Friday, December 14, 2007

Diocese of Toledo Addresses The Golden Compass

The following insert was included in the Norwalk Catholic School newsletter The Mustardseed:
There have been many e-mails sent recently about a new children’s film called "The Golden Compass" and a series of books by British author Philip Pullman. There was a note in the Friday Flyer recently concerning this and an article in our student newspaper, The Norwalk Catholic Weekly News. Many parents are asking questions. The following communication received from the Diocese of Toledo, Office of Communications provides excellent information and further resources to consult.

Office of Communications

TO: Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Leaders, Principals, Catechetical Leaders, Youth Ministers and Major Superiors
FROM: Sally Oberski
RE: Golden Compass Film
DATE: November 29, 2007

A new children’s film called The Golden Compass featuring Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards is scheduled to open December 7 and has created a storm of protest and turned new attention to the book on which it is based. There is so much information being faxed and e-mailed around the country about the movie, the books, and the author of the books that it may get confusing.

The USSCB has not yet reviewed this film
[ED: This memo obviously predates Mr. Forbes' notorious positive review of The Golden Compass, and the USCCB's subsequent decision to pull the review]. I spoke to Harry Forbes of the USSCB film office and he planned to see the movie this week. He anticipated his review to be embargoed until the December 7 film release date, however he would try to send information to Communication Directors prior to the film open. Here are some basic facts.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which began a campaign against the movie two months before its opening, says its concern is not so much the movie itself as the fact that it may cause parents to buy and children to read the three books of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

These books – The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass – are dark fantasy novels by British author Philip Pullman, set in an alternative universe. According to Catholic News Service (CNS), an angel informs one of the major characters that in this universe “God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Almighty” are all just names that the first angel gave himself to assert divine authority.

The Church, referred to as the Magisterium, is depicted in the books as “an oppressive institution,” according to CNS. The news service quotes one of the characters as saying that the Church “tried to suppress and control every natural impulse” and that all churches share the same fundamental goals: to “control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”

Perry Glanzer, a Baylor University professor, points out that Pullman told the Washington Post that through his work, “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

On his own official website (, Pullman specifically declines to elaborate on the meaning of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. But he does make this clichéd observation about what he calls organized religion (which he differentiates from “the religious impulse”):

“The trouble is that all too often in human history, churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people’s lives in the name of some invisible god (and they’re all invisible, because they don’t exist) – and done terrible damage. In the name of their god, they have burned, hanged, tortured, maimed, robbed, violated, and enslaved millions of their fellow creatures, and done so with the happy conviction that they were doing the will of God, and they would go to Heaven for it. “This is the religion I hate, and I’m happy to be known as its enemy.”

As the primary religious educators of their children, parents may find this information helpful. The Golden Compass and its sequels feature a 12-year girl as protagonist and are aimed at children in that age range. Unsuspecting parents may take their children to see the film and then buy the trilogy of books for their children as Christmas presents.

The Catholic League has published a booklet entitled “The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked” self described as “the most authoritative guide to Pullman’s scheme” that is available from their website. Additionally, here are some links that may be helpful.

ZENIT News Service

Catholic News Service Film Review

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights – access to their booklet “The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked.”

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Norwalk Catholic School on The Golden Compass

USCCB Needs a New Film Reviewer

Caveman Clubs Catholic School Teacher for Promoting Anti-Catholic Works of Phillip Pullman

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At 12/15/2007 9:46 AM, Blogger Christine the Soccer Mom said...

Totally, totally off topic.

I tagged you.

At 12/16/2007 8:54 AM, Blogger mud_rake said...

What totally ignorant stuff this bishop fiddles around in! He is taking this diocese back to the 14th century with his prissy ideas.

At 12/16/2007 5:24 PM, Anonymous Donald R. McClarey said...

"What totally ignorant stuff this bishop fiddles around in! He is taking this diocese back to the 14th century with his prissy ideas."

Please. I wager your knowledge of the 14th century is as weak as your non-substantive criticism of the comments of the bishop.

At 12/17/2007 5:49 PM, Blogger Leon Suprenant said...

I'm not sure what Mud Rake is referring to here.

I do think many people are tiring of The Golden Compass controversy, and it doesn't seem to be a huge box office success (hurray!).

But Pullman's work is highly problematic, and so I want to applaud the Office of Communications in Toledo for doing its job well. And kudos to Bishop Blair for looking out for the spiritual well-being of his flock.

The Catechism tells us that "the first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it" (no. 2088).

Pullman has made it clear that he intends to undermine the faith through his children's literature.

I see absolutely nothing "prissy" about the bishop and his staff doing their job, and doing it well.


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