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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Sherlock Holmes

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. star in a scene from the movie "Sherlock Holmes."
The game's afoot once more in "Sherlock Holmes" (Warner Bros.). But, though vigorous, this latest addition to the chronicles of perhaps the world's most iconic sleuth—who first figured in a series of novels and short stories published between 1887 and 1927 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—is also frequently violent.

In fact, as envisioned by director Guy Ritchie, and slyly personified by Robert Downey Jr., this brawny Sherlock slugs his way through several bone-crunching square-offs across Victorian London on the way to solving his latest case.

Accompanied by his perennial sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), Holmes is on the trail of notorious Satan-worshipping aristocrat Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). But the investigation would seem to have reached a satisfactory conclusion within minutes of the opening credits when—after the pair interrupt Blackwood as he's about to perform his latest ritual murder—the errant peer is safely incarcerated and duly sentenced to be hanged.

Inviting Holmes to visit him in jail on the eve of his execution, however, Blackwood predicts that he will rise from the dead, inspiring a wave of public panic that will have global political implications. And it soon appears as though Blackwood has made good on his threat when a graveyard watchman swears he saw the seemingly resurrected nobleman walk out of his tomb.

Though the mystery of Blackwood's return is eventually teased out in typical Holmesian fashion, the initial idea of a black-magic resurrection may not sit well with some adult viewers and—taken together with its purely rationalistic solution—might be confusing for some more youthful ones.

But Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg's collaborative script certainly makes no attempt to compromise Christian claims. And the logical deconstruction of Blackwood's scheme can be read as showing the inability of the powers of darkness—or of those trying to draw on them—to imitate God's supreme miracle.

A further complication for Catholic audiences concerns Blackwood's membership in a Masonic-style secret society dedicated to cultivating occult powers. Some of the members of this conventicle who oppose Blackwood argue that, unlike their misguided associate, they use such dark gifts to achieve good ends—an assertion, needless to say, wholly contrary to church teaching.

Heightening the tension of the central chase are subplots involving Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), the young lady for whom Watson has fallen and for whose sake he plans to abandon his work with Holmes and break up their bachelor household—a goal Holmes does his wily best to sabotage—and femme fatale Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), an adept criminal who plays both sides of the law and who has bested and befuddled Holmes in the past.

The film contains considerable action violence, occult themes, satanic activity, brief irreverence, a sexual situation and a few sexual references and jokes. 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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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