What was so "Catholic" about The Passion of the Christ?

The reason I ask this question is because I remember when the film came out, magazine articles would ask whether Protestants would accept such a Catholic view of Jesus. (They did. I heard it made Billy Graham cry.) However, being a life-long Catholic I couldn’t really distinguish anything different than the theology I had always been taught. So was there anything in the film that might have been new or difficult to a non-Catholic Christian?

Possibly the prominent role given to Mary, and the fact that a number of the scenes are taken from The Stations of the Cross and other Catholic traditions e.g. Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.

This, and also the Eucharistic imagery. Just as they were lifting up Jesus on the Cross, it cut to a scene of the Last Supper with Jesus raising the bread and saying “This is my Body.” That really points to a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as a participation in the Paschal Mystery.

But none of it is so overt or polemical as to really alienate non-Catholics (IMO). Just like all the hub-ub about the film being “anti-semitic”. I think it was just a lot of provocative headlines put out by people who wanted to see the film fail.

It was based on The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.

But a Protestant wouldn’t know that.

Most Protestants have never heard ot Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. Most Protestants don’t even use the term “Passion of Christ,” let along “Dolorous Passion of Christ.”

So that knowledge wouldn’t be there to make Protestants upset. The only reason it would be there is if an anti-Catholic organization or individual dug up the information (perhaps from this forum) and used it to create a “scare campaign” to convince Protestants that watching the movie would be supportive in some way (financially?) of the Catholic Church.

That might have worked in the past. But in this day and age, a lot of evangelical Protestants would reject the scare campaign and the originator of the campaign, because a lot of evangelical Protestants accept Catholics and the Catholic Church as Christian.

Now the Fundamentalist Protestants–that might be a problem. They would possibly take the scare campaign seriously. But many of these Fundamentalist groups believe that attending movies or any kind of secular media (theater, concerts, etc.) is sinful, so they wouldn’t weigh in on The Passion of the Christ.

As far as I know know, evangelical Protestants loved the movie. I’ve never heard anything bad about it from any evangelical denominational magazine or source. The sole “bad” comment that I have heard is that the movie isn’t appropriate for young children because it is so violent and bloody, but that’s not a criticism of the movie. It’s just a warning to families.

It was based on 3 sources, the one you mentioned, the Gospel of St Matthew(inc parts of the other gospels, but primarily Matthew, inc in how that gospel portrayed Pilate) and Mel Gibson’s own personal studies into the Shroud of Turin, which affected how he approached the film concerning the violence of it.

That last part is one of the reasons it’s considered catholic, as a protestant may not have based Christ’s wounds on how horrid and painful they look on that, now potentially proven, relic of Christ. Protestants tend to based their passion plays solely on scripture, not on outside potentially historical written sources or on religious relics. Catholics tend to use all three, which in this case was St Matthew(ironically leading to the film’s biggest criticism of being anti-semetic because of that one line), Blessed Anne Cathrine Emmerich’s work, and the Shroud’s graphic depiction of the horrifying violence that must have taken place on the man in the image.

The thing about the film was it was so true to life.Most pictures about Our Lord’s passion would never show it as it was.they may show Christ with a few stripes but we can rest assured that Christ did suffer like it was shown.I don’t know directed or produced the movie(I know it was a mel Gibson film)who by the way is Catholic.Maybe the writers and producers were Catholics,I don’t know.But i would bet they were.Many protestants just won’t believe that Christ really suffered as He did.

Gibson wrote it with another Catholic screenwriter and with several priests serving as on-set advisors, he also produced, directed and even distributed the film through his company “Icon Pictures”. Gibson has done this for all three films he has directed(Braveheart, Passion and Apocalypto).

Every day on set they held a mass service before filming. The cast was also predominantly catholic(I think Monica Bellucci wasn’t, but that’s it), including Jim Cavizel, who played Christ.

It was a throughly Catholic production from the technical point of view too.

This isn’t true.

I was evangelical Protestant for the first 47 years of my life.

When I was just a child, a medical doctor, who was Protestant, wrote a description of death by crucifixion. This was read in evangelical Protestant churches all over the country, and published in evangelical Protestant denominational magazines.

The description was graphic, horrific, and sickening. The medical doctor told it like it was, describing the suffering of a crucifixion victim.

45 years later, this article is still seen occasional in Protestant publications, and still read in certain Protestant worship services, especially on Good Friday.

Here is a link to the article: waysoflife.com/CRUCIFIXION/crucifixionphysiciananalyzes.htm

WARNING–it is graphic and disturbing.

Also, a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member named Josh McDowell has written about the crufixion, describing it graphically. He does this in order to prove that Christ really, truly died, and therefore, the resurrection is really and truly a miracle. (If Christ didn’t really die, then the resurrection is a fraud.)

Also, listen to a song called Via Dolorosa, by Sandy Patti. This song has been popular with Protestants for over 20 years now. It makes the suffering of Christ very apparent. Here’s a link to a very beautiful youtube version with images of the Passion of the Christ: youtube.com/watch?v=w5fSu4a8-rE

So yes, many Protestants are aware of the agonies that the Lord Jesus Christ endured for us.

It wasn’t “just a gibson thing” as almost every wound in the film is based on wounds depicted on the Shroud of Turin, right down to the bloodied “Boxers” left eye(no other film depiction has ever shown that). No protestant depiction would ever do that, in my opinion. Every single wound depicted is based on wounds as they appeared on that relic.

Which may or may not be genuine and we are again in the world of the caricature of Protestants.

I think he or she meant to say that no Protestant depiction would base itself on the Shroud of Turin, which as you say may or may not be genuine.

The basing itself on the Shroud isn’t what I was saying is a Mel Gibson thing; it’s more the spending 20+ minutes on the scourging; having the bad thief’s eye pecked out etc. The brutality in some of Mel Gibsons films seems to be very much ‘in your face’ and, well, lingered on. You can be aware of, and depict the brutality of the Cruxificion without so much ‘wallowing in’ blood.

Yep, but not the medium of modern film as far as I am concerned. The medium today allows for very realistic portrayals of violence to make the “final cut”. If Gibson wanted to make a major impression in todays media, he needed to make a brutally realistic portrayal, based on strong historical and theological grounds.

Film audiences have a longer memory than they are often credited for by studios. They know the Passion has been portrayed many times in many films, by many filmmakers, but it had never ever been done in such a brutally realistic, historically accurate, manner. Gibson found a way of drawing audiences and also the many critics into the theatre for his Passion play, by finding distinction and a seemingly new approach that had never actually been done before.

Personally it’s not even my fav film portrayal of the Passion… I cry everytime I watch the climax of Ben Hur, especially in how it’s portrayed as a deathly dance…

But Gibson’s film gave me much insight into every little historical detail that occured… and also Jim Caviezel was brilliant.

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