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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Paul

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Are some British comedians on a cinematic crusade to export the widespread atheism of their home country to the shores of the United States and beyond?

The year 2009 gave us Ricky Gervais' malignant fantasy "The Invention of Lying," which presented the existence of God and the idea of an afterlife as just so much wishful thinking. And this year brings the aggressively, though illogically, anti-religious satire "Paul" (Universal) penned by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz").

They play Graeme and Clive, a pair of sci-fi-loving U.K. geeks on a tour of stateside sites associated with their hobby. While driving their rented RV near Nevada's famously secretive military base, Area 51, they encounter the titular spaceman (voice of Seth Rogen), who, as he explains, has just escaped from 60 years of government captivity there.

Recovering from their initial shock, the duo befriend the smart-alecky E.T. -- whose computer-generated image is that of a little green man direct from central casting -- and agree to give him a lift to the spot where he has arranged for his fellow space travelers to rescue him.

Buddy comedy meets road trip adventure meets alien-movie genre spoof; so far so good. Or, at least, not so bad.

When they stop for the night at a trailer park, however, the newfound pals meet -- and Graeme immediately falls for -- the establishment's much-put-upon manager, Ruth (Kristen Wiig).

Raised under the thumb of her fanatically fundamentalist dad, Moses (John Carroll Lynch) -- the stopover's owner -- Ruth shares his religious views sufficiently to sport a T-shirt with a picture of Jesus blowing Charles Darwin away with a gun and the caption "Evolve this!"

But her first sight of Paul instantly shatters Ruth's worldview. And Paul himself assures her that his very existence disproves any traditional version of Judeo-Christian belief. (Unsurprisingly, the reasoning behind all this is never explained.)

Now that there is no God and therefore no sin, Ruth is suddenly free to swear, smoke dope and -- to adopt her own term for it -- fornicate at will. Needless to say, Graeme is pleased by this turn of events, and viewers are clearly meant to cheer Ruth's "liberation" as well.

Perhaps to reinforce the message that science is all we need, Paul is also shown to have the power to heal the wounded and even resurrect the dead. Such gifts are not miraculous, you understand, just the fruit of his intergalactic wisdom. In an additional nugget of sagacity, Paul informs Clive that everyone on his planet is bisexual because, "it's about pleasure."

By assuming that scriptural faith would be fatally undermined by the presence of intelligent life on other planets, Pegg and Frost prove themselves as unfamiliar with biblically based religion as they are contemptuous of it. Yet, however philosophically ill-founded it may be, the militant atheism underlying this otherwise routine offering from director Greg Mottola should inspire believers of all stripes to steer clear.

The film contains an explicit rejection of Christian faith and morals, endorsement of homosexual acts, nonmarital sexual activity and petty theft, a benign view of drug use, occasional gory violence, a few uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service 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 Catholic News Service.



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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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