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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Priest

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

"To go against the church is to go against God." Such is the slogan of the distorted version of the Catholic Church, which is portrayed as holding Big Brother-style sway over society in the malign futuristic horror exercise "Priest" (Screen Gems).

Not surprisingly, everything in this screen version of Min-Woo Hyung's series of graphic novels—adapted by director Scott Stewart and screenwriter Cory Goodman—sends the opposite message: to rebel against the corrupt, evil force of the totalitarian church is a duty, a source of honor and the beginning of individual liberation.

Discovering that supposed truth is the otherwise nameless main character of the title (Paul Bettany). A tough veteran of the apocalyptic war which saw the church helping humanity to defeat a race of brutally aggressive vampires, this consecrated warrior, like all his comrades, has fallen on hard times since the coming of peace.

Not so his religious superiors—a council of elderly gents somewhat absurdly termed the Monsignors —who have parlayed the successful outcome of the crusade against bloodsuckers into an iron grip on all aspects of life. As led by Msgr. Orelas (Christopher Plummer -- a long way from his days as the devout Baron von Trapp) they specialize in suppressing disagreeable realities.

So when Priest requests permission to go to the rescue of his niece Lucy (Lily Collins), who has been abducted during a fresh outbreak of bloodsucker violence, the Monsignors turn him down flat. The war is over; the victory was absolute. To admit that Lucy has been kidnapped by vein-drainers would be to shake the populace's confidence in the church's ability to provide them with perfect security.

But off on his quest Priest goes nonetheless. Along the way, he allies himself with Lucy's boyfriend Hicks (Cam Gigandet) and gains the help of a priestess called, um, Priestess (Maggie Q), whose disenchantment with the hierarchy is similar to his own. Together they battle to thwart the ambitions of Black Hat (Karl Urban), a new, seemingly invincible chieftain of the undead.

Incidental to the plot, but not to the feelings of Catholic viewers, is the borderline blasphemous depiction of sacramental practice. Thus, confession via electronic screens is one method of enforcing clerical control; Mass prayers drawing parallels between the blood of Christ and the ordinary variety sought by the vamps is another.

As Priest's loyalties shift, he half-heartedly recites the act of contrition, saying in effect, that he would like to renounce sin, "but I can't." There is also a disturbing appropriation of cherished Christian symbols to this project's often violent ends, with both crosses and rosaries serving, at various times, as weapons in combat.

The film contains pervasive anti-Catholicism, sometimes approaching sacrilege; much morbid, occasionally bloody violence; at least one use of profanity and of the F-word; and a few crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. 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 Catholic News Service.



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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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