PopeWatch: Philomena


Pope Francis has met Philomena Lee:

Philomena Lee, the real-life woman behind the hit movie “Philomena,” got an ending to her story today that even Hollywood could not write, a meeting with Pope Francis.

Lee, 80, traveled to Rome at the invitation of the Vatican to meet the Pope, the head of the same Catholic Church that, six decades ago, forced her to give up her baby son for adoption by an American family because she was an unwed mother.

“Thank you. I’m very happy to meet you,” Lee said, touching the hand of the leader of the faithful.

Back in 1952, Lee was 18 years old, unmarried and pregnant. She gave birth to a son in an Irish home for unwed mothers and, told what she had done was shameful, was forced to give up her son, whom she named Anthony, three years after his birth.

For 50 years afterward, she would periodically return to the home to try to get word of her son, but she never told anyone else about what happened because she felt ashamed.

Later on in life, Lee enlisted the help of BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith to track Anthony down. Their search led them to the United States, where she learned that her son had died nine years earlier of AIDS.

The Vatican has indicated that Pope Francis will not view the film Philomena, which is a good thing because it is a lying, manipulative piece of anti-Catholic propaganda.  Too harsh?  Let Kyle Smith, the atheist ex-Catholic film reviewer for the New York Post, do the honors:

With “Philomena,” British producer-writer-star Steve Coogan and director Stephen Frears hit double blackjack, finding a true-life tale that would enable them to simultaneously attack Catholics and Republicans.

There’s no other purpose to the movie, so if 90 minutes of organized hate brings you joy, go and buy your ticket now.

For the rest of us, the film is a witless bore about a ninny and a jerk having one of those dire, heavily staged, only-in-movies odd-couple road trips. Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, a disgraced ex-government flack, journalist and pompous intellectual who, after getting fired, learns at a party about a human-interest story that might jump-start his career. It’s the woeful tale of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a woman of about 70 who, 50 years ago in Catholic Ireland, gave up for adoption a son born out of wedlock.

Frears (the director of “The Queen”) and Coogan revel in the details. When Lee, then 18, started to gain weight after a sweet evening with a boy at a carnival, she didn’t even know the term “pregnant.” She was sent off to an abbey to give birth in secrecy and shame, with the son, at age 3, given up for adoption. The film can’t quite decide whether the young mother was forced to give up her son Anthony; it makes as look as though she was, but also includes a scene in which contemporary Philomena adamantly denies coercion.

The film doesn’t mention that in 1952 Ireland, both mother and child’s life would have been utterly ruined by an out-of-wedlock birth and that the nuns are actually giving both a chance at a fresh start that both indeed, in real life, enjoyed. No, this is a diabolical-Catholics film, straight up.

Go here to the New York Post to read the rest.  After the US distributor of the film Harvey Weinstein attacked his review, Kyle Smith returned to the subject in an addendum to his review:

My inbox is full of e-mail from fans of the film saying “a) how dare you ding it for being anti-Catholic when b) the Catholic Church is so transparently evil?”

We all know how cruel it was for the mid-century Catholic Church to provide shelter for scorned women written off as dead by their families, help them give birth to their children and place the adoptees in loving homes. Today we’d be much more compassionate: We’d simply abort all those kids. Problem solved!

Today’s Philomenas don’t have to wonder what happened to their babies. They’re out back, in the Dumpster. But better that than growing up to be a Republican.

This film is yet another episode in Hollywood’s long history of grubbing for awards based on claims of historical and sociopolitical importance, then sheepishly claiming dramatic license when things don’t hold up to scrutiny. If key underlying facts are wrong, how well does the conclusion hold up?

The film gives the false impression that Philomena’s son was (as Sixsmith put it in an article he wrote for, yes, The Daily Mail, “Stolen from his mother — and sold to the highest bidder”). It also claims the nuns burned all records to cover up what they’d done.

Dench even says, in an introduction to the book the film is based on, that you, Philomena, were “forced” to give up your child. Dench has already forgotten her line in the film, “No one coerced me. I signed of my own free will.” The audience will forget she said that too, since the rest of “Philomena” creates the strong impression that you, Philomena, were coerced into giving your son up for adoption.

As for the “sold to the highest bidder” claim, Sister Julie Rose, assistant congregation leader for the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Roscrea, Ireland, has replied (in the magazine The Tablet) that no money was accepted for adoptions and the order didn’t destroy any records.

If, like ex-BBC man Sixsmith and the filmmakers, you’re going to accuse people of wrongdoing, I’m afraid the burden of proof is on you, and Sixsmith’s book on the matter, which reads like a novel, is hardly convincing. It contains long stretches of seemingly invented dialogue supposedly spoken more than 50 years ago by people now dead and offers no footnotes or source notes.

It starts with a weaselly disclaimer about situations being “reconstructed to the best of my ability,” along with a cheeky confession that “gaps have been filled, characters extrapolated and incidents surmised.” (Who knew the BBC’s journalism department had a “reconstruct to the best of your ability” subdivision?)

It’s also unlikely the movie’s villain, Sister Hildegard McNulty, met with Sixsmith after he started working on the story in 2004, since she died in 1995. It’s therefore even more unlikely that she denounced you, Philomena, as yielding to “carnal” desires at that nonexistent meeting.

Nor am I entirely convinced, Philomena, that the people who (unlike you) actually made the film meant it as something other than an attack. In an interview with The Telegraph, director Frears boasted that during the film’s debut at the Venice Film Festival, “the Coogan’s character’s explosive howl of ‘f – – – ing Catholics!’ ” won “a big round of applause.” This prompted an ebullient Frears to ask Coogan, “Can’t we repeat that line?” Coogan wouldn’t — he was afraid of catching hell from his parents, who raised him Catholic.

Go here to the New York Post to read the rest.    The enemies of Catholicism love to attack our vices but what they really despise are our virtues.  What is attacked in Philomena is the efforts of the Church in Ireland in the fifties to help unwed mothers and to find good homes for the children of women who could manifestly not take care of them.  (Good background is given by Bill Donohue of  The Catholic League in his Myths of the Magdalene Laundries.  Go here to read it.)  Before the advent of the welfare states of the West, the death throes of which we are currently living through, it was the churches, and above all the Church, that stepped into the breach and helped the unwanted, and no one was traditionally more unwanted than an unmarried woman with a child.  PopeWatch’s sainted mother came into this Vale of Tears an illegitimate child in 1936, her mother having been seduced and abandoned.  Her mother went out to work, while her grandmother raised her.  In time her mother would marry a tough longshoreman who would be a true and loving father to her and a true and loving grandfather to her eventual two sons, but before he appeared life was quite rough financially.  Where women lacked such family support it was the Church, and often only the Church, that stood between women and their children and a life, often a short one, of destitution out on the streets.    Today of course the Church is no longer needed so long as the welfare checks keep coming and the abortion clinics keep slicing and dicing, and the enemies of the Church pillory her for her good works and defame sisters and nuns, usually long dead, who gave their lives in service to God and to their neighbors.  The Pope did a good deed by meeting Philomena Lee.  He did a better deed by refusing to view the atrocious film named after her.

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  1. Two things: these people need to attack Holy Mother Church because she stands in their way; and supplies of hateful, ignorant people are constantly expanding:

    The latest tact: All Day Pre-K for three-year-olds on. Start the brainwashing early.

  2. In a complete reversal of the soul-less collectivism of Communism, the West has taken up a radical individualism in which each individual is viewed as totally isolated from anyone else except of course the State. What we are witnessing is at least an attempt to completely eradicate each and every intermediate community-such as the family [note T Shaw’s remarks-soon children will be seen as the State’s from birth]. The State has already all but destroyed marriage/family on paper. For some time now the West has viewed Catholics as having rights (for example to worship-if, as the State views it, they are so unenlightened) but the State is out to eradicate the Church-as a visible community, with its own governance, beliefs, moral standards etc.

    “Philomena” is only the most recent of anti-Catholic movies and other propaganda pieces

  3. Botolph,
    The radical individualism of which you speak is increasingly concentrated in social mores and the changing legal landscape that reflects those mores; not in economic matters, It never occurs to the Left that sexual license and other forms of imprudence they celebrate generate collateral social damage in the form of horrible economic consequences for the vulnerable, especially children. Yet they do, and we try fecklessly to compensate for such imprudence by increasingly using tax and regulatory powers to become a paternalistic state. In other words, we are becoming simultaneously economically paternalistic and socially radically individualistic, a recipe for unhappiness and bankruptcy.

  4. I should add that one reason some of us who visit this forum are episodically discomforted by statements attributed to our Holy Father is that he *seems* to focus more on the virtures of a paternalistic state than on the malignancy of a radically individualistic sexual and social culture. I have no brief against some measure of state economic paternalism, but today a rapidly increasing paternalism is serving to reinforce an incrasingly radical sexual/social individualism that causes the very hardships which create the impulse for more paternalism and so on. I truly wonder whether he recognizes this perverse loop. Free societies will always struggle with how best to exercise its libertarian and communitarian impulses, and there is no perfect formula. But the worst possible combination is one that is communitarian in ensuring economic safety nets and libertarian in ensuring unlimited social choices.

  5. Mike Petrik,

    Let me first say, that it has been established that the phrase “trickle-down economics” in the recent Pastoral Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium was created by the English translator and not by the Pope himself-thus giving substance to the old phrase: Every translator is a traitor. Perhaps, what the pope was saying in his original Spanish however would not give some people much comfort however. But what often is forgotten is that the Church’s positions are not based on a particular form of government, politics, ideology or economic theory. The Church is sui generis. It sojourns in this world. Sometimes as a resident alien, not quite at home and not quite fitting in with the paradigm at work at the time. At other times we are closer to exiles far away from our homeland, remembering the songs of Zion in a foreign land. The Church in the West has been a resident alien for the most part-certainly not quite at home etc yet nevertheless recognizing many commonalities with the surrounding culture. We are fast become exiles in the West.

    Just as we fundamentally believe that ‘man’ is ‘body and soul’ [spiritual beings, embodied souls], man and woman [gendered and not neutral] so too we believe ‘man’ to be both individual and social. “Man’ is not simply an individual without any connection etc nor is he simply a member of the collective without any individuality etc. From this, the Church recognizes that beginning with the family all the way up to ‘the nations (peoples) of the earth’ man is not only social but has the right to associate and organize himself for the sake of ‘the common good’ [this is key phrase]

    What many on all sides of the spectrum on these issues might not recognize is that the Social teachings of the Church beginning with Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII leading right up to the latest social teaching of Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate put forth certain principles based on natural law (or as it is more commonly called these days ‘human ecology’) but these are not put forth in a vacuum. They need to be read against the background of all the social magisterium and of course the broader magisterium of the Church. For example, later encyclicals offer ‘course corrections’ or ‘nuances’ to earlier encyclicals-not in contradiction to them, but recognizing that some aspect of the full truth was not explained fully or had been overlooked etc. For example, due to his resources Pope Leo XIII had a certain reading of John Locke ( a pretty positive one) which needed to be adjusted by Pope Pius XI’s Quadragessimo Anno (On the Fortieth Year of Rerum Novarum].
    The call for the State to become involved in the cause of the poor (Rerum Novarum) needed to be balanced with a call for subsidiarity in Quadragessimo Anno [not contradicted-balanced] Pope Paul VI in his Populorum Progressio 1967 called for ‘the development of people’ and that the world economy should serve mankind and not just the few. All sorts of people ran with that-I probably don’t have to tell you that lol Interestingly, on the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, Blessed John Paul in 1987 wrote Sollicitudo rei socialis in which he excoriates both communism and capitalism hinting that there has to be a third way for the Church and mankind. However, by 1991, when Blessed John Paul wrote Centissimus Annus, on the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, communism in Europe had fallen etc. and the Church was once again faced with ‘new things’ [rerum novarum]. In that encyclical Blessed John Paul was far less strident against capitalism speaking about the right to private property, rights of people to form associations, and calling on the State to be an agent of justice for the poor and to protect the human rights of all its citizens.

    Pope Benedict initially wanted to write his social encyclical on the anniversary of Populorum Progressio in 2007 but the growing economic crisis which led to the all but total collapse of the economic system delayed his publication until June of 2009. In fairness, I need to ppoint out some of the things Pope Benedict wrote because some get excited about things Pope Francis has said not realizing it has been said before-and by Pope Benedict!

    Pope Benedict wrote concerning the global economy and its global economic crisis calling for all to work toward the common good with truth and charity. In the encyclical Pope Benedict writes that the Church does NOT have specific technical solutions but instead moral principles to work toward such solutions. Pope Benedict attacked free market fundamentalism [not the free market] He rejects the either/or free market model vs. the interventionist big government model What is needed is for all seeking solutions to be informed by ethics as well as by profit motives

    Mike I have tried to do justice to a major aspect of the teaching of the Church. I certainly know that many struggle with the social teachings of the Church as others do with what they term (incorrectly) the private moral teachings of the Church. However what I hope I have conveyed is that it is not enough to use a quote of a pope or an encyclical pro or con out of context (which you did not do in your post) The social teachings are all connected and need to be seen in that way. There is not one of us who are not challenged in some way by what these teachings teach. The struggle with them is a manifestation of the Cross; our response to them is nothing other than the response to the call to ongoing conversion to Christ’s Gospel

  6. “Just as we fundamentally believe that ‘man’ is ‘body and soul’ [spiritual beings, embodied souls], man and woman [gendered and not neutral] so too we believe ‘man’ to be both individual and social. “Man’ is not simply an individual without any connection etc nor is he simply a member of the collective without any individuality etc.”

    Very nicely put.

  7. Why don’t a bunch of us show up at the red carpet for the Oscars and make such a big stink that Hollywood stops screwing with us?
    Dagger john would call us all a bunch of pussies!

  8. I noticed the name Harvey Weinstein – the US distributor of this masterpiece. Weinstein seems to like distributing anti Catholic movies.

    From Wikipedia – In 2013, New York Post film critic Kyle Smith accused Harvey Weinstein of making numerous anti-Catholic films, including Priest (1994), The Butcher Boy (1997), The Magdalene Sisters (2002), and Philomena (2013).

    When Mel Gibson was accused of being an anti-Semite, I think he had people like Weinstein in mind.

    For what it’s worth, this year is the tenth anniversary of the release of The Passion. I try to watch the movie on Good Friday. Weinstein won’t get a dime of my money.

  9. Penguins Fan

    I cannot and will not acede to Mel Gibson’s anti-semitism ( said apparently while intoxicated) but that list of movies shows a certain ‘anti-Catholicism’. Weinstein is an anti-Catholic: ‘by their fruits you shall know them

    Thanks for the info on him

  10. “There is not one of us who are not challenged in some way by what these teachings teach. The struggle with them is a manifestation of the Cross; our response to them is nothing other than the response to the call to ongoing conversion to Christ’s Gospel”
    Well said, very well said, Botolph.
    The virtue of Charity is a matter of the individual soul. When the state intrudes into taking from one citizen to redistribute any resources, the state violates that sovereign person’s sovereignty.That citizen’s sovereignty consists in free will and choice. Both the individual and the state share guilt when another person suffers. Both the individual and the state are required to remedy with assistance the common good. The state may only act with the informed consent of its constituents, on any matter, but especially in matters of religion such as the virtue of Charity.

  11. Mary De Voe,

    Again you have really put your finger on the pulse of what is being said in Catholic Social Teaching! “Man” is both individual and social, both must be acknowledged and respected and not isolated one from the other.

  12. Botolph wrote, “the State is out to eradicate the Church-as a visible community, with its own governance, beliefs, moral standards etc.”

    The Catholic historian, Lord Acton explains, “Civil and religious liberty are so commonly associated in people’s mouths, and are so rare in fact, that their definition is evidently as little understood as the principle of their connection. The point at which they unite, the common root from which they derive their sustenance, is the right of self-government. The modern theory, which has swept away every authority except that of the State, and has made the sovereign power irresistible by multiplying those who share it, is the enemy of that common freedom in which religious freedom is included. It condemns, as a State within the State, every inner group and community, class or corporation, administering its own affairs; and, by proclaiming the abolition of privileges, it emancipates the subjects of every such authority in order to transfer them exclusively to its own. It recognises liberty only in the individual, because it is only in the individual that liberty can be separated from authority, and the right of conditional obedience deprived of the security of a limited command. Under its sway, therefore, every man may profess his own religion more or less freely; but his religion is not free to administer its own laws. In other words, religious profession is free, but Church government is controlled. And where ecclesiastical authority is restricted, religious liberty is virtually denied.”

  13. You know I never understood the stupidity and bigotry of some when it comes to the Church and organisation run by it.

    Rather than blaming the social stigmas of the time, they blame the Church for stepping into situations that society wanted to pretend didn’t happen.

    It doesn’t stop in our day and age. Catholic Charities pick up a significant amount of the governments slack such as assisting the unemployed, the addicted, the lonely, the aged, and the financial destitute.

    If it wasn’t for Carholic charities in America, and all over the world many governments would be up s$&@ creek without a paddle…

    God bless our Catholic run institutions.

  14. “”…every man may profess his own religion more or less freely; but his religion is not free to administer its own laws. In other words, religious profession is free, but Church government is controlled. And where ecclesiastical authority is restricted, religious liberty is virtually denied.””
    Obamacare: You have religious freedom as long as you follow the HHS Mandate.

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