By John-Henry Westen

DENVER, December 11, 2007 ( – In the December 12 issue of The Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Charles Chaput makes a thinly veiled criticism of the positive review of ‘The Golden Compass’ put out by the Office of Film of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).   That USCCB review first posted November 29, a week prior to the film’s debut on Dec. 7, was withdrawn yesterday, without explanation.

In his review of the film, Chaput writes that “The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in “The Golden Compass” is unmistakable and at times undisguised.”  He adds, “The idea that any Christian film critics could overlook or downplay these negative elements, as some have seemed to do, is simply baffling.”

That line bears directly on the positive review for the controversial film by USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting Director Harry Forbes and his colleague John Mulderig. 

The now-pulled USCCB review said, “this film—altered, as it is, from its source material—rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.”  The USCCB review dismissed moral concerns over the film’s content stating: “Whatever author Pullman’s putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz’s film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.” 

The Forbes-Mulderig review even suggested: “To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons for viewers.”

Chaput joins a growing number of U.S. bishops who have openly condemned The Golden Compass. 

However, according to insider reports there is heated discussion taking place among bishops over the controversy.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported Friday that an inside source revealed that the debate over the film was “truly over the top” on the USCCB listsev, a private discussion board for Bishops and their aides.

Archbishop Chaput concludes his review saying, “I’ll certainly be encouraging my own friends to put their Christmas cash to better use. In fact, maybe the most cynical and insulting thing about “The Golden Compass” is that its makers would offer this cold, angry, anti-religious fable as “holiday fare” in the midst of a season built around the birth of Jesus Christ.”

Read Archbishop Chaput’s full review of ‘The Golden Compass’ here:

See related coverage:

US Bishops asked to Fire Chief Film Critic over Glowing Reviews for “Brokeback” and “Compass”