Roman Catholicism

Authored by: Rodger M. Payne

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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Stung by critics who considered his masterpiece Birth of a Nation (1915) overtly racist, American filmmaker D.W. Griffin responded with another epic film, sardonically titled Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages (1916), in which he interwove four separate storylines that attacked injustice and fanaticism in four distinct historical eras. One narrative, titled “The Modern Story,” presented working-class Irish Catholics in their struggles against the self-righteous and hypocritical urban reformers known as “The Uplifters”—clearly a swipe at Griffin’s own critics—while another plotline, “The French Story,” depicted in gruesome detail the atrocities of the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when Catholics, through the manipulations of the queen regent Catherine de Medici, slaughtered unsuspecting Protestant Huguenots. While the story of the massacre reflected American Protestant opinion at the time regarding the covert evil represented by Roman Catholicism, the Catholic protagonists in the “Modern Story”—identified simply as “Dear One” and the “Boy”—are among the most sympathetic in the film, and the only characters who ultimately triumph over the intrigues of those who seek to do them harm. Through the purity of her Catholic values—a religious morality that is unsullied by any attempt to impose it upon others—the Madonna-like Dear One redeems the Boy from a life of crime and eventually saves him from a wrongful death, even while a third plot narrative, “The Judean Story,” intersperses the account of their ordeals with the crucifixion of Christ.

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