UPDATE: Terry Mattingly writes in the comments to this post that although Harry Forbes heads the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting, and although one article credits him with writing the same words that appeared in the USCCB's review of "Million Dollar Baby," Forbes says he did not actually write the council's review. I have corrected this piece accordingly.
Pop quiz: Which reviewer began a recent film review with the following words?
"Director Clint Eastwood scores a knockout with the dark-edged boxing drama 'Million Dollar Baby'"
Roger Ebert? Nope. Michael Medved? No way. Janet Maslin? You're getting cold.
No, the author of the review was none other than the reviewer for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Although the council gives the film an "O" for "morally offensive" (whatever happened to "C" for "condemned"?), the USCCB's reviewer goes out of his way to gush over why Catholics should see it anyway: "[I]t would be wrong to think of "Million Dollar Baby" as just another fight film. In truth, it is not as much about boxing as it is about moral wrestling within the arena of the human soul."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on what I know about Catholicism, writing to a Catholic audience that a film is about "moral wrestling within the arena of the human soul" translates as: "See. This. Now."
But that's not the worst of it. Trying to have it both ways, the USCCB's reviewer gives an utterly apologetic, "the Devil made me do it" explanation for why the bishops hit this "Baby" with an O rating:
As for the theme of euthanasia, the film is not a polemic in favor of assisted suicide. The pain and devastation of those involved is achingly evident. However, in spite of all the soul-searching that precedes it, the deed itself is presented as an act of reluctant heroism. And given the dire circumstances, our sympathies and humane inclinations may argue in favor of such misguided compassion, but our Catholic faith prohibits us from getting around the fact that, in this case, the best-intended ends cannot justify the chosen means: the taking of a life.What's that? Come again?
our Catholic faith prohibits us from getting around the fact that, in this case, the best-intended ends cannot justify the chosen means: the taking of a life.Poor baby! It was your unfortunate lot to be a Catholic, O anonymous USCCB scribe, otherwise you could be just like the famous movie critics who are free to lavish unqualified praise on this cinematic masterwork.
And what's that about "in this case, the best-intended ends cannot justify the chosen means: the taking of a life"? Meaning that in other cases, the taking of a life can be justified? What other cases? Hmmm, I don't know...Terri Schiavo?
I've got a better idea. Why don't we perform a mercy killing on the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting and put it out of its misery? It's been on life support for years.
UPDATE: The USCCB's Harry Forbes admits to Terry Mattingly, "[W]e...felt duty-bound to give it the worst rating we can give." You'd think somebody was holding a gun to his head.
To learn why "Million Dollar Baby" is not just morally offensive, but totally repulsive, see Joan Swirsky's piece in NewsMax.com.