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:
‘Betrayed’ American nuns; at the movies, ‘Pirates,’ ‘Prada’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 3, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

Who says they don’t make womens’ movies like they made in the 1940s? The new David Frankel-directed film The Devil Wears Prada is a women’s film with an edge.

Meryl Streep, playing Miranda Priestly, again gives a terrific performance as the overbearing and cruel editor of the women’s fashion magazine Runway. She goes through second assistants every few months. Her demands are imperious. Most assistants leave in anger and disgust.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a recent journalism graduate from Northwestern, decides to hang in for dear life and, in a sense, beat the system. The movie is the story of her misadventures in trying to please the Dragon Lady.

At first, Andy doesn’t know or care much about fashion. She has a boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) who loves her. She hopes to survive a year and get a job at a serious publication. In the end, she sells out her principles and walks over people in a fashion similar to the vicious Miranda.

Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who is second-in-command under Miranda, helps teach Andy how to dress, and she even becomes a fashion maven.

The Devil Wears Prada tries to have it both ways: by making fun of the women’s fashion industry and, at the same time, transforming Andy from an ugly duckling to a swan with outfit after outfit that most women could never afford.

The end of the film tries to compromise the fashion satire with the unreal world that celebrities live in and Miranda says everyone wants.

The scenes of New York City and Paris are beautiful. But you would hardly know middle class people live there, let alone the poor.

For good acting in a special effects summer, you can’t beat Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Stanley Tucci.

The Devil Wears Prada is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). It has some strong language and sexual situations. The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) rates the film A-II – for adults and adolescents.


The biggest financial success of the summer is the new Johnny Depp movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Like many second editions of popular movies, Dead Man’s Chest is a bloated special effects movie with a plot that doesn’t matter and weak acting by normally very talented actors. The Jack Sparrow character which Depp nailed in the first film doesn’t seem very interesting. The Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley characters seem to walk (or run) their way through the film. In the end, who really cares about any of these people? To top it off, there is no real end to the film. There is just the set-up for Pirates, Part III, which is already filmed.

To be fair, I do admit, I dozed a bit at the beginning of the film, but that is unusual in itself in most films that I see. And I do realize that people are waiting in line at the multiplexes to see this film. But come on, there is more to life than special effects.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) by the MPAA. There are some violent action scenes and horror movie overtones. The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the movie A-II – adults and adolescents.

Book Reviews

Kenneth Briggs, former religion editor of the New York Times, has spent the last six years or so researching his new book, Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.

In his fine newspaper style, Briggs tells the story of Religious communities of Sisters across the United States over the last 50 years.

He begins with the Sister Formation movement that began before Vatican II. Sisters originally were often sent into the classrooms very rapidly and then each summer worked on completing their college degree. The Formation Movement sought to provide degrees before the Sisters were sent out into active ministry. Interestingly enough, the original curriculum of the Formation Movement was contained in the Everett Report, named after the city in our state where the first large-scale exploration had taken place. Years later, when the Sister Formation Movement was absorbed into the Conference of Major Superiors of Women (CMSW), the lone dissenting vote was cast by Benedictine superior, Mother Gemma Piennett, prioress of Queen of Angels Convent in Mount Angel, Ore. Mother Piennett was later summarily removed as prioress without stated cause.

Nuns did not have input at the Second Vatican Council. Not until the third session and a passionate plea by Cardinal Suenens were Sisters allowed to be observers at the Council. Even wives of Protestant observers were present from the first session. Eventually, six nuns joined 30 bishops, 49 theological experts and 10 laymen in preparing the document on the Church in the Modern World ("Gaudium et Spes"). Of all the groups within the Church, Religious Sisters responded with the most serious intention to the Vatican documents and calls of renewal by popes going back to Pius XII.

The results of renewal were a new movement to social justice and, at the same time, division among communities. Briggs particularly goes into detail of the conflict between Cardinal Mclntyre of Los Angeles and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, a conflict that led to a breakup of the order. He then describes the departure of many Sisters and its effect on the Sisters who stayed.

Briggs’s narrative goes into detail on the crisis in retirement of Sisters as the majority of Sisters aged. He describes what is happening today in several religious communities with which he has spent time in recent years. For some, there is a sense of dying. For others, there is the seeking of new ways to live as a community of committed women carrying out a Catholic mission.

In my life, it was the Holy Names Sisters at St. Mary in Seattle, the Benedictine Sisters at St. Mary in Albany, Ore., and the Providence Sisters at St. Patrick, Walla Walla, who helped form me into the Catholic person I am today. Many of us stand on the shoulders of the Religious women who passed on the faith to us. Kenneth Briggs powerfully reminds of the dramatic story of the many women of faith who changed our lives.

Double Crossed is published in hardcover by Doubleday for $24.95


Portland mystery author Phillip Margolin, who was a defense lawyer for 20-plus years, has a new mystery just out, titled Proof Positive.

As I began reading the mystery, I thought it had as many characters as a Russian novel. But rather quickly I was able to understand how everyone fit into a very interesting and complicated plot involving two seemingly separate murder investigations going on at the same time.

Like many mysteries, Proof Positive is very strong on a galloping plot and weak on development of character. But you get enough characterization to begin to care about some of his key figures. Margolin pulls you into the world of Oregon criminal lawyers and combines it with CSI detail that is fascinating. There is a whole discussion within the plot of the important issue of capital punishment and its ramifications on the souls of defense lawyers, among others.

Proof Positive is a very enjoyable mystery-thriller that raises some important moral questions along the way. There is one very graphic murder that a reader can “fast forward” a couple of pages and not have trouble with the narrative.

Proof Positive is published in hardcover by HarperCollins at $25.95.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and Archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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