Monday, May 14, 2018

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word [2018]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
National Catholic Register (S.D. Greydanus) review
National Catholic Reporter (M. Pattison) article about film

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word [2018] (directed and cowritten by Wim Wenders along with David Rosier) is IMHO exactly what one would hope for in a documentary about one of most consequential people living in our world today.  Composed of both footage from interviews of Pope Francis by Wenders' crew made for this documentary as well as of footage of this Pope making some of his most consequential statements (that word again ... consequential) that he's made during his Pontificate AS HE MADE THEM, it's a documentary that does what every good documentary should do: it "moves the ball." Most of us will understand the Pope better as a result of this film.

So we get to see Pope Francis make his celebrated and/or controversial responses to questions about how the Church should look toward gays in society today ("We should seek to integrate [homosexuals] into society rather than marginalize them"), on "the Wall" ("We should build bridges rather than walls"), on his giving up a lot of the perks usually associated with being a Pope ("We should all be willing to live with a little less for the sake of those who have next to nothing").  And there's a quote that I haven't heard before that he told a large group of Brazilian faithful at an audience at the outskirts of a Favela in Rio de Janeiro: "How good it is to share!  And as we all of us 'bean eaters' know well, when someone else comes to the door, YOU CAN ALWAYS ADD A LITTLE WATER TO THE BEANS TO MAKE IT WORK [FOR ALL]" ;-)

The film does not skirt the legacies of the Holocaust -- Pope Francis' words about God's gift to us Free Will at Yad Vashem are shown, with Francis asking aloud if God himself knew the risk, "of the depth of the abyss that we would be capable of throwing ourselves into" -- as well as the Pope's words with regard to the Clergy sexual abuse scandals: "The Church's position has to be of zero tolerance, of punishing priests afflicted with pedophilia, removing them from the priesthood and, yes, accepting the punishments of civil authorities."   There is also a scene in which Pope Francis contemplates both the current Security Wall placed in recent years between Israel and the Palestinian Territories by the Israeli authorities and then the Wailing Wall into which as per age-old Jewish Tradition, after saying his prayers, the Pope dutifully placed an envelope (of petitions) into one of its cracks.

Of all the statements we hear the Pope make, his response on the clergy sexual abuse scandals, is certainly the most political (or simply tricky) as there has always been an aspect of Mercy in Christian Doctrine.  However, even there, the Pope could be proclaiming a consistent Christian position: One can be MERCIFUL to the sinner (even to a jailed pedophile ex-priest) _after_ he's turned himself in and accepted / is fulfilling his punishment (and _without_ reducing his punishment).

Expressing my own opinion here: I always found it both remarkable and GOOD that mass-murderer John Wayne Gacy, went to his execution, but before doing so, had received Communion:  Justice was done, but Mercy at least in the after-life acknowledged as well.  Quoting Article 982 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.527 Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.528".

In any case, this is a remarkable thought-provoking / challenging film and one which helps all to better understand one of the most consequential people of our time.  Excellent job!

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