Jews and Catholics warn Gibson about his film
Yesterday's Weblog included a warning about judging people by their fruits while they're still seedlings. Those who feared Time's cover story on evangelism in Islamic countries found those fears very misplaced. Meanwhile, a similar but more public pre-emptive campaign is being waged against Mel Gibson's epic The Passion.
Usually it's conservative Christians who make headlines by attacking films they haven't seen, but the shoe is on the other foot this time. The main critic of Gibson's film seems to be the Anti-Defamation League.
"Based on initial media reports, we have serious concerns about the film you are currently making about the last hours of the life of Jesus, The Passion, and would like to be assured that it will not give rise to the old canard of charging Jews with deicide and to anti-Semitism," ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in an open letter to Gibson in response to a bootlegged early copy of the script.
Five advisory-board members of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops joined with the ADL in criticizing the film. "A film based on the present version of the script of The Passion would promote anti-Semitic sentiments," the "Ad Hoc Scholars Group" said in an 18-page report, according to The Jewish Week.
We know that their dramatic presentation of Jews as 'Christ killers' triggered pogroms against Jews over the centuries and contributed to the environment that made the Shoah [Holocaust] possible. Given this history and the power of film to shape minds and hearts, both Catholics and Jews in the ad hoc group are gravely concerned about the potential dangers of presenting a passion play in movie theatres. … We realize that such significant alterations will be expensive and time-consuming, but without such revisions the film will inflict serious damage and in all likelihood be repudiated by most Christian and Jewish institutions.
An unnamed "leading Catholic theologian" called the script "one of the more anti-Semitic documents most of us have seen in a long time." (It had to be one of the following Catholics, all members of an advisory committee to the Bishops Conference on Catholic-Jewish affairs: Mary Boys of the Union Theological Seminary; Philip Cunningham, executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College; Lawrence Frizzell, director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University; John Pawlikowski, director of Catholic Jewish studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.)
"The Anti-Defamation League and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed the script and we wrote a report that was sent to Mr. Gibson's company," Boys told The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia . But apparently Sister Mary and her colleagues lost sight of the very important distinction between a statement by the conference and the one of members of the conference. The opinion of advisory board members is even more removed.
After Gibson threatened to sue both the ADL and USCCB, the Catholic bishops actually did issue a response—saying they had no comment on the film.
"Neither the Bishop's Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, nor any other committee … established this group, or authorized, reviewed or approved the report written by its members," said a statement issued by general counsel Mark Chopko. "We regret that this situation has occurred and offer our apologies. … When the film is released, the [bishops' conference] will review it."
The Jewish Week called the bishops' official statement a "seeming contradiction" since , the USCCB's conference's interfaith leader, Eugene Fisher, established the scholars' group.
It's not the first time such a Jewish-Catholic scholars' group has gotten into trouble with the bishops' conference. Last year, the bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs issued a statement saying that Jews aren't part of the "all nations" clause of the Great Commission. "This evangelizing task no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity," said Reflections on Covenant and Mission, posted and promoted on the USCCB's website. But within days, it was pulled from the website and disavowed by the full bishops' council.
Meanwhile, the ADL and other Jewish leaders continue to fight the Gibson film. "Gibson is a great actor and director, but he has a responsibility to make a movie that does not contribute further to a legacy of pain and suffering," write the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Marvin Hier and Harold Brackman in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that spells out their qualms about the film.
Likewise, the ADL's Ken Jacobson defends his group's criticism of the film. "We have good reason to be seriously concerned about Gibson's plans to retell the Passion" he says in a letter to the New York Post, which last Thursday published a columnist's summary of the dispute. "Historically, the Passion—the story of the killing of Jesus—has resulted in the death of Jews."
Of course, the story of the killing of Jesus is told every year in thousands upon thousands of churches worldwide without any violence to Jews whatsoever, but the ADL seems more concerned about such questionable history as Oberammergau's Passion Play causing the Holocaust.
For his part, Gibson is no longer threatening to sue, and says critics should judge the film once it's actually in theaters. But will it offend Jews? "It's true that, as the Bible says, 'He came unto his own and his own received him not,'" he said. "I can't hide that." But he promises his film is "meant to inspire not offend. … My intention in bringing it to the screen is to create a lasting work of art and engender serious thought among audiences of diverse faith backgrounds. If the intense scrutiny during my 25 years in public life revealed I had ever persecuted or discriminated against anyone based on race or creed, I would be all too willing to make amends. But there is no such record."
- Fed court declines to reopen Roe v. Wade | The court said late Thursday that Norma McCorvey's request wasn't made within a "reasonable time" after the 1973 judgment in Roe v. Wade (Associated Press)
- Also: Court dismisses 'Roe's' challenge to abortion | (Reuters)
- Southern Baptists remove exception to abortion policy | "Health of mother" can't justify taking a human life, denomination says (Family News in Focus, Focus on the Family)
- A rocky Polish landfall for a Dutch abortion boat | The Langenort, a tugboat, holds a mobile abortion clinic, and in Catholic Poland its presence is unwelcome by many (The New York Times)
- Also: Dutch abortion ship reaches Poland | Protesters threw red paint and eggs (Associated Press)
Division in the Anglican Communion (news):
- Williams: 'No objection' to gay bishop | "It is an appointment I have sought neither to promote nor to obstruct," says Archbishop of Canterbury (BBC, video)
- Sex obsession must stop, says Archbishop of Canterbury | Gay bishop debate 'should not distract Church from its mission' (The Times, London)
- Williams tries to calm row over gay bishop (The Guardian, London)
- Williams attacked over gay bishop | Bishop Cyril Okoracha from eastern Nigeria says the views of many Anglicans elsewhere in the world are being ignored (BBC)
- Also: Nigerian church slams gay bishop | The Worldwide Anglican Communion may not remain a united body for long (BBC)
- Anglicans torn over gay bishop | The division in the Church of England over the appointment of an openly gay bishop appears to be deepening (BBC)
- Earlier: Pressure grows on Archbishop of Canterbury to break silence in gay bishop row | Rowan Williams is finding it increasingly difficult to stay out of a row between evangelicals opposed to Canon Jeffrey John being consecrated as bishop this autumn and liberal clergy supporting his appointment (The Guardian, London)
- Gay bishop set to be ordained (BBC, video)
- Church faces financial ruin from parish protests | Evangelicals claim to contribute more than 40 per cent of the £400 million raised for the Church by parishes each year (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Gay bishop and curate boyfriend bought flat together last year | Senior figures on the evangelical wing of the Church of England claimed that facts about the private life of Canon Jeffrey John, who has had a 27-year relationship with the Rev Grant Holmes, were being kept hidden in an effort to contain the row over his appointment as Bishop of Reading (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Bishop's report set to harden church's line against gay clergy | Working party verdict 'will be more conservative' than current guidelines on sexual relationships (The Observer, London)
- New gay bishop unsettles Church of England | The appointment of the first openly homosexual bishop, coming after a similar move by Episcopalians in New Hampshire, has stirred a deeply divisive reaction (The New York Times)
- Anglican bishops speak out | Sydney's six Anglican bishops yesterday called on the world's Anglican bishops to join them in opposing homosexual ministers and marriages (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
- Also: Sydney buys into global church row (The Australian)
- Also: We could fall apart over gays, says Archbishop of Sydney | Peter Jensen said in a joint statement that the decision to name Canon Jeffrey John as Suffragan Bishop of Reading represented a "watershed" in the Anglican movement (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Also: Sydney buys into global church row (News.com.au, Australia)
- Also: Bishop of Sydney 'horrified' at gay appointment (AAP)
- Anglican church in conflict over homosexual bishop (PM, Radio Australia)
- Midland clerics back gay Bishop (icBirmingham.co.uk)
- New Bishop and curate are in love, say parishioners | The parishioners of the Rev Grant Holmes, the homosexual, celibate partner of the newly appointed Bishop of Reading, told The Telegraph yesterday that they wanted to "surround him in love" for the "sacrifice" he had made (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Overseas bishop intervenes as threat of global schism grows | Archbishop of the West Indies warned that division could not be avoided in the row over the appoint-ment of a gay priest as the Bishop of Reading (The Independent, London)
- Diocese riven by revolt over gay bishop | The crisis in the Church of England over the appointment of its first openly gay bishop deepened yesterday when clergy and senior laity in the Diocese of Oxford rebelled against the decision of their bishop to choose him (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Williams is told of liberal wing's support | Eight diocesan bishops signed an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, supporting Canon John's nomination as Suffragan Bishop of Reading (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Evangelicals to meet Williams over gay bishop | Dr Williams has told friends that he believes there is no reason not to go ahead with the consecration (The Times, London)
- Privacy call in gay bishop row | A bishop has called for the row over the controversial appointment of a gay priest as Bishop of Reading to be resolved away from the media spotlight (BBC, video)
Division in the Anglican Communion (opinion):
- Calming the sees | Many people on both sides of the dispute over the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John as the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop may be disappointed by the irenic tone of the Archbishop of Canterbury's long-awaited letter on the subject, published yesterday (Editorial, The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Sacred mysteries: Rowan Williams | For many, the great puzzle about Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is how he can be so determined to preserve orthodoxy and tradition and yet accept the morality of homosexual acts between committed partners (Christopher Howse, The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Hung up on sex | Gay bishop may be modern, but they may morally bankrupt the C of E (Richard Ingrams, The Guardian, London)
- 'We know who we are. We know what it is to discover love. We know that love is costly' | The Church of England is tearing itself apart over the appointment of an openly gay, though celibate, bishop. Here, a gay vicar from northern England, writing anonymously, describes his experiences of working within a system which appears set on destroying its gay brethren, one by one (The Guardian, London)
- Nigerian Church threatens Anglican split in gay row (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- 'Evangelicals are fuelling bigotry' over gay bishop | So says the Bishop of Worcester (The Times, London)
- Row over gay bishop threatens existence of the Church of England | Timing is wrong for this appointment(Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Does anyone really care about gay bishops? | Even those campaigning against him won't say they think a homosexual inclination is immoral (Andrew Brown, The Independent, London)
- Episcopal bishop presses for same-sex 'marriage' | The Episcopal bishop of Washington yesterday predicted that Episcopalians would elect their first openly homosexual bishop at the national convention next month and also should approve a liturgical rite for same-sex "/marriages." (The Washington Times)
- Most religious leaders decry legalizing rite | Only most liberal denominations to hold marriages (The National Post)
- Hundreds of gay couples make their way to Ontario to say 'I do' | Court officials in Ontario report that dozens of American same-sex couples have crossed the border to register and exchange vows, hoping that some day their Canadian licenses will be recognized back home (The Washington Post)
- A too-hot topic | "People who haven't had much positive to say about marriage are suddenly enthusiastic," David Blankenhorn said, "as long you put the words `same sex' in front of it." (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
- Gays hail Canada, want U.S. law | Marriage decision seen as milestone (Chicago Tribune)
- My, how times have changed | Gay marriage, laxer pot laws signal stunning shift in values Remarkably, most Canadians just shrugged (Peter Gorrie, The Toronto Star)
- June weddings a first for gays in Belgium | Couples savor their "perfect day," event causes little fuss elsewhere (The Toronto Star)
- Legal arguments weak against gay marriage | Unfortunately, for now, the weakness of arguments against gay marriage does little to diminish the strength of popular opposition (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)
Other sexual ethics issues:
- Same sex in church | Conference looks at issue that bedevils Evangelical Lutheran Church (Grand Forks Herald, Neb.)
- Va. Church greets gay faithful with open arms | The Metropolitan Community Church , the world's largest gay Christian fellowship, is planning to open a branch in Fredericksburg this summer (The Washington Post)
- We need a new moral compass | Scientific advances and attitudes to sexuality mean we have no choice but to adopt new ethical standards (Will Hutton, The Observer, London)
- Time to face facts: Gays gain victory | The gays have won. The problem is no one will admit it. (Jonah Goldberg, The Washington Times)
- Gay kiss on TV: Business as usual | Heterosexual sex is alive and well, but the day when homosexuality threatens most heterosexuals seems to be passing in America (Frank Rich, The New York Times)
- Maine church tries to recover from deaths | State police said in May that information contained in a note Bondeson left, coupled with their investigation, led them to conclude that someone else conspired with him. But they have not elaborated, and no one has been arrested (Associated Press)
- Avowed moderate to lead Colorado Episcopalians | Robert O'Neill faces the challenge of bringing together a body rebounding from a recent schism and wrestling with the place of homosexuals in the church (The Denver Post)
- Parishioners heading home to hear the word of God | Statistics are hard to come by, but observers say a growing number of American Christians are forming house churches, eschewing the established Sunday morning tradition for more intimate, informal gatherings (The Seattle Times)
- Grand Prairie minister serves three congregations and isn't well-known — yet | Under Dr. Denny Davis, St. John Missionary Baptist Church—with its 10,000 members—has quietly become the biggest black evangelical church most people have never heard of (The Dallas Morning News)
- Church serves many who turned lives around | For many at Victory Gospel Chapel, including founders Bishop Donny Banks and his wife, Jackie, burdens laid down included addictions to drugs (San Antonio Express-News)
- Holy Family's gift 'a continuum of our traditions' | Family's donation of an altar to church on Near West Side symbolizes connection of several generations, going all the way back to the 19th Century (Chicago Tribune)
- Perils of Paulinerkirche | Leipzig debates bid to rebuild church razed by communists (Weekend Edition, NPR)
- Losing their religion | Sixpence None The Richer's silken-throated frontwoman Leigh Nash grouses that she's really fed up with being pigeonholed by the press as "that Jesus band." (The Examiner, San Francisco)
- Jars of Clay's 'I Need You' tops BMI most-performed Christian songs list | Steven Curtis Chapman, Gerald Crabb and Kirk Franklin — shared the BMI Christian Songwriter of the Year prize (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Rock at a crossroads | When their goal is mainstream success, Christian bands walk a fine line (Redlands Daily Facts, Calif.)
- Christian music fest rocks for all ages | Alive Christian Music Festival replaces the hedonistic rituals of secular music fests with appealing alternatives (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
PBS's This Far by Faith:
- 'This Far by Faith' | A TV series shows the African-American spiritual journey, including the impact of an African Methodist Episcopal bishop (Savannah Morning News, Ga.)
- PBS series explores black spirituality (The Greenville News, S.C.)
- Book explores history of U.S. blacks, their influence on religion | Almost anyone would learn something new from the book (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- Where religion has carried black Americans | In PBS's documentary, we see how African-Americans have experienced religion through political action, social affirmation and spiritual consolation (The New York Times)
- TV review: This Far by Faith | This series is massive in its scope (Hollywood Reporter)
- Earlier: PBS show examines black Americans' faith | An ambitious goal: To shine light on the religious faith of black Americans, while exploring what sealed their devotion across three centuries of history (Associated Press)
- Piano-player in a brothel | Malcolm Muggeridge, born 100 years ago, was very much a man of the 20th-century world — but rebelled against it (Christopher Howse, The Spectator)
- The minister's method | How should we rate John Wesley, who was born 300 years ago this week—as a figure of the past or an influence on the present? (Ian White, The Guardian, London)
- Pharaoh's chariots found in Red Sea? | 'Physical evidence' of ancient Exodus prompting new look at Old Testament (WorldNetDaily)
- Space impact 'saved Christianity' | Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian History? (BBC)
- Scholars defend authenticity of biblical-era artifact | "What you have here is a case of dueling scholars," says Ben Witherington III (United Methodist News Service)
- Looking for a cross to bear? Check eBay | None of the nearly 95,000 of us who trooped to the Royal Ontario Museum and examined the box that had supposedly contained the bones of Jesus' brother James was surprised to hear it's been declared a fake (Slinger, The Toronto Star)
- Bishops urged to reach out to victims | Leaders cite progress on sex abuse issues, but leave protesters outside meeting (The Washington Post)
- Bishops' session assesses the state of the U.S. church | No matter the outcome, today's meeting made clear that the sexual abuse scandal had prodded the bishops into a collective reassessment of the church in the United States — a step some laypeople have been urging for years (The New York Times)
- Victims group has a friend among bishops | Survivors name N.J. prelate as model (Chicago Tribune)
- Bishops applaud pace of abuse plan | But critics say clerics' actions still fall short (Chicago Tribune)
- U.S. bishops unable to steer spotlight from sexual abuse | Frustration grows over public criticism (Chicago Tribune)
- Bishops upbeat as meeting ends | They say great strides made in year; victims groups point to secrecy (The Dallas Morning News)
- Bishops call last 18 months 'monumental effort' (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Church, Mafia: Why the link? | The comparison is certainly one byproduct of the scandal. But it is far from a new phenomenon (The New York Times)
- Healer bishops are sent to ease churches' pain | After nearly 20 years of sporadic sexual abuse scandals culminating in last year's four-alarm crisis, there is now a small company of at least eight American bishops who have been called on by the pope to rush into troubled dioceses and help extinguish the flames (The New York Times)
- A church in search of followers | A year ago in Dallas, U.S. Catholic bishops promised to deal with the problem of priestly sexual abuse. Despite some efforts, we are still waiting (Paul Elie, The New York Times)
- Bishops, activists express frustration on abuse issue | A victims advocacy group praises the response of just one prelate. Some clerics say they aren't getting credit for what they have done to prevent molestation (Los Angeles Times)
- New Phoenix bishop takes over | Conciliatory approach to abuse victims vowed (The Washington Post)
- Bishop wants to put church 'in order' | Archbishop Sheehan, a former Dallas-area priest, steps into troubled Phoenix diocese (The Dallas Morning News)
- Religious relic prompts a journey of faith to La Crosse | Christians from throughout the state as well as from Minnesota and Iowa stopped to view the cloth, called the "Tilma of Tepeyac," which was part of a cloak worn by a man who said he saw the Virgin Mary more than four centuries ago in Mexico (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- The Milton phenomenon | The image on the window at Milton Hospital is unlikely to sustain the devotion of the famous French shrine at Lourdes, but the spontaneous outpouring of interest - 40,000 by now - is astounding (Editorial, The Boston Globe)
Pope John Paul II:
- Pope urges reconciliation to heal Bosnia's scars | A contrite Pope John Paul II delivered a strong appeal for reconciliation at an open-air Mass on Sunday (The New York Times)
- Pontiff calls on all Bosnians to practice 'mutual forgiveness' (Los Angeles Times)
- Pope asks God's forgiveness in Bosnia (Associated Press)
- Pope in Bosnia urges reconciliation, forgiveness (Reuters)
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