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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Counselor

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz star in a scene from the movie "The Counselor."
A peepshow of human degradation, the ensemble drama "The Counselor" (Fox) alternates between glamorizing evil and parading its most torturous results—both physical and emotional—for shock value.

Working from the debut script of novelist-turned-screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, director Ridley Scott adds disdain for the Catholic Church and a debased view of human sexuality to a nihilist moral vision—with repellent results.

Ostensibly, this is meant to be a cautionary tale about essentially good people whose personality flaws lead them to dabble in darkness. The example at hand: the otherwise unnamed character of the title (Michael Fassbender), a previously legitimate lawyer out to make a quick jackpot through his involvement in a cross-border drug deal.

This new enterprise entangles our eponymous barrister with shady nightclub owner Reiner (Javier Bardem), Reiner's sociopathic girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), and Westray (Brad Pitt), the streetwise middleman in the transaction.

At the other extreme of the Counselor's compartmentalized world stands the love of his life, Laura (Penelope Cruz). A practicing, though far from ideal, Catholic, Laura represents the film's sole embodiment of innocence.

When the hoped-for trade unexpectedly begins to unravel, however, the Mexican drug lords on the other side of the sale seek revenge, threatening doom not only for our errant attorney but for Laura as well.

From the extended bedroom encounter that opens the picture, to a scene in which Malkina goes to confession as a practical joke and on through various gory means of execution—one so creative it requires explanation in the dialogue—viewers run a gauntlet of unsettling material.

Our counsel? Spare yourself.

The film contains gruesome bloody violence, sacrilegious humor and ridicule of Catholicism, strong sexual content, including graphic premarital sexual activity and masturbation, numerous uses of profanity and frequent 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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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