For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Catholic Imagination

by Kim Packard
Created July 2012 In progress… Not too sure if Schafer is right but it’s an interesting idea. Religious Affiliation of Director— Eric Rohmer (Excerpt below) “Ingrid Schafer (1991) makes a very clear distinction between what she calls the Catholic and the Protestant imagination. She talks about a Catholic “both-and” imagination versus a Protestant “either-or” imagina-tion. “Both-and” reflects the incarnation: God became man, and he is truly God and truly Human at the same time. The Protestant paradigm focuses on “divine transcendence” versus the Catholic focus on “divine immanence” ( p. 50-51). Divine transcendence sees the world “fractured… Read more

Created July 2012
In progress… Not too sure if Schafer is right but it’s an interesting idea.

Religious Affiliation of Director— Eric Rohmer (Excerpt below)

“Ingrid Schafer (1991) makes a very clear distinction between what she calls the Catholic and the Protestant imagination. She talks about a Catholic “both-and” imagination versus a Protestant “either-or” imagina-tion. “Both-and” reflects the incarnation: God became man, and he is truly God and truly Human at the same time. The Protestant paradigm focuses on “divine transcendence” versus the Catholic focus on “divine immanence” ( p. 50-51). Divine transcendence sees the world “fractured by original sin,” while divine immanence views the world as originally blessed by a God who is a caring and loving Father.

The Catholic imagination is “analogical” according to Shafer. The world as God’s creation shows us how God is. We learn about God by understanding the world. This distinction is based on the Catholic emphasis on the Incarnation and the Sacrament. Divinity and flesh are intermingled; God himself is also truly human and the blood of Christ is physically present in the communion cup. For Thomas Aquinas the whole world was sacramental, “a bearer of grace.” In the Catholic perspective the “artists are sacrament makers, revealers of God-in-the-world” (Shafer, p. 52). R.A. Blake claimed (1991) that people tend to come closer to the divine “through the senses-through color and form, through song and story and dance—than through precise verbal formulations of their theologians” (p. 60).

With one or two exceptions Rohmer’s films do not deal with any explicit spiritual or religious themes. His attention is rather directed to contemporary man, his values, conflicts, and everyday problems without any reference to religious or non-religious beliefs. Bedouelle (1979) notes that “such attention to what we might call the spiritual dimension of every human situation has become a commonplace in post-Conciliar Catholic thought” (p. 272). For Bedouelle, Rohmer’s films, especially the “Moral Tales,” represent a rediscovery of Christian reality.

Rohmer, however, obviously had more on his mind than moral education. He held that “Christianity is consubstantial with the cinema,” and that “the cinema is the cathedral of the twentieth century” (Bedouelle). The latter statement is interesting with regard to another significant focus of the Catholic imagination. Shafer states that the Catholics emphasize the “the individual relating to God as a member of a community” (Shafer, p. 53). The community of people serving God is realized through the cathedrals. And what is the “cathedral” expressing if not “the liturgical re-enactment of God’s comedy of grace,” Shafer notes (p. 53). Film as a collective art form does carry traits of the cathedral. However, Rohmer probably had a more transcendent concept in mind when using “cathedral” as a metaphor. "

Read less