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MEXICO: The crime of Father Amaro

The anti-clerical film "The Crime of Father Amaro" is breaking all records in Mexico, reviving the old struggle between the Church and its anti-clerical enemies. I have not seen the inside story on its production, but this is my understanding. Hopefully Mexico experts can correct and/or amplify what I report. There are three generations of the Ripstein family. Alfredo Ripstein Jr. founded a motion picture company called Alameda Films. As early as 1970 he attempted to get funding for the production of the film, alleging that it was a movie version of a Portuguese classic, which is really a cover-up. The Mexican government did not want trouble with the Church, and the funding was not obtained. The second generation is represented by Arturo Ripstein, who was unsuccessful in his attempts to get funding for a film called "Black Widow". Even Martin Scorese's "Last Temptation of Christ" was not allowed to be shown in Mexico. Surprisingly President Fox, a practising Catholic, insisted that in the name of freedom of expression censorship should be restricted. The beneficiary is the third generation of the Ripstein family, David Bimer Ripstein. The director of the film is a young man, Carlos Carrera, who had no part in all this background story.

It is generally assumed that the aim of the film was to discredit the Catholic Church and to make money, which it certainly has. Church officials have protested vigorously, but the film may do the Church some good. There are two targets, the sexual abuse of priests and the revelation of confession secrets. Here we go back to the Reformation, which ended clerical celibacy and replaced individual confessions with a general confession. Looking back of my observations in Spain, I believe that the harsh anticlericalism I encountered was the result of clerical abuses, especially the circulation of stories about men based on the supposedly confidential confessions of the women. I very much doubt that the Church will draw the obvious conclusions: abolish clerical celibacy and individual confessions.

Ronald Hilton - 10/23/02