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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Paranormal Activity

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

As it did in both 1999's "The Blair Witch Project" and last year's "Cloverfield," the use of a video camera to tell an ostensibly fact-based horror tale makes for an unsettling sense of immediacy—and jangled audience nerves—in "Paranormal Activity" (Paramount).

Writer-director Oren Peli's feature debut, made for a tiny fraction of the normal Hollywood budget, is mostly gore-free, playing instead—subtly and quite effectively— on viewers' primal fears of the unseen. But his script fails to show the same restraint with regard to language and sexual topics.

Our amateur cameraman is ordinary San Diego yuppie Micah (Micah Sloat), who has purchased the gadget to document some disturbing phenomena that have been taking place recently in the house he shares with girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston). (As Micah later puts it, to Katie's visible annoyance, the couple is "engaged to be engaged.")

Katie, who tells of being pursued by an evil spirit off and on since childhood, is wary of the supernatural and enlists the aid of a psychic (Mark Fredrichs), though he eventually proves ineffectual. Micah, by contrast, begins by treating the situation as a lark, but becomes increasingly confrontational with the invisible presence, bullheadedly regarding its unidentified designs on Katie as a challenge to his machismo.

The fact that most of the taping is done in their bedroom, since the entity is particularly active while they're asleep, offers Micah the opportunity for several off-color suggestions, and we witness the immediate aftermath of a coupling about which he boasts. Additionally, as he and Katie become more and more panicked, their fear leads to a stream of obscenity, including at least 35 uses of the F-word.

The film contains some sexual content, including a premarital situation, an off-screen encounter and a few jokes and references, a half-dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude terms, and at least two obscene gestures. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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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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