HOLY MOTHER CHURCH, HOLY MOTHER OPPRESSOR
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.