREDENTIALS, FR. O'LEARY.

~ a different anonymous

 
At 1/23/2007 10:22:00 PM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

I use the phrase "red herring" in the sense of a distraction, not of deceit. My point simply was that what most upsets people about the film is not the offensive images of hosts (quite mild actually as current standards of blasphemy go -- you might as well take the film Halloween as an example).

I see some anonymous is getting hysterical -- I will try to post the message I referred to, from a conservative Catholic blog, if I can find it.

 
At 1/24/2007 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

Here is the comment, from Domenico Bettinelli's blog combox:
"My dad grew up in the 1930s in New Jersey. He once said that he knew that priests who would pay high school aged men for sex. He said it was also common knowledge which guys he went to school with were the ones who would make their money going to the priests. Everyone knew. No one cared." I think that denying pointblank that this is a true report could be another variant of DENIAL.

 
At 1/25/2007 05:25:00 AM, Anonymous Susa said...

Oh, good heavens, Fathe O'Leary!!! You cannot be serious! Basically you are saying, "This guy said that his father said that everyone knew...." Ummm, THIS one anecdote is your evidence? And adding the words "everybody knew!!!" makes it definitely true? And only people in denial would refuse to accept as single bog anecdote of someone'e memory of his father's memory of over 70 years ago as Gospel Truth?

Did you ever hear of warrant and evidence?

I am almost speechless at your post.

 
At 1/25/2007 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

Susa, you misrepresent me. I do not say the post is gospel truth, but that to deny it pointblank and a priori, as above, could be another variant of the attitude most common on all side in regard to the evil of clerical child abuse: denial.

I think all Catholics confronted with this scandal will have experienced in their own reactions every possible variant of denial.

 
At 1/25/2007 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous Steve M said...

Fr. O'Leary,
The plain meaning of the term "red herring"--aside from its use to designate fish or a prospectus in a stock offering--is "something intended [repate, intended] to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand." To say that you use "red herring" for an unintended distraction is to give this term a meaning that no one else gives it. And no, I am aware of the pain from the predatory priests and their enablers--what made me react very differently to this film WAS its degraded use of hosts marked with the cross. I have no doubt horror films are doing everything imaginable to attempt to find new ways to shock people--but this film was a documentary. On PUBLIC television.

 
At 1/26/2007 10:52:00 PM, Anonymous Fr Joseph O'Leary said...

As I understand it, "red herring" refers to the logical status of a remark within a debate. It has no necessary connection with an intention to deceive. See: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/redherrf.html

 
At 1/27/2007 06:10:00 PM, Anonymous Steve M said...

Fr. O'Leary,
I went to your linked article, and I think that it provides more support for my view than yours concerning the meaning of "red herring." Obviously, you see matters differently. In any event, it is good to know that snap judgments about people's basic honesty were not intended in your prior posts.
Since I do not regard the topic of mistreatment of hosts as a red herring, I will simply state that the trajectory of horror films is towards more and more sickening matters being depicted. The Showtime cable program "Masters of Horror" had sponsored a film, Takeshi Miike's "Imprint," where the horror focus related to treatment of unborn children. Whatever was depicted in the film, Showtime dropped it from TV as too hot. (My main source is a New York Times article, which left details out, perhaps so as not to present "spoilers" for viewers who might seek to enjoy the the film once it was relased dirct to DVD. Very decent and respectful of the Times.) So, "Imprint" is now selling as a DVD, with "Banned from Cable TV!" on the package replacing the old "Banned in Boston!" In my view, the trajectory for treatment of hosts will be similar. Consecrated hots, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, will at some point be captured on film being defiled. I cannot say whether it will be years or months. I am guesssing PBS will not be first to broacast this breakthrough, whenever it happens. When it does happen, Catholics, if they are so inclined, will have the opportunity to think back to this minor "distraction," or "red herring," about Joe Cultrera's film, "Hand of God."

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home