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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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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