New Catholic University To Challenge Hollywood Anti-Catholicism With Education

June 24, 2004 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
SAN DIEGO, CA — Sparked by the success of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ,' Hollywood's short-term religious revival is already over and Catholic moviegoers are preparing for the release of major films that satirize and question their faith.

"Saved,' released on May 28, tells the story of a Christian high school student named Mary, who becomes pregnant after a vision of Jesus Christ inspires her to "cure' her homosexual boyfriend. The United Artists' comedy, praised as "refreshingly irreverent' by Film Journal International's David Noh, references "The Passion' in its promotional campaign. "Got Passion?' the website asks, "Get Saved.'

The popularity of "The Passion' also prompted the re-release of British comedy troupe Monty Python's "Life of Brian,' a Biblical spoof boasting a musical Crucifixion sequence.

Academy Award-winner Ron Howard has announced plans to direct a film adaptation of Dan Brown's controversial novel "The Da Vinci Code,' which alleges that Jesus married and fathered children with Mary Magdalene, whom he also appointed leader of the early Church. The discredited but still popular novel claims that the Catholic Church has hidden this truth for two millennia.

Biblical stories once provided the plots and characters for many of Hollywood's most successful epics, like "The Ten Commandments' and "Ben-Hur.' Catholic priests were once the affable heroes of films like "Boys' Town,' "Going My Way' and "The Bells of St. Mary's.'

But, in recent films, the Catholic Church has been depicted as the home of homosexual priests and lecherous pastors (1994's "Priest'), a supporter of organized crime ("The Godfather, Part III'), and an enabler of Nazi war criminals (2003's "The Statement'). Catholic teachings on premarital sex and artificial contraception are routinely ignored or played for laughs in movies and on television shows.

According to Derry Connolly, president of New Catholic University, Hollywood steers clear of negative and stereotypical portrayals of Jews and Muslims, but rarely extends the same courtesy to Christians especially Catholics. Hollywood's deep-seated anti-Catholicism can only be challenged, Connolly said, by properly educating a new generation of principled Catholic filmmakers.

Last year, Connolly set out to do just that when he and four businessmen founded New Catholic University in San Diego's North County. Scheduled to accept its first students in Fall 2005, pending state approval, NCU will offer aspiring Catholic filmmakers a chance to earn an undergraduate degree in entertainment media. The university, Connolly said, hopes to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, encourage leadership and innovation, and provide each student with a solid moral framework, firmly grounded in Catholic ethics.

"What makes NCU unique,' Connolly said, "is that our primary goal is to prepare our future filmmakers for what has become an immoral and unethical business and let them know that they can succeed there without losing their moral compass.'

NCU will hold an inaugural gala for its supporters and volunteers on Sept. 25. The black-tie optional event, which includes dinner and entertainment, will be held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. Connolly hopes to attract at least 500 supporters to the gala, which will lay the groundwork for the university's opening.

In addition to its film program, NCU will also offer degree programs in technology, business and journalism.

For more information on New Catholic University, visit the university's website at www.newcatholicuniversity.com. To purchase tickets for the university's inaugural gala, call (858) 672-9080.

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