The scholars also voiced
worries that Gibson might
weave together the most anti-
Semitic portions of the
gospels into his film.
By editing the gospels into
a single montage,
Cunningham said, "you end
up with a multiplication of
anti-Jewish elements that
ends up being more powerful
than any one gospel would
"It takes enormous sensitiv-
ity to strip" the gospels "of
Fears that the film relies on
anti-Semitic sources echo the
controversial recent report by
the panel of Catholic and
Jewish scholars, who now are
blasting the U.S. Conference
Mel Gibson, bottom center, directs Jim Caviezel,
of Catholic Bishops for wash-
as Jesus, in Rome on the set of "The Passion."
ing its hands of the study and
leaving them "high and dry."
ing some of his killers and describing
In a strongly worded letter to the
scenes of Jesus' crucifixion as more
bishops requesting a meeting with
"brutal" than those in the New
William Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore,
Testament, Cunningham said.
the Rev. Lawrence Frizzell and Mary
Rabbi James Rudin, another expert
Boys said one of the panelists received
on Catholic-Jewish issues, said this
"four vicious, anti-Semitic letters" and
material had served as the "toxic"
harassing phone calls, apparently from
source for centuries of anti-Semitic
"It seems that at least supporters of
Rudin likened such "extra-biblical"
Mel Gibson are quite content to view a
material to Jewish midrash, or post-
film that portrays the Jews as implaca-
ble, violent enemies of Jesus of
"It's all midrash. If Gibson uses that
Nazareth," they wrote.
as kosher, then he is really going
The U.S. Conference of Catholic
against the authorized Catholic teach-
Bishops declined to discuss the matter
ing of the Vatican," Rudin said. "To
further until the film appears.
use that is distortion and dangerous."
Meanwhile, Hier, who wrote an op-
The scholars are equally troubled by
ed about the film in the Los Angeles
references to Mary of Agreda, who
Times last week, said he had urged
blames Jews throughout the ages for
Gibson to meet with him and others to
discuss their concerns.
Hier cites a passage from her writing
Gibson's spokesman likened such
that refers to Jews, saying: 'Although
calls to censorship.
they did not die, they were chastised
"Are they filmmakers? Do they want
with intense pain. These disorders con- to tell him how to make this film?"
sequently, upon shedding the blood of
Nierob asked. "They can make a film
Christ, descended to their posterity
if they want to."
and even to this day continue to afflict
Hier, in fact, is a filmmaker: The
this group with horrible impurities."
Wiesenthal Center won an Academy
Such attitudes had a direct influence
Award in 1997 for the Holocaust doc-
on modern anti-Semitism and even on
umentary The Long Road Home, which
the Holocaust, said Father Michael
Cooper, director of the Center for
Hier insisted that his aim was only
Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo
to discuss with Gibson concerns about
University in Florida.
the film's story.
Nierob, Gibson's spokesman, said he
He pointed out that he had consult-
had "never heard" of Emmerich or
ed on other films, including the recent
Mary of Agreda. He also questioned
TV miniseries Hitler: The Rise of Evil.
criticism of Emmerich.
At his urging, Hier said, the filmmak-
"Is everything she wrote anti-
ers tacked on a series of documentary
Semitic?" he said.
Holocaust images after the film. ❑
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