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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Iron Man 3

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


A a scene from the movie "Iron Man 3."
Given that his first appearance in print dates back to 1963, the comics-based superhero of "Iron Man 3" (Disney) may be said to be turning 50 this year. Perhaps a midlife crisis is to blame for the lack of freshness and charm that mark the latest addition to this blockbuster screen franchise -- or perhaps other factors are at fault.

Certainly, the personal advancement that could previously be traced in Iron Man's alter ego and inventor -- billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) -- has in some respects stalled.

As opening flashbacks to 1999 remind us, Stark was once a booze-swilling, commitment-free playboy. Then his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) won his heart. Yet, while their relationship, cemented in the first sequel, continues to be exclusive, the two are now shown to be living together without benefit of City Hall or clergy.

The latest strain on their yet-to-be-hallowed union arises when Stark's reckless battle with a mysterious, bin Laden-like terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) endangers Pepper's life and sends Stark himself into temporary exile.

The anxiety attacks Stark begins to experience while on the lam -- partly inspired by events recounted in "Marvels' The Avengers" (2012) -- leave him questioning his gadgetry-dependent persona as Iron Man. This introduces one of the few substantive themes that director Shane Black's film -- which he co-wrote with Drew Pearce -- tarries to explore. Namely, the range of moral and immoral uses to which advanced technology can be turned.

Similar ethical ambiguities can be seen at work in the lives of two promising scientists gone bad: Stark's long-ago girlfriend of one night's standing, biochemist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), and lab-nerd-turned-ladies'-man Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). These two, it turns out, are somehow in cahoots with the Mandarin, though just what they're up to is not initially made clear.

Like the touching friendship Stark strikes up with a bullied schoolboy (Ty Simpkins) while on the run, the brief examination of serious issues his newly developed sense of panic initiates gets muscled out of view by serial gunplay and explosions.

So where does it all lead? Why, to the highly flammable deck of an oil tanker, of course.

The film contains much action violence with some gore, cohabitation, an off-screen nonmarital sexual encounter, at least one use of profanity and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. 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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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