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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

42

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman star in a scene from the movie "42."
To paraphrase the title of an earlier movie about the national pastime, hate strikes out in the historical drama "42" (Warner Bros.). Writer-director Brian Helgeland's uplifting -- if sometimes heavy-handed -- film recounts the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball after decades of segregated play.

As Helgeland's script shows us, this racial breakthrough -- which marked a significant milestone in the onward march of the civil rights movement -- was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) and Negro League star Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).

In the aftermath of World War II, Rickey was determined to add a black player to the roster of "Dem Bums." In Robinson -- whose Dodgers uniform, once he eventually donned it, bore the number of the title -- Rickey found a sportsman with sufficient character to endure all the abuse that would have to be faced to make this change a reality.

Rickey's motivation was in part, of course, financial; in a diverse city like New York, integrated play would lead to an expanded fan base. But, if the narrative here is accurate, both his vision and Robinson's courage also can be attributed to their shared Christian faith.

This bond is first indicated in a humorous way when Rickey, reviewing Robinson's file, observes that everything is going to work out fine since "he's a Methodist, I'm a Methodist, God's a Methodist ... ."

Later, in describing to Robinson the forbearance he will need to demonstrate, Rickey gravely compares it to that of "our Savior." And, while remonstrating with a racist opponent, Rickey reminds him -- albeit somewhat jokingly -- that he will someday stand before God to be judged.

Catholicism is only specifically referred to in passing -- and in a retrospectively curious light. Rickey learns from the commissioner of baseball that his manager, the legendary Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni), is being suspended from the game for a year. The Catholic Youth Organization, it seems, objects to the flagrantly adulterous affair Durocher has been carrying on with his mistress. The organization's threat of a boycott, so the commissioner assures Rickey, is not to be ignored.

Robinson's marriage, by contrast, is shown to be both a model of success and a crucial source of support in his struggle. As he courts and marries his sweetheart Rachel (Nicole Beharie) -- and as they embark on parenthood together -- she proves a tower of strength to her husband, by turns egging him on and cooling him down.

Swelling music and other atmospherics occasionally convey the impression that Helgeland's picture is too convinced of its own importance. But the proceedings are buoyed by the feisty righteousness with which Ford, in a splendid turn, endows Rickey and by the inspiring example of Robinson's unbreakable determination.

While the elements listed below would normally exclude youthful viewers, the moral impact of Rickey and Robinson's history-altering partnership may make their story acceptable for older teens.

The film contains an adultery theme, racial slurs, fleeting humor implicitly referencing homosexuality, a few uses of profanity, at least one crude term and occasional crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Robert Bellarmine: When Robert Bellarmine was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect. A promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, he devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematize Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers. He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain. 
<p>His most famous work is his three-volume <i>Disputations on the Controversies </i><em>of the Christian Faith</em>. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity. He incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable. He developed the theory of the indirect power of the pope in temporal affairs; although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V. </p><p>Bellarmine was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that "he had not his equal for learning." While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities. He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor. He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and he used the hangings of his rooms to clothe poor people, remarking, "The walls won't catch cold." </p><p>Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church. </p><p>The last major controversy of Bellarmine's life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired. Bellarmine delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (the sun as stationary) was contrary to Scripture. The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proved. This shows that saints are not infallible. </p><p>Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

 
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