Others want to use the film to help children 'think critically'
Catholic Diocese of Peoria leadership is cautioning parents against taking their children to see "The Golden Compass," a newly released movie based on the first book in a trilogy by atheist Philip Pullman.
"As shepherds of the faithful, it is our moral duty to inform parishioners regarding any forms of media that seriously attack our Catholic faith," says the letter signed by Monsignor Paul Showalter, vicar general of the diocese.
The letter is dated Dec. 7 and appears in the Dec. 16 edition of The Catholic Post.
"We were getting calls from different parents asking, ‘Is the diocese going to give some type of formal direction to this?’" Showalter said Friday. "What is interesting here is there’s more concern with the actual themes and writings of the author. They’re trying to make the movie innocent, trying to mirror a couple of other popular series, like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and especially ‘Chronicles of Narnia.’"
He also cautioned against Catholic parents purchasing Pullman’s books.
National organizations like the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights have led the campaign against the movie. Reviewers have said the book’s anti-Christian themes have been toned down for the film.
In the story, a young girl travels to a parallel universe to save other children "from terrible experiments by a mysterious organization," according to a plot synopsis by the Internet Movie Database. Pullman’s critics say the "mysterious organization," called the Magisterium, represents the Roman Catholic Church.
Showalter’s letter quotes Pullman as saying that "My books are about killing God" and "I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief."
The vicar general said the diocese is not saying that it would be sinful to see the movie or read the books.
"Let’s continue to promote edifying films and books — and use this premiere as a teaching moment for the truths of our Holy Church and the beauty of serving our Loving Redeemer," he wrote in the letter.
The pastor of Second Story, a nontraditional evangelical church in Peoria that encourages cultural engagement, said he’s "not as opposed" to his flock seeing the movie. Rather, Chris Wright said if parents allow their children to see it that they should be prepared to talk to them about the story and help them to "think critically."
"I think parents need to take on the brunt of that responsibility, to be able to walk with their kids through that," he said. "Evangelistically, for me, you need to understand where people are coming from."
Riverside Community Church Pastor John King said he usually doesn’t "say much about stuff like this."
"I think it comes on the scene and it seems to die its own death, but we will warn that we don’t support that film in any way," King said.
Michael Miller can be reached at (309) 686-3106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.