MEL GIBSON'S AS YET unreleased movie on the final hours of the life of Christ continues to elicit strong reactions around the globe. The latest come from opposite ends of the spectrum, in more ways than one.
In a New York Times column last week Frank Rich accused Mr. Gibson, for the second time, of intentionally "baiting Jews" to publicize his movie. In what promises to be an ongoing exchange of volleys, Mr. Rich used his column to respond to flippant comments made by Mr. Gibson in The New Yorker, which included the statement, "I want to kill him [Rich].... I want his intestines on a stick.... I want to kill his dog."
The article by Mr. Rich comes less than a month after his first attack on Mr. Gibson's supposed "martyrdom complex." Mr. Rich had argued that Mr. Gibson fabricated Jewish opposition to The Passion to "foment the old-as-Hollywood canard that the "entertainment elite' (which just happens to be Jewish) is gunning for his Christian movie." But then he also argued that the charges of anti-Semitism are, in all likelihood, justified, although Mr. Rich has not screened the film himself.
On the other hand, Vatican Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, after screening The Passion, told freelance Italian journalist Antonio Gaspari that "the film is a triumph of art and faith." He went on to say that he is "confident that it will change for the better everyone who sees it.... It will bring people closer to God, and closer to one another."
When asked specifically about whether the film could contribute to anti-Semitism, Cardinal Hoyos responded, "This film does nothing of the sort. It draws out from the historical objectivity of the Gospel narratives sentiments of forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation. It captures the subtleties and the horror of sin, as well as the gentle power of love and forgiveness, without making or insinuating blanket condemnations against one group."