Crisis Magazine 2003

Sed Contra: Inside the Pandora’s Box

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 2003

It goes without saying that if priests had kept their vow of celibacy there would be no sexual-abuse scan­dal. But we still hear the claim, from Voice of the Faithful and others, that celi­bacy is somehow the fundamental cause of the crisis. How does such an obvious contradiction get so much attention in the media and take hold of the public mind?

To put it bluntly: The months of scandalous headlines have opened a Pandora’s box of complaints from Catholic dissenters and anti-Catholics. The scandal has united the Church’s enemies within and without.

What makes fighting this formi­dable coalition so difficult is that it marches under the banner of “democ­racy.” Dissenters say the laity should be able to vote on priests in the parishes, bishops in the chanceries, and con­troversial Church teachings. Anti-Catholics say that sexual abusers are incubated in a hierarchical, authori­tarian structure where there is no pub­lic accountability or scrutiny.

A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times (December 6, 2002), written by philosopher Crispin Sartwell, put the common complaint this way: “Many Catholics think that the problem of abuse can be solved by internal reform of the church. But the idea that the institutions of the church could be made transparent and accountable is incompatible with the basic structure of Catholicism, which is a hierarchy—a pantheon of intercessors, from priests to saints—empowered by God to interpret his will to the world:’

Saying that democracy is the cure for corruption in the Church is almost as absurd as arguing that the elimina­tion of celibacy will end sexual abuse. Since when did the election of political representatives ensure their virtue? How often have we seen an electorate willfully return a scoundrel to office?

Those of us who defend the Church’s teaching is not against democracy any more than those of us who defend unborn life are against “choice.” The key is in the distinctions that must be made when we use these words. Dissenters never start admit­ting distinctions because they know that the argument will be lost.

I experienced this firsthand when I went to Boston recently to meet with truly faithful Catholics who were united in their opposition to Voice of the Faithful. We first met at the 11 a.m. Mass at the cathedral led by Cardinal Law. There were protesters outside the cathedral, so I decided to listen to what they had to say. However, I was quickly recognized and a dispute appeared inevitable.

When some members of Voice of the Faithful accused me of misrepre­senting them, I asked them to clarify what they really stood for. One spokesperson, Jan Leary, said all they wanted were three things: for bishops to report all allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities; an assurance that the ten-year statute of limitations would not shield abusers; and total transparency of diocesan records regarding abusers.

I told her that we were in total agreement on these procedural mat­ters. “Why,” I then asked her, “if this is all you want, do I hear so many mem­bers of the VOTF challenging Church teaching?” She seemed not to under­stand the distinction between proce­dure and doctrine, because she then accused me of not listening to her.

The distinction is a simple one, but crucial for Catholics in understanding the vocation of the laity. The expertise of laypersons is welcome in the Church, but it cannot undermine the authority of the bishops in matters of faith and morals. There is no doubt that lay expertise is badly needed in chanceries around the country at a time when bishops have made blunder after blunder both in management and public relations. Bishop Gregory’s decision to create a National Review Board was an important step, both symbolically and substantially, toward bringing bishops closer to lay experts who have not been complicit in the bad decisions of the past. (It’s regret­table that some bishops have taken umbrage at some of Governor Keat­ing’s comments—the board is doing good work, and we need to move on.)

The Church is a mystical reality and a historical institution. As a his­torical institution, the Church needs the expertise of the laity. The “sacred deposit” of faith has been entrusted to our bishops; however, there will never be a day when Catholics vote on it. Priestly celibacy is the most visible reminder that the Catholic Church stills believe in a truth that is not sub­ject to public opinion or the democra­tic process. No wonder it’s being attacked.

Crisis Interview With Robert Bennett

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2003

Crisis publisher and editor Deal W. Hudson recently sat down with Robert S. Bennett, an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a member of the U.S. bishops’ national review board on clergy sexual abuse, to talk about the work of the board.

Hudson: Who asked you to be on the national review board, and how did you feel about that invitation?

Bennett: I was asked by Bishop [Wilton D.] Gregory if I would serve on the board, and initially it was to be on the core committee. One of the first assignments was to complete the board. I was surprised by the call, but I was very flattered. I’m at that stage of my life where working on interesting and important matters has particular appeal to me. This assignment is both.

At the time Bishop Gregory called you, how seriously did you think the crisis in the Catholic Church was regarding the sexual-abuse scandal?

I thought it was a very serious crisis because it undermined the credibility of the bishops who speak on a variety of issues. One of the great things about the Church and the bishops is that they can speak with moral authority on all sorts of moral issues. This is an anchor. Their moral authority is being undermined.

At this point in time in your reflections and in your discussions of this, what do you think was the major cause of the breakdown that led to this problem? Do you have an idea?

You know, I don’t know how to answer that at this early stage. Obviously, on a very superficial level, it’s easy to identify the causes: You have priests who did not honor their commitment to celibacy. For whatever reasons, they did things that were sinful, immoral, and illegal. And then they were not handled properly when these things came to the attention of the hierarchy. But that’s a very superficial answer, and the job of any committee is to try to get beneath the surface.

One thing I’ve learned is that everybody has an opinion on this, and everybody has an agenda, oftentimes without having the facts. This is true of both the left and the right.

How is the report on the problem going to be created? What’s the process?

It’s sort of a work in progress. We have to combine two things. I think we certainly have to get scientific—I use the word “scientific” meaning objective—data. I mean, some people say celibacy has nothing to do with it, others say celibacy does, or homosexuality, etc. But we don’t have the data. We need to get our arms around the best data we possibly can. And then I think we have to combine that with extensive interviewing. We’ve made a preliminary list of people who we think can bring some value to the discussion on every side of the issue. I have no illusions that it’s going to be easy.

So this will be a long process, and you are tasked with the accumulation of data, of opinion, and then ultimately an editorial responsibility. Correct?

Yes. We have an active subcommittee with excellent people.

Who’s funding the national review board and all of this work?

My understanding is that it’s being funded by the bishops’ conference. But all of the work of those serving on the board is done pro bono.

So nobody’s really been paid for anything yet.

No. None of the board members are paid; we get reasonable expenses that are reimbursed but certainly none of our time in any fashion.

Now, you do have a new national director from the FBI.

Yes. Kathleen McChesney. She was the highest-ranking woman in the FBI and the third highest–ranking FBI official. We were enormously impressed with her, and she has all the necessary skills. She’s strong but very smart and wise, and she’s had a lot of experience in working with big organizations.

Does she report to the bishops, or does she report to the national review board?

She reports to both. The board works closely with her; we monitor her office. But technically, she is part of the senior staff of the bishops’ conference.

Are there any other major initiatives that the national review board is involved in right now?

There are several active committees. The mission of all committees is to protect children and young people and to ensure that what has occurred in the past never happens again.

So they’re actually going to produce a set of guidelines for dioceses, for bishops, and for priests?

Yes. There are some dioceses that we’re told have very good practices already. I know Washington’s is quite good, and I think Chicago’s is quite good as well. We’re going to be studying all of those and then coming up with some best practices so that there’s some uniformity to the process.

Have there been any surprises thus far in the meetings with the national review board?

No real surprises. Well, one pleasant surprise is that the board is an incredibly diverse group of smart and dedicated people. We don’t sit there discussing all of our views of the Church and Church policy, but my sense is that it’s a very diverse group that has conservative and liberal Catholics on it. But there’s an incredible coming-together on these critical issues. Everybody is determined to try to help the Church in this crisis. Everyone on the board is dedicated to doing the right thing and helping the Church.

I find that there are two kinds of reactions to Governor Frank Keating’s public comments: Some people are delighted that there’s a fresh and exuberant voice out there, and other people think that he has perhaps said too much and been a little imprudent. How has the board reacted to his public utterances?

I’m not sure that I want to get into inner discussions of the board. I think we’re very fortunate to have Frank Keating because he’s very strong and he has communicated a very important message that the kind of activity that brought us to this point cannot be tolerated. Everybody on the board agrees with that. So on the core things, the essential things, I think everybody is 100 percent behind Frank. You know, we all have our plusses and our minuses, but Frank is a very important factor here, and I think he is very important to the success of our mission.

Do you think the review board actually has as strong a mandate as it needs to effectively address this problem?

Yes, as long as you understand that we haven’t been given any enforcement authority. All we have is the wisdom hopefully—in what we say and the hard work that we do and our public image. I mean, all we have is—I hate the expression, but I don’t know a better one—the bully pulpit. All we can do is make findings and recommendations. We don’t have any further authority, and I’m not sure we should have. We have a strong and clear voice. It will be up to the bishops to decide whether to listen to us or not. Hopefully, they will.

You’re a busy man with a lot of responsibility. Is there any hesitation on your part—since you don’t have any enforcement authority—to spend all this time and energy doing this?

No hesitancy at all. The creation of this all-day national review board of high-profile people has produced an entity that’s going to do something. There’s going to be a report, and that report is going to be public. I don’t yet know what’s going to be in that report or what the conclusions will be. But there’s going to be a report, and it’s going to call it the way it is. That will have a life of its own. It’s inconceivable to me that it would be ignored.

What do you say to those Catholics who criticize your selection since you were President Clinton’s lawyer in his difficulties?

It’s irrelevant. I’m a lawyer—I represent people who have problems and difficulties. So what? I represented President Clinton, and I did my job as a lawyer. Now I’m doing another job for—in a sense—another client. You’re doing a job for somebody, like a doctor. That’s how I look at it.

Is it hard being the brother of Bill Bennett?

Is it hard? [laughs] No, no, no. Though I’d prefer he not criticize some of my clients so publicly. No, it’s very easy. He and I are quite close. We get along very well. In fact, I almost asked if Bishop Gregory picked the wrong Bennett since he writes about virtue and I have represented a few clients who some would say are not virtuous.

What did your brother say to you when he found out you were going to be on this national review board?

We just talked about it, and he thought it was interesting. There was no significant discussion. Like me and all laypeople, we are very concerned.

Do you think that the work of the national review board is fully embraced by the bishops?

The honest answer is that I don’t know. It’s clearly embraced by Bishop Gregory, and I think it’s fully embraced by several bishops. My impression is that they realize that there’s a crisis here, and they had best do something about it. But it remains to be seen as we go down this road. The board is going to be asking some very tough questions. Kathleen McChesney is essentially going to do an audit of each of these dioceses. While we’re not going to jump the gun, when that process is completed, if there are dioceses that are not complying with the charter or with what we perceive to be the standards and the guidelines, we will make the fact of noncompliance very clear. People will know about it.

Have you noticed that this scandal has united the left and the right of the Church on the issues of procedure, management, and administration? For example, I’ll be sitting next to an ex-nun—a dissident—and we’ll both agree that bishops have been terrible managers, that they shouldn’t have hidden this, and that they should have reported this to civil authorities. Of course, we’ll totally disagree on the role that doctrine or celibacy played in that. But in procedural matters, we’ll be in total agreement.

Now that you mention it, yes, I think you are right. But that’s why I say there is no other side to the issue. I mean, if you can’t protect children and young people, what are you doing? One of the questions I want to ask is if somebody stole $300,000 from your parish, would you have passed the other person on to another parish or another rectory without telling anyone about it? But it appears that some of that were done here.

Will your work also cover consensual sex between adults? That often falls under the rubric of abuse because of the special relationship between a priest and the member of his parish. It’s a power relationship, so it’s often described in the terms of abuse.

I think it should. I hate to sound vague, but we’re just feeling our way here. It is largely a question of power, and I think what’s going to make this a very difficult job is that to do an honest report, we’re going to have to touch a lot of very sensitive issues. Issues of celibacy and homosexuality—they’re all there. You may conclude at the end of the day that something is or isn’t a factor, but we certainly have to look at these things.

There is all kind of sexual abuse, and I think you’re quite right. It’s a power relationship. One is the shepherd, and the other is a member of the flock. We may see the abuse of a child as far more outrageous because it just cuts to the core, and we may be more forgiving of a consensual relationship between adults and even more forgiving of such a relationship if it’s heterosexual. But I’m not sure we can brush aside the fundamental point that there’s a disproportionate power relationship in most of these situations.

When you’re talking to so many people with so many points of view, how are you going to avoid a report that simply throws out different versions of the story? How are you going to be able to integrate that into a coherent vision?

My starting premise is that we have an obligation to reach the best conclusions that we can reach, and not simply to throw out a smorgasbord of so-and-so says this and so-and-so says that. We have an obligation as a board to do the best job we can in finding answers.

One of my concerns is that we’re expected to act quickly. I’m afraid that some of the tasks presented to us are going to take a long time, and I don’t know quite how to accommodate the tasks for quick action with the thoroughness required in this difficult situation. I don’t want to mention names right now, for obvious reasons, but representatives of the board met last week with a group that we are thinking about retaining to do certain studies. I wanted answers to certain questions: Why are most of these older cases? What’s the orientation of most of the priests? Is the seminary training making any difference? They said it might take three to four years for a detailed analysis. And I said we can’t wait that long.

We’ve got to get this job done within a year or so, give or take. So that has me worried. But to answer your question, I think we have an obligation to draw some bright lines if we can. We need to do the best job we can and come up with some conclusions we are comfortable with, which are supported by the evidence.

Sed Contra: Investigating the Seminaries

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2003

With a decision on a plenary council put indefinitely on hold, the next major step in addressing the causes of the sexual abuse crisis is the upcoming apostolic visitation to our nation’s Catholic seminaries. Questions will be asked—as they should be—about how much Catholics can trust that the seminaries will undergo truly zealous scrutiny.

The breakdown of priestly discipline combined with an evident lack of commitment to papal leadership and the Church’s moral teaching (see “Sed Contra,” January 2003) points directly to the priestly formation in general and seminary education in particular.

The proposed apostolic visitation must be more than a public-relations exercise to calm a shell-shocked Catholic public; a major new poll Crisis has conducted shows that 39 percent of Catholics now have less confidence in the moral teaching of the Church, and 65 percent think that acts causing the scandal are still occurring. (Next month, we’ll give you the full poll results.)

Several years ago, Crisis ran a multi-article analysis of the state of Catholic seminaries. We found, not surprisingly, fundamental weaknesses in many seminary curricula and formation programs. Too often seminarians were not finishing the two years of philosophy mandated by canon law, Latin was ignored, and the requirements of pastoral training were minimizing the hours devoted to Church history and theology. The spiritual formation itself was often turned into peer-enforced exercises in political correctness with the aid of aggressively administered psychological testing.

Seminary administrations, with a few notable exceptions, didn’t appreciate Crisis putting its nose into their business. One bishop who heads a midwestern seminary asked me point-blank, “What business is it of Crisis to criticize seminaries?” When faced with such outrageous clericalism, the only response is to reply—as I did—that the health of those institutions that train our priests is the concern of all Catholics.

The question then arises whether or not the method and findings of the apostolic visitation will be made known to the Catholic public. Surely the bishops’ national review board for clergy sex abuse will have an oversight role to play. But will the laity be told who will conduct the visits, what they will be looking for, and how the evaluations will be tabulated? Most importantly, will we be given the results?

Catholic laity, even those who donate big money to educational institutions, know nearly nothing about what goes on inside them. They believe what they’re told—that the Faith is being taught with vigor and without apology. I suppose that’s why so many Catholic colleges and universities fought so strenuously against Ex Corde Ecclesiae and why only a handful of theology professors have asked for a mandatum (and it is more than a year past the deadline for that request).

Sed Contra: Making Our Own Decisions

Deal W. Hudson
March 1, 2003

Just over a month ago, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger issued a remarkable statement on Catholics and politics. Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life clarified once again the problems of duplicity that emanate from a U.S. Congress where almost half of all Catholic senators and representatives are pro-abortion. Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement, personally approved by Pope John Paul II, was predictably treated with disdain by a media long accustomed to applauding pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Democratic presidential hopeful, and “Catholic,” Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) went to the trouble of saying he would ignore the Vatican.

There was, however, another aspect to the document that passed by without comment and is very germane to the situation in Iraq. Since President George W. Bush announced his intention to invade Iraq if Saddam Hussein didn’t keep his decade-old UN promise to disarm, there has been a veritable avalanche of criticism from bishops in the United States, around the world, and in the Vatican. With the exception of the Holy Father himself, the criticism has been pointed and specific. An Iraq war, we’re told, would not meet the criteria of a just war according to Catholic social teaching. The pope confined himself to general statements on the obligation of avoiding war, turning to it only as a last resort, and avoiding short- or long-term harm to noncombatants. But other notable bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have spoken in such a way that Catholics would be led to believe that they must agree with them or be considered disobedient.

A case in point is the steady stream of emails I receive asking me when I’m going to defend the Holy Father’s “position” on Iraq the way I’m defending his position on abortion. The two positions are equivalent only if the question is about the application of the principle, not the contingent or prudential conclusions that may follow. The difference between a conclusion drawn from the principles of just-war theory and the sanctity of life is simple: Some wars are just, whereas no innocent life should be killed. Cardinal Ratzinger’s doctrinal note makes this distinction clear: The “Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions.”

I’m afraid that the level of official comment has done precisely what Cardinal Ratzinger said should not be done: Church leaders are using their political power and media access on a contingent question. This leads Catholics to the conclusion that they don’t need to consider this issue individually, that they must simply adopt the conclusions of certain U.S. bishops or Vatican officials.

The Vatican officials making these comments might claim that they were not meant as expressions of policy. But bishops with titles like “prefect” and “secretary of state” really don’t have private personas that allow the Catholics reading their remarks in the press to know they’re speaking without official authority. Not all bishops agree: What about the U.S. bishops who voted against the bishops’ conference resolution condemning the proposed war against Iraq?

One of the most serious consequences of official criticism is the undermining of our elected leadership. The Catechism of Catholic Church, in the section on just war, says very clearly that “the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy [of war] belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good.”

Trusting political leadership in a time of war is decisive; most of us have lived through a period in America’s history when the moral authority of the presidency was lost. Those demons need not be loosed once again. It’s the prudential judgment of our president and his advisers (whose job it is to fight terrorism) that war, in this case, is just. And there are those of us—myself included—who believe the president is right in seeing the Iraqi threat as “lasting, grave, and certain.” As we have already seen in the case of Afghanistan, this administration can wage war in a manner that protects civilians. Certainly, the prospect of an Iraq after an invasion could be no worse than what we see there now: a secular dictator with Stalinesque aspirations in a nuclear age.

I hope our leadership will continue to guide our thinking according to the principles of Catholic social teaching but allow us to support our president if that’s the decision we make.

Sed Contra: I Don’t Get It

Deal W. Hudson
April 1, 2003

For years the Vatican has been fighting the United Nations. Through its status as a full member of international conferences, the Holy See Mission to the UN has aggressively, but diplomatically, opposed the “population control” policies of the UN bureaucracy and its member nations.

Led by the former UN nuncio Archbishop Renato Martino (now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) and former Vatican diplomat John Klink, the Vatican has aligned itself with Muslim and Catholic countries to fight the pro-abortion language of innumerable UN conferences over the past 15 years, including the Cairo population conference and the Beijing women’s conference. Most recently the United States, with Klink as an appointed U.S. delegate at a population conference in Bangkok, succeeded in clarifying in an official reservation that the United States does not accept UN abortion language.

Since President George W. Bush’s election, the United States has reversed former president Bill Clinton’s pro-abortion policies and has fully supported the Vatican’s anti-abortion and pro-family stance. The price paid by the Bush administration for its courage has been continued criticism for its “unilateralism.”

The United Nations, of course, is a large organization but contains egregious critics of Catholic pro-life and pro-family teachings such as UNFPA, UNICEF, and UNAIDS. For example, UNFPA has condemned the Church’s opposition to the abortifacient morning-after pill and has supported the so-called Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). More sinisterly, UNFPA continues to attempt to influence Catholic leaders to accept its population control agenda.

Diplomatic victories for the culture of life and Catholic social teaching were achieved in spite of a hostile UN aligned with pro-abortion factions, mainly radical feminist groups, from around the world. It came as no surprise when CFFC began to clamor for the elimination of the Vatican’s permanent observer status. Without the Vatican’s presence at the UN and its international conferences, the pro-abortion forces would be free to mandate abortion as an acceptable policy worthy of government funding and bureaucratic machinery throughout the world.

So who would have thought the Vatican would start looking to the UN as a moral authority, especially on judgments regarding specific Catholic principles? And yet, this appears to now be the case. Does Cardinal Laghi, the papal envoy sent to meet with President Bush last month, really want to designate the UN as the only body capable of determining the justice of the Iraq war?

Over these past few months, comments from members of the Curia have set a dangerous precedent. They have said that the approval of the UN Security Council must be received for any country to wage a just war against another country. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches something different: It’s the responsibility of a nation’s political leadership, using their individual prudence, to decide whether a war is justified. A nation is not bound by the collective judgment of other nations or the judgment of an international organization unless that nation has agreed to compromise its autonomy, which the United States has not.

I think it’s imperative that Vatican officials make it clear when they are speaking as a nation with a foreign policy and when they are speaking as a Church making a doctrinal judgment. This distinction is rarely invoked, and the media is either unaware of it or chooses to take advantage of the confusion. The Vatican as a nation has the right and duty to pursue a foreign policy and to carry on diplomatic negotiations; these actions should be scrupulously distinguished from its social teaching.

What I would respectfully ask the Curia to consider is whether these internationalist assumptions aren’t giving the UN a level of moral credibility that will backfire on the Church. Isn’t it better, given the well-known disposition of the UN, for Catholics to continue regarding it with skepticism? Why give the UN any moral leverage when it will certainly use it against us one day? Many Catholics I know have labored mightily to counteract the damage done by UNFPA around the world, and now the Vatican seems to be saying, “On population issues, the UN can’t be trusted, but on whether a war is just, its judgment is impeccable.”

I just don’t get it.

Music: Fourteen to Remember

Deal W. Hudson
May 1, 2003

Robert Reilly is on assignment overseas for the next few months. His column will resume upon his return. In the meantime, some of his friends will be filling in.

For my part, I would like to offer Crisis readers a personal list of the 14 best film scores according to two criteria: (1) Each score is by a different composer, and (2) each score can be enjoyed on its own merits without reference to the film. Admittedly, if I chose the 14 best without worrying about the composer, the list would be dominated by a few names: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, and Bernard Herrmann. Further, if I chose the scores according to the suitability of the music to the film, the choices would be slightly different, since strong film scores can sometimes overwhelm the films they accompany. The best example of this I know is the underappreciated score by Ennio Morricone, The Time of Destiny, one of his most beautiful.

ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD

Kings Row (1942)

Varese Sarabande VCD 47203

You may remember that this was the movie in which Ronald Reagan woke up without his legs. Korngold’s 18 film scores are all worth hearing, but Kings Row is surely one of the finest any composer has ever written. Unlike many contemporary scores that rely on one or two themes, Kings Row is chock full of memorable moments. But don’t miss The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Anthony Adverse, and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

MIKLOS ROZSA

Spellbound (1945)

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This familiar Hitchcock film starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck would have been a minor thriller without Rozsa’s music. The melody of its love theme, with the eerie sound of the accompanying theremin, has become one of the most familiar in film. For those who cannot find the original score, buy a rendition of the Spellbound Concerto for piano and orchestra. Other scores you should hear are Ben-Hur, El Cid, Young Bess, Julius Caesar, and Double Indemnity.

BERNARD HERRMANN

Vertigo (1958)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5600

Like Korngold and ROsza, it’s difficult to pick from among Herrmann’s works, which include Psycho, Citizen Kane, Fahrenheit 451, Marnie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and North by Northwest. Vertigo, however, is eminently listenable on its own terms and is available in a stunning new recording conducted by Joel McNeely.

ENNIO MORRICONE

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

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No, not The Mission or Cinema Paradiso. It may be that I’m just burned out from hearing the great themes from these films blaring away in elevators around the country. But neither of these scores can match the music from Sergio Leone’s epic of American gangsterism in Prohibition New York.

FRANZ WAXMAN

The Bride of Frankenstein (1936)

Silva Screen FILMCD 135

Standing in the shadow of Korngold, Waxman often does not get the credit he deserves as a pioneer of film music. Listening to this music on CD, it hardly sounds like a horror film but more like a tragic love story, which, of course, the movie actually is. Waxman had an unusual gift for scoring memorable themes for massed strings, which can be heard in his other scores such as A Place in the Sun, Sunset Boulevard, and Peyton Place.

MALCOLM ARNOLD

David Copperfield (1969)

Marco Polo 8.225167

The major themes from this score are truly haunting. Arnold has yet to receive his due as one of the great composers of the last 50 years. The film itself, which stars the best English actors of the last generation, is clunky, but the music is inspired.

NINO ROTA

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Silva Screen SSD 1140

Rota is best known for his many scores to Federico Fellini films, such as La Dolce Vita, but my favorite is Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Although the main love theme became hackneyed due to the song “A Time for Us” sung by Johnny Mathis, this new recording by conductor Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus proves that from beginning to end, this score is one of the best.

MAURICE JARRE

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Silva Screen FILMCD 036

I find Jarre’s overall output somewhat hit and miss, although this opinion is disputed by many film music enthusiasts. In the music for Lawrence of Arabia, Jarre created a soundscape that most viewers of the film can remember long after they forget the movie. Like all great film scores, this one includes a plethora of themes and moods that keep the main theme from burning itself out.

MAX STEINER

King Kong (1933)

Marco Polo 8.223763

This is the music that established film scoring as more than “background.” Some Steiner fans would argue that Gone With the Wind has more epic sweep or Now, Voyager greater romance or Treasure of the Sierra Madre more psychological complexity. Like Korngold, Rozsa, and Waxman, Steiner was an émigré who transplanted the middle European symphonic tradition into Hollywood films. Steiner once said that the idea for movie music originated with Richard Wagner: “If Wagner had lived in this century, he would have been the Number One film composer.”

RICHARD RODNEY BENNETT

Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)

Chandos CHAN 9867

It’s hard to believe that the composer of this gorgeous music studied under the bete noire of beauty in music, Pierre Boulez. His name became better known to moviegoers as the composer for Four Weddings and a Funeral, but anyone who delights in a truly cosmopolitan mix of great melody, jazzy rhythms, and dance motifs should sample Murder on the Orient Express and Enchanted April. Along with Far from the Madding Crowd, Lady Caroline Lamb is Bennett at his most romantic, with a soaring viola part that has been rearranged into a viola concerto.

JOHN BARRY

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5911

I can’t help it: I’ve always been a sucker for this score. Yes, it’s sentimental, and it piles on so many lush melodies that you fear tooth decay. But this rerecording proves to me that Somewhere in Time passes the test of time. Other great Barry scores include Out of Africa, The Lion in Winter, The Last Valley, Robin and Marian, Walkabout, and, of course, the Bond soundtracks.

ELMER BERNSTEIN

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Denon CO-75288

Very few moments in music are lovelier than the first few minutes of Bernstein’s evocation of the South in the 1930s. Bernstein, whose career stretches back to 1951 and includes scores for more than 200 films, is the reigning king of film composers. To Kill a Mockingbird is the place to start to sample a composer of unfailing civility and elegance. After that try The Age of Innocence, Rambling Rose, True Grit, and The Magnificent Seven.

JOHN WILLIAMS

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

MCA MCAD-6340

Other Williams scores are more famous—Star Wars, Superman, Schindler’s List, and Jurassic Park—but none has the same punch as the score for Oliver Stone’s treatment of 1960s confusion on the south shore of Long Island. Williams’s music, which features an amazing showcase for a solo trumpet, adds the notes of nobility and heroism that are sometimes at odds with the agnosticism of Stone’s narrative.

JERRY GOLDSMITH

The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5795

No list of great film scores would be complete without Jerry Goldsmith, who like Elmer Bernstein has written more memorable scores that can be recalled. The Sand Pebbles has many beautiful themes and develops effortlessly between the military action of the main plot and the love and friendship of the subplots. Goldsmith has an extremely flexible style that can be successfully adapted to any subject matter, as in scores such as Patton, The Blue Max, The Wind and the Lion, Planet of the Apes, Hoosiers, Papillon, and Chinatown.

Sed Contra: Are We All Bigots Now?

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2003

The following excerpt is from Jay Leno’s opening monologue on The Tonight Show (April 23, 2003): “The Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum—well, let me finish. Don’t hiss me. You can hiss the guy later. He is causing quite a lot of controversy this week with remarks he made about gays…. This is the quote: ‘I have no problem with homosexuals. I have a problem with homosexual acts.’ Well, maybe he’s doing them wrong.” Laughter, cheers, and applause followed, as well as another Leno remark that ought not to be repeated in polite company.

Scripture and the Catechism attest to the intrinsic sinfulness of homosexual acts. There’s no ambiguity on this question, no circumstances that make these acts morally acceptable. Thus Catholics—along with like-minded Evangelicals, Jews, and Muslims—believe that when homosexuals act on their “disordered” desires, they are sinning. Loving homosexuals, then, requires the same distinction that’s applied to any other person, or group, who is heavy-laden with sin. Since it’s impossible to love anything other than what is good, we must love the person, not the sinful acts.

Senator Santorum’s attempt to explain this aspect of Christian morality to an Associated Press reporter led to a media gristmill that, fortunately, ran out of steam. The occasion was the Supreme Court’s consideration of a challenge to a Texas law against sodomy. From a long interview, the reporter, who turned out to be the wife of the campaign manager for pro-abortion “Catholic” and presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), excerpted a section clearly intended to create a headache for Santorum and Republican Party leadership.

Within hours, the Santorum interview was the stuff of talk shows, late-night monologues, and newspaper columns. While Leno made fun of the distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin, columnist Richard Cohen took nastier aim: “Deconstructing Santorum is no easy matter. His logic is Euclidean, his analogies Limbaughian…. But he does, I think, raise a profound question that he ought to answer himself: If you have the orientation of a moron, do you still have to talk like one?”

Cohen evidently doesn’t appreciate a simple moral distinction that forms the basis of all tolerance, forgiveness, and civility: If we treat people strictly on the basis of their actions, it would mean the end of love as we know it. Cohen, who claims to come from a “long line of Talmudic scholars,” should know that.

The Santorum episode should be a wake-up call to people of faith who care about politics. The homosexual lobby, with the help of the media, is coming very close to creating a religious test for those who can pass public scrutiny. Anyone who holds the accepted view that homosexual acts are sinful will be labeled as a bigot and an extremist. As the Senate Judiciary Committee has recently shown, there’s already a religious test eliminating pro-life judges from the federal bench. To this, we will soon add so-called homophobia.

Who defended Santorum during his recent ordeal? Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was quick to send a strong statement of defense. Crisis issued an e-letter affirming that what Santorum said was right. But if any Catholic bishop made a statement of defense, I never saw it. Perhaps it escaped my notice? Once an important moral teaching of the Church, arising directly from its natural law tradition, becomes the object of public mockery, the statements of lay leaders are not enough.

A bigot is someone who maintains a deep prejudice that a group is inferior in some way. John Howard Griffin, the famous author of Black Like Me, explained the structure of bigotry: When someone of a particular group behaves in an undesirable way, the bigot explains his behavior by reference to his group, as in “Oh, they all act that way.”

No doubt there are those who are bigoted toward homosexuals, even among those who don’t see their sexual acts as sinful. Nevertheless, the view that certain sexual behavior is immoral doesn’t necessarily lead to bigotry. It’s a hard teaching, but it’s not bigotry.

Some homosexual groups have worked hard to create an atmosphere in which this moral teaching can no longer be uttered or even alluded to. Santorum makes no bones about his Catholicism, unlike the “Catholics” in Congress who support abortion. If the media, goaded by homosexual activists, successfully stick him with this label, then our Catholic Faith will be labeled as well, along with you and me.