Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: 5 films to watch on the subject

While the Sauvé report reveals the extent of pedocriminality within the Catholic Church, a look back at 5 fiction films that have addressed this painful and difficult theme.

Sexual abuse in the catholic church: 5 films to watch on the subject
Pandora Film Medien GmbH

1- Thanks to God

Silver Bear in Berlin, César for Best Supporting Actor for Swann Arlaud, Grace to God by François Ozon is on the side of victims of sexual assault, largely inspired by the case Preynat, whose trial was underway when the feature film arrived in our theaters.

Thanks to God addresses the difficult reconstruction of victims of sexual assault, how an assault that occurred in childhood and buried in the subconscious can resurface at any time in adulthood, shatter lives and turn into anger at the silence of the Church, which covered the facts.

Through the portraits of four victims with different destinies and feelings (Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Swann Arlaud and Eric Caravaca formidably directed), it is also the male sensitivity that is evoked, and men weakened forever.

2- Spotlight

This film traces the Boston Globe investigation which uncovered an unprecedented pedophile scandal within the Catholic Church. A team of investigative journalists, dubbed Spotlight, investigated suspicions of sexual abuse for 12 months, and it is above all this work that Tom McCarthy films.

Spotlight sets out to describe the smallest details of an investigation which, part of an assault in Boston, will shed light on the fact that the religious institution hushed up previous affairs thanks to financial arrangements with the parents of the abused children.

Journalists will also discover that the Boston priests accused of pedophilia are much more numerous than they imagined.

The feature film will win the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and ranks high in the list of great investigative films in American cinema.

3- Kler

After the French and American points of view, here is a Polish film portraying three priests of the Catholic Church: a parish priest from a small town, a parish priest from a small village and a high-ranking member of the clerical hierarchy. In the course of a discussion, everyone will reveal their sins, their hypocrisy and their cynicism.

Kler is not going dead hand in tackling three taboos head-on, each represented by one of the religious. The first is a pedophile, the second in love with a woman who becomes pregnant and whom he asks for an abortion and the third is desperate to climb the ladder to the Vatican.

Director Wojciech Smarzowski avoids evoking the weakness of men and rather accuses society as a whole, more than the Church as such. Scandal in Poland at the time of its release in 2018, the film is also one of the biggest box office successes in the country.

The film is currently available on Netflix.

4- Bad education

Boarders in a Spanish religious school, Ignacio and Enrique discover their first emotional feelings. The two boys, however, are terrified of the director of the establishment, Father Manolo. Years later, the three men will meet again, and not really by chance.

Pedro Almodóvar is too original a filmmaker to sign a frontal anti-clerical pamphlet, and chooses the form of film noir to question the past and a childhood under the influence of a priest-educator (Father Manolo) who will commit abuses sexual.

To confront his memories of Spain in the 1960s under the Franco dictatorship, Almodóvar does not choose between dream and reality and greedily mixes the two, as if to hide the darkness of his subject from himself. The spectator is not fooled.

5- Doubt

Released in 2009 in French theaters, Doubt tells how a parish priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a basketball coach, is suspected of having touched a twelve-year-old black boy. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), principal of the school, has serious doubts about the priest’s morality and will do everything to unmask him. But is he really guilty?

As suspicion had done before him, Doubt explores precisely what it is to have a doubt, and the consequences that this can have on interpersonal relationships or the professional life of each.

The director John Patrick Shanley is not Alfred Hitchcock, and treats what was a play almost as such, with in addition a “clinical” staging which certainly highlights his actors but increases the discomfort between the two characters , which can confuse spectators. There remain brilliant actors and an obviously strong and topical subject.

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