Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday Tidbits

*The Golden Compass is still causing quite a stir. Insight Scoop does a good job of fisking those that are claiming it is good for the soul and that Catholics who are debating the story are over-reacting.

*The American Papist has an interesting story on how New Line Cinema is now spinning a quote from the USCCB to try and show that they support the Golden Compass.

*Benedict XVI's prayer intention for December - "That human society may be solicitous in the care of all those stricken with AIDS, especially children and women, and that the Church may make them feel the Lord's love." Mission Intention - "That the incarnation of the Son of God, which the Church celebrates solemnly at Christmas, may help the peoples of the Asiatic Continent to recognize God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world, in Jesus."

*Zenit has an article where the Pope sums up Spe Salvi.

*Mitt Romney is coming here, to the largest Catholic University in the USA (Texas A&M), to talk about his Mormon faith.

*SCHIP = more contraception for kids, less parental involvement.

*Russian Orthodox say if the Vatican abolishes Catholic Dioceses in Russia, then all problems are solved. Well, does that mean the Orthodox would abolish their dioceses in Catholic territories? I doubt it, the double-standard still exists.

*Some critics are saying that the movie Noelle is anti-Catholic.


Lauren McBrennan said...

I totally disagree that the Catholic Church is mocked in any way in the movie from what I have seen. If anything the movie does the opposite. The Virgin Mary is not mocked, in fact she is exalted by father Keene in the movie. It is a non catholic person in the movie that does not believe but in the end she finds it. David Wall was not talking about dealing with hypocrisy in the Catholic Church, but hypocrisy as humans. The problem is all the things you think he is disrespecting or misrepresenting about "The Catholic Church" is portrayed because his heart is not in it. He realized he was an imposter and a hypocrite himself by living a lie as a priest. Meanwhile, the other priest comes to realize why he really became a priest and the reason he loved it in the first place. It is a great movie that uses priests as "characters". It is a movie that in fact praises the people, the Church and God in the end. It is a story of sin and forgiveness. It is wonderful for the whole family.

1:38 PM

Marcel said...

I haven't seen the movie, and don't plan on it. I was just passing on information from The Catholic League. There are better movies out there worth my time than one that possibly belittles my faith.

interestedparty said...

Please see Catholic Digest online to read a new article on Noelle that I think is insightful and more balanced about the purposes of the film.

follower said...

this is a link to The "Catholic Digest" article and Q&A on "Noelle". http://www.catholicdigest.com/article/qa-david-wall . Obvioulsy we should not judge this until we know the Truth and see the movie ourselves.
peace and love.
St. Andrew's follower

interesting Catholic support said...

The movie ‘Noëlle’ calls for caution
By Anita Crane http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=26122
Celebrate Life Magazine (CLmagazine.org.)
"David Wall made Noëlle to open the eyes and break the hearts of those who are numb in apathy. Wall said that he didn’t intend for this film to be about religion, but it is. If he learns about the sacraments, maybe he will make a masterpiece." Anita Crane

STAFFORD, VA (American Life League) - The film Noëlle arrives in American theaters on December 7. On the upside, its haunting music and beautiful cinematography set the mood for a Christmas mystery in New England. Noëlle also treats viewers to a few good laughs. Finally, David Wall – Noëlle’s writer, producer, director and lead actor – is a captivating performer.

On the downside, I was disappointed by the lack of character development and the story. After all, Noëlle is painfully misleading about the Catholic faith. Yet when I spoke with David Wall, he disarmed me by saying, “Don’t take this in a negative way – if I had to join a church, it would probably be the Catholic Church.”

Of course, I had to reply, “We want you!” Then Wall and I discussed his film.

The Noëlle synopsis goes like this:

Father Jonathan Keene – a cold, impatient Catholic priest – arrives in a tiny fishing village the week before Christmas to do what he does best: shut down a dying parish. But things take an unexpected turn as he becomes entangled in the various lives of the village’s eccentric characters, including their beautiful librarian, the childlike priest he is displacing and the magical experience of Mrs. Worthington’s legendary Christmas party, where everyone is welcome and anything is possible.

The family of Wall’s wife is Catholic and their witness gives him respect for the Church. Even so, crucial details about Catholic faith and traditions were overlooked. Consequently, not one Catholic acts like a Catholic. For the purpose of this review, we’ll concentrate on the three main characters.

Father Simeon Joyce, the parish pastor and only priest in the village, is woodenly played by Sean Patrick Brennan. According to Wall, in real life Brennan is a devout Catholic. In the film, however, Fr. Joyce fails to command respect. Instead, he drinks and dances at the local pub. Therefore, everyone disregards his sacred office and calls him by his first name. Moreover, Fr. Joyce’s celebration of Mass is no Mass at all. He introduces Fr. Keene to the small, dwindling and aged congregation as a “hit man” sent by the archdiocese to shut down the church. Then Fr. Joyce continues:

Maybe he’s right. Maybe we are dead. Look around. Glass. Marble. A stone mother, her cold child. A dead man on a cross. We’re nothing but a mausoleum.

So, the character that Wall intended to be childlike actually comes off as an apostate. In reality, the climax of Mass is the consecration and reception of the Holy Eucharist, which Catholics believe to be the Real Presence of Jesus Christ – body, soul and divinity – under the appearance of bread and wine. Regardless, the two priests decide that staging a living crèche outside the church on Christmas Eve could bring fallen-away Catholics back to the parish and this becomes the occasion for Fr. Keene to pursue a certain woman.

Indeed, Fr. Keene pursues the only female parishioner under 60 to play Mary, the Mother of God. She is Marjorie Worthington, the single librarian, played by Wall’s wife Kerry. While most parishioners are ninnies, Marjorie is too smart to assent to the Gospel and the faith. She tells Fr. Keene of her disbelief in the virgin birth of Jesus, her opinion that priests have “a problem with women” and her affection for “Simeon,” because he doesn’t act like a priest. Nevertheless, Wall was careful to keep this unbelieving character, who attends Mass for the sake of her grandmother, away from Holy Communion. The best moment of the film is when Marjorie reveals that the sight of Fr. Keene, as a priest, was a saving grace for someone else.

Eventually, Fr. Keene learns that Marjorie is having a sexual affair with a despicable cad. When Marjorie agrees to play the Blessed Virgin, Fr. Keene breaks the seal of her grandmother’s confession by blurting out why he thinks Marjorie’s unfit for the part. Then, he further betrays his vows by telling Marjorie’s secret to Fr. Joyce.

The theme of Noëlle is supposed to reach its climax at Grandma Worthington’s annual Christmas Eve party, but I was confused. There, the two priests are erratic as they interpret various conflicts and signs, but neither discerns the truth about God, the sacraments, real love or fidelity. One priest says that the party is his idea of the Church and peace on earth. By then, we know that he wants a parishioner’s healing to justify him. Both dance with Marjorie and prepare to renounce their vows for her. Then one explains to Marjorie that he never wanted to be a priest; he became one out of guilt for having his own preborn child aborted. Afterwards, the post-abortive father, forever a priest, is granted a plausible apparition of forgiveness. Sadly, Wall then has him stumble to the wrong conclusion.

In one scene, it appears that Fr. Keene spills the Eucharistic blood and leaves it unattended. However, Wall explained ... that the priest never consecrated the wine.

David Wall made Noëlle to open the eyes and break the hearts of those who are numb in apathy. Wall said that he didn’t intend for this film to be about religion, but it is. If he learns about the sacraments, maybe he will make a masterpiece. For, as Karen Mahoney tells us in her story “How I recovered from abortion,” God is absolutely faithful to us.

At least this movie reminds us that many post-abortive parents and their family members are in need of healing and reconciliation. Thus, the Catholic Church officially welcomes them to Project Rachel. In New York, the Sisters of Life conduct retreats called Entering Canaan – Healing After Abortion. Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, established by psychotherapist Theresa Burke, Ph.D., is flourishing nationwide.

If you choose to see Noëlle, view it cautiously in realizing that God doesn’t inspire people to break sacramental vows. With that in mind, consider how the faith was beautifully captured in a Christmas outreach by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. As I recall, posters on the metro trains said, “He’s not just away in a manger, He’s at your local Catholic church.” In other words, God Almighty reduced His majesty to the littleness of an embryo, then an infant and came here for the love of us. Likewise, today, the Lord Jesus Christ makes Himself vulnerable as He awaits us – fully present in the Blessed Sacrament – in Catholic churches throughout the world.

Noëlle is an independent a project of David Wall’s Volo Films and is distributed by Gener8xion Entertainment.

Anita Crane is senior editor of Celebrate Life, the magazine of American Life League.

lauren said...


Catholic Digest, American Life League, Catholic Life Magazine and Catholic.org have all written very good reviews on the movie. They actually take the time to ask the questions that the "always too quick to shoot" Catholic League does not. the Catholic Digest article is also very good. It shows the truth about this movie that we are looking for. Not just attacking it from what is seemed to be without finding out the truth in information. I am a Catholic and prefere the Digest as the Catholic League has always been way too quick to judge and kill, when it comes to anything that "may" be controversial. The key word is "may". It is always "may" until you find out the true meaning of anything. Merry Christmas and i think we should judge for ourselves not someone for us ;-)

Marcel said...

I don't see it as "judging for myself". I see it as being very picky about what gets two hours of my time, which is very precious to me. My standards for movies are very high right now, which is why I rarely go to the theater anymore. I would rather be able to pay less, wait for the buzz to die down and then rent it. Of course, I love the theater experience, but more for eye-candy than story-lines.

I will read the other reviews. Thanks to everyone for the links.

thinkingMoviegoer said...

Hmmm. About this whole NOELLE movie thing, let's think...

"Anti-Defamation League v. The Passion of the Christ"

Sound familiar to anyone?

"Noelle" is a movie.

Go see for yourself and take in the story as a whole and then let's talk about it.

Since I myself haven't seen it, I'll wait till I get to see it until I can comment further in an intelligent manner.

lauren said...


Saturday, December 08, 2007
Review: Noelle .... a different point of view

Review: Noelle, the Movie

My husband and I went and saw this movie tonight, in spite of (and maybe, because of) all the controversy that has recently been stirred up by this movie, particularly based on the Catholic League’s review of this movie. [I have yet to see any other Catholic voice review this movie; the closest was an interview in Catholic Digest, but that was not a review of the movie.]

Before I start this review, please let me say that I respect Bill Donohue and the Catholic League and all that they do to protect Catholics and Catholicism in the current American-secular climate. Based on their review of Noelle, we weren’t going to go see it … but cooler heads prevailed and we went to ensure that my husband would be able to address questions from his Catholic high school theology students.

For this review, I’ll quote directly from the December 3rd Catholic League review.

First, the Catholic League titles their review “CATHOLICISM TARRED BY CHRISTIAN FILM”. The movie we watched didn’t “tar” Catholicism. This title alone sets up an animosity that doesn’t make sense after having viewed the movie. This title sets up the preconception that somehow Gener8xion Entertainment, and the Walls and everyone else who had anything to do with this movie have a malignant intent to “dis” Catholicism. If anything, the writers, directors and actors are culpable of benign ignorance in the mistakes they make in this film – Catholic League paints it as malignant.

The Catholic League review continues:

In the synopsis provided by Gener8Xion, it accurately describes Jonathan
Keene as ‘a young Catholic priest seemingly devoid of genuine human emotion’;
his job is ‘to do what he does best: shut down a failing parish.’ Then there is
‘the child-like Fr. Simeon Joyce, a faithful but disillusioned priest who
blatantly disregards church regulations, uses church monies to pay an old
fisherman’s medical bills and spends most of his time drinking at the local
pub.’ Both priests are portrayed as losers.

Yes, Fr. Keene is a priest devoid of human emotion. He is almost an automaton character who shies from human contact and human conflict. His character is one of individualistic theology – he refuses to pray with Fr. Joyce as he says “prayer is a private thing”. And, yes, I’ve met priests over my Catholic life who appear similar to Fr. Keene. There is no mistake that this priest is a realistic characterization. I don’t think he was portrayed as a loser, but actually as more of a successful priest that confuses vocation with career in an almost corporate-sense. At one point, he tells Fr. Keene that putting on the live Nativity will bring the people back and the parish will be much more “profitable … uh, I mean productive.”

Fr. Joyce, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Fr. Keene – he loves his parish and parishioners and gives freely and completely of himself to help the parishioners. He LOVES being a priest and wants Fr. Keene to “believe” as he does. He most certainly is not portrayed as a “loser” but more as someone who thinks his battle is over and he has ALMOST lost but will give it “one more shot”. Yes, he gives parish money to help a fisherman who is very sick which is clearly against what a pastor should do; but Fr. Joyce is the kind of priest who thinks more of the people than the surroundings or the rules. Fr. Joyce’s mistake is in becoming too chummy with the parishioners and crossing the boundary between the pastor and his parish.

This movie shows two very different priests: the one who is too conscious of the job and not the vocation and the other who is just a bit too chummy with his townspeople, trying to get them to come back to the church. Both have problems, both are human, but neither are “losers”. Further, ALL priests are not one of these two “types”; just like all homeschoolers are different, all Catholics are different and all people are different – that’s the way God wants it.

The Catholic League review continues:

Viewers learn that the only reason Fr. Keene became a priest is because he
felt guilty about getting a girl pregnant when he was in college; to top things
off, he pressured her to have an abortion.

Yes, Fr. Keene probably does not have a true vocation. He mistakenly not only converts to Catholicism but also becomes a priest based on his guilt over encouraging his girlfriend to have an abortion. As Fr. Joyce points out though, “Being a priest is a privilege not a penance,” a statement that gets Fr. Keene thinking. Showing Fr. Keene as having an impediment to his vows opens the door for possible laicization … at least that’s the way I saw it.

The Catholic League:

Fr. Joyce, the alcoholic, has serious reservations about celibacy and his
idea of heaven is a jolly good Christmas party. Fr. Joyce tells Fr. Keene he
wants to marry a woman named Marjorie so he can help raise her illegitimate kid,
saying he ‘made a vow to God not to the Church.’

Fr. Joyce, the self-sacrificing priest, is not portrayed as an alcoholic but one who goes to the people in the pub to pastor his flock. He does drink but not necessarily to excess and I didn’t get the impression that he was an alcoholic but a priest who drinks with his parishioners as Jesus ate with tax collectors. I took Fr. Joyce’s decision to marry Marjorie as yet another act of self-sacrifice to help his parishioners – she was in trouble, he didn’t want her to abort the baby, so he decides that the only way to help her is to marry her. Fr. Joyce is in a very emotional state at this point – feeling let-down by his Church and vocation – and doesn’t realize the grave mortal sin he’d incur on himself should he leave the priesthood to marry Marjorie as he plainly has a priestly vocation. Nowhere does the movie imply that he is in love with Marjorie or WANTS to leave the priesthood. The “jolly good Christmas party” is because he finally sees his parishioners enjoying working on a Christmas play and he’s happy for them.

The Catholic League review continues:

But Fr. Keene, a first-class klutz, is also in love with the same woman: he
is shown bolting in the middle of Midnight Mass to be with her, knocking over a
filled chalice and ripping off his vestments.

Fr. Keene has been through a very emotional scene where his righteous anger for the corrupting of the innocent gets the better of him. Shortly after that, the movie shifts to Fr. Keene preparing for Midnight Mass and beginning to celebrate Mass. But the scene is one where you can’t determine if he is just starting the consecration or if Jesus is truly present in the body and blood. Reading this portion of the Catholic League review leads you to assume a scene where Mass is full of people, Fr. Keene “flips out”, leaves Mass, spilling the precious Body and Blood. This is not how this scene plays out. Fr. Keene is prepping for Midnight Mass that no one attends. Suddenly, as if the Holy Spirit told Fr. Keene that Marjorie was in trouble and needed help, Fr. Keene leaves the altar – but his spilling of the wine before the consecration would not be a trivialization of the consecration or the transubstantiation.

The Catholic League review concludes:

Throughout the film, confession is trivialized, celibacy is ridiculed, the
Virgin Mary is disrespected, nuns are belittled, last rites are mocked, and
priestly vocations are caricatured. In short, that which is uniquely Catholic is

At this point, I’m not sure the Catholic League and I were watching the same movie.

· Confession is not trivialized but instead the confessional becomes a place of drama where the parishioners feel real remorse and come to confess that they haven’t been true to Fr. Joyce and have let him down. This humbling act is not “trivial”. When the grandmother confesses her hatred of her granddaughter’s seducer, she clearly wants to be absolved of this hatred. Fr. Keene, who is not “a people priest” as he himself explains, does not act appropriately in the confessional, but that’s his character.
· Celibacy is never ridiculed in the version I saw.
· The Blessed Mother is dealt with in Protestant terms or in terms for an unbeliever, which at this point is what Marjorie is. She doesn’t have the faith formation necessary to clearly understand the Catholic doctrine of virgin birth. She is also in highly emotional situation and not thinking clearly.
· When were nuns belittled? If the Catholic League means the scene where Marjorie says “so you can send the baby to a monastery where the nuns never wanted to be mothers”. I took this as Marjorie lashing out and trying to anger Fr. Keene.
· Last rites were not mocked, but Marjorie does make a joke as she tries to lighten the mood whilst recovering from having passed out and while she is in premature labor. How many women in the midst of labor contractions don’t make flippant remarks?

One of the last phrases in the review really got me:

It means nothing that the movie has a pro-life message.

I have to strongly disagree with this comment. I think it means everything that there is a strong pro-life message in this movie marketed to the secular and religious movie-goer. I think it’s very important that this movie shows the guilt the father feels when he talks his partner into an abortion … a guilt that can have life-long consequences, a guilt that is rarely portrayed (but rather, the illegitimate father is usually shown walking away with no feelings of remorse or guilt). I think it’s very important that Marjorie WANTS to keep her baby but doesn’t know how that is possible and feels pushed to abort but stops whenever she sees the priest. I think it’s very important that Fr. Joyce is willing to give up his own wishes, to lay down his life, to save his parishioner from committing a mortal sin.

I’m saddened that so many of my very good Catholic friends and colleagues want to take the Catholic League’s review and decide not to give this movie a chance. So much of the talk on-line about this movie has been so negative and yet no one had seen it. Judging without full knowledge is such a waste … and could cause movies like this one – that is trying to do the good – to flop whilst movies like The Golden Compass are box office hits.

Please understand that this review is MY opinion/interpretation of Noelle. It is far different from the Catholic League review. Your take on the movie may be somewhere in between the two reviews. But don’t just assume …. go see it yourself! I don't think I'd take younger children to see it, but teens and older could take away alot from this movie and be able to "talk to" some interesting questions.

Posted by Mary G at 6:57 AM 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: Catholic League, movies, Noelle, review