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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Did You Hear About the Morgans?

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Not for the first time on screen, blue-state sophisticates discover the joys of red-state down-home living in the pleasant, if largely predictable, romantic comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (Columbia/Relativity). In this case though, their enforced retreat to the wilds of the High Plains also gives dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers Paul (Hugh Grant) and Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) Morgan the chance to reassess their recently strained union.

Hotshot real estate agent Meryl has shown high-powered lawyer Paul the door for being unfaithful to her during a West Coast business trip. Paul deeply regrets his one-time-only mistake. But his efforts to reunite go nowhere until the separated, though not yet divorced, pair is thrown back together when they accidentally witness the contract killing of an arms dealer who was one of Meryl's clients.

With their lives in danger—the murderer (Michael Kelly) got a look at them, too, and Meryl's face is on ads all over town—the couple has no choice but to enter the witness protection program which abruptly relocates them to the one-gas-station town of Ray, Wyo. Once there, they're sheltered, and shielded, by no-nonsense local sheriff and federal marshal Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott) and his gun-toting wife, Emma (Mary Steenburgen).

As Paul and Meryl find out what a starry sky looks like outside a planetarium and learn just how much fun the annual rodeo dance can be, they have an opportunity to reconnect and overcome Meryl's recent but deep-seated mistrust. Particularly effective is a scene in which they recall the nontraditional wedding vows they exchanged; hers drawn from a Shakespearean sonnet, his self-written, and only slightly marred by one of the script's few resorts to vaguely sexual humor.

While, as part of her urban persona, Meryl identifies herself as an agnostic, there's little conviction behind the declaration, and it's further undercut when, in the scene referenced above, Paul acknowledges his belief in, and prayer to, the God she doubts.

Though writer-director Marc Lawrence's fish-out-of-water tale necessarily features extensive discussion of the negative effects of infidelity, and also includes considerable talk about the spouses' efforts to conceive, these topics are dealt with in a restrained way, and genuinely objectionable material is mostly absent. Off-color language, for instance, is pretty well restricted to a single use of the S-word and a British slang exclamation drawn from Paul when he fires a rifle for the first time.

As a result, this unabashed celebration of marital love and family life—the straightforward values underlying the comedy are embodied by Clay and Emma's long-standing mutual dedication, which Paul and Meryl eventually seek to emulate—is probably acceptable for older teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains adultery and infertility themes, off-screen marital lovemaking, a few mildly sexual jokes and at least one crude and one crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting 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 the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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