Robert Novak

Complaints by liberal Bible scholars that "The Passion" is not faithful to Scripture are rejected by the Vatican. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who heads the Congregation for the Clergy, called the film "a triumph of art and faith," adding: "Mel Gibson not only closely follows the narrative of the Gospels, giving the viewer a new appreciation for those biblical passages, but his artistic choices also make the film faithful to the meaning of the Gospels."

As for inciting anti-Semitism, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos contended "the film does nothing of the sort." This Vatican official is denying that Gibson violates the 1965 papal document Nostra Aetate, which states: "What happened in (Christ's) passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today."

No such libel is committed by "The Passion," where the mob's Jewish identity is not specified. In the film, the high priest's men who seize Christ are easily surpassed in brutality by sadistic Roman soldiers. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, is depicted as a weak, calculating politician who orders the execution. As a Catholic convert, I was taught we are all sinners who share in guilt for the crucifixion.

At the heart of the dispute over "The Passion" is freedom of expression. Liberals who defended the right to exhibit Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," which deeply offended orthodox Christians, now demand censorship of "The Passion of Christ." As a result, Abe Foxman and his allies have risked stirring religious tensions over a work of art.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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