Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

Tom Cruise received a most unpleasant 50th-birthday present: His wife of five years Katie Holmes has filed for divorce. Cruise was apparently blindsided by the news. The tabloids declare that Katie felt her hubby was too controlling and she feared for her daughter Suri, seeing some threat in her being raised as a Scientologist. If this is true, it would form a pattern: Ex-Catholic (and ex-minor seminarian) Cruise previously married ex-Catholic Nicole Kidman. His Scientology supposedly played a role in that breakup, after which Nicole returned to Catholicism. Katie too left the Catholic Church to marry Tom, and she may well return.

One may wonder why Tom doesn”€™t look within Scientology’s ranks to find a new bride. Since first wife Mimi Rogers was a Scientologist and the one who brought Tom into the church (and later left it herself), perhaps he fears future disappointments at such women’s hands. On the surface, its doctrines seem to be an odd mix of Ayn Rand’s ethics with a sort of space-alien mythology. Its history is murky. Founder L. Ron Hubbard was a disciple of (and shared a woman with) Jack Parsons, the Aleister Crowley devotee and Jet Propulsion Laboratory cofounder. This mixture of science and the occult is a hallmark of the religion Hubbard allegedly started as the result of a bet he made with fellow science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke that he could found a religion people could believe. (Clarke’s perennial response when asked about this story was, “€œI lost.”€)

“€œWhat gets lost in all this is a very real human tragedy.”€

Odd as it may appear to nonbelievers, though, Scientology is almost an orthodoxy in Hollywood. John Travolta (currently weathering scandals of his own), Lisa Marie Presley, Kirstie Alley, and a host of other names belong to this religion. Among its local landmark properties are the Celebrity Centre (where Tom and Katie had an apartment) and the PAC Base, where members of the Sea Org are ubiquitous in their faux-naval uniforms. But if Tom has added a bit to Scientology’s luster, some of his actions did neither him nor his church any good. He didn”€™t come off well in his fight on Today with Matt Lauer over psychology. A bit later, his bizarre pep talk for his coreligionists emerged on YouTube and went viral, allowing Jerry O”€™Connell to do a very funny parody. His third cringeworthy video moment of that era was his bizarre declaration of love for the woman who now seeks a divorce.

But for all that, his lavish wedding to Katie and subsequent solid film output dimmed the laughter”€”until now. With the breakup the waves of Schadenfreude here and elsewhere are almost palpable. The two spouses are assembling legal teams and have begun the sparring. Katie is trying to contest the divorce in New York, where the law will be more favorable to excluding Tom’s visitation rights with Suri. He in turn says he wants the proceedings in California, under whose jurisdiction he would be almost sure to gain joint custody. Observers are licking their chops at the prospect of a bitter trial, with attendant revelations of Travolta-like decadence on Tom’s part and sizzling exposés of Scientology. To avoid such goings-on, he may well settle lavishly out of court.



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