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‘We Are Your Friends,’ if you’re living in a party-craving stupor

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Catholic News Service

The relationship between an aspiring DJ (Zac Efron) and his musical mentor (Wes Bentley) is threatened when the protégé falls for his patron’s live-in girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski).

A scene from the romantic drama "We Are Your Friends." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of A merica rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Brothers)

A scene from the romantic drama “We Are Your Friends.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of A merica rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Warner Brothers)

Alongside this casually physical love triangle, director and co-writer Max Joseph sets up a hackneyed conflict between the youthful hero’s artistic ambitions and the pressure to settle for a more mundane but practical lifestyle — in his case by joining his trio of closest friends (Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez and Alex Shaffer) in working for a shady real estate operator (Jon Bernthal).

Genuine moral values occasionally surface in this tepid, noncommittal drama. But for the most part, its characters move through their shallow lives in a party-craving stupor from which even the forceful intrusion of love and death barely awakens them. Benignly viewed drug use, cohabitation and premarital relations, brief semi-graphic bedroom scenes, upper female nudity, a couple of profanities, pervasive rough and crude language.

The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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Former nuncio dies in Vatican residence while awaiting sex abuse trial

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican official has ordered an autopsy on the body of former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was found dead Aug. 28 in the Vatican residence where he was awaiting trial on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski  (CNS photo/Luis Gomez, Diario Libre via Reuters)

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski (CNS photo/Luis Gomez, Diario Libre via Reuters)

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, Vatican spokesman, said Wesolowski’s body was found at 5 a.m. by a priest who also lives in the building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica and offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a television, which was on, the spokesman said.

Officials from the Vatican police, medical service and court arrived quickly, he said, for an “initial verification, which indicated the death was from natural causes.”

“The promoter of justice ordered an autopsy, which will be carried out today,” the spokesman said. “The results will be communicated as soon as possible.”

In the statement, issued less than four hours after Wesolowski’s body was found, Father Benedettini said Pope Francis had been informed.

The spokesman told reporters Wesolowski had been in ill health and was under medical supervision at the time of his death.

Wesolowski was to be the first person to be tried by a Vatican criminal court on sex abuse charges. The first session of the trial had been scheduled for July 11, but was postponed when he was taken to the hospital the day before after suffering “a collapse,” Father Benedettini said. He remained in the hospital until July 17.

The Vatican court had not announced a date for the continuation of the trial of the former Polish archbishop and nuncio, Vatican ambassador, to the Dominican Republic.

In its official statement about his death, the Vatican referred to him as “His Excellency Monsignor Josef Wesolowski,” even though he was dismissed from the clerical state in June 2014 after an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

His appeal of the dismissal was denied, Father Benedettini said, “but was not officially communicated so as not to aggravate the situation” while he was awaiting the separate criminal trial. He was still listed as an archbishop in the 2015 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican yearbook.

Before his criminal trial was postponed July 11, the Vatican prosecution read out the five charges against Wesolowski, which included having “corrupted, by means of lewd acts, adolescents presumably between the ages of 13 and 16,” in the Dominican Republic, where Wesolowski had served as a Vatican nuncio from 2008 to 2013, when he was accused of abusing adolescent boys.

According to Vatican prosecutors, Wesolowsk’s crimes continued once he was brought back to the Vatican. While being investigated, the court said, he procured and possessed on Vatican City State property and elsewhere, a “large amount” of “material from Internet sites” depicting minors under the age of 18 in sexually explicit acts or poses.

He also was charged with causing “serious injury to adolescent victims of sexual abuse, consisting of mental distress” and of “conduct that offends religious principles or Christian morality” by repeatedly logging on to pornographic sites while in the Dominican Republic, Rome, Vatican City State and elsewhere.

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Walking to Mass: Maryland priest, editor to pace pilgrimage to Philadelphia papal Mass

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PHILADELPHIA — As the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Review Media finalized preparations in early summer to transport hundreds of pilgrims to the only public Mass Pope Francis will celebrate on his first trip to the U.S., the wheels turned.

Planners thought about the possibility embarking on the ancient concept of pilgrimage, and walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia in September. Read more »

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Washington Letter: Who gets to vote 50 years after Voting Rights Act

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Even after a half-century of election law that was intended to settle the question of who is eligible to vote in the United States, contentious issues remain on who gets that right. Read more »

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Pope suggests parents start a family prayer time with small, simple gestures

August 27th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents who juggle packed work and family schedules deserve a Nobel Prize in mathematics for doing something not even the most brilliant scientists can do: They pack 48 hours of activity into 24, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA) S

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA) S

“I don’t know how they do it, but they do,” the pope told thousands of people gathered Aug. 26 for his weekly general audience. “There are moms and dads who could win the Nobel for this!”

Focusing his audience talk on the family and prayer, Pope Francis said he knows modern life can be frenetic and that family schedules are “complicated and packed.”

The most frequent complaint of any Christian, he said, is that he or she does not have enough time to pray.

“The regret is sincere,” the pope said, “because the human heart seeks prayer, even if one is not aware of it.”

The way to begin, he said, is to recognize how much God loves you and to love him in return. “A heart filled with affection for God can turn even a thought without words into a prayer.”

“It is good to believe in God with all your heart and it’s good to hope that he will help you when you are in difficulty or to feel obliged to thank him,” the pope said. “That’s all good. But do we love the Lord? Does thinking about God move us, fill us with awe and make us more tender?”

Bowing one’s head or “blowing a kiss” when one passes a church or a crucifix or an image of Mary are small signs of that love, he said. They are prayers.

“It is beautiful when moms teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or Mary,” the pope said. “There’s so much tenderness in that. And, at that moment, the heart of the child is transformed into a place of prayer.”

“Isn’t it amazing that God caresses us with a father’s love?” he asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. “It’s beautiful, so beautiful. He could have simply made himself known as the Supreme Being, given his commandments and awaited the results. Instead, God did and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the path of life, protects us and loves us.”

If you learn as a child to turn to God “with the same spontaneity as you learn to say ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy,’ you’ve learned it forever,” he said.

By teaching children how to make the sign of the cross, to say a simple grace before meals and to remember always that God is there and loves them, he said, family life will be enveloped in God’s love and family members will spontaneously find times for prayer.

“You, mom, and you, dad, teach your child to pray, to make the sign of the cross,” Pope Francis said.

The simple little prayers, he said, will increase family members’ sense of God’s love and presence and their certainty that God has entrusted the family members to one another.

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Viewpoint — Child labor around the world keeps children at work, out of school

August 27th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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It’s that time again when adults take off to celebrate Labor Day, and kids head back to the adventures a new school year.

But for millions of children worldwide the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Read more »

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Stephen Colbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Henry Newman, and the providence of God

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Recently, Stephen Colbert gave an interview in which the depth of his Catholic faith was on pretty clear display. Discussing the trauma that he experienced as a young man – the deaths of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash – he told the interviewer how, through the ministrations of his mother, he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it: “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was ten; that was quite an explosion…It’s that I love the thing that I wish most had not happened.” Flummoxed, his interlocutor asked him to elaborate on the paradox. Without missing a beat, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien: “What punishments of God are not gifts?” What a wonderful sermon on the salvific quality of suffering! And it was delivered, not by a priest or bishop or evangelist, but by a comedian about to take over one of the most popular television programs on late night. Read more »

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‘No Escape’ — Former ‘James Bond’ helps terrified Americans abroad

August 26th, 2015 Posted in Movies

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Catholic News Service

There’s a reason most action films center on hard-boiled characters who know how to look out for themselves. Ordinary folk, be they accountants, dentists or that emo barista at the local high-end coffee spot who always spells your name wrong, are unlikely to flourish in the usual circumstances confronting a James Bond or a Jason Bourne.

Owen Wilson and Lake Bell star in a scene from the movie "No Escape." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Weinstein)

Owen Wilson and Lake Bell star in a scene from the movie “No Escape.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Weinstein)

So, while the people behind the grueling adventure “No Escape,” led by director and co-writer John Erick Dowdle, can be honored for trying to stretch genre boundaries by plunking an everyday family down in the midst of violent turmoil, their effort is doomed from the start.

The outcome of their experiment may be strengthened emotional bonds on screen. Yet down in the audience, their tinkering is likely to garner a harvest of winces based on moviegoers’ discomfort at seeing the innocent and the vulnerable suffer.

The endangered clan in question consists of expatriate businessman Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters, Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare). No sooner have the Dwyers arrived in the Thailand-like country where Jack is about to start a new job than a coup breaks out.

Normally, of course, that would be a matter for the locals to sort through, while protected tourists and foreign residents watched from afar. Unfortunately for the Dwyers, this particular uprising is fueled by murderous anti-American rage, and the hotel where they’re temporarily staying soon becomes a killing ground.

Forced to flee into the teeming, unfamiliar urban landscape beyond the besieged hostelry, the foursome benefits from the help of a British-born chance acquaintance named Hammond (Pierce Brosnan).

A veteran traveler whom the Dwyers first connected during their long flight from the States, Hammond, unlike his newfound friends, knows the lay of the land quite well. Better yet, for reasons that only become fully apparent later, he also boasts a set of well-honed combat abilities.

Dowdle’s script, penned in collaboration with his brother Drew, covers some predictable moral territory. Jack rises to the challenging occasion by resourcefully protecting his spouse and children. Yet he’s troubled by some of the brutal measures to which he’s forced to resort.

Partly, no doubt, to keep the proceedings from becoming too saturated in machismo, Annie turns out to be a doughty warrior herself. And the extreme danger the couple faces only serves to reinforce their slightly frayed marital ties. Thus, during a pause in their fraught odyssey, Annie acknowledges that the rewards of her current family life far outweigh the loss of the more self-centered dreams she cherished in youth.

Yet the unsettling experience of following the Dwyers’ escape effort remains. It’s one thing to watch Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt make his way across the perilous no-man’s-land fringing the Berlin Wall in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.”

However, quite different feelings are aroused by the plight of the trapped Dwyers as, with fanatical gunmen slaughtering their fellow guest, they steel themselves to jump from the roof of their hotel to the top of a neighboring building or, in the case of the girls, to be thrown across the yawning gap that separates the two structures. The situation is certainly dramatic and potentially tragic. But is it the stuff of adventure?

The political subtext is equally troublesome. Virtually all of the Asians in “No Escape” come across as inhuman marauding savages. Yet this blatant smear represents an indispensable element of the Dowdles’ flawed premise, which requires the depraved natives to prey relentlessly on their European and American victims.

To paper all this over, the dialogue includes an unconvincing political lecture portraying the whole situation as an unfortunate but understandable reaction to the injustices wrought by globalization.

The film contains frequent harsh and sometimes gory violence, emotionally wrenching situations, including a rape scene with partial nudity, a couple of uses of profanity and about a dozen instances each of rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Busy parents can start family prayer time with small gestures, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents who juggle packed work and family schedules deserve a Nobel Prize in mathematics for doing something not even the most brilliant scientists can do: They pack 48 hours of activity into 24, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

“I don’t know how they do it, but they do,” the pope told thousands of people gathered Aug. 26 for his weekly general audience. “There are moms and dads who could win the Nobel for this!”

Focusing his audience talk on the family and prayer, Pope Francis said he knows modern life can be frenetic and that family schedules are “complicated and packed.”

The most frequent complaint of any Christian, he said, is that he or she does not have enough time to pray.

“The regret is sincere,” the pope said, “because the human heart seeks prayer, even if one is not aware of it.”

The way to begin, he said, is to recognize how much God loves you and to love him in return. “A heart filled with affection for God can turn even a thought without words into a prayer.”

“It is good to believe in God with all your heart and it’s good to hope that he will help you when you are in difficulty or to feel obliged to thank him,” the pope said. “That’s all good. But do we love the Lord? Does thinking about God move us, fill us with awe and make us more tender?”

Bowing one’s head or “blowing a kiss” when one passes a church or a crucifix or an image of Mary are small signs of that love, he said. They are prayers.

“It is beautiful when moms teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or Mary,” the pope said. “There’s so much tenderness in that. And, at that moment, the heart of the child is transformed into a place of prayer.”

“Isn’t it amazing that God caresses us with a father’s love?” he asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. “It’s beautiful, so beautiful. He could have simply made himself known as the Supreme Being, given his commandments and awaited the results. Instead, God did and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the path of life, protects us and loves us.”

If you learn as a child to turn to God “with the same spontaneity as you learn to say ‘daddy’ and ‘mommy,’ you’ve learned it forever,” he said.

By teaching children how to make the sign of the cross, to say a simple grace before meals and to remember always that God is there and loves them, he said, family life will be enveloped in God’s love and family members will spontaneously find times for prayer.

“You, mom, and you, dad, teach your child to pray, to make the sign of the cross,” Pope Francis said.

The simple little prayers, he said, will increase family members’ sense of God’s love and presence and their certainty that God has entrusted the family members to one another.

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‘Sinister 2’ loaded with vengeance, violence, disturbing visuals

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Catholic News Service

The desultory “Sinister 2” presents as good an opportunity as any to reflect on a seldom noted, yet deeply irksome piece of contemporary horror film bric-a-brac: the inevitable cameo by a Catholic priest.

Robert Sloan stars in a scene from the movie "Sinister 2." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.  (CNS photo/Gramercy Pictures)

Robert Sloan stars in a scene from the movie “Sinister 2.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Gramercy Pictures)

Vicious caricatures of the clergy and sacrilegious portrayals of religious practice have become as commonplace in chiller plots as scream-inducing jump cuts. So the opening visit of this flick’s hero, So & So — and, yes, that really is the name of the formerly minor character played by James Ransone — to a confessional booth suggests we’re off to an ill-starred start.

Although So & So proves an inept penitent, Father Rodriguez (John Beasley) somehow recognizes the ex-deputy as a demon-hunter; perhaps Father has seen the first movie? Rodriguez correctly suspects, moreover, that this spiritual warrior is facing a fresh set of troubles.

“Do you want my professional opinion?” the cleric rumbles. En garde, Catholic viewers!

“You don’t stop evil. You can only protect yourself from it.”

Oh, a platitude. Not so bad.

Rodriguez, it seems, is only there to enunciate the theme in a movie that merely samples religious imagery intermittently. Happily for all concerned, having done so, he doesn’t reappear.

Together with returning screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, Ciaran Foy, who replaces Derrickson in the director’s chair, reintroduces the franchise’s bogeyman, a hulking white-faced pagan deity named Bughuul (Nicholas King).

Bughuul likes to lure children into killing their families in elaborately gruesome ways. In the manner of a tiresome tourist of old — circa, say, 1965, Bughuul also enjoys documenting these deaths with a superannuated home movie camera.

The disturbing twist this time results from the filmmakers’ flawed effort to give Bughuul a quasi-moral justification for his freewheeling slaughter. They do so by hinting that at least some of his victims may have been abusive parents.

Along those lines, would-be furniture restorer Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) has fled her violent husband Clint (Lea Coco). With her young twins, Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan), in tow, Courtney has moved into an abandoned parsonage in rural Indiana.

Naturally, the house has a haunted basement, and the shuttered church on the property, the venue for one of Bughuul’s mass murders a few years earlier, is crawling with the ghosts of children.

These unsuitable playmates try to convince first the sensitive Dylan, and then Zach, to do Bughuul’s bidding. They even show the lads “snuff films” of their own past misdeeds.

And, after all, the script suggests, Clint is somewhat cruel and controlling. Perhaps he has it coming?

The finale involves crucifixion imagery in a cornfield. This has less to do with religious allegory than with the well-established fact that there are only so many ways for a demon to dispose of his victims on a limited budget.

The film contains a vengeance theme, frequent violence, much of it involving children, numerous disturbing images as well as considerable profanity and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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