Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
‘The Coming Catholic Church,’ ‘Millions’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 19, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

If you are looking for the perfect book for a parish book club or a group of friends interested in the Church in a traumatic time, David Gibson’s fascinating new book, The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful Are Shaping a New American Catholicism (HarperSanFrancisco: softcover, $14.95) is just the ticket.

David Gibson is an adult convert to the Catholic Church after working at Vatican Radio for some years. He now is the religion reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger of New Jersey.

The book begins with overview of the priest sexual abuse scandal that then leads to three main sections: “The Laity,” “The Priesthood,” and “The Hierarchy.”

Gibson’s basic argument is that the lay people are the chief body of Catholics to bring about the necessary reforms needed in the American church.

In his powerful chapter “The Mystery of Catholic Identity,” Gibson looks at sociological reports and figures interspersing them with connections to Catholic literary figures like Walker Percy, Graham Green, and Andre Dubus. He reviews Dubus’s writings on the sacraments where he argues that the act of a parent lovingly making a peanut-butter sandwich for his or her children is sacramental. Dubus argues that if the church is catholic and the world is catholic, then there are 7 times 70 sacraments, to infinity.

In the chapter “Revolution from Below,” a self-described “ordinary parishioner dealing with extraordinary times”, Frank DeAlderete argues before a “Voice of the Faithful” conference, “let’s agree we’re going to stay Catholic. And that means dogma, theology, and to a great degree, tradition, is off the table for now. The scandal that prompted this is not a failure of dogma. It is a failure of morality. It is a failure to enforce canon law.”

Gibson begins his section of the priesthood recalling the memorable speech to Pope John Paul II in September of 1987 by parish priest Frank McNulty of New Jersey. McNulty spoke passionately of the priesthood he knew. He raised the issue of the decreasing number of priests and the need for honest, ongoing, heart-to-heart dialogue.

Pope John Paul II’s ad-libbed comment to McNulty after the priest laid out his call for change was, “I remember a song, ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary.’”

Gibson goes into various themes presented as the causes of the sexual abuse of children by priest. He reviews seminary formation, past and present. He has a lengthy discussion on homosexuality in the priesthood. He has a memorable retelling of the story of Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain to the New York Fire Department at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Gibson ends his discussion on priesthood with a thoughtful section on the danger of clericalism, the lives of priests and the married priests already in the Western Church.

The Hierarchy section begins with an old quote about the Catholic Church from Hilaire Belloc: “An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.” Then Gibson reviews what happened after Boston in 2002 and goes back in time to give a brief history of bishops in the American Catholic Church. Gibson holds up the bishops as the key to the crisis.

He sees the laity as an important key to the future of the Church.

Gibson ends on a call to be hopeful in a dark time. He ends with a quote from Cure de Torcy, speaking to French novelist Bernanos’s country priest when the Cure says, “I’ll define you a Christian people by the opposite. The opposite of a Christian people is a people grown sad and old.”

The Coming Catholic Church is a very readable book for the difficult times in which we live. It faces questions honestly. It allows different views to be heard. It challenges readers and yet gives hope.

In the world we live in today, The Coming Catholic Church is a beacon that pierces the darkness. It gives light to all of us in order that we may continue the pilgrimage hand in hand as members of a wounded and hurting people.


Movie Review

A delightful new fable of life and death seen through the eyes of child is now in theaters.

Millions is the story of two brothers who have recently lost their mother through death. It is done in a magic realism style where we see saints of long ago through the eyes of an endearing child.

I admit to being too much of a realist at times, but my one complaint with this fable is the story centers on the fact that in many European countries, on a given day, local currency was no longer useable and the Euro was the only valid currency. But Great Britain did not go along with the change and still has the British pound. Ireland did go along with Euro but the movie looks like England and was filmed in Liverpool and Manchester. And the money that is supposed to be changed is always shown as the British pound, which never was changed.

Seven-year-old Damian (Alex Etal) and nine-year-old Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) move with their Dad (James Nesbitt) to a new subdivision after their mother has died. There, Damian, who knows more about saints than Butler’s Lives of the Saints, builds a castle out of cardboard boxes near where the express trains pass by on a main line.

Mourning his mother’s death, Damian has encounters with saints like Francis of Assisi and the Apostle Peter. They speak words of wisdom to the boy, who knows he sees people that others do not see.

One day at his castle, a sports bag thrown from a speeding train lands on his cardboard structure and crushes it. Damian opens the bag to find thousands of pound bills. His brother, arriving on the scene, says they should hide it. But Damian keeps wanting to give the money to the poor or people he believes are poor. His more worldly-wise brother wants to slowly use it for power, popularity and material things to own.

We eventually learn that the money was part of a train robbery. A thief was supposed to find it along side the train tracks and pick it up. The thief eventually comes looking for the money. The money was supposed to be burned so that it could be replaced by the new Euro currency, and there are just a few days left before it becomes worthless.

The plot gets complicated as eventually the boy’s Dad discovers what it going on and begins to take action.

The acting by Alex Etel is absolutely stunning. He knocks the part out of the ballpark. Director Danny Boyle (who is known for the more stark film Trainspotting, about drug users in Scotland) is able to bring a fascinating goodness to his main character. Millions treats the saints theme with humor and respect.

Sometimes the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle draws too much attention to itself. But on the whole the vision of this film is impressive and enthralling.

The Christmas pageant section, which has been done too many times, breaks the mold and is thoroughly entertaining.

For parents and older children, Millions in a very enjoyable way speaks strongly for seriously caring about the poor of the world and really doing something about it.

Millions is rated PG (Parental Guidance) by the Motion Picture Association of America. The U.S. Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Millions A-II – adults and adolescents.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews frequently appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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