“Bizarrely Naïve”

Tom Piatak takes down the USCCB review of “Golden Compass” (via Rod Dreher):

What made this modern Christmas story even worse was the initially supine attitude of an organization which ought to warn Catholics of the dangers posed to the souls of their children by such as Pullman, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Even though The Golden Compass has generally been panned by secular movie reviewers—and one wag has dubbed it “the Chronicles of Yawnia” – the USCCB’s own movie reviewer, Harry Forbes, inexplicably gave the film a gushing review. In his review, Forbes burbled that the film is “Lavish, well-acted, and fast-paced,” “the effects are beautifully realized,” and “there’s hardly a dull moment,” and pronounced the whole film “intelligent and well crafted entertainment.” In fact, Forbes even claimed that “to the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.” Predictably, New Line Cinemas put together ads proclaiming that the Catholic bishops had found the film to be “in harmony with Catholic teaching,” in order to help expose more children to Pullman’s proselytizing atheism. …

The USCCB’s review was, at best, bizarrely naïve. Forbes dismissed “Pullman’s putative motives” and suggested the answer to the question, “Is Pullman trying to undermine anyone’s belief in God?” was unimportant, without ever discussing Pullman’s express intent “to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” At the very least, before recommending this movie to Catholic parents and their children, Forbes should have told them what Pullman was up to. But Forbes doesn’t believe in discouraging children from reading atheist agitprop: “Rather than banning the movies or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.”

Meanwhile, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis had this to say about the movie and the USCCB review:

A most defective review of the film was published by Catholic News Service. The review has by now been removed from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The review was not based on a viewing of the film by bishops and was not endorsed by the bishops.