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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Ides of March

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


George Clooney stars in a scene from the movie "The Ides of March."
As recounted in the classic Shakespearean play that bears his name, the soon-to-be-assassinated Julius Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." In the case of director and co-writer George Clooney's savvy yet raw political drama, "The Ides of March" (Columbia), that's good advice for all but the gamest adults.

While fundamentally moral in most respects, this study in the corrupting effects of power is studded with mature subject matter and machismo-driven vulgarities that call for a well-formed conscience—and a thick skin—on the part of viewers.

Testosterone levels are high and the F-bombs get dropped lightly and often at the campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris (also Clooney).

A liberal Democrat, Morris has won the heartfelt allegiance of his up-and-coming press spokesman Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as well as the unshakable—though strictly professional—loyalty of Stephen's boss, veteran campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

As the Morris forces work feverishly to win the crucial Ohio primary—slated for March 15, the modern equivalent of the titular date in the calendar of ancient Rome—Stephen has two experiences that suddenly change his whole outlook on the race.

The first is a secret meeting with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Paul's opposite number in the camp of Morris' sole remaining rival; the second a casual fling with Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), a young but sexually forward intern from his own office. Via the latter liaison, Stephen accidentally uncovers a seamy secret that leaves his idealism tottering.

With a sharp script—written in collaboration with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon—and a powerful cast, Clooney turns in a slick adaptation of Willimon's play "Farragut North," first staged in 2008. But significant plotlines involving marital infidelity, a situation that potentially amounts to unintentional statutory rape and, above all, the destruction of an unborn life set this far apart from casual entertainment.

Candidate Morris, who has rejected not only the Catholic faith in which he was raised but Christianity itself, and publicly expresses uncertainty as to our fate after death, is unapologetically "pro-choice." Yet—with wild but not, alas, unrealistic inconsistency—he immediately follows this up by basing his opposition to capital punishment on the grounds that "our society should be better than that."

Still, Morris' stand on any given issue—he also voices support for single-sex "marriage"—is not the point of the movie, which is really about the electoral process and behind-the-scenes personal ethics. As for the onscreen visit to an abortion mill, the grimness and lingering remorse engendered by such a descent into the darkness—though not, of course, the full horror of it—are effectively conveyed.

The film contains brief semigraphic nonmarital—and possibly underage—sexual activity, abortion and adultery themes, a suicide, an instance of blasphemy, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. 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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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