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Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2001 / 27 Teves 5761

Don Feder

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Actress courageously condemns Catholicism -- ANOTHER INMATE of the entertainment community has courageously attacked the Catholic Church. Such daring has not been seen since the last time a mullah rose in the Iranian parliament to denounce Zionism.

Actress Heather Graham (star of such thought-provoking films as "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") is the latest celebrity to come forward with a tragic tale of how Catholicism made her childhood a living hell.

Original as she is audacious, Graham slams the Church for its alleged misogyny. "Why do I have to do what all these men are saying? Why is a woman's sexuality evil?" Graham asks in an interview in the February issue of Talk magazine. Good feminist that she is, the actress identifies promiscuity and exhibitionism as the essence of femininity.

But we may rejoice in the knowledge that Rome failed in its attempt to stifle Graham's sexuality.

Transcending her Catholic girlhood, she played a porn star and bared all in "Boogie Nights," had simulated sex with a 400 pound man in the sequel to "Austin Powers" and portrayed an act so raunchy in the film "Two Girls and a Guy" that it had to be cut to avoid an NC-17 rating.

Nor is Graham's carefree eroticism confined to the screen. She's had a series of well-publicized relationships with actors like James Woods and Kyle MacLachlan.

Apparently, the Church isn't alone in trying to stifle Graham. The actress hasn't spoken to her parents in six years, to punish them for having the chutzpah to object to her explicit performances.

Graham is the latest in a long line of ex-Catholic entertainers ready to kvetch on cue. In 1992, singer Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on "Saturday Night Live," shouting "fighting the real enemy." Madonna has referred to her Church as "disgusting" and "hypocritical."

The Vatican is ground zero in the culture war. Genital liberationists view its opposition to abortion, homosexuality and sex outside marriage as the major obstacle to advancing their values.

They're right, which is why the Church deserves the gratitude of proponents of traditional morality, regardless of their faith.

If Graham was repressed as a Catholic girl, she must feel truly liberated now -- if displaying your body to millions of strangers, depicting sex acts and flitting from one liaison to another may be defined as liberating.

Judaism and Protestantism share Catholicism's sexual ethic. All are derived from the Ten Commandments and Hebrew scriptures. They include a prohibition on extra-marital sex and calls for modesty.

Western morality isn't based on what "these men are saying," but on the words of the main man -- He whose wisdom transcends the fashions of the day and idols of the age.

By the way, feminists have it backward. Biblical morality seeks to restrain the sexual urges of men far more than women. Male sexuality (which is oriented toward random coupling with any appealing object) is in far greater need of restraint.

Even after decades of cultural brainwashing, women are still more modest, monogamous and selfless than men.

In Jewish law, women are exempted from many of the positive commandments that apply to men, on the theory that they begin on a higher spiritual plane, while men, being more earthy, require more discipline.

For instance, there is the commandment that Jewish males be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. In one of those fascinating bits of speculation, the rabbis of the Talmud asked why the penis is circumcised and not another part of a man's body.

Circumcision is known as the mark of the covenant, a sign that the male has assumed the burden of Mosaic law.

Well, asked the rabbis, why not place the mark where it's visible, say on the finger? To which they answered that it is with his private parts that a man is most apt to sin, so the mark should be there to remind him to, in the words of Austin Powers, "Oh, behave!"

All of this is beyond poor Heather. But just as the pope forgave the man who tried to kill him, if Graham ever changes her mind, surely she will be welcomed back into the fold. Her Church is big on forgiveness.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate