In “Padre Pio,” cult director Abel Ferrara’s latest film, Shia LeBeouf stars as the Capuchin friar, priest, stigmatist, and mystic canonized in 2002. During four months of filming, the actor converted to Catholicism. He credits his transformation to the experience of living among monks (“these cats running around eating ice cream”) and the sway of the ancient Latin Mass.
Media buzz treats LeBeouf’s conversion as a blue ribbon for the Catholic Church and a win for tradition in the liturgy wars. But what this carnival of publicity really signifies is our common susceptibility to images. We all inhabit a galaxy of synthetic realities created to appeal to what we want to believe. In a culture engulfed by sentimentality and emotionalism, moral seriousness collapses into what