Holy Mother Church, Holy Mother Oppressor

Author: Thomas Brock


by Tom Brock Sysop, American Life League BBS "Priest" plucks heartstrings masterfully as a virtuoso might pluck the strings of a harp. We are shown situations that are all too real. We can relate to the things that happen in this movie. I cried at times during this movie. At the closing scene, I bawled. And yet the fact remains that this movie is not merely a story of life as we know it. It is intended to destroy the life of the Church as we know it. Much that is good is presented as evil while much that is evil is portrayed as human and deserving of sympathy, understanding and acceptance. In fact, sympathy is cleverly equated with moral rectitude. Before the opening credits roll, the stage is set. After years of faithful service, a priest is told by his bishop that he is no longer needed. Behind the closed doors of the Church, we see what she really is. There are no scruples, no mercy, no compassion. With the simple and heartless message that he is no longer needed and consequently no longer wanted, a priest is forced against his will into retirement. His thanks for years of service? Nothing. Not a gold watch. Not a pat on the back. Nothing. Almost immediately, we see housewives joylessly polishing the beautiful sacramentals of the local church, not even realizing the source of their stupor. The Church has subjugated them so totally that they aren't even aware of the fact that they are repressed and enslaved! Just as the beauty of the "ornaments" hides the emptiness of their lives, so too it hides the emptiness, the hypocrisy of the Church they serve. Into their bleak and dreary lives strolls a breath of fresh air. Fr. Greg is young, good looking and dynamic. His effect on the women? They leave happy and with a spring in their steps. He preaches the Truth. He's loved by the children whom he instructs with such diligence. He practically lives in the confessional. He stands up for all that the Church holds dear. Without a doubt, Fr. Greg is priest who truly emulates Christ. There's just one "minor" problem, Fr. Greg just happens to be a practicing homosexual. We are rudely made aware of this in an extended and explicit love scene which cuts immediately to Fr. Greg celebrating Mass. In fact, this was a modus operandi in the movie. Every homosexual love scene was immediately followed by Fr. Greg saying Mass, hearing confession, etc. Sacrilege and sacrament. Sacrament and sacrilege. Fr. Greg is the only "good" priest in the movie. The juxtaposing of him making love to his lover Graham is clearly intended to show that his homosexuality does not hold him back from being a good priest. What does hold him back are the rigid, unfeeling mores of the Church. Take for instance denying communion to someone in the "state of sin". Fr. Greg refuses communion to Graham, a Catholic. The man is humiliated in public when he had come to the altar with the "love" in his heart reflected so obviously in his eyes. The cold, unfeeling laws of the Church have prevented Fr. Greg from being a good priest. As a direct result, his lover is not alone when Fr. Greg goes to visit him. But Graham forgives the priest. And so we see that Graham, and not Fr. Greg or the Church has shown true charity. A second time we see Fr. Greg remaining loyal to the mores of the Church. He learns under the seal of confession that a 14 year old girl is being sexually molested by her father. (For the record, the scenario shown in the movie does not correctly depict the seal of confession.) He struggles mightily with whether or not to break the seal and in the end remains "true" to his Faith. But in this instance, the movie tells us that this was wrong. It would have been better for Fr. Greg to break the seal, tell the girl's mother, and end her suffering. This is pounded home by the girl's mother who, after finding out on her own, accosts him as he is teaching children the Stations of the Cross. "I hope you burn in hell", she yells. Fr. Greg answers for himself and the Church with - silence. There is no legitimate answer. Finally, being the "good" priest that he is, Fr. Greg apologizes for his "sin". Convicted of sodomy in court and leaving town in disgrace, he makes one last stop - at the girl's house. Over and over he repeats, "I'm sorry," as the mother closes the door in his face. The rain outside joins the tears in the poor girl's eyes. Surely this is not the Church that Christ meant to establish. We are cunningly shown the "true" Christians. Who demonstrates true Christianity, the hypocritical bishop or the adulterating pastor who understands and accepts Fr. Greg? The harsh, disciplining priest or the drunkard, retired priest who tells Fr. Greg to be true to himself; to love whom he wants, where he wants, whenever he wants? The congregation who refuse to take Holy Communion from Fr. Greg or the pastor's lover who starts towards Fr. Greg to receive? Returning to the opening scene, we find the movie's answer to the problem. The priest forced into retirement takes the crucifix out of the Church and uses it to smash the window of the bishop's residence. The symbolism is obvious. The anger of the priest echoes the anger of the nail-pierced Christ whose image the priest carries. As the priest uses the crucifix to shatter the window, so too Christ wishes the faithful of the Church to smash the hypocritical hierarchy of the Church. In this way, the faithful will truly be freed and able to lead lives of true Christianity. If so, what becomes of the Church? Think about it. According to "Priest", there is no consequence of sin. The only important thing is that we be kind, considerate and understanding to all. The only sin is to be unkind or unforgiving to another. The Church becomes an institution to make us feel good, to assuage our hurts and concerns. In short, the Church is reduced to nothing more than an opiate for the people . . . There is a line in the movie to the effect that "Sometimes evil comes with a smiling face." We expect that. Sin is supposed to be fun. It is in our somber, saddened moments that we see Truth most clearly. Here we least expect to be seduced. And yet "Priest" insidiously creeps into these very moments in its attempt to do just that. "Priest" is about many things at many levels. It is fairly obvious in its message to accept adultery and homosexuality. This leads directly to its deepest level, the destruction of Christianity. With masterful deceitfulness, we are told that we are all frail and weak human beings. We are tempted to accept each and every person in their full humanity with all their shortcomings. How Christian a thought. But in this context, how fatal. If we accept adultery, homosexuality and by inference every sin, we will have succumbed to the master virtuoso. For the music of loving, forgiving Christianity that we think we hear, will in fact be the death knell of the Church.