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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Brooklyn's Finest

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Catholic imagery pervades director Antoine Fuqua's seamy New York police drama "Brooklyn's Finest" (Overture).

But faith provides no meaningful guidance to the conflicted cops who populate this grim journey through Gotham's criminal underworld. Instead, characters cross all manner of legal and moral boundaries as the obscenity laden-script lurches from bloodshed to explicit scenes of sexuality.

The film chronicles a week in the lives of three troubled lawmen: cynical patrolman Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), who's on the verge of retirement; undercover operative Clarence "Tango" Butler (Don Cheadle), who's desperate for promotion to a safe desk job; and narcotics officer Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke), who finds himself tempted to steal drug money to provide for his ill wife and growing family.

The ultimately impotent role of religion in at least two of these three chaotic lives is typified by a pair of unsettling early scenes.

In one, Eddie wakes up from a nightmare in a bedroom where practically the only form of decoration is a rosary hanging over the bed, downs a shot of whiskey and plays a round of Russian roulette with his service pistol jammed in his mouth. The other shows Sal going to confession, but ultimately declaring—with language typical for the dialogue but wildly inappropriate for the sacred setting—that he doesn't want God's forgiveness, just his help.

Sal's goal is to raise the money—by fair means or foul—for a new house, not only to get away from the mold that aggravates wife Angela's (Lili Taylor) asthma, but to accommodate the five children he already has and the twins who are on the way. The clear implication is that Sal's Catholic beliefs prevent him from exercising responsible family planning, as though artificial contraception were the only viable means of doing so.

Sal's back is adorned with a large tattoo of the archangel Michael, along with the text of the familiar prayer invoking that heavenly warrior's protection. As the film reaches its improbable, corpse-strewn climax, Sal misguidedly recites this prayer before launching an attack as vicious and conscience-deadening as anything served up by the ruthless traffickers he is meant to be combating.

The film contains frequent bloody violence, including beatings, shootings and strangulation, graphic nonmarital sexual activity, upper female nudity, a few uses of profanity and unremitting rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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



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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

Conversations with a Guardian Angel

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
May this birthday mark the beginning of new and exciting adventures!

Sts. Peter and Paul
Honored both separately and together, these apostles were probably martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero.

Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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