A few weeks ago, I watched Deliver Us From Evil
, the movie about a priest in the US who serially-abused dozens of children, while the Church, in its wisdom, shuffled the priest around various parishes in something that looked very much like an effort to cover things up rather than fix them. So much for pastoral care, eh? It's not like the Church doesn't have an option, even if they don't want to go through the "embarrassment" of a priest going through a criminal trial - they can lock their erring priesthood up in monasteries, if they so choose (not that I'm actually endorsing that as a solution for some bastard who's already committed a crime, but it might be a solution for those who think
they might commit a crime).
Other than the shameful behaviour of the Catholic Church authorities - the movie over-eggs it by including some quotes about the origins of celibacy, as if that explains child-molestation, and might be seen to imply that child-abuse is an institutional agenda
within the Church rather than a cover-up - the thing that gets me is the depth of pathology of the priest concerned. The movie features lengthy interviews with him, which are horrendously creepy in his utter incapacity to acknowledge the damage he's done (he's fairly frank about what
he did, up to a point. Somehow "clothes were undone" and orgasms were had without any actors) or the depth of culpability he had. There was some allusion to childhood sexual activity with his siblings (in the context of an older abusive sibling), and it seems that he feels that it didn't damage him
, so how are others so damaged? He even goes so far as to suggest meeting some of the adult children that he abused in the supposed aim of "creating a dialogue" - and writes them letters to that effect
, in a wonderfully pastoral manner - so the depth of what is described as "dissociation" (and I would simply describe as "brokenness") is breathtaking. He "didn't expect a hug" but they could "talk". Fortunately, the invitation is withdrawn later, although some of the adult abused children the movie followed thought of taking him up on it.
And he's a charming twinkly Irish chappie, who still - still
- gets all cheery and frank about his desire for children. He's obviously mightily enjoys describing his love of children for the camera - the creepy cheerfulness of it comes across even during archive footage of his court case. Ugh.
It's an upsetting movie in many ways. There is a scene where the Korean father of one of the children who was abused for years cries aloud at the abuse of trust of the priest who would stay in their home some nights and creep into the kid's room. It was hard to watch. The weaselling of the local bishop (and cardinal, as he works his way up the chain) and outright enabling
of the situation is frankly horrific. It's that thing about indifference being the greatest of sins - he went out of the way to protect the reputation of the Church, and not any of the individuals (children and parents) entrusted to the pastoral "care" of the fucked-up priest. Not to get all Godwin about it, but people like him helped Himmler, Goebbels and Hitler achieve their aims while not necessarily being directly "culpable". They simply didn't care about anything except their power bases and personal agendas.
The movie had some faults. There was the part about the history of the Church and an implied history of the Church covering up sexual abuse, although a psychologist makes an interesting assertion that since the Church considers all
sex to be bad in the context of the priesthood, child abuse might be perceived as nothing more "bad" than that. What the movie didn't manage to express was the fact that the Church has a history of covering up or attempting to suppress every fucking thing that might impinge on its power. Child abuse - to the Church hierarchy, in the main - is nothing more or less than another annoyingly embarrassing fact, like Galileo and his planets revolving around the sun. There was also a completely fucking pointless journey of three of the adult abused children to Rome, to present their grievances. So, unannounced, they turn up to some Vatican audience day with cameras, and it's supposed to be all shock-horror when they aren't admitted. Then there's another cheap shot with their visiting a church to pray subsequently. That kind of thing annoys me when Michael Moore does it (as the AV Club review
mentions), and it annoyed me even more here. Completely unnecessary. The Slate review
gives a good overview, even down to the frigging annoying use of Hallelujah
in the end credits.
So, I'd give it an 7.5 out of 10, given the amazing footage of the priest, and some of the connections which get drawn. Not a date movie, though, as one of the reviews points out.
Then this weekend, I watched Jesus Camp
, about the evangelical Christians who run
evangelical study camps for young children. One of the first scenes in the movie involves a fervent prayer session with young children
praying in "tongues". I almost turned it off then and there - just revolting. I am someone who very much dislikes parents who induce their kids to make overt political statements - yes, I get discomforted with kids wearing "My two mommies are gay" t-shirts, seriously. Yes, take them to the Pride parade, but don't frigging make them your little placards.
So, yes, these kids are being encouraged to fight holy wars, and are being fed a diet of statements like "SIN=DEATH". Seriously, if you're showing kids a slideshow where you have five and six-year-olds in the audience, and you're giving them that message, you're fucked in the head. The woman pastor who runs the camps, though, is obviously very much a believer and is very good at what she does. It's very much the "love bomb" technique, complete with plenty of whiffs of brimstone just in case. Her convincing engagement contrasts with Ted Haggard, who is also briefly in the movie, and who comes across as a patronising fuckwad, which is no surprise. One scene that was interesting was with this poor kid (7 or 8) who confessed his struggles about believing all of the Bible (the scene is discussed in this review
). The total incomprehension of most of his audience was - frankly - chilling. Then there was the 9-year-old girl who has a habit of evangelising people in public places - when a group of middle-aged black men relaxing in a park asserted that yes, they were certain of going to heaven, she speculated that they were "probably Muslims". Honestly.
What I could have done without in the movie was the really really crappy ambientish music - what is it about some indie movies and the electronic composers they hook up with? - and the annoying "liberal" radio host who was supposed to translate to us just how fucked up some of that stuff was. Thank you, I can make up my own mind. The AV Club review
is one I pretty much agree with - 6 out of 10 for the amount of access they got to the subjects, but minus points for repetitiveness, the stupid radio host and the crap music.
But yes, both of these movies were interesting in how children can be there to serve the agendas of certain adults - I think the Jesus Camp
movie highlighted it in particular. Sure, the kids seemed healthy and they were certainly engaged
with the aims that the adults projected upon them... but how contingent do they feel that the love and approval they get now is? What are the underlying fears? Given the SIN=DEATH equation, that part seemed pretty obvious.