Monday, July 31, 2006

Mel Gibson

Many, if not most, celebrities pretend they are a law unto themselves. Including, it seems, Mel Gibson. Two nights ago, he was pulled over on suspicion of DUI. What followed next was, according to reports, a furious and lengthy anti-Jewish tirade.

Earlier tonight, Gibson admitted he's had a long time drinking problem and admitted making the alleged remarks -- and offered a public apology to try to repair the damage. If he thinks that will do the trick, it is unfortunately not that simple.

There are two problems. Neither has anything to do with his drinking problem.

One is the fact that his father, Hutton Gibson, is a very well known anti-Semite, denying the Holocaust ever happened. He's also a schismatic Catholic to boot, claiming that every Pope since John XXIII (aka Angelo Roncalli) has been illegally elected. Why does he believe this? I'm not sure, but I suppose Roncalli's revision of the Good Friday Prayers in 1960 which among other things repudiated anti-Semitism must have rankled old Hutton. No real Pope would do that, after all, according to the anti-Vatican II camp. Despite Mel's repeated denials he is himself not against the Jewish people, he also refuses to disassociate himself from Hutton by citing the commandment to "Honour thy father and thy mother."

We're not born hating, we acquire hatred. Anyone who can honestly say they have never looked at someone, anyone, "different" from themselves with a suspicious eye -- other than Jesus himself -- is a liar. Plain and simple. Even I'm guilty of that, pre-adolescence. There is nothing inconsistent with denouncing a parent's beliefs while not denouncing the parent himself or herself. One must hate the sin, but love the sinner.

Two is the fact Mel Gibson is not technically a member of the Catholic Church or any of the Eastern Churches which submit to the authority of Rome. He and his family attend a so-called Independent "Catholic" Church where only the Latin Tridentine Mass is used -- even the Novus Ordum Latin is heresy for him. He has financed the construction of several such chapels. Furthermore, even though his marriage to his wife Robyn Moore is probably as strong as any in Hollywood, a rarity in Tinseltown (or any district in Los Angeles for that matter), she remains defiantly Episcopalian; and as such Mel believes she's going to hell, subscribing to the traditional doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Even though as recently as 2000, the Vatican modified the doctrine slightly and conceded non-Catholics could achieve salvation. (See Dominus Iesius, drafted by no less than Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI)

Set aside what church he attends -- that's his business, as long as he doesn't call himself Roman Catholic. What kind of spouse is Mel if he thinks she's hellbound? If she is in fact going there, why did he marry her in the first place?

One can't help but wonder if by isolating himself from even his wife in this fashion, his entreatments of both the Evangelical Christian community (especially the "pro-Israel" camp) as well as the US Jewish leadership in the run-up to his film The Passion of the Christ were for show. If that's the case, all he succeeded in doing was making one of the most popular independent films, if not the most popular one, in history -- while stabbing his supporters in the back. In one fell swoop, he probably destroyed all that goodwill he built up.

And probably made his career in Hollywood -- pardon the expression, Apocalypto. With the situation in the Middle East continuing to escalate, Mel Gibson chose a pretty bad time to get into trouble; even if it is (one would hope) a lapse in judgment. To put it mildly, Mel needs sensitivity training as much as a sojourn at the Betty Ford Center.

FOOTNOTE (11:46 PM EDT, 0346 GMT Sunday): Some will argue that Vatican II went way too far in trying to bring the Roman Catholic Church out of the Dark Ages. I think it is more accurate to say that, even 41 years later, it hasn't fulfilled its original promise. The fact that it caused division among the laity may be as much as a problem of a miscommunication of the rulings of Vatican II as the public's interpretation of them. Still, that's no excuse for making the kinds of remarks that Mel Gibson did ... and as Nikki Fenke of Deadline Hollywood Daily points out, while he expressed regret for his remarks he only apologized for his behaviour -- not his anti-Semitic slurs specifically.

Let me make it clear: I'm not against Mel Gibson. I'm against DUI. Whether the police decide to tack on a hate crimes charge (which would double whatever penalty he might get) is their decision to make ... but it's one they might consider to act as a deterrent.

FOOTNOTE #2 (2:53 AM EDT Sunday, 0653 GMT): This story has got conservatives buzzing. One of the best comments comes from Ron Dreher at Beliefnet. Another comes from no less than Powerline -- which confirms my suspicion that the battle in 2004 between Passion and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't exclusively Red versus Blue.

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