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Woody Allen the Moralist

To Rome With Love

Who would have thought that Woody Allen, who twenty years ago was separating from his longtime girlfriend to notoriously marry her adopted daughter, would emerge as a defender of what can only be called traditional morality? And yet, I find that conclusion unavoidable after viewing the writer-director’s recent offering, “To Rome With Love.” This film is the latest in a series of Woody Allen movies—“Match Point,” "Vicky Christina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris”—celebrating great European cities, and it shares with the last of those three a certain whimsical surrealism.

“To Rome With Love” presents a number of story lines, none of which interweave at the narrative level, but all of which share a thematic motif, namely, the need to resist those things that would tempt us away from real love. The funniest and most bizarre of Allen’s tales has to do with a very ordinary man, Leopoldo, played by the wonderful Italian character actor Roberto Benigni, who one day inexplicably finds himself the center of intense media attention. As he makes his way to his car, Leopoldo is mobbed by photographers and reporters peppering him with questions about his breakfast preferences and his favorite shaving cream. Everywhere he goes, he is recognized and lionized. Women suddenly appear, offering themselves for his sexual gratification. When he asks one of his colleagues why this is happening, the answer comes: “You’re famous for being famous.” Now at one level, of course, this is a parody of our “breaking news,” celebrity-obsessed, Kardashian culture. But Allen uses this little fantasy to make another, deeper observation. Though put off by many aspects of his “fame,” Leopoldo also becomes addicted to it. When another very ordinary figure suddenly attracts the media spotlight, Leopoldo, lamenting his lost fame, dances on one foot in the middle of a busy intersection just to get people to notice him once more. At this point, the poor man’s wife intervenes, and Leopoldo realizes that his notoriety, superficial and evanescent, is no match for the affection of his wife and children.

Another farcical tale has to do with Milly and Antonio, a newlywed couple from the Italian countryside who have ventured into Rome for their honeymoon. Looking for a hairdresser, Milly gets hopelessly lost and finds herself on the set of a movie starring one of her favorite actors. In short order, the leading man charms her, romances her and leads her back to his hotel room. But before he can complete his seduction, they are held up at gunpoint by a thief who manages to chase the frightened actor away. Dazzled by his looks and by the “excitement” he represents, Milly then gives in and makes love to the thief. Meanwhile, in a case of mistaken identity, the abandoned Antonio meets Anna, a voluptuous prostitute played by Allen favorite Penelope Cruz. Despite his embarrassment and protestations, Antonio gives in to Anna’s charms and allows himself to be seduced. Covered in shame, Milly and Antonio eventually make their way back to their honeymoon hotel suite and admit to one another that they would like to return to their home in the country and raise a family.

In some ways the most conventional of the stories is the one that features Woody Allen himself as a retired opera producer who has come with his wife to Rome to meet the parents of the young man to whom their daughter is engaged. Allen’s character is utterly bored by his future son-in-law’s parents until he hears the father, Giancarlo, singing—like a combination of Caruso and Pavarotti—in the shower. When he presses the man to share his gift with the wider world, he is met with complete resistance. When Giancarlo gives in and agrees to audition, he fails to impress. Finally, it dawns on the opera impresario that the man can sing well only in the shower. That light bulb having gone off, Allen’s character arranges for him to sing publicly, but in a makeshift shower! Giancarlo gives a triumphant performance in Pagliacci, and it appears as though fame and fortune await. But upon reading the reviews with pleasure, the man refuses to tour and eagerly returns to his ordinary employment as an undertaker and to the embrace of his family.

These various characters confront, in all of their vivid and seductive power, fame, sex, pleasure, and material success. In each case, moreover, the embrace of these things would involve the compromising of some unglamorous but stable and life-giving relationship. Thomas Aquinas said that the happy life is the one that remains centered on love, for love is what God is. Furthermore, he argued that the unhappy life is one that becomes centered on the great substitutes for love, which are wealth, pleasure, power and honor. What I found utterly remarkable about “To Rome With Love” is how its writer and director consistently and energetically insisted that simple love should triumph over glitz, glamor and ephemeral pleasure. I’m entirely aware that Woody Allen’s private life leaves quite a bit to be desired from a moral standpoint, but in regard to the fundamental message of “To Rome With Love,” Aquinas couldn’t have said it better.

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Abe Rosenzweig

    Does it matter if a movie "defends traditional morality," especially in a very pat way, if it just isn't very good? A movie can be heartwarming and provide some simple lessons, but it really only works if those elements emerge naturally from what is already a strong movie. I don't consider moralism to be a saving grace of a bad movie; if anything, it makes it worse. (I confess that I'm taking it for granted that everyone recognizes that this movie is a dud)

    • BrianKillian

      I doubt that a Woody Allen movie would defend traditional morality in a pat way. First of all, it's not pat because I don't think Allen's purpose was in defending 'traditional morality'. Fr. Barron is just saying that it inadvertently does.

      Those movies that are made by that Baptist church-- Fireproof and the other ones--now those are pat! But an Allen film, not so much.

      • Abe Rosenzweig

        Woody Allen is actually really skilled at presenting very basic moral quandaries in a compelling way (e.g., Crimes and Misdemeanors), and I do not think that he is setting out to DEFEND a moral position in this movie. So, yes, you provide good clarification in spelling out that it is Barron who is taking a theme from the movie and making it an active aim of Allen's. There is an basic trope to the movie that Woody's grandparents probably could have expressed with a pithy Yiddish shprikhvort--and that" what Barron is observing. The problem is that, unlike with, say, Crimes, this time Allen just didn't embed that trope in a good movie. Which is to say that it is not simple in a compelling way, but simple in a way that seems half-baked.

    • Raphael

      A critically-acclaimed blockbuster does not ennoble any depictions of immorality, either.

  • Sqrat

    Thomas Aquinas said that the happy life is the one that remains centered on love, for love is what God is.

    Isn't one of the main elements of "traditional morality" that two spouses should remain married, even if neither loves the other any more?

    • Vasco Gama

      Don't restrain yourself, you can take a wild guess, or even consider both answers, like yes or no, then follow it with your own thoughts. That would be nice, and you could actually say something meaningful.

      • David Nickol

        Now, now. It seems clear enough to me that Sqrat is asking a rhetorical question, and his point is clear. "Traditional morality" as Fr. Barron defines it often requires people to avoid or abandon a "stable and life-giving relationship" for the sake of "the rules." For example, after a disastrous first marriage, not even a "stable and life-giving relationship" is permitted. A same-sex couple is not allowed to have a "stable and life-giving" relationship, and the Church has waged and is waging a battle to try to prevent the legal support for same-sex relationships. Giving up fame and fortune for love is a "traditional" theme, but I wouldn't call it "traditional morality." I am sure Woody Allen would count his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn as a "stable and life-giving relationship," but "traditional morality" would condemn it.

        • Vasco Gama

          My answer was also a rethorical (no big deal).

          Are you suggesting that the Church is not entitled to express an opinion, or that it could only be justified if it was similar to yours, or that it should please Catholics, or atheists, or agnostics, or that the Church should please people for the sake of agreement, and would it be rational to expect that, in doing so, the Church would be unfaithful to the principles it teaches. Does this make any sense at all (even remotely).

          • David Nickol

            My answer was also a rethorical (no big deal).

            Your response was sarcastic and, as we say, snarky. You didn't address Sqrat's point. You just took a swipe at him personally.

            Are you suggesting that the Church is not entitled to express an opinion . . . .

            I am not suggesting any of the notions you mention. What I said (not merely suggested) was the following:

            "Traditional morality" as Fr. Barron defines it often requires people to avoid or abandon a "stable and life-giving relationship" for the sake of "the rules."

            Would you disagree with that?

          • Vasco Gama

            My answer was so sarcastic, or has you say snarky, as the question. My point is that you can discuss whatever you want without unnecessary provocation, but if that is considered a privilege of few, I beg to differ (I can be as rude as anyone else, it is really not very complicated, although you may think otherwise).

            When you mention to what Barron defines:

            "Traditional morality" as Fr. Barron defines it often requires people to avoid or abandon a "stable and life-giving relationship" for the sake of "the rules."

            In no way Barron suggests that people must abandon or avoid “stable and life-giving relationship” in no way you can put it like that, unless if you deliberately want to twist what he actually says to include what you think is morally justifiable. As in reality your claim is slightly broader than that, and I can quote you:

            «"Traditional morality" as Fr. Barron defines it often requires people to avoid or abandon a "stable and life-giving relationship" for the sake of "the rules." For example, after a disastrous first marriage, not even a "stable and life-giving relationship" is permitted. A same-sex couple is not allowed to have a "stable and life-giving" relationship, and the Church has waged and is waging a battle to try to prevent the legal support for same-sex relationships. Giving up fame and fortune for love is a "traditional" theme, but I wouldn't call it "traditional morality"»

            Now it seems to me that your definition of a “stable and life-giving relationship” is not nearly the same thing that Barron would consider. And it is in this sense that I said that it would be to expect to be rational that the Church is entitled to express its opinion, and further that the Church must be faithful to its teaching. Of course you are obliged to agree with the Church (nor anybody else that doesn’t agree with the Church).

            To what I agree or disagree is in no way relevant to this discussion (which is that the Church must be coherent with the doctrine, not really if you like it, or should accept it).

          • David is absolutely right, Vasco. The Church's "traditional morality" would insist that abandon my relationship with my same-sex fiance.

            And if Barron had the temerity to say this is not a "stable and life-giving relationship," he would simply be wrong.

          • Vasco Gama

            Yes Rob, you are right, the Church would have to say (and insist) that you should abandon that relationship (as it is not a stable and live-giving relationship, in the perspective of the Church, in the sense of the Church considering a damaging relationship for those that are somehow related to it).

            Your point is that in your opinion Barron would be wrong, but that is your opinion, as far as I can say the opinion of the Church is irrelevant for that (and the Church has no power on that matter), and I hope you wouldn't find reasonable to expect that the Church would bless that relationship (or that the Church should be indifferent, as it contradicts everything the Church teaches).

          • I don't expect the Church to bless it any time soon, but it doesn't contradict "everything" the Church teaches, and in fact is buttressed by some things taught by the Church, such as Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

            Eventually the Church may realize it has been wrong. Certainly other Christian denominations have gone that way. But I don't expect it any time soon.

          • Vasco Gama

            I guess you are being overoptimistic on the expectation that the Church might change its opinion. That is just not what the Church has been doing lately.

          • rocco vicenti

            Eccl. 4:9-12 does not sanction "same sex marriage nor does it condone polygamy. It simply speaks to the value of friendship. You take this out of context to support your belief that same sex marriage or homosexual activity is approved in the bible.
            Verse 8 speaks of one who has to one, either son or brother. That is where 9-12 speaks of friendship and not sexual activity between persons of the same gender

          • Yeah, I get it. Christians all over the world work this verse into their wedding ceremonies, but when same-sex couples say it's the same for us, suddenly we hear, "No, that's about friendship!"

          • David Nickol

            Of course the Church can claim it never opposes a "stable, life-giving relationship" if the Church gets to define same-sex relationships, or second marriages, or marriages by priests as not being "life-giving." (Presumably the Catholic Church does not pretend to have its own definition of "stable.") The Church can say that a relationship, no matter how stable and life-giving, is not "life-giving" if it breaks a rule of "traditional morality."

            Suppose we have a man and a woman who are married and have five children, who love and support each other and their children, and both rely on each other and cannot imagine what they would do without each other. However, their marriage is purely a civil one, because the wife was previously married in the Church to another man, and was unable to get an annulment because the marriage was considered valid even though it ended disastrously. Now however "stable and life-giving" the second marriage appears to all observers, it is not considered stable and life-giving by the Church. But suppose one thing changes. Suppose the woman's first husband dies. Amazingly, the second marriage that was not "life-giving" is suddenly (by a Church wedding) rendered "life-giving." Now, what is the difference between the two phases of the relationship—the one with the first husband alive, and the one with the first husband dead? There is no difference at all between the phases of the relationship, except that in second phase, no "rule" is being broken.

            Say the married couple lived in Chicago and the first husband lived in Beijing, China, and they never communicated. Nevertheless, the death of the first husband somehow changes the nature of the relationship in the eyes of the Church. But of course in reality, nothing about the relationship itself changes. So what sense does it make to say the relationship before the death of the first husband is not "life-giving" and after the death of the husband is "life-giving."

          • Vasco Gama

            The teachings of the Church are quite clear (not really unclear, dubious or discretionary as you seem to suggest), and are obeyed freely by those who consider themselves faithful to the Church. There are norms of behavior that people transgress when they can’t help it, and the Church has procedures to deal with those cases. But people remain free to do whatever they consider reasonable and the dispositions of the Church are not mandatory (in no possible way) to those that don’t belong to the community of the Church. Still the Church and the believers are allowed (for the time being) to have an opinion, and that opinion doesn’t have to fit into the particular desires of anyone, a believer or a non-believer.

            Then if you want to claim that such and such situation must be morally acceptable, or that such and such behavior must be blessed, or recognized by the Church, where such and such situations and behaviors clearly contradict the Church doctrine and teachings that is absurd and irrational. The Church as no power to dictate what is moral or what type of situation must be recognized by the society, although for the time being the opinion of those faithful to the Church is somehow considered (where that consideration exits and is resumed, in the real world, as they are still able to vote in the elections).

            I will not address your examples, in spite of its appeal, as I am no authority to declare what the Church should or should not do, but that wouldn’t be very difficult to do, it is not really like they are complex dilemmas that you seem to imagine. The Church must acknowledge and respect the dignity of persons, which includes the respect for their freely assumed choices in life, and the responsibilities that go along with it. These doesn’t mean at all that people can be regarded has being irrational, or possessing no free will. Such as in marriage, if one assumes a commitment with another person for life in marrying her within the Church (that is also a commitment with God), the person is bound for life with this commitment (not just to the other person but also to God), and knows that it is like that. But you don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it. Eventually you may find reasonable to claim that you are fed up with whatever you gave your word for, you are free to do whatever you want. But then it is unreasonable to expect that everybody else should agree with you.

          • David Nickol

            I will not address your examples . . . .

            Then you will not address the issue of whether the Church requires people to forgo or abandon "stable and life-giving relationship[s]," which is the issue that I was addressing.

          • Sqrat

            Assuming "stable and life-giving relationship" to be synonymous with "marriage," the Church requires Father Barron himself to forego either that, or his chosen calling.

          • Vasco Gama

            While the woman is married she must be faithful to their commintment, but, in the meanwhile she had childrean with another man (as you suggest), I guess that she should remain it that situation (which is still disordered) and assume her new family living as if she was married (probably insisting with demand of the anulement). This would not change that the fact that what she had done was wrong, in the first place, and that she had to deal with it (being in fault with God anyway), in this way she would prevent other errors, and from causing harm to her children and to the man with whom she had the relationship.
            In the case of the death of the first spouse, she could consider marrying with the other man.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Vasco Gama:

            "But people remain free to do whatever they consider reasonable and the dispositions of the Church are not mandatory (in no possible way) to
            those that don’t belong to the community of the Church."

            Not any more, and despite the opposition of the Church to that freedom. This is like lauding the Confederacy for the fact that slavery was abolished, or praising the Communist Party for Poland being a democracy.

          • Vasco Gama

            That is a little off topic. But then maybe you would be so kind in providing facts, dates and locations that can support your statement (besides your personal impressions and the twisted and absurd notion of history you seem to hold).

            Besides maybe also you would be kind in trying to justify or produce any rational explanation concerning the many crimes committed by atheist regimes and individuals throughout history.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Not trying to deal with the whole scope of the crimes and misdemeanors of either the Catholic Church or "atheist " regimes; just divorce and remarriage, as that's what the subject under discussion was.

            The Catholic Church has everywhere, as far as I know, opposed liberalization of laws concerning divorce and remarriage and has attempted to use it's political influence to oppose this. It's acceptance of more tolerant laws has always been under protest and in recognition of it's viewpoint as being that of a minority.

            Now, there's nothing wrong with that- the Catholic Church has a right to an opinion on such matters, just as it does on the economy (and cheers to Pope Francis for his recent condemnations of the unrestrained market).

            But since it has opposed such measures until bowing before force majeure, it has no right to claim credit for itself for the happy state of tolerance that then results- any more than I could congratulate myself on dropping abortion rates that were caused by new laws closing clinics, and which I opposed.

          • Vasco Gama

            It seems that you defend the right to divorce and remarry, but these things are not accepted by the Church. As you have the right to stand for your opinion the Church and the believers have the right to disagree, and to defend their opinions. At least in democratic regimes that guarantee this right of one having opinions and defending those opinions.

            In the Church perspective the marriages are commitments for life, not just the product of a temporal disposition. In these sense it would be odd that the Church didn’t defend his view, or assist with indifference to the rules society impose on the individual persons, the Church thinks that his thoughts on these normative issues is the one that is correct and the one that better contributes for a good and meaningful life for humans, so it only natural that the Church is committed to defend its point of view.

            Tolerance doesn’t mean indifference to what is wrong (that is the new proposed meaning that is emerging in modern societies). And the Church can’t be indifferent, even at the cost of not being popular, but then being popular is no goal to the church (and has no significance).

            In the end I am not sure about your claim, are you claiming that the Church can have an opinion, but then it would be better if it behaved as if the Church didn’t possess the right to have an opinion (I am not sure about the rationality and coherence of this thought).

    • Randy Gritter

      Yes, but what is love? When a married couple says they don't love each other anymore they are talking about a feeling. What St Thomas refers to is an act of the will. Willing the good of the other as other. A husband and wife can do this even without the feelings of love.

      The feelings might come back after a time. We can do things to manipulate them. They are important but not the center. A marriage vow is there precisely to say I will love you when my feelings are absent. Even when I may have feelings for another, I will love you with my will. We cannot promise feelings. We can only make promises about our choices.

      • Abe Rosenzweig

        I kind of imagine Woody Allen stepping out suddenly and saying, "I head what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!" Because whatever moral nugget may be floating around in "To Rome With Love," it surely has no business being spun into anything like what you're saying.

      • Sqrat

        I think that the traditional morality that Father Barron refers to would absolutely deny "Willing the good of the other as other" in a case where two spouses each agreed that their respective "goods" would be furthered by an amicable divorce.

        As David Nickol elegantly points out, when willing the good of the other as other comes into conflict with "the rules", the rules win.

      • David Nickol

        Even when I may have feelings for another, I will love you with my will. We cannot promise feelings. We can only make promises about our choices.

        Of course, the Church doesn't prohibit divorce. It prohibits remarriage. Interestingly, one of the requirements for seeking an annulment is that the couple already be civilly divorced.

        The kind of "love" you are talking about is expected of all people for all other people. Soldiers fighting a (just) war are expected to love the enemy they are shooting at with this kind of love. I would certainly agree that married couples must take their vows very seriously, but if they can't stand the sight of each other, and saying "I love you" actually means "I can't stand the sight of you but I will good for you," they probably ought to divorce!

        (There is a memorable line from Ruthless People, when the Danny DeVito character is talking about his wife [played by Bette Midler]: "God, I hate that woman. I - I - I hate the way she licks stamps!" Of course, if DeVito had read Thomas Aquinas, he could still have said "I love you" with a straight face.)

        • Loreen Lee

          What about the concept of annulment? What becomes of the status of children if any were conceived? Do they suddenly become 'born out of wedlock'. On a superficial view at least, it seems a bit like a denial of 'fact'. Looks good on paper though, I guess.

          • David Nickol

            The explanation I have read is that if the parents were legally married (which I think nowadays would always be the case), the children were born in a legal marriage and are legitimate (legally). Also, Canon 1137 says, "Children who are conceived or born of a valid or of a putative marriage are legitimate." Before an annulment, it seems to me, a marriage is "putative." So it would appear illegitimacy can't be "backdated." However, if the parents of illegitimate children marry, the children do become legitimate. So legitimacy can be gained but not lost.

            It used to be an impediment to ordination for a man to have been born out of wedlock, but this changed in the 1983 Code, under which legitimate and illegitimate children are treated equally. So it would appear the question of illegitimacy is purely a legal one. Theoretically, Catholics who divorce and remarry without annulments and then have children are not married in the eyes of the Church, but since they are married in the eyes of the law, their children are legitimate. And I can't think of a way that being born out of wedlock today can be used against a person, so it is of little consequence. Since 41% of children born in the United States are born out of wedlock, if legitimacy were important for things like jobs, acceptance in schools, ordination, and so on, I think it would be a huge issue. For all those things, it seems to make no difference.

            Of course, I do think it is a social catastrophe that so many children are born out of wedlock, since one-parent households have all kinds of problems. This is one reason why I find it bizarre that so much effort is expended by some trying to prevent same-sex marriage, allegedly for the sake of children, when there are huge numbers of children being raised by single parents, and this scarcely seems to bother anyone.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you, David Nickol for such a thorough reply. The annulment, then I now understand, is related only to the sacred aspect of the marriage, which would allow remarriage, within the existing parameters of the Church.. If the legal and the sacred can however, be distinguished in such a way that maintains the legitimacy of possible offspring, could not a similar distinction be applied in the case of same sex marriage. This would imply for me a real separation of church and state, would allow a same sex couple to have all the legal aspects, including economic benefits, that accrue to a secular definition, and yet the sacredness of the Catholic marriage would remain 'intact'.

            I remember when I first encountered the change in the ten commandments, (very early in Church history I understand) which to me has a similar kind of legalism attached to it. I believe it was the fourth commandment that was eliminated, (thou shalt have no strange gods before me, i.e. idolatry) the missing commandment being 'accounted' for by breaking the tenth commandment into two parts. Well, I guess if this was not done we would not have had a Michael Angelo, but still, these examples of legality strike me a bit as being motivated by some kind of 'convenience'. (May not be correct word). Whatever. In both cases, however, I do feel that the definition is not somehow based on something 'substantial'.

            But, thank you. I never expected such a thorough reply.

            ,

  • Zxenia Cvenka

    We all seek a family unit where we are loved and can love in return. We all need to feel our contributions to those with whom we live in community are valued. I do not think these things are traditional or moral as much as they are transcendant. They remain true across culture and throughout time. While they are important in religion and find context within people's conception of deity and morality, they are no less foundational in the lives of those who reject or do not experience exposure to God and religion.

    Saying, "Oh look! even the Godless lecher Woody Allen supports traditional Christian morality." Is putting the cart before the horse. Everybody wants to be secure, supported, loved and valued. It has nothing to go with God and everything to do with the universal human condition.

    Father Barron attempts to capture the whole World in a cage and then proclaim, "Look! I have isolated the meaning of life." He is disingenuous, craven.

  • ColdStanding

    Making movies is a lot like professional poker, a pass-time elevated to supposed serious pursuit because there is stupid amounts of money on the table in which everybody looses. A sober assessment of the situation would suggest that one's resources, time for instance, are better used elsewhere.

    Like in prayer.

    Now, both make use of imagination, 'tis true, save that in prayer the imagination allows the higher to act upon it (lift our hearts to the Lord, etc.). In the making of movies, and the writing of fiction, the imagination's purpose is diverted to giving expression to the (frequently found to be vile condition of the) heart. Prayer is the end-directed reason for being of the imagination, when oriented towards God. Movies are the perverted use of the imagination in service of Mammon.

    Aside: Christianity is the coffee beans-to-the-nose of the human reason. It has a wonderful way of affording a contrasting sensation that clears the reason of so much distortion.

    • Paul Boillot

      Two questions:
      1) Do you discount *all* art?
      2) What about "The Passion of the Christ?"

      • ColdStanding

        Please keep in mind that the approach I use to living my Christian vocation is best thought of as cultivation. I am a cultivator. Christianity began to blossom for me when I grasped it in terms of cultivation. Cultivation is the model of the seed time and the harvest.

        Faith is gained through hearing. That is the medium in which faith lives. Jesus Christ isn't called the movie of God or the handwriting of God, but the Word of God. You listen to words. The Word of God is sown different types of ground. This refers to your senses. The sense most receptive to it's growth is hearing.

        Preparatory remarks submitted, I now proceed to addressing your specific questions. As to the first, nothing gets a free pass for me. If that be discounting, so be it. As to the second, I have never watched it, mostly because a) I have developed a spiritual allergy to movies and b) what presentations I have seen of the Gospels frequently miss the mark. The method best suited to the books in the bible is lectio divina because it engages the human being body with the soul in mind. Movies can't do that.

        It's a narrow path. You need to be prudent in what you give your time to. Movies, tv, most (for me all) fiction/novels, most music is counter productive.

        • Paul Boillot

          Before we go any further, Cold, I just want to say that I'm really pushing back hard against the thought that you're a troll making a caricature out of the worst parts of Catholicism.

          I wouldn't be able to fight that interpretation unless I had, as a child, gone on retreats with religious adults who would show the children movies during free time by fast-forwarding (VHS) through the parts they thought were unCatholic/evil.

          The Lion King can be a pretty short movie if you skip through the 'bad' parts.

          You answered my second question to my satisfaction, but not my first.

          You believe that all "video art" is evil, most books and most music?

          • ColdStanding

            Would you fault someone for learning to play the ancient Greek kithara when everyone else is learning to play the modern guitar? These writings need someone that can cross over the ocean and bring them back. I have learnt how to unpack them, to unfold the entailments. How is that a fault? A good portion of the writings of the Church are packed away in Greek and Latin. A modern western person would have to learn the language in order to read the originals. But it is much more than just reading the language. One must learn how to read these things in the Light of Christ. Abbot Anscar Vonier writes extensively on this subject. Seeing as it is a learnt language for me and the subject is obscure to moderns, it is a normal reaction on your part to consider my speech as stilted. It is. Is that a fault? I don't think so, but then I am not hostile to it.

            For me, then, in my "yes" to God's gift of the vast Roman Catholic Christian heritage, I have had to "sell" all that I have. That means willingly mortifying the inclinations of my self (fasting from movies, tv, news, novels, most graphic art save icons, casual conversation, and on and on) in favor of the soul that animates it. For these things I avoid are frequently inimical to the life of the soul.

  • MichaelNewsham

    These various characters confront, in all of their vivid and seductive
    power, fame, sex, pleasure, and material success. In each case,
    moreover, the embrace of these things would involve the compromising of
    some unglamorous but stable and life-giving relationship.

    Yes, as a young man I avidly pursued the above (except material success, never much interested) but now, like Woody Allen, I am content to defend sitting at home at night with my wife and enjoying some unglamorous but stable and live-giving relationships- yet somehow I'm unable to convince my 20-something-year-old sons to see it the same way.

    I believe it's called "growing old".

  • Roseanne Sullivan

    To me, it is a "strange notion" to claim Woody Allen as a moralist on par with St. Thomas Aquinas. Frankly, I am surprised that Fr. Barron watched and then reviewed favorably an R rated movie. Shouldn't Catholics have custody of the eyes? Shouldn't we make it a practice not to watch movies that show immorality? Don't we have better uses for our time? As another commenter seems to have implied, just because a movie closes with a "moral" resolution that doesn't make watching the immorality less sinful as it is surely an occasion of sin. Besides I think it's immoral to support the movie industry's exploitation of "sexy" women like Penelope Cruz. Not to mention that I personally would not ever contribute a single penny to end up in immoralist Woody Allen's pocket. And for another thing, I've never seen a Woody Allen movie I liked. :-)

    • vito

      So I am confused, have you or have you not watched Woody Allen movies? Because you say that you have not seen a Woody Allen movie you liked. Which means that you have watched a number, and which in turn means that you HAVE contributed money to "immoralist Woody Allen's pocket". Unless you downloaded them illegally.
      Second, what do you mean by "movies that show immorality"? You cannot watch any movie that shows any immoral behavior? That pretty much excludes any serious movie, at least I cannot recall a movie that would show only moral behavior... Man, that would be boring. So no war movies, no violence, to crime, no serious drama...? You are excluding every great movie ever made. Godfather and Schindler's list etc etc. Or do you mean by "immorality" just people having sex? In that regard Woody Allen is one of very few prominent directors who never shows any open sex scenes or nudity.

      • Roseanne Sullivan

        I used to watch Woody Allen movies because my husband liked him. I should have said I stopped contributing money to Allen's pocket after the whole scandal with Mia Farrow and the woman who is now Allen's legal wife. Yes, I guess you found me out, vito, I can hypocritically handle violence in movies, but not sexual immorality. Go figure. But I don't watch many movies any more. I like the animated ones out of Pixar and Dreamworks, movies like Finding Nemo. I like the Lord of the Rings, the Narnia movies, the Hobbit, even though the battle scenes bore me. Actually, I don't think people who are trying to live moral Christian lives should fill their eyes and minds with things that are not moral. Movies still have a lot of "peep show" in them . . ..

  • Roseanne Sullivan

    Sqrat wrote: "Isn't one of the main elements of "traditional morality" that two spouses should remain married, even if neither loves the other any more?" Marriage is a sacrament that joins a man and a woman together for life. Marriage is more than a feeling; it's a vowed commitment to permanence and faithfulness. We don't stop loving our children even if they disappoint us, and our spouses are similarly flesh of our flesh. A woman's husband does not stop being her husband when they are no longer "in love." Love is unconditional. There is no such thing as an end to a valid marriage. So, the answer is "yes," because the point of marriage is not the kind of love you are talking about. Married love is a generous love that wished the well-being of the other more than ourselves, a love that lays down its life for the other.