Matt C. Abbott
June 3, 2012
Viva Cristo Rey!
By Matt C. Abbott

There's a been a loud hum in the Catholic blogosphere in recent days surrounding the release of the feature film For Greater Glory, in large part due to its seemingly providential timing: The Catholic Church in the U.S. is under attack by the Obama administration, and we Catholics — actually, all God-fearing citizens — are faced with surrendering at least some of our religious liberty. (In fact, one could argue, as the late Father John Hardon, S.J., did, that we really don't have separation of church and state, but rather subordination of church to state.)

And if President Obama wins another term — and I fear he will — it may get even worse.

In regard to the movie itself, I first have to say that I don't consider myself a very good movie critic. I've seen a number of movies in my time, yet if asked to write several paragraphs on even my most favorite ones, I'd be hard-pressed to do so.

Overall, I appreciated For Greater Glory; it's a good movie. The performances of Andy Garcia and Mauricio Kuri are indeed laudable. The costumes and cinematography are top-notch, as is the musical score. And the factual information presented at the end of the movie is nicely done.

My two minor complaints: I wasn't crazy about the portrayal of Father Christopher (played by Peter O'Toole). To me, his vacuous look came across as a bit creepy. Also, the movie could have been somewhat shorter, although I concede that I get antsy when having to sit for more than two hours.

At any rate, For Greater Glory is far better than much of what comes out of Hollywood these days, and for that I give thanks.

In terms of Catholic teaching, the movie can make one reflect on the Church's "just war" doctrine. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2309, 2312):
    The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

    • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    • there must be serious prospects of success;

    • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good....

    The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. 'The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'
Father James Farfaglia, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, loved the movie. He writes (slightly edited):
    For Greater Glory is powerful, inspirational and a well-balanced presentation of the Cristeros of Mexico. The martyrdom of Father Cristobal Magallenes at the beginning of the film and the martyrdom of Jose Sanchez del Rio, a young boy who joined the Cristeros, are aspects of the film that are extremely moving.

    Father Cristobal Magallenes was canonized by Blessed Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000. Jose Sanchez del Rio was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005.

    The 'R' rating is for violence. In my judgment, the violence is very realistic. The battle scenes are very realistic. I do not see any problem with a child of 10- or 11-years-old seeing this film with his or her parents. Parents know what is best for their kids, but the scene of the martyrdom of young Jose is really beautiful. He refuses not to say 'Viva Cristo Rey.' He remains faithful, even with the most horrendous tortures, like having the skin of the bottom of his feet cut off and forced to walk a long distance, with bloody feet, to his death. Kids need to see this. A young boy remains faithful.

    All in all, the story of the Cristeros and the terrible persecution against the Catholic Church has finally been told. Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

    Everyone needs to see this movie because there are so many parallels to what is happening in our country. This movie is particularly important for: 1) priests, so that they may be courageous defenders of the Catholic Faith; 2) for young people, so that they may remain faithful; 3) for the Hispanic people, so that they do not give in to the culture of death and that they remember their Catholic roots.
Click here for the movie's official website.

Click here for Catholic journalist Anita Crane's recent in-depth article on the movie.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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