Gibson Says He's 'Softened'
Crucifixion Story In New Film

By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service

Director Mel Gibson, under heavy fire from Jewish groups for his $25 million movie on the death of Jesus, has "softened the story" and made changes to make "The Passion" more palatable to critics, according to a spokesman. Scheduled for release next year during Lent, "The Passion" has some Jewish groups nervous it will resurrect old beliefs that Jews were responsible for the death of the Christian savior.
Paul Lauer, marketing director for Gibson's Icon Productions company, said Gibson has edited the film to show more "sympathetic" Jewish characters who were not calling for Jesus to be crucified. "We believe we have softened the story compared to the way the Gospel has told it," Lauer said in an interview. He pointed to Matthew 27:25, in which the Jewish mob calls for Jesus' blood "to be on us and on our children." "That's in the Gospel," he said. "It's not in our film." In addition, Lauer said the character of Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry the cross for Jesus, will be clearly labeled a Jew in the film. A shouting mob will include voices opposing the execution, Lauer said. Faced with vocal Jewish opposition, Gibson is mounting a pre-emptive public relations offensive to counter his critics -- all for a film that is still being edited. After regional screenings, Gibson has lingered with his audiences to listen to their advice.
In an effort to soothe concerns, Gibson is also hoping to launch "The Jewish Initiative" to recruit Jewish and Christian leaders to discuss the film's effects on Christian-Jewish relations. "We've gone out of our way to accommodate this process because we felt it was necessary and important, and to show that we care and that we're not callously sitting back saying, `Screw you, we're going to make the film we want to make,"' Lauer said.
Jewish groups, however, remain unconvinced. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Gibson has been unwilling to preview his film for anyone but "pre-screened audiences." "The fact that Mel Gibson says this is a work in progress is something we welcome. I don't make light of it," Foxman said. "We respect his creative rights, but we also believe that creative rights come with a certain responsibility."
Invited Christian leaders who have seen the film offer near-universal praise. The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told The New York Times that Gibson was "the Michelangelo of this generation."
Lauer agreed that screenings were for "people closer to our circle of contacts," but told the Times that "there is no way on God's green earth" that critics like Foxman will be invited to previews. Foxman and others, he said, have been "dishonorable." The ADL first raised concerns in June after a group of nine Christian and Jewish scholars reviewed a draft script and concluded the film portrayed Jews as "bloodthirsty, vengeful and money-hungry."
Gibson threatened to sue after he said the draft script used by the scholars was stolen. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops arranged for the script to be returned and apologized to Gibson.
Rabbis who have screened the film say it threatens to undue decades of progress between Christians and Jews after the Vatican refuted the deicide charges in the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.
Gibson, however, belongs to a conservative Catholic group that rejects the modern papacy and Vatican II, including its overtures to non-Catholics and Jews.
Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreligious affairs adviser for the American Jewish Committee, emerged from a Houston screening "troubled" by what he saw as the film's suggestion that Roman authorities were powerless to stop the murderous rage of Jewish leaders. "The emphasis should be more on what killed Jesus, not who killed him," said Rudin, also a columnist for Religion News Service.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, an Orthodox rabbi who has close ties to evangelical leaders as president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, also voiced concerns.
"I don't think he's out to get the Jewish community, or attack it, or even be insensitive, frankly," said Eckstein, who was invited to a screening but could not attend because of other commitments. "But I'm not sure if he is aware enough, or sensitive enough, to the history of what has happened because of this deicide charge."

Alton Raines

I was gaining a lot of respect for Gibson, ie this project... but now it appears he has buckled to the powers that be, the powers of "Z" as likes to call it. The evidence and examples just continue to pile up, people -- there is a decidedly Jewish control over media. It is positively ridiculous for Gibson to have to alter one hair of this film to appease Jews or anyone else. What's next? Removing Jews altogether from scenes of crowds shouting "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Mark 15:13) and replace them with extra Romans?? How about erasing the Pharisee's and Saducees altogether? Why not just sanitize and judaize the whole New Testament? Gibson has lost his cahones in dealing with these cut throat bastards, once again in the name of "ecumenical solidarity," which in itself is a blasphemy to the name of Jesus Christ. Lauer needs to reverse his statement entirely, and say flat out to the Jews and anyone else offended, "`Screw you, we're going to make the film we want to make!"

Up A River Called Denial

Ted Mettlach

Mr. Rense,
A disappointment. I avoid cinema but was waiting for "The Passion."  Sadly, the film is now tainted; my interest in it  evaporated. Seemingly, the producer has less passion than I imagined.
Ted Mettlach
From Sheryl Jackson
Both comments are exceptional. I hope that Mel Gibson is able to read what is written.
Bravo, bravo, bravo.
Write on, Mr. Raines, Write on.
Sheryl Jackson
Rob Russell
Dear Mel:
Jesus clearly did not try to make anyone happy.  He told the truth as He knew it to be.  There are things that we will not know until we die and ask Him.  Simply, prayerfully follow your heart.  If you do that, then you have done what He would hope.  The good news it that regardless of your ultimate decisions, He can work with it.  God Bless you.  God's will be done.
Rob Russell


Michael Carlin


  Of all the comments made about Mel Gibson, writer and director of the forthcoming film, "The Passion," I don't recall anyone calling him stupid. Along with all the commotion, Mr. Gibson has generated publicity and public interest worth millions-- and spent very little cash in the process.  In the rush to praise, trash, encourage or denounce a movie that is not even completed, I'm surprised that no one has yet pointed out that this kind of response is probably exactly what an experienced producer and promoter of motion pictures, like Mr. Gibson, hoped to ignite.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Mr. Gibson will release exactly the film he always intended.  By stirring up protest prior to completion, then "caving in" and agreeing to changes in the rough cut, he heads off much of the protest and concern, while stoking the public appetite for a film that initially, would probably been of interest to a fairly small audience, by Hollywood standards.  It appears Mr. Gibson is playing a couple of moves ahead of the rest of us.  Can't fault the man for playing the game well.

Now that everyone is paying attention, I hope they are not too disappointed when Mr. Gibson takes his $25 million and produces a film that is in accord with his personal beliefs, opinions, and view of history.  I doubt this project is about filling movie theaters.  If you don't believe you'd approve of, or enjoy the film that results from this, don't watch it. Last I checked, freedom of religion and the right to free speech, are still part of the national code of conduct.  The choice we all get to make about Mr. Gibson's finished product is with our wallets.

Why Mel Gibson chose to create and finance this particular motion picture is his own business.  Whether I choose to spend my dollars and any more of my time on it, is mine



From CM Ross

Why I will Not Be Watching 'The Passion'

Dear Jeff,
I am a Traditional Catholic, and I will not be watching "The Passion." Sacred scripture teaches us that "By their fruits, ye shall know them."
There is nothing in Mel Gibson's filmography that would suggest he is Catholic, and as a Catholic, I was frankly horrified by "Braveheart." It was filthy, obscene, and traumatic to watch the gore in it.
As a person of Scots-Irish descent, I was deeply offended to see my ancestors' hero depicted as a long-haired weirdo with paganistic facepaint. The biographies I have read of Sir William Wallace do not have any pictures of him like that. If this is how Mel Gibson treats Wallace, what will he do to Jesus Christ?
Movies were invented by the gentile inventor Thomas Edison, and the Jews promptly appropriated them as a propaganda tool to further their own ends. Using original documents and Jewish sources, Maurice Pinay made it plain in "The Plot Against the Church" that the Jews have wished to destroy Catholicism since its creation 2,000 years ago.
Having watched films made from 1916 to the present, I have searched in vain to find a film that accurately represents Catholic teaching and does not attack the Church in an overt or subtle manner. Movies have slowly become openly and increasingly anti-Catholic. When I have seen men who claim to be Catholic like John Ford misrepresent Catholic teaching in his films like "The Fugitive" and "The Quiet Man," I finally came to the conclusion that to make a good religious film, you have to be religious. And not a tool of the Jews.
I don't know why Mel Gibson made this film. I do know that Fr. Daniel Lord, S.J. worked very hard with the Legion of Decency in the 1930s to stem the rising tide of impurity and violence in films, writing the now famous Production Code with the assistance of another Catholic priest. Why isn't Gibson following it? Then as now, Americans recognized that people are affected by what they see, and that criminals are inspired by the glorification of violence to commit more crimes.
As for impurity, in 1902, Alessandro Serenelli attempted to molest little St. Maria Goretti, who was 11. After she resisted his perverted advances, he stabbed her repeatedly and left her to die. When he confessed to the crime, Serenelli admitted that reading dirty magazines led to the murder of the little girl. Most people in law enforcement know that reading and watching filth incites crime. So did St. Thomas Aquinas when he said that impurity leads to violence.
In fact, St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote that those who speak obscenely murder souls and injure themselves, and lead others to act impurely because of their bad example and bad words. The Church Fathers, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, and Our Lady of Fatima all taught that "More souls go to Hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason."
The ironic thing about "The Passion" is that I don't even think it will be successful. You would think that being in the movie business, Mel Gibson et al would notice that "G" rated religious movies like the recent Italian TV movie on St. Maria Goretti are the most successful and earn the most money. Because of its violence, "The Passion" is slated to have an "R" rating. Thus, at times, the film industry's apparent hatred of Christianity and its values works against its own success.
"The Catechism of the Council of Trent" says that public sin requires public penance. If Mel Gibson is as serious about his religion as he claims to be, then he ought to publicly apologize for his bad example in his films, scandalizing the faithful with his filthy, gory movies; and promise to resurrect and follow the Production Code by making ONLY "G" rated movies in the future.
Miss Ross

D Hardgrave

Though Mel & Company may have taken some dramatic license with the face paint, CM, (you're talking about men who wore skirts, so smacking Mel about 'pagan' face paint is a bit silly) there is no sin in accurately portraying battle and the gore that really takes place therein! Or the true drama of life as it is, be it sexual or visceral, so long as the intent is honest. If you can't stomach what really happened to real men on real battlefields, don't go see it. You have a choice. You've neglected the great Catholic principle of second person effect, that is, if one has no direct intention of sin, but another vicariously or adaptively sins because of the first effect, the first party is not guilty, only the second party is guilty. For this same reason the nudes on the Sistine Chapel are considered blessed and holy and beautiful, not titillating, or sinful, though one might in his own wicked heart become titillated and lust and thus sin. You're laying the blame at the wrong heart and door! As for Catholic teachings, you can roam from here to timbuktu and find such wide variables on that as you can the Hindu religion! And while quoting great saints, don't forget Jerome, who said "Women during their period of menstruation are the cause of many maladies, including the death of small animals and the wilting of flowers." Not everything spouted by so-called saints made sense, was true or is of merit. Sin is born in the heart. Jesus (remember him?) said it was not what went into a man that defiled him, but that which came out of him. Your last statement is unrighteous judgement of Mel, which itself is sin. Where will you publically apologize and repent? "G" only movies? Better start scraping the scandalous ceiling of the Sistine, CM...!... but I think you need to talk to the Pope first!



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