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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

When in Rome

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

While the familiar proverb that supplies its title ultimately derives from the advice of one church father (St. Ambrose of Milan) quoted in the writings of another (St. Augustine of Hippo), the perky romantic comedy "When in Rome" (Touchstone) draws on the Eternal City's religious heritage only incidentally.

The graceful 17th-century church of St. Mary Magdalene—known colloquially as La Maddalena—does, however, provide the setting for the marriage ceremony at which its two main characters first meet and begin to fall in love.

Beth (Kristen Bell) is a work-obsessed curator at New York's Guggenheim Museum who has reluctantly taken 48 hours of personal time to serve as her sister Joan's (Alexis Dziena) maid of honor. The gent catching Beth's eye is best man Nick (Josh Duhamel), once Italian groom Umberto's (Luca Calvani) college roommate, and now a Gotham sportswriter.

Despite Beth's unhappy track record in previous relationships, the pair quickly bond during the lavish reception. But just as Beth's hopes begin to rise, she witnesses an incident that convinces her that Nick is a frivolous cad.

Wading despondently through the waters of the nearby "Fountain of Love," Beth shows her renewed cynicism by removing several of the coins that passers-by customarily toss into the basin for good luck in matters of the heart. According to the film's fanciful mythology, this ill-advised gesture immediately causes the quartet of eccentric strangers who deposited the change to become hopelessly infatuated with her.

So, once back in the Big Apple, Beth finds herself being relentlessly pursued and incongruously wooed by sausage magnate Al (Danny DeVito), street magician Lance (John Heder), aspiring artist Antonio (Will Arnett) and Gale (Dax Shepard), a would-be model enthralled by his own physique.

Though Nick eventually regains Beth's trust, successfully explaining away his apparent misbehavior, another obstacle arises when Beth suspects a poker chip she also retrieved from the fountain is his, meaning that he is merely under a spell and not freely— and therefore truly—in love.

Father Dino (Keir O'Donnell), the youthful, slightly pixilated priest who performs Joan and Umberto's nuptials, and who reappears in a couple of last-reel scenes, comes in for some gentle ribbing. But he's essentially an appealing character, and the closest the humor comes to anything remotely troublesome is the sight of him break dancing in his chasuble over the closing credits.

Otherwise, director Mark Steven Johnson's pleasantly diverting ensemble piece is mostly worry-free, with only a fleeting scene of newlywed friskiness that sees Joan in the kitchen wearing only an apron and Umberto, embracing her from behind, wearing apparently nothing at all, to bar endorsement for teens.

The film contains brief nongraphic marital lovemaking with implied nudity, mildly irreverent portrayal of a clergyman and a few crass expressions. 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. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.



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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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