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
Recent ‘New Yorker’ offers plenty of food for thought, as do ‘Help my Unbelief’ and ‘City Island’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 20, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

City Island is a very funny if over-the-top presentation of an Italian-American family who live on a small island in the Bronx, New York City. The film is directed by Raymond De Felitta, who 10 years ago gave us one of my favorite small films, Two Family House. If you look on City Island more as a fable, the excessive parts fall into place.

Vince Risso (Andy Garcia) is a corrections guard at a nearby prison. One day he notices that a new inmate is the son he left 20 some years ago in New Jersey. So Vince, as a guard, is able to take his son, Tony (Steven Strait), to his home on City Island 30 days before he is scheduled to get out of prison.

The problem is, Vince has not told Tony or any of his family members the relationship he has to Tony. Julianna Margulies plays Tony’s wife, who is worried about Tony being gone so much, supposedly playing poker. Actually, he is taking an acting class led by Alan Arkin.

Everyone in the family seems to be lying or covering-up about something. Dominik Garcia-Lorrido (Andy Garcia’s real daughter) has not told her family that she is no longer in college and has lost her scholarship. Son, Vince Jr., has a fetish problem that didn’t seem all that funny to me. Tony, the new son, seems to be the one who is trying to get everyone to tell the truth.

The movie is worth it just to see the wonderful acting of Andy Garcia. He is at the top of his game. This acting is award-worthy. Emily Mortimer is very good as the fellow acting class participant who urges Vince to try an “open call” for a part in a Martin Scorcese film. Julianna Margulies is much harsher and louder than in her powerful role on CBS television’s The Good Wife. Alan Arkin with his small role is a hoot in attacking “method acting.”

City Island is a light confection with serious overtones about mid-life crisis and the perennial dysfunctional family. There is lots of smoking. Everyone seems to have told each other that they are no longer smoking.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG-13 for sexual situations, language, and smoking.

Magazine Articles

The April 26, 2010 issue of The New Yorker has two very interesting articles.

Media expert Ken Auletta has an article on the explosion of e-books and the consequences for publishers, writers, booksellers and the public. The subtitle of the piece is “Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?”

There is a long discussion on Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle late in 2007 and its initial ramifications on the publishing industry. Then there is the recent introduction of the iPad, which at least initially is giving publishers more income. And as a subtext there is a discussion of independent booksellers and their value to communities. There is the danger that the independent book seller will soon be lost.

In the background of all this change there is Google, whose books will be available on any electronic device.

If you love books and wonder about the future, this is the article to read.

Jan Kramer, acting as a Reporter At Large, has a long article on the Church of England titled “A Canterbury Tale.” She focuses on the various groups within the Anglican Church that seem strongly divided over the issue of woman as bishops in England itself.

More than a third of the priests in the Church of England are women. There is a process now taking place that may lead to the ordination the first female bishop. Obviously, there have been women bishops in the Anglican Communion for a number of years, but not yet in England itself.

Kramer interviews the Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) and many other men and women representing all the sides of the debate. To describe the various sides she uses the shorthand of “conservative” or “liberal” often. However, I’m not so sure such terms really fit. She speaks of the Roman Catholic cardinal of Vienna, Christoph Schoenborn, as conservative. And yet The Tablet of London speaks of Cardinal Schoenborn as being at the forefront of confronting clerical child abuse. In the service of Lament and Reconciliation on the Wednesday of Holy Week with 3,000 in attendance at St. Stephen Cathedral, the archbishop spoke of the Church needing to “get off its high horse.” He thanked the lay group that gave initiative to the service and he had at times be at odds with by saying, “Even if there is controversy between us, we have our love of the Church in common.”

“A Canterbury Tale” presents a complicated religious issue from all sides while at the same time, the author lets us know where she would come down in the conflict.


The March, 2010 issue of the distinguished journal Worship, published by the Benedictines of Collegeville, Minn., has an excellent article by Msgr. Kevin Codd who most recently has been pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Othello. The article is titled “I Am a Pilgrim on the Earth: The Pilgrim Way.” It was first given as a lecture at St. Martin University in Lacey, Wash.

Msgr. Codd is well known in our area for his well-received book To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela (Eerdmans 2008). The article in Worship is more a theological and sociological discussion of the value of the traditional pilgrimage for the believer and the non-believer alike.

One fascinating fact is that in 1984, only about 2,500 persons completed the pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain, where the remains of St. James are said to be buried. But by the year 2009 that number had increased to well over 100,000 people. Something is happening out there and Msgr. Codd gives a series of reasons. He also gives eight pilgrim truths that he believes lead to “Becoming a more just, loving and peaceful race.”

One of his pilgrim truths is “We fall, we fail, we harm one another. Then we rise, we reconcile, we heal, and we continue down the road. Forgiveness is the extra-virgin olive oil that lubricates humanity’s often-grinding gears. We are to pour it on amply.”

I have found Worship’s articles on the heavy side in the past, but Msgr. Codd's reflections are accessible and strike the heart.

Books Received

In light of all the recent books on atheism by Hitchens, Dawkins, and others, Jesuit Father William J. O’Malley, who has done so many fine articles on teaching religion to high schoolers, has a very helpful book titled Help My Unbelief. It is published by Orbis Books of Maryknoll, N.Y., for $15.

Among key questions discussed are “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit into all this?”

One sad story speaks about how we can look at the value of a human being. One person in the Dachau concentration camp figured out the material value of the typical prisoner. The usual lifespan of 270 days equaled 1,431.00 Reich Marks for work done. Added to that were that were the proceeds from each corpse of 200.00 RM minus the cost of cremation of 2.00 equaled 1,629.00 RM. That amount in 1998 dollars was $67.88.

Before I saw the Spokane Symphony play the music of The Wizard of Oz with a viewing of the film, I wish I had read Father O’Malley’s wonderfully insightful discussion of that famous film. He explains concretely how what we are watching is Dorothy’s journey to selfhood. All the pieces of the film fit together to show us how when she returns to Kansas, “(S)he has brought home a self she can be proud of – a soul energized by her adventure.”

The value of story or myth in our lives is expressed by the response of Bill Moyers’s son when asked by his father why he watched Star Wars so often. The son replied to his Dad, “The same reason you read the Bible all the time.”

In light of recent events in the worldwide church, the chapter on “The Imperfect Church” is very helpful. The opening quotation is a very good one. Walter Kuhn states: “All the boats leak. The only question is, Which boat leaks least?”

Father O’Malley has an excellent statement of why he stays in the Church. He writes, “Probably the most honest reason I’m still a Catholic is the same as the reason I’m still Irish, white, Male, and American – none of which I originally chose, any more than I originally chose my baptism or my early Catholic schooling. I’m also fairly certain I didn’t choose it freely, even at my Confirmation; I was a child of seven or so whose advice I would hardly credit today. That was yet another ‘arranged marriage.’ But I did obliquely ratify the choice my parents made when I applied to the seminary. Only gradually though, did my religion – my person-to-Person connection to God – reach down its own roots into the depths of my soul. It’s become a friendship, and no matter how unforgivably my Friend seems to have betrayed my trust, like Job, I will not give up on him – because I have the gut conviction he will never give up on me. Without that two-way connection, I doubt I’d be able to go on.”

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Office for the Spokane Diocese and Inland Register archivist.)

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