By John Mulderig
NEW YORK – The hard-hitting, fact-based drama “Unplanned” (Pure Flix) dares its viewers to confront the reality of what happens when a baby is aborted.
That’s an effective strategy on the part of co-writers and directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, not least because the peculiar institution of our day thrives on concealment, muddled thinking and Orwellian euphemisms. But it also means that this emotionally unsparing film is not for the casual moviegoer of any age.
Adapted from the eponymous 2011 memoir by Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), “Unplanned” traces her steady rise to become one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the country. Yet it also shows how she gradually became uneasy about the organization’s marketing of abortion.

Emma Elle Roberts and Jared Lotz star in a scene from scene from the movie “Unplanned,” the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, and her decision to join the pro-life movement. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Unplanned.com)

The conversion in her outlook reaches a dramatic climax when Abby is asked to assist a doctor performing the procedure and witnesses via sonogram what it actually involves. As the child in the womb tries to move away from the suction tube and medical containers quickly fill with blood, this scene may prove as upsetting for the audience as it was for Johnson.
Her new stance is welcomed by Abby’s husband, Doug (Brooks Ryan), and parents Kathleen (Robin DeMarco) and Mike (Robert Thomason), all of them pro-life. It also brings reconciliation with some of the protestors she once considered adversaries, including 40 Days for Life activists Shawn (Jared Lotz) and Marilisa (Emma Elle Roberts).
Unsurprisingly, Abby’s ornery former superior, Cheryl (Robia Scott), views her change of heart in a different light. Once Abby’s mentor, infuriated Cheryl becomes the moving force in a lawsuit against her ex-protege as well as against Shawn. Kaiser Johnson steals this portion of the picture playing Shawn and Abby’s unflappable lawyer, Jeff.
While Cheryl is clearly the villain of the piece, the script avoids demonizing all those associated with Planned Parenthood. Nor does it present all pro-life activists in a positive light. Whether this sense of balance will give “Unplanned” any traction with supporters of legal abortion is open to question, however.
Given that the full horror of slaughtering the unborn is on display here, the parents of older teens will have to decide whether the informative value of Abby’s story outweighs its disturbing elements. Those also include a sequence showing the sufferings Abby endured after taking RU-486 in the second of her own two abortions.
The film contains gruesome images of abortion and dismembered fetuses, much medical gore, a mild oath, a few crass expressions and a vague sexual reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.)

Fun and fresh book appeals to hipster Catholics with spiritual swagger

By Regina Lordan
“The Catholic Hipster Handbook: Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff” by Tommy Tighe. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2017). 206 pp., $15.95.
“Catholic Puzzles, Word Games and Brainteasers” by Matt Swaim. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2017). 64 pp., $9.95.
“Christian Labyrinths: A Celtic Coloring Book” by Daniel Mitsui. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2017). 64 pp., $10.95.
Are you a Catholic hipster? Are you a bespectacled foodie, black skinny jeans and Chucks-wearing Catholic “sneaking a peek at your breviary app during your work meeting,” as the book teases?

These are the covers of “The Catholic Hipster Handbook: Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff” by Tommy Tighe; “Catholic Puzzles, Word Games and Brainteasers” by Matt Swaim; and “Christian Labyrinths: A Celtic Coloring Book” by Daniel Mitsui. The books are reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)

Then yes, you are a Catholic hipster, and yes, “The Catholic Hipster Handbook: Rediscovering Cool Saints, Forgotten Prayers, and Other Weird but Sacred Stuff” by Tommy Tighe is for you.
Does this stereotype annoy you and does the whole idea of a Catholic hipster seem odd? It doesn’t matter, this book is still for you.
Just as the world is saturated with stereotypes about hipsters and Catholics (and perhaps now Catholic hipsters?), the market is saturated with books for Catholic moms, grieving, spirituality, history, the saints and the Gospel. It is not exactly overflowing with literature that purposely identifies with Catholics with a certain type of spiritual swagger.
This book will speak to the Catholic who is ready to appreciate the absolute coolness of Catholicism: It is countercultural, it’s ancient (more ancient than those ancient grains on your avocado toast), and there is so much to celebrate, discover and explore within the faith to deepen spirituality and life.
“The Catholic Hipster Handbook” augments these glorious features of the church and organizes them into ways to rediscover the church’s attitude, stuff, life and the attraction. The aptly called rediscoveries are explained and unfolded by interesting laypeople, as well by a Salesian sister and diocesan priest. Each topic is given a saint, prayer and activity. Hipsters love homework, right? Well no one really does, but this homework is easy, meaningful and involves pilgrimages, simple matching games, art projects and praying.
With chapters like “Catholic Weird on Twitter,” “What About Beards,” “Taking Pope Francis to the Farmers Market” and “The Local Craft (Catholic?) Brewery Scene,” there is no wonder “The Catholic Hipster Handbook” appeared on several top books lists floating around the internet.
Fresh and original, fun and clever, the book is laden with authentic church teaching, beautiful prayers, meaningful reflections and spiritual refreshment. In “O Scapular, My Scapular,” Sarah Vabulas, author and podcast host, discusses the meaning behind her beloved scapular. On one side is the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the other is an image of Mary.
Vabulas said wearing the scapular almost daily has given her the opportunity to answer curious questioners about the relationship between Mary and Jesus. She notes the history of the scapular and its symbolism to live a life focused on Jesus through prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Lisa Hendey’s contribution includes practical applications to keep Catholics focused on Catholicism by sharing her favorite Catholic apps. Author and founder of the popular CatholicMom.com, Hendey also reminds readers about the importance of silencing technology to “simply be in the astounding presence of the greatest designer the world has ever known.”
Her cool saint is St. Eligius, who “would have been an app designer had he lived in modern times.” This patron saint of gas station workers was a priest, bishop and skilled metalworker who used his access to royalty to help the poor. Her activity? Spend some time with an elderly person and help them learn something new about their technology.
Written by Tommy Tighe, founder of CatholicHipster.com, with the help of contributors including Leticia Ochoa Adams from Sirius XM, musician and comedian Matt Dunn and Salesian Sister Brittany Harrison, the voices are diverse and bring something very interesting to the (brunch?) table. Try it out and reinvigorate your faith life with a breath of fresh air.
In the mood for more alternative ways to engage your faith life? Try out “Catholic Puzzles, Word Games, and Brainteasers” by Matt Swaim and “Christian Labyrinths: A Celtic Coloring Book” by Daniel Mitsui, both published by Ava Maria Press.
“Catholic Puzzles” is collection of mind-bending but fun quizzes, code scrambles and letter games. The games will hone your Bible and Catholic fact skills as well as provide several hours of entertainment.
“Christian Labyrinths” is a coloring book that marries a love of coloring with intricate tile patterns and Bible verses and prayers. Interestingly, each page contains a hidden mistake adding to the challenge and intrigue of this unique collection of coloring pages for adults.
(Lordan has master’s degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service. She is a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, an online resource for Catholic family catechesis.)