Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Hacksaw Ridge

Five Films Featuring the Priesthood


It’s an annual tradition; Oscar Season comes around and a Martin Scorcese picture is always sure to be getting plenty of buzz.  This year the film in question is Silence starring Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, Hacksaw Ridge), Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis), as missionary priests searching for their mentor (Liam Neeson) in feudal Japan. It’s not surprising that the movie has people talking; besides its all star pedigree, issues of faith particularly the priesthood often make for great cinematic drama. Consider the following.

Boys Town (1938) Spencer Tracy’s performance as Father Flanagan who founds a sanctuary for underprivileged and delinquent young boys named Boys Town, earned him an Oscar. The movie was nominated for four more Oscars and won for Best Original Story. It also brought a lot of public attention-and funding-for the real Father Flanagan’s work. Besides Tracy’s legendary performance, you also get Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull, and Gene Reynolds. Plus this was the movie, that originated, “He’s not heavy-he’s my brother!”

The Exorcist (1973) Directed by William Friedkin and based on the novel of the same name, this movie made pea soup a catch phrase and a certain set of steps at Georgetown University a place of pilgrimage. It’s not only considered not only one of the greatest scary movies of all time, but one of the greatest movies period, this one kicked off a whole genre of exorcism themed movies, none of which quite compare to the original.  In great part that’s because it not only has Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair’s iconic performances, but Max von Sydow as well as Father Merrin. But the movie’s emotional heart and soul comes from Jason Miller as the tormented Father Damien who’s suffered a crisis of faith after the death of his mother.

The Name of the Rose (1986) Jean Jacques Anand (The Lover, Enemy at the Gates) directed this Italian-French-German mystery drama was adapted from the Umberto Eco novel of the same name. Young novice Adso (Christian Slater is his very early years,) and his mentor Franciscan Friar William of Baskerville (Sean Connery in one of his more memorable non-Bond roles) in 1327, journey to a remote Italian abbey for a papal debate. The abbey in question houses one of the greatest libraries in Europe; it’s also astir from the recent suspicious death of one of the monks. More bodies turn up and William races to solve the mystery before the Inquisition is called in.  It won the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film as well as two BAFTA awards including Sean Connery for Best Actor.

Black Robe (1991) Directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeopardy) this adaption of the Brian Moore novel tells the story of how young Jesuit priest Father LaForgue (Lothaire Bluteau best known to American audiences for his roles on 24 and Vikings) is sent to a distant Catholic mission in a Huron village. LaForgue is accompanied by non-Jesuit assistant Daniel (Aden Young of The Starter Wife and I, Frankenstein) as well as a group of Algonquin Indians. Along the way complications in the form of Daniel falling for an Algonquin girl, and interactions with other First Nation peoples who are less than sympathetic to Father LaForgue and his mission.  It is considered one of the best researched films featuring indigenous peoples and it includes dialogue spoken in the Cree, Mohawk, and Algonquin languages. It won the Genie Award for Best Canadian Film as well as Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor.

The Crime of Father Amaro (2002) Directed by Carlos Carrera and starring Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel, Y Tu Mama Tambien) as the titular father and Ana Claudia Talancon (Fast Food Nation, Love in the Time of Cholera) as the young girl he begins a passionate affair with.  As you can imagine it doesn’t end well.  The movie created a firestorm in Mexico and the Catholic Church actually attempted to ban it.  Despite or perhaps because of that, it became the biggest box office success in the country’s history and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Top photo from Bigstock

Street Seens – Don’t Blame Jiminy Cricket


Conscience is hard work. So, don’t blame Jiminy Cricket, or Pinocchio, or even Walt Disney if you haven’t heard a small voice telling you exactly the choice to make in a situation where there is likely more than one answer. Turns out it’s up to you.

The good news is that you have everything you need to recognize and make the right choice when confronted with sometimes competing options. And when that happens, conscience gets the last word.

Popular culture recently gave us a couple of reminders of that truth in the just-ended year. The 2016 Mel Gibson film Hacksaw Ridge told of a soldier who, for reasons of his faith, refused to carry or use firearms, and went on to become the first conscientious objector to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty. In another example occurring on December 19, 2016, a member of the U.S. Electoral College departed from his predictable script and chose not to vote for the candidate he was expected to name. Presumably the judgment of conscience occurred because of information observed, discovered, or revealed after being named an elector, but before having to act by casting a vote. Both examples show us what is meant by the phrase “a resolved conscience.”

The road begins with recognizing that conscience is a judgment. It’s the decision you come to when you’ve looked at the various sides of a question, weighed the evidence, consulted the experts whose opinions carry weight, including your own beliefs and principles. It comes about as the result of a process not unlike what happens in a court room. Depositions are gathered. People tell of what they have seen or experienced, or read or studied, of how it looks or looked to them.  Analyzing all that varied input, all the parties of the trial go to work to make a case for what they are presenting, what at that point they believe is the truth of a situation. How it really is, versus how it looks on the surface.

That’s not as easy or automatic as it sounds. It takes some courage, maybe a jot or two of humility. I’m hoping I’m not the only one who tends to listen most carefully to the people, the media, the preachers, the pundits who agree with my current or favorite point of view. A piece of advice I read at the time or our recent (interminable) campaign and elections came as a happy illumination. Make sure not to isolate yourself from “the other point of view.” Listen respectfully and let it add a dose of honesty to your own. You don’t have to adopt it as your own, but it will help you resolve your own conscience so that it includes respect for those who come down on a different side of an issue. So in those battlefield scenes or in that gathering at a state’s designated voting place, we can take it that there were serious differences of opinion that made individuals take different paths, both or all choices made in “good faith.” Individuals weighed similar evidence and reached different resolutions.

That process of resolving is a key ingredient of a judgment of conscience you can trust. Unless and until you come to that key point of “resolution” you’ll be standing on shaky ground. An unresolved or doubtful conscience can’t support a good, ethical or moral decision. Or think of it this way: you want to get to the top shelf of the bookcase or the highest shelf in the closet. As you plan your path, would you want to count on a one-legged ladder?  You tell me. That’s why the experts on ethics warn that a doubtful or unresolved conscience can never lead to a morally acceptable path to action. If the process of an honest look at the evidence leaves you with a “maybe,” you proceed at your own risk.

Two other bits of wisdom about conscience are the “two Cs.” If you want to be guided by your conscience, don’t copy and don’t condemn. Nobody else’s conclusions or resolutions can provide you the support you need. And don’t be quick to conclude that another person’s or group’s honestly resolved conscience should be discounted or disrespected.

With all due respect for Jiminy Cricket, each one of us is equipped to be a much more successful, supporting actor in our own life stories. No charming insect on our shoulders. But a really authoritative voice. So, farewell, Jiminy. Hello, the voice of conscience we are prepared to tune up by a lot of hard, rewarding work that delivers peace of mind and the courage of our own well considered convictions.

Top photo from Bigstock.