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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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