Spirit Daily


Gibson In News Again, From Huge Profits To Oscar Talk, Strange Controversies  

By Michael H. Brown

It would be interesting if Hollywood tried to pull itself out of the doldrums by allowing The Passion of the Christ to be nominated for an Oscar.

Right now, the movie industry has to feel a bit left out in the wake of an election that saw the issue of moral values shoot to the fore. Already the news media are scrambling to pay more attention to religious groups and even featuring Christian testimonies.

Will Hollywood try to propel itself into this new "mainstream" by conceding kudos to a film it would not otherwise consider?

Hopefully. But perhaps not. In the end, the anti-religious streak will likely prove the strongest force, and there will be all those worries over allegations that the film is "anti-Semitic."

At any rate, Mel Gibson remains in the news (if he ever left it). There is the "stalker," a man who has demanded the actor pray with him and apparently won't leave Gibson alone; he has been ordered to stand trial. There is the priest who celebrated Mass for the crew during filming in Italy: he's a traditionalist who has publicly criticized the Vatican and now has been suspended by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto, for celebrating the Latin Mass for a conservative Catholic splinter group. There is the committee of Catholic bishops and rabbis that last week criticized The Passion as too lurid, comparing it to "notorious" medieval Passion plays. There is a bus driver from Upstate New York: he was fired for quoting what Gibson has had to stay about use of human stem cells! 

And then there's the money -- plenty of that. According to reports last week, Mel has realized a profit of between $394 and $414 million from the movie thus far, proving once again that when high-quality film techniques are applied to the story of Jesus, they are huge winners (see The Robe and The Greatest Story Ever Told). Gibson is now reportedly eyeing purchase of a $19-million Fiji island as a getaway.

Spiritually it might be advantageous for Mel to sink those profits into massive religious film-making ventures (considering his talents, perhaps God gifted him with the money specifically for this), or setting up charities. Perhaps such are already in the works. The actor recently contributed $10 million or something on that order toward a hospital and other medical needs. That's a great start. As Jesus said, the rich man who wants to follow Him should rid himself of worldly attachments. It's a message to us all.

 'Tis the season! There is the example of Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizzeria. When we met him at a pro-life function in Chicago, he was worth $600 million, and planning to get rid of it all. He told us that his attitude had been greatly affected by a personal visit with the Pope and a visit to the famed apparition site of Medjugorje. Upon return he stopped construction on a $30-million home (this in Ann Arbor, Michigan, back more than ten years ago).

After he sold his pizzeria chain and other businesses (including a baseball team), Monaghan's wealth reportedly increased to more than a billion, and he has been giving it away building churches in impoverished nations, contributing to charities, and founding a Catholic university and law school. He has been quoted as saying that his goal is to "die broke."

Of course, he won't die destitute, but we get the point; he no longer flies first class. He wants to be a saint. We should all aspire to that. "I feel it's God's money and I want to use it for the highest possible purpose -- to help as many people as possible get to Heaven," he says.

Perhaps in addition to the crucial contributions to charities, those out there with the means might also consider contributing to financially-strapped publishers like TAN of Rockford, Illinois, which publishes Blessed Anne Emmerich visions (upon which much of Gibson's movie was based) or buying some of those churches that are being spun off in beleaguered dioceses like Boston and turning them into missions for the homeless or prayer houses.

Alas, Mel is a traditionalist who reportedly does not follow the guidance of Rome (a chapel he built in California is not part of the diocese), making it less likely that he would come to the aid of churches affiliated with the Vatican. Still, perhaps he and others will give thought to saving churches that might otherwise be turned into condos or restaurants, like one in Pittsburgh where waitresses dress as Catholic school girls or another, also in Pittsburgh, that has been turned into a micro-brewery (now called The Church Brew Works).

A brewery? No way?

No kidding.

Dec 7, 2004

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