Many reviewers of Mel Gibson’s film are displaying a “New Puritanism,” condemning “The Passion of the Christ” for being too violent while lauding other violent films, charged a Catholic leader.

“Having failed to tag the movie as anti-Semitic, those who hate everything about Mel’s masterpiece are trying to convince the public not to see it because it’s too violent,” says Catholic League president William Donohue.

“Alas, there is a New Puritanism in the land,” he said. “Violence has now joined cigarettes as the new taboo.”

Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in ‘The Passion of The Christ’ (courtesy Icon Distribution)

Gibson’s controversial film about the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life opens today.

Donohue points to New York Daily News reporter Jami Bernard, who voted the “super-violent” film “Gladiator” the best picture of 2000, but brands Gibson’s film “a compendium of tortures that would horrify the regulars at an S&M club.”

Yet, Donahue says, Bernard is “a big fan of the Marquis de Sade – the pervert who wrote the book on S&M – and that is why she liked ‘Quills.'”

Reviewer Peter Rainer, the Catholic leader noted, also condemns “Passion” for delving into “the realm of sadomasochism,” yet commended director Steven Spielberg for the “gentleness” he brought to the bloody war hit “Saving Private Ryan.”

Richard Corliss of Time, he noted, thinks the only people who will be drawn to Gibson’s film are those “who can stand to be grossed out as they are edified.”

Yet, said Donahue, Corliss called the “body halvings, decapitations, [and] unhandings” of “Gladiator” a “pleasure that we get to watch.”

Critics praised violence by ‘Gladiator’ Russell Crowe (courtesy Universal Studios)

Newsweek’s David Ansen says “The Passion” will “inspire nightmares,” though he hails as “a must-see” movie a film about incest, “The Dreamers.”

David Denby of the New Yorker cites “The Passion” as being so violent it “falls into the danger of altering Jesus’ message of love into one of hate.”

Says Donahue: “This is the same guy who said of ‘Schindler’s List’ that ‘the violence [is] neither exaggerated nor minimized.”

“The New Puritans will not win this one,” Donahue said. “The public does not share their deep-seated aversion to religion nor their phony pacifism.”

A New York Times review today by A.O. Scott says Gibson “has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one.”

The review says, “It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace.”

“What makes the movie so grim and ugly is Gibson’s inability to think beyond the conventional logic of movie narrative,” charges the critique.

In a scathing review in the Boston Globe, James Carroll says the subject of the film is the “sick love of physical abuse, engaged in for power.”

“‘The Passion of the Christ’ by Mel Gibson is an obscene movie,” says Carroll to open his critique. “It will incite contempt for Jews. It is a blasphemous insult to the memory of Jesus Christ. It is an icon of religious violence.”

David Edelstein, film critic for says: “This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie ? The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre ? that thinks it’s an act of faith.”

He concludes with: “Gibson’s Jesus reminded me of the Terminator ? he could be the Christianator ? heading out into the world to spread the bloody news. Next stop: the Crusades.”

In contrast to these reviews, the many Protestant and Catholic leaders who have screened rough cuts of the film over the past several months have praised it as the most powerful cinematic treatment of the subject they have ever seen.

Editor’s note: Coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ,” WorldNetDaily has issued one of the most extraordinary editions of its monthly Whistleblower magazine ever produced, titled “THE DAY JESUS DIED.”

Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

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