I'm curious to know what it was because of the recent/current controversy over the so-called Golden Compass movie (as previously discussed here. It seems that, difficult as it is to believe, Mr. Donahue's ranting and raving like a rabid bassett hound about how evil the film is was not very successful in dissuading people from seeing it, as it's the top-grossing movie this weekend. I suspect that it probably had the opposite of the intended effect. Kudos, Mr. Donahue...liberal, secular, Catholic-hating Hollywood thanks you. I'm being facetious, of course, but nevertheless as I was fashioning that comment in my mind, a cynical and paranoid voice in my mind said, "What if Mr. Donahue were actually on a secret Hollywood payroll getting paid to say crazy things about certain movies to stir up controversy and pique interest in seeing it?" Which would be horrible because it would cast even more of a negative light on American Catholicism than Mr. Donahue casts by saying these things in earnest, but it would also be really, really funny because it's always fun to see these annoying, self-righteous types exposed as frauds and hypocrites. But I'm sure that's this is not the case, and I'd better stop talking about such a laughably implausible scenario before I find myself facing a libel suit.
I still maintain that Bill Donahue would do more to help the cause of Catholic anti-defamation if he would simply shut up, or at least refrain from throwing temper tantrums and raving about mythical anti-Catholic conspiracies every time some entity expresses a viewpoint with which he disagrees. I certainly think there are more constructive ways to counter a perceived argument that the Church is power-hungry and authoritarian regime that seeks to oppress the gullible through restrictive dogma. I suspect that responding to such a perceived argument with anger and paranoia might actually lend credence to it. I wish that we as American Catholics would quit sanctioning him and lending him any degree of legitimacy or credibility, so I would just like to state again for the record that I do not support the Catholic League and Bill Donahue does not represent me or my beliefs.
To be fair, however, I do understand why Mr. Donahue is upset; indeed, when I read the various statements by the author of the series on which the movie is based, a Mr. Philip Pullman, about "killing God" and so forth, I get upset too, although in my case I feel more sad than angry. I don't mean to say that I feel sorry for him, because that would be narrow-minded and condescending. It's just that I find any conflict in the name of Christ unfortunate and disheartening.
I'm pleased to note that the response of actual authority figures here in the diocese of Sioux Falls has been, based on the publications I have had access to, largely thoughtful and sensible, (although Sioux Falls Catholic School superintendent Dr. Burgwald was quoted in an excellent Argus Leader article describing the movie as "a feel-good Christmas movie about killing God", which I believe he himself was quoting from Donahue, and I wish he had refrained from doing so because it lends Donahue credibility). Basically the diocese is recommending that people (particularly parents) should exercise discretion and make informed choices about the books/movie, which is always a good idea.
Unfortunately, I myself won't be able to make a truly informed opinion until I see the movie and/or read the books, and apparently the latter is not happening any time soon. Based on the various synopses, criticisms, and analyses I have read, I do have some thoughts, but I'd prefer not to share them at this time as they are based on non-authoritative and questionable sources, so I'd be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. As for seeing the movie, I do intend to do so, but I intend to wait until it comes to the discount theater, because I fear that, like the books, the DVD might be really popular with my fellow library patrons so I might have to wait even longer to get a look at it. On the other hand, I don't see the point of spending $5-$8 on a movie that I'm not even sure I'll enjoy when there's a movie playing at the same time that I know for a fact I will enjoy (I made that mistake last month by seeing Beowulf instead of The Mist).
I find it interesting that the His Dark Materials series (ugh, that's an awkward phrasing) was published in the mid-1990s, the first installment being originally published in Britain as Northern Lights in 1995, which means it predates Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorceror's Stone by two years, and yet it is only with the advent of the movie that I've heard of any sort of controversy about it. I'm forced to assume that this is because the series hasn't been has popular here in the United States as the Harry Potter series, but it amuses me that this series of books by this avowedly atheist author with an explicitly anti-Christian rhetorical purpose has apparently escaped the notice of the contentious Christian community and the Christian community at large until now, while the Harry Potter series, (which has arguably Christian themes and whose author never spoke about her beliefs one way or the other until after the series was completed), has attracted a ridiculous amount of backlash and protest and general ill will from so-called Christians and Christian groups for being anti-Christian, the work of the devil, etc. I wonder if it's because they just didn't know about His Dark Materials, or if they believed that the alleged satanism of the Harry Potter series was a more serious threat than the overt atheism of His Dark Materials. Or (and here goes that cynical/paranoid part of my brain again) was it because they calculated that His Dark Materials wasn't popular enough to stir up the proper level of controversy and gain them enough attention? But even now, I haven't heard of any book-burnings or anything (which, as I don't pay much attention to the news anymore, doesn't mean they aren't happening); as far as I can tell, the retaliation at this point has been limited to mass e-mails, which hardly take much time and effort to forward. On the other hand, maybe they're waiting until Christmas to stage book burnings, or until the DVD comes out so they can burn those too.