| January 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Real Philomena

Philomena is an outstanding movie.  It has a plot that is full of surprises and a sensibility that is deep and spiritual.  It tells the story of a Irish woman whose son, born out of wedlock, was ripped from her by nuns in Ireland who were, at best, misguided and, at worst, evil.  Because it dares to expose a true story of bad behavior by the Catholic Church, it has unified both anti-Catholic atheists and conservative Catholics in their interpretation of the film.  Both claim that the nuns represent the Catholic Church and that their evil is the Catholicism’s evil.  Of course, the Catholic critics applaud the movie and the fundamentalists denounce it.

I saw a different movie.  For me, Philomena represents Catholicism.  I draw a distinction between the institutional Church, a human organization, and the so-called “body of Christ,” which is the congregation of the Church.  Obviously, throughout history, the Catholic Church has committed some serious atrocities, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to recent clergy abuse of children.  But I consider true Catholicism to be based on the actual life and teachings of Jesus, not what was decided by a bunch of bishops at the Council of Trent.

By that standard, Philomena represents my Church, or at least the Catholic religion that I observe.  She suffered at the hands of the sanctimonious nuns, just as Jesus suffered at the hands of Romans and sanctimonious Jews.   And, in the end, Philomena forgave her tormentors, as did Jesus.  And she remained faithful, despite doubt.

The best thing you can say about the nuns is that they were profoundly misguided.  What they did was beyond sinful. And the fact they continued their crime was unforgivable…..except by a true Catholic.    But it was people like them that Jesus denounced the Gospels.

Philomena is the only Christ-like person depicted in the movie.  That said, I also admired the atheist reporter, who was fairly principled, albeit cynical, in his atheism.  Not to mention, very funny.

Nevertheless, despite the tremendous suffering that was visited upon her, Philomena forgave the evil nuns and chastised the reporter for his justifiable anger.  Her behavior epitomized the words of Jesus on the cross, “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24).  That’s about as Christian as you can get.

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Category: Catholic Church

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