The Gospel Truth

If Only Roe…

May 21, 2010

I have loved going to the movies since I was 11 years old.

I would go to the show on a Saturday afternoon for a double feature with Alan Ladd, Randolph Scott or John Wayne.  Despite the decline in Hollywood’s moral standards, I still love to go to the show because films say so much about how our culture has evolved.

Films with serious subjects about life, moral choices and the inner struggle for God especially interest me. I particularly like movies that deal with Catholic issues, such as family, marital fidelity and abortion.

Each film is like a double feature for me.

I see not only what other moviegoers see but I also see a film from the perspective of my Catholic faith.

Hollywood has surprised me with its recent production of several pro-life films, such as Juno and Bella where women in unwanted pregnancies have selflessly decided to adopt their babies to friends instead of aborting their unborn children.

I recently saw Michael Caine’s latest movie, Harry Brown.  It is a bloody vigilante movie that reminded me more of a geriatric version of Charles Bronson’s old Death Wish movies, done with a cockney accent.

I was never crazy about Caine’s many, many roles when he was younger.  Alfie was a rouge and none of his war films did anything for me.

His most powerful role was in the film, Cider House Rules, where he played a sympathetic doctor with an addiction to ether, who performed illegal abortions during WWII.

Tobey Maguire was his young aid, who had strict reservations against what Caine was doing.

But after being enticed by one of Caine’s “patients” and his compassion for one of his fellow workers whose father had impregnated her, his reservations magically disappear and his transformation becomes complete and he follows in Caine’s footsteps.

The movie’s happy ending showed me how far we have come from those of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.

Another, more recent movie left me with the same feeling.

After seeing a similar movie a couple years ago, I had an epiphany about something that has baffled me for years.

Former Archbishop of St. Louis, now Cardinal Justin Rigali used to punctuate many of his pro-life homilies with the statement Life will be victorious.

While his invocation summoned images of Saint Louis IX, urging his crusaders to follow him into battle, his words also had an enigmatic quality that left me shaking my head in bewilderment.

This all changed with my viewing of Revolutionary Road.  The film depicts the disturbing story of a disintegrating suburban family in the 1950s.

To me it was the cinematic equivalent of Betty Friedan’s 1963 bestseller, The Feminine Mystique, which convinced millions of suburban housewives that their lives were meaningless.

April Wheeler is portrayed as a distraught and restless wife whose life seemed empty and hopeless. Her husband Frank, a thoroughly weak but buoyantly optimistic man, was still searching for his professional niche in life.

The couple had two children that were nothing more than blond appendages to their dismal lives.

To fill their marital void they spontaneously agreed to shed the conformity of oppressive suburbia and flee to the idyllic streets of Paris.

The plot becomes more complicated when Frank gets a promotion at his computer company that put him on the verge of a professional windfall and April gets pregnant.

To “solve” her problem she purchases a kit from the local pharmacy.  When Frank has second thoughts about their cultural change, and the end of their new baby, April is devastated.

A final solution appears to her in the frantic and unsettling words of a mentally ill man who tells her the sordid truth about their marriage.  Like the Fool in King Lear, he mocks the facade of their conflicted marriage from the depths of his madness.

To April his words are, not the ravings of a lunatic, but the painful truth that no sane person would dare say.  It is at that moment the audience realizes that April had only one viable option.

On the last morning of her life, acting like a submissive Stepford wife, marinated in robotic pleasantness, she calmly plans to end her mortal existence and that of her unborn child by suction bulb.

With fatal resignation cowering in her eyes before their picture window, her life ebbing away from her, I could almost hear the feminist chorus in the audience echo in unison, If only Roe…

It was at this exact moment I knew exactly what the Archbishop had meant. Jesus’ death and Resurrection had conquered death.  But for the Wheelers, there was no god except pleasure and success.

With the exception of a few mindless blasphemies they never gave God a second thought.  Without recognition of Him and His victory over death the only choice April had was the grave.

I just wonder how many people shape their opinions of such important issue by what they see in the movies?

Hollywood has always had the power to influence what Rush calls minds of mush which probably applies to millions of the American people.

But despair is not one of our choices.

In recognizing this Catholics should have confidence in life’s eventual triumph over the forces of death and despair that populate our culture, attack our families and seduce our children.

I know that both Cardinal Rigali still implores his Philadelphia flock about the victory of life over April’s culture of death and that St. Louisans still exhort Life’s Final Victory.  Now I know what they mean.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at