Controversial for its time, The Catholics stars Trevor Howard in a powerhouse performance as the Abbot in charge of a remote Irish monastery in Mork, Eire. In defiance of an edict from Rome, the Abbot and his monks, elect to travel to the Irish mainland in order to celebrate the Mass in Latin. Refusing to bow down to Papal pressure and use English for their Mass, the monks of Mork soon become celebrated amongst orthodox Catholics and Eire turns into a place of international pilgrimage. Alarmed by the Abbot s populist move, Rome acts to quell the dissent when The Father General (Raf Vallone) sends his representative Father Kinsella (Martin Sheen) to force the Abbot to cease the Latin masses or be transferred to another position. When the two men argue against each other s religious beliefs and interpretations, the Abbot discovers that it is not just the teachings of his church that he has come to question, but the very basis of his own belief in God. Catholics was made entirely on location in Southern Ireland.
This play is about a group of Catholic monks and an abbot and does involve a theological - actually liturgical - dispute set some time in a future that it now turns out never actually occurred (one in which the Catholic Church apparently did not all but disappear because of its hierarchy's demented obsessions with sex). But that is merely the setting; the point of the story is much more universal and has to do with how people tend to huddle together to find meaning in life; how the relationships formed between different sorts of individuals may in the end be all the meaning there is to life. In the final analysis the monks, a fairly limited lot, are lost without their abbot, who provides the meaning they need in their lives, and he in turn, far more aware than any of the others, and therefore most anguished by their common predicament, is lost without his flock of monks' need of his leadership, which is the only meaning he can grasp in life. Trevor Howard gives an absolutely magnificent performance. His abbot is intelligent, articulate, cunning and in the end so courageously and purely alone that the final image of him on the screen has stayed with me for years. --www.imdb.com
(The following is an adapted version of my review that appears elsewhere on the web.) This made-for-TV movie was shown on U.S. public TV in the 1970s. The story line is very faithful to Brian Moore's 1972 book "Catholics," but with several scenes sequenced rather more effectively than in the book. Unfortunately, all known home video (VHS/DVD) versions have been shortened, with about the first fifteen minutes of the original film deleted. These first few minutes established the context for the conflict portrayed between the traditionalist Irish monks led by their Father Abbot (Trevor Howard), and the modernist representative (Martin Sheen) of their order's Father General. These missing minutes showed Sheen meeting with the Father General in Rome to discuss the "problem" of the Latin Mass celebration by the monks of Howard's abbey, and the growing world-wide popularity of that celebration. This scene made it clear that the time period portrayed is futuristic. Additional modifications and liberalization of doctrine are supposed to have taken place beyond those of Vatican II. There are mentions of a "Vatican IV" and other hypothetical conventions. Missing the original initial scene, many may believe that the film has grossly erred in or deliberately distorted current Roman Catholic beliefs. It is a tremendous loss to the integrity of the story that the vital first scene of the movie has been edited away. However, this explains the crediting of Raf Vallone as Father General at the start and end of the film, when in fact he never appears in the home video releases. It would be well worthwhile to read the first chapter of the book before seeing a shortened home video release. Since Vatican II closed 40 years ago, there has existed a Roman Catholic traditionalist movement that today seems to have more Vatican-sanctioned success than would ever have been thought possible at the time this film was made. Some will attempt to relate the events portrayed in this film to that movement. However, this film actually presents far more profound issues of religious belief and its loss. This film will be of interest to anyone, of whatever faith or none, for whom philosophies of religious belief are of interest. The acting by Trevor Howard is absolutely flawless and authentic. It is masterful, heartfelt, and beautiful. Almost equally so is that of Cyril Cusack in the role of Father Manus. Sheen's role is important, but not nearly so much as Howard's, and not even remotely as well-crafted. This work is as intelligent and entertaining today as it was when it was made 33 years ago. Perhaps someday soon someone will restore the complete film and finally give us a complete and proper version. I know of no other film that deserves this so much. --www.imdb.com
This is a really good film as far as subject matter goes. It's a product of it's times dealing with the turmoil in the Church during the Vatican II period. The film is thought provoking, yet simple enough, not going into too many complexities of dogma and so forth. How ever, the quality of the film, because it's old, is not as good as it should be, maybe it's just the DVD version i have (Legacy) but as far a quality of the film itself (like colour, sharpness, static etc... not the filming) i was disappointed, however that being said, it's is a very good movie, and definitely a should see if your into religion, and so forth. I rate the movie itself a good 7.5 - 8ish, but quality is like 3 - 4ish (don't let that discourage you) --www.imdb.com