Where can I get one
of those pope hats?

Jan 27, 2004 8:25 AM

If you like sure things, here are Stan’s Specials for the week.

Take the Pope over Mel Gibson plus 50.

Take the Vatican over Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and movie producer Steve McEveety plus 100.

Take the Catholic News Service over Mel Gibson’s modestly named Icon Productions any day of the week.

And take decency against scumbag hustling every time and lay all the points you want.

That’s my line on the rather amazing saga of how low Hollywood and the people in and around it will go to promote a film. They’ll stop at nothing and risk everything, even resorting to age-old religious prejudices and reopening century-old wounds that have divided the world for ages, if it means selling a flick.

Gibson you know. The Patriot. Braveheart. Lethal Weapon. Mad Max Rockatansky. And now, according to some critics, inciter to riot.

We have not seen The Passion of the Christ, Gibson’s version of the last 12 days of Christ’s life, so we can’t comment on the film.

We have seen Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bush speech writer, go hook, line and sinker for producer’s Steve McEveety’s claim that Pope John Paul II, like a Vatican Roger Ebert, admired it "with eloquent economy" after viewing it late at night "at the pope’s pad, because he’s pretty well booked."

McEveety told Noonan that the pope said "It is as it was." Noonan and hundreds on chat lines around the country were so smitten by this press release that they said it settled the matter of the controversial film for them, and some were comparing the five words to the bible’s "Jesus wept." It is likely you will see them in blurbs for the film, to be released in 2,000 theaters on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

The only problem is that the Vatican, through Catholic News Service, has said that while the pope had indeed seen the film, "the Holy Father told no one his opinion of the film. He does not make judgments on art of this kind."

That came from the pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz. So take your pick, the Vatican or Steve McEveety. One of them is bending things a bit.

I made the sad mistake of pulling up some chat line stuff on all of this the other night, and thought the old printer would melt printing it out. If you like division in this country, try this dispute for awhile instead of feelings about George Bush the Second or the abortion issue.

While many of the chat chickens were bathed in tears over the supposed verdict, "It is as it was," others were cynical and contemptuous. There was much Bible talk over Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version as opposed to "the commissioning of the abridged and heavily edited King James version," and more than a little scorn for Peggy Noonan.

One embittered chatter chatted, "Peggy Noonan is almost unreadable. Her cotton candy prose is pretentious and cloying. It is amazing that her banality sells so well, but what people really are buying is the pseudo-profundity of her tone which is her distinctive trademark." Why don’t you tell us what you really think of her, kid?

Another doubter wondered how the pope, even with intellectual prowess, would know that "it is as it was."

Whatever Pope John Paul II said or didn’t say, it won’t stop Hollywood from sticking to the Steve McEveety-Peggy Noonan version.

What was really sickening was the divine passion poured on McEveety’s claims by Ms. Noonan. "A week later," (after the screening in "the pope’s pad") she wrote, "Mr. McEveety was marveling at what he felt was the oracular quality of the statement. Five words. Eleven letters. I was kind of relieved ”¦ it’s a scary thing. But Billy Graham saw it and was very supportive, and now JPII. The amazing thing is they’re in agreement on the film."

I can see it now, atop full pages everywhere: "Two thumbs up! — Billy and JPII."

Even Braveheart and battle axes could not have chopped asunder the American public like this flick will.