The Right Coast

February 29, 2004
Yet more Passion passion
By Tom Smith

Having looked at the criteria in the NCCB guidelines concerning depictions of the Passion and thinking about the Gibson movie, for what it is worth, I'm not sure the movie would get a passing grade. For example, the guidelines suggest or instruct that historical depictions should capture the fact (assuming it was a fact) that the secrecy of Jesus's trial was motivated precisely because of Jesus's popularity in Jerusalem, which hardly comes over in the film. Also, a point I had not thought about, the Nicene Creed explicitly assigns legal responsibility or something like it for the crucifixion to Pilate. It does not say "suffered under the Jews." The movie, as many have noted, goes rather easy on Pilate. It would have been easy enough to make these changes by making the Jewish mob smaller, emphasizing the secrecy of the trial, showing more popular outrage at the result of the trial, and so on. There would have been other reasons for religious Jews to object to this, but it would have made the movie closer to the Catholic version of events. But Mel Gibson is not the usual Catholic, but a member of a schismatic, ultra-traditionalist sect. Non-Catholics need to realize that given that the Church has room for Jesuits on the left and Opus Dei on the right, to feel you have to in effect leave the Church because it is not traditionalist for you, does make you pretty darn extreme.