Aug 30

2010

Does Vampire “bash” Catholicism?

Posted by: Jason Stevan Hill | Comments (10)

I received this email from a player yesterday:

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Dear everyone involved,

I love the Choice-of-Games games you offer, but I’m a little irked at the blatant Catholic bashing in Choice of the Vampire. Please keep in mind that the Catholic clergy did *not* torture natives into conversion. The majority of natives who did suffer torture suffered at the hands of the Conquistadors, the men who came searching for gold and glory, while the Spanish (and French Jesuit) clergy offered protection, reading, writing, medical treatment, etc. to the displaced natives. There have even been visitations to the natives by saints, martyrs, and the Virgin Mary (the Virgin of Guadeloupe [a place in Spain, for the record] visited one native who was named a saint under Pope John Paul II, for example).


The Catholic Church has long been a refuge to displaced native peoples. In the United States (before it became the USA), more Protestants were inclined to capture or displace the Native Americans they encountered, while French traders and Jesuits were more inclined to trade with them. However, anything ugly said about such a thing in a game like Choice of the Vampire would rile up the Protestants who played.

I think it only fair that you either make it clear that this one clergyman or a small group of them were involved in torture, in spite of Church opposition (there are always sinful people in all walks of life, clergy included, and I’d be fine with that depiction), or leave it out altogether. But please, don’t color the Catholic Church as a single color of violence, particularly in an era and area where the Church strove to protect the native people from oppression.
****

When I asked the player if I could post this email to the blog, so that the matter could be discussed with the community at large, I received this response.

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Having played the game through several times, I admit that my reaction was knee-jerk. Overall, the story is positive and not negative toward religion; rather, it’s the way the characters respond to your choices that can be negative or positive, and that is perfectly acceptable. I’m still a little upset that the priest character involved resorted to torture, but as I said before, evil men are everywhere, including in the clergy, and they will do negative things. Overall, I do feel this was fairly presented and thank you for taking the time to read my email.

BTW – I *adore* Choice Of Games, and will continue to play them.
****

I assume that the “knee-jerk” reaction was to this line: “This priest of the Spanish Main, accustomed as he was to arduous task of torturing native peoples until they converted to the One True Church, found himself discomforted by the den of vicious iniquity that is New Orleans.”

You can reach this line by selecting Padre Carlos as your maker, and then selecting ‘need’ as the reason for your recruitment.

I very much appreciate the fact that the concerned player gave the game another chance, and played it through several more times, enough to change their opinion and conclude that I was not specifically bashing Catholicism.

I will admit, however, that the player’s concerns caught me by surprise. I anticipated criticism for my handling of race, or of homosexual relationships, or of gender, or even for skirting the edge of implied pedophilia. And so, I was actually unprepared to defend the description of Padre Carlos as a torturer. Being a Spanish priest active in the Caribbean, I assumed that allusions to the Inquisition would explain this point without trouble.

After doing some research this morning, I found two Wikipedia entries regarding outstanding priests in the Spanish Main. Bartolomé de las Casas was a Dominican priest who later became bishop of Chiapas. He is lauded for his conversion of opinion. Originally a participant in the Encomienda system, he experienced a change of heart, and became one of its greatest detractors, traveling to Spain to lobby the king to improve the treatment of the Native Americans. What I conclude from these and several other fragmentary Wikipedia entries, he succeded in getting the New Laws passed in 1542. Unfortunately, because of the danger these laws posed to the New World establishment, there was an open revolt against these laws, and they were more or less repealed. However, the spirit of these reforms did not die, and in 1573 the Laws of the Indies were passed, and progressively implemented over the next thirty years, thereby converting the Encomienda system to the Repartimiento one.

In contradistinction to Casas, there was Diego de Landa, who very nearly destroyed any chance of us ever deciphering the Mayan syllabary by systematically destroying codices and cultural artifacts, and who openly and unrepentantly tortured native “idolators.” Interestingly, some argue that it was Landa’s very enthusiasm for torture that resulted in the removal of the Franciscan authority to discipline the natives (but only after Landa’s death).

But that is only a cursory examination. Most of my research was directed towards other topics.

That said, I hope that it is clear that I had not intended to single out Catholicism for disparagement. In my opinion, the Catholic church is made up of individuals. Some of those individuals are Casas, some of the are Landas, but most are just people.

Padre Carlos is meant as a specific type of vampire, one who already had a grossly distorted theology as a mortal, and who has reconciled his transformation and mortal beliefs with his new condition by becoming even more demented.

Faith has a very complex role in the game. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to give away certain things at the moment. However, I hope it’s clear that I am not trying to cast Padre Carlos as emblematic of the Catholic Church or its priests as a whole.

10 Comments

  1. Dominic says:

    Personally, I saw nothing more in that than a reference to what actually occurred. It’s clear enough that religion in general and Catholicism in specific had a neutral-to-positive presentation in the game taken as a whole; there was at least one reference, for example, to Catholic orphanages.

    Plus, making the sign of the cross can actually protect you from vampires, as long as the vampire in question is reasonably superstitious.

  2. I’m not overly concerned by the presentation of Catholicism in the game, but I *do* think that Catholic = Evil Inquisitor is a bit overdone, and the line you quote does strongly imply that torturing the natives into conversion was standard practice for the Church at the time, which I don’t think is the implication you meant.

    I’m also not quite sure that “Padre Carlos is supposed to represent a particular archetype” is the right response, because … well … the archetype *itself* is kind of anti-catholic. Lots of archetypes exist which are also problematic stereotypes. The peace-pipe-smoking, “me heap big chief” feather headdress-wearing Native American is an archetype, but you (correctly) avoided it because it’s kinda racist. I personally didn’t have an issue with Padre Carlos, but I do think you have to recognize that he’s a bit of a stereotype, and that some people might find the stereotype offensive.

    I was personally more bothered by the fact that the game seems to consistently equate religious faith with “superstition” and “anachronism” – something that seems particularly odd in a game where vampires provably exist.

  3. Dan Fabulich says:

    @Daniel, IMO, in Choice of the Vampire, “superstition” is right and “rationalism” is wrong, despite the forward march of scientific progress. Anachronism is the cost of being correct. 🙂

  4. Erana says:

    I’m glad to see that you take the time to address peoples’ concerns.

    *possible spoilers*
    Personally, I’m a bit bothered by the fact that you can only show real love and compassion in the romance subchapters. You can say you’re trying to redeem yourself in the eyes of God, but unless Ive missed it in my +15 playthroughs, there’s no using your supernatural prowess for morally-driven acts of love.
    Of course, these ARE your vampires; the only evidence in the game of their feeling love are when feeling attraction.
    I do like the motive-emphasizing options in the game and wouldn’t mind seeing them implimented in chapter two.

    Also, any news on a Choice of Forum?

  5. Dominic says:

    What sorts of actions do you have in mind, as far as morally-driven acts of love go?

  6. le blue dude says:

    This is somewhat unrelated to your questions buuut….

    Some of Choice of Vampire seems a little sloppy. “New Orleans Rapport” scene is never used, and reading through the files sometimes you subtract a stat when I think you should be increasing it, or increase a stat when you might want to reduce it. (such as jessie_rapport when you talk with him about the gas)

    And there’s a lot of stuff I’m not sure about for Anachronism. Does higher mean more, or less modern? If your anachronism is high, and you’re Native American, why do you not wear local clothing? If your anachronism is low, why do you wear local clothing? (In the governor’s visit section).

    There’s probably more, but that’s what I’ve found so far.

  7. Jason explains the stat changes on the other thread. They’re reversed because he was viewing the little red and blue bar as being like a needle, so if your Anachronism/Adaptation is near 100% it means the bar is pushed all the way up to the “Adaptation” end of the scale. They switched this on the stats screen to keep it consistent with other Choice games.

    As for the unused scenes, I think it’s fair to say that Choice of the Vampire isn’t actually a *complete* game per se – there’s the basic structure of the whole 200 year arc in the /scenes folder, but only the first bit gets used at all. New Orleans Rapport is clearly set in the 1920s, which is after Vampire 1 finishes.

  8. le blue dude says:

    Hmm… I understand now, I think. I guess the other thing is that I’d like the game to keep track of if you offered your assistant in Vicksburg immortality. I mean, if he was a vampire, you’d likely encounter him once or twice after.

  9. Mystic says:

    About the New Orleans Rapport = there is a specific cheat code to be able to play it. I thought everyone knew that.

  10. October Lour says:

    I absolutely adore the games. I’ve played through several twice, and just stumbled upon this blog and I am overly impressed. But… If there are “cheats” to help you acess things you don’t normally receive in normal game play… Where might I find them? I’m dying to know, and will be checking back daily for an answer 🙂 thanks for reading this!

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