Mel Gibson launches scathing
attack on the Vatican
From Richard Owen in Rome
[Times, UK, 13 Sept]:
MEL GIBSON, a Roman Catholic who is to play Christ in a
new film, has attacked the Vatican, saying that he does not
believe in the Church as an institution.
The actor, who says that he is an “old fashioned Catholic” who
rigorously supports the Latin Mass, is shooting Passion in
Rome and in the southern Italian town of Matera. He says that
he is happy that his only daughter has decided to become a
Gibson, 46, had a Catholic upbringing and attended a Catholic
boys’ school in Australia. He is scathing about the Church’s
hierarchy, saying that the Vatican was “a wolf in sheep’s
“I believe in God,” he told the newspaper Il Giornale.
“My love for religion was transmitted to me by my father. But
I do not believe in the Church as an institution”. Gibson has a
private chapel at his home in Malibu, California, at which the
service is conducted every Sunday in Latin.
The abolition of the Latin Mass was one of the key reforms
adopted in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, which
sought to bring the liturgy closer to the people by ordering
clergy to say Mass in the vernacular.
Vatican II allowed for local bishops to apply for “exceptions”,
however, and Mass continues to be said in Latin in about 20
churches in Italy. These include the church of Gesù and Maria
in Rome, where it has become fashionable for high-society
Catholics to hold weddings and baptisms to the sound of
Church officials say that there is a growing movement for the
restoration of Latin, which Vatican officials regard as dangerous
and potentially schismatic.
In private the Pope continues to say Mass in Latin but
permission for local dioceses is granted grudgingly.
A seminary near Florence that still trains priests in the Latin
liturgy claims that its conservatism has “growing appeal”.
Gibson, whose latest film, Signs, is released today, is said by
friends to have become more conservative in his religious views
in middle age.
He has been married to his wife, Robyn, for more than 20
years, unusually long by Hollywood standards, and says that
his faith enabled him to survive as a family man despite the
drinking binges and infidelities that accompanied his early
He protects the privacy of his seven children (six of them sons)
fiercely, but he said that his “adventuresome” daughter Hannah
wanted to be a nun, and he was very happy about it. She was
“healthy, smart and well travelled” and he did not have to
worry about her.
Gibson, who is renowned for his swashbuckling heroics in
action films such as Braveheart, Mad Max and Lethal Weapon,
said that portraying Christ during his final earthly hours would
be the most difficult role of his life.
He said that what attracted him to the story of Christ’s last
hours before the Crucifixion was that it was “the drama of a
man torn between his divine spirit and his earthly weakness”.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the road to Calvary and at
Golgotha, Jesus was usually described as resigning himself to
death without a tremor of fear, whereas “my Jesus will be
shaken by his human suffering. Real blood will flow from the
wound in his side, and the screams of his Crucifixion will be
real as well.”
He said that he had chosen Matera, noted for its palaeolithic
caves, or “Sassi”, because it had formed the backdrop to Pier
Paolo Pasolini’s Gospel According to St Matthew (1964), which
he greatly admired. He would not need any special effects
because Matera provided a “photocopy of the landscape you
travel through as a Christian pilgrim in Israel”.
Catholic sources said that Gibson, who sought the advice of
theologians and prelates in Rome for his film, had strong views
on divorce, abortion and contraception that would appeal to
It remains to be seen whether Passion will join the list of
Vatican-approved films on the life of Christ, which include
Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings (1961) and Franco Zeffirelli’s
Jesus of Nazareth (1977) starring Robert Powell.