Going to Godlessness

… will likely be the interpretation some Catholics will give USCCB’s review of the film The Golden Compass.

There is, admittedly, a spirit of rebellion and stark individualism pervading the story. Lyra is continually drawn to characters who reject authority in favor of doing as they please. Equally, only by defying the powers that be, can a scientist like Lord Asriel achieve progress. Pullman is perhaps drawing parallels to the Catholic Church’s restrictive stance towards the early alchemists and, later, Galileo.

Pullman trying to undermine anyone’s belief in God? Leaving the books aside, and focusing on what has ended up on-screen, the script can reasonably be interpreted in the broadest sense as an appeal against the abuse of political power.

Will seeing this film inspire teens to read the books, which many have found problematic? Rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.

This will surely be most unsatisfactory to activist Catholics. Expect the usual hail of protest.

There’s a lot of wistfulness in human beings for adventure stories like this. It seems that some sensible religious people would find a way to use that to fashion attractive tales (in book or film) to reinforce the virtues we hold dear. Despite the seeming glut of fantasy and sf materials out there these days, this genre is still considered the most easy way for a writer to break into publishing.

Given this fact:


To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.

Perhaps it is Philip Pullman who has been more compromised in his professed atheism that our kids collectively have been in their religiosity.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Going to Godlessness

  1. freder1ck says:

    I still don’t know why their reviewer rated Nacho Libre as ‘Morally Offensive.”

  2. John says:


    That was precisely when I lost all faith in the USSCB ratings system. Nacho Libre is the first movie in years that’s received wide release that I felt portrayed monasticism in a positive light. Not to mention I thought it was pretty funny :)

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