Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Conflict

While Mrs. Curmudgeon was recuperating from the birth of the latest little Curmudgeon, we ordered and watched The Conflict, a 78-minute made-for-TV movie from 1973, based on the Brian Moore novel Catholics, starring Martin Sheen and Trevor Howard.


Anyways, the movie is set in 1999 (then 26 years into the future) and Fr. Cool-Joe (Sheen) is sent to stop monks from an Irish island abbey from saying the old Mass, because people are chartering flights from all over the world to assist at it, such that it's embarrassing the Superior General of their now-enlightened religious order and offending the Church's ecumenical buddies. There's some surprisingly good bits of dialogue in the movie, references to Vatican IV (which forbade private confession), and great contrasts between Fr. Cool-Joe's Marxist-materialist worldview ("I don't know how anyone could define a case of heresy these days") and yoga meditations and the rough-and-tumble monks' defense of the spiritual works of mercy ("but does he talk much about savin' souls, does 'e? I thought not") and singing of old, rigidly Catholic hymns. But in the end, the monastery is sold out by the Abbot, who doesn't really believe in God (the Abbot at one point submits his resignation to Fr. Cool-Joe with the explanation that he's not fit to be Abbot because he lacks faith, but Fr. Cool-Joe tears it up as he leaves, apparently concluding that an atheist is an ideal Abbot in the new Church).

Mrs. Curmudgeon and I (who were both illiterate in 1973--she still in diapers) were surprised that exactly the same sorts of things were said then--just a couple of years following the introduction of the Pauline Missal--as are said now. The dating of the certain details notwithstanding (we managed to preserve private confession--at least officially--beyond 1999), I don't think movie has lost much of its currency. The same battles are being fought--between the Matthew Clarks and Donald Wuerls and the Roger Mahoneys and Walter Kaspars of the church and the traditionalists and other orthodox Catholics who are carrying on with the faith as they always have in out-of-the-way places. The same calls to obedience--the type of unthinking obedience to Churchmen rather than to the Church--are being made, and in the case of the movie, that obedience does in fact lead to heresy (denial of the Real Presence). And there are men who play the role of the Abbot--seemingly faithful men who turnout to be perfidious, and who serve the zeitgeist instead of enforce the perennial disciplines of the church. A certain Colorado bishop comes to mind in this respect.

Anyways, if you haven't already seen it, it's worthwhile to track it down. (I know, I'm probably the only one in the world who hasn't already seen it) it's not something you'll find at Blockbuster, but you can rent it through Netflix or buy it from Amazon for $8 new.

No comments: