CAUTION: The following post includes descriptions of blasphemies directed toward the Blessed Sacrament.
Hollywood’s limited, hostile, and downright bizarre idea of Catholic attitudes and practices is on full display in the Netflix series “Midnight Mass.” According to one critic, the “common reading of the series” is that “it isn’t a critique of religion so much as a critique of religion gone wrong.” Well, sure, you could see it that way. However, based on it’s record of films on religion, and even plenty that have nothing to do with religion except the obligatory swipe at believers, one could make the argument that Hollywood’s take is that all religion is “religion gone wrong.”
The plot of “Midnight Mass” is not surprising, given Hollywood’s perspective on religion, especially Catholicism. The priest in the series is the reinvigorated old monsignor who has been transformed into the younger version of himself after encountering a monster who sucked out his blood and replaced it with his own. The priest thinks this is great, so he spikes the Blood of Christ at Mass with the monster’s blood to share its healing power with his congregation, thus restoring the old to their youth and restoring the infirm to sound health. Only problem: when they die, they come back as vampires. So, it’s a Faustian choice, and not even a choice, since no one was asked if they wanted to participate. Holy Communion, then, is a means by which those who consume are transformed, not into Christ, but into monsters whose bloodlust impels them to kill the non-Catholics. As such, those who receive Holy Communion (the Catholics) are protected from the attack of vampires, while those who don’t (non-Catholics and fallen away Catholics) are at risk of being the victims of the vampires. Naturally, the heroes of the series are those Hollywood assumes devout Catholics hate: the abuse victim, the Muslim, and the lesbian ex-Catholic doctor.
In Hollywood’s religious universe, the only beings with supernatural power are the demons, and the good Catholics are those who hate others who aren’t Catholic, or aren’t Catholic anymore. God and His sacraments have no power in this universe, and those who actually love others are those who reject Catholicism. Apologists for Hollywood’s version of religious reality, such as the critic cited above, are only too happy to point out how this isn’t anti-Catholic at all and that they, as practicing Catholics (doncha know!), see the virtue in Hollywood teaching Catholics a lesson about how to genuinely love others and not allow your faith to take you to evil extremes, such as child abuse, racism, and colonization! One might wonder when Hollywood is going to get around to teaching itself about the evils of child abuse, racism and exploiting others for profit.
The next offering Hollywood proffers for the religious soul is an episode of the already cancelled series “Y: The Last Man.” Based on a comic book series where all the men are killed off except one poor guy and his monkey, a recent episode depicts a scientist engaging in a pagan-like ritual prior to entering a church with two friends and the monkey. While in the church, she takes a consecrated host, the Body of Christ, and feeds the Blessed Sacrament to the monkey, saying, “Mmm … yummy. Body of Christ. C’mon. Get it. Nice.” The utterly gratuitous nature of the scene speaks volumes, revealing that the creators of the program intended to specifically target the Catholic tradition and the faith of Catholics in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It is a direct and purposeful and, again, utterly gratuitous attack. The scene has inspired a petition demanding that Hulu not show the episode. Hulu is owned by Disney.
Like those who defended the anti-Catholic book “The DaVinci Code,” critics of those critical of such programs will point out that these programs are fiction. They are, of course. But, that defense implies that fiction has no power to persuade, no power to influence, no power to encourage social movements and ways of thinking. That is absurd. No one who has any knowledge of the history of books such as “The Jungle” or “Grapes of Wrath,” or the film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” or the TV show “All in The Family” would make such a silly and incredulous claim. Racist jokes are also fiction. Does that mean they should be tolerated? Please!
The Catholic bishops of the United States report that there have been at least 95 attacks on Catholic churches around the country since May of 2020. The attacks include arson, destruction of statues and other religious symbols, and the defacement of Catholic churches and gravesites with swastikas and other anti-Catholic symbols and language.
The Catholic Church and other churches and places of worship have had to go to court to fight arbitrary and unfair restrictions on their services over the last year and a half, as governors exploit the coronavirus pandemic to increase their executive power and limit the freedoms of the churches, all while allowing much more freedom to secular organizations and businesses.
Activists tore down a statue of St. Junipero Serra last year, and this year the governor of California and the mayor of Los Angeles have put into law statutes excoriating the saint for alleged crimes against the native populations, making Serra and the Church a scapegoat for crimes committed mostly by others.
Are the attacks on churches and statues and the reputations of good men the results of programs like “Midnight Mass” and “Y: The Last Man”? No, not directly. But, these programs encourage and perpetuate the notion that Catholicism is, at best, contrary to a contemporary understanding of what is acceptable and, at worst, just plain evil. They also perpetuate the justification for a misunderstanding and hatred of all things Catholic, and even justification for attacks against churches, statues, and even people who represent Catholicism. In short, it’s okay to attack Catholicism and Catholics. They deserve it.
None of this is new, of course. Throughout her history, the Church has been confronted by kings, rulers, and society’s influencers who demanded that the faith be rejected or at least shaped according to their proclivities. Even today, China and other countries actively persecute Catholics and other believers, while Hollywood continues to cover for the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party and requires its directors and actors to either keep their mouths shut about such things, or even apologize when they make the mistake of speaking the truth. Just this week, Chinese authorities kidnapped Bishop Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, doubtless for more indoctrination (this is not the first time Bishop Shao has been detained).
The response to anti-Catholic attacks is to pray for those who attack the Church and to respond with love. This doesn’t mean not speaking the truth, however. It’s the truth that sets us free, and sometimes the truth is unpleasant. The truth is there are those who hate the Church and what they think the Church teaches and what they think the Church stands for. The truth is, there are people who consider only two options for the Church: either be neutered as an institution that encourages people to adopt virtues and live lives contrary to the accepted wisdom of our elites, or disappear entirely. The Church is viewed as one of, if not the, greatest obstacles to the progress of a social, cultural, and political agenda that puts little stock in the intrinsic dignity of the human person, the social nature of human life, or the place of God and grace as necessary elements of what makes us truly human in the first place.
Again, none of this is new. It is as it always has been, or usually has been, even in those centuries when Christendom supposedly ruled the West. “In the world you will find tribulation,” our Lord told us. “But, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Thanks be to God!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.