Pencil Preaching for Sunday, November 17, 2019
By the Grace of God [Grâce à Dieu] (2019) – Decent Films
A SDG Original source: National Catholic Register
The first criminal conviction of a French bishop since the French Revolution occurred 18 years ago. In 2001, Bishop Pierre Pican of the Diocese of Bayeux was convicted of failing to report charges of clerical sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities and received a suspended three-month sentence.
That was the same year The Boston Globe ran its groundbreaking “Spotlight” investigative coverage of clerical sex abuse and ecclesiastical cover-up culture in the Archdiocese of Boston. It was also the year Pope St. John Paul II promulgated new norms regarding the handling of clerical sexual abuse and other serious crimes.
Directed by François Ozon. Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Swann Arlaud, Eric Caravaca, Martine Erhel, Hélène Vincent, Aurélia Petit, François Marthouret, Martine Erhel. Music Box Films.
Several graphic descriptions of clerical sex abuse of boys; references to a genital deformity; brief partial female nudity; brief domestic violence; some harsh language.
Nine years later, in 2010, a damning glimpse of the extent of the culture of silence and complicity in the Church came to light when a Catholic magazine based in Lyon revealed that after his 2001 conviction Bishop Pican received a letter of congratulations from the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of Colombia, praising him for risking prosecution and prison rather than turning over a priest to civil authorities.
That same week in 2010 the Vatican website added an introductory guide to Vatican policies dealing with sexual-abuse allegations, with a previously unseen stipulation: “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”
How much has or has not changed in the last decade or two?
The opening establishes the scope of the cardinal’s office, the number of lives potentially affected by his actions, and the divine authority he represents. It could also be taken to suggest that the Lord himself, not just the cardinal, looks over his people.
Writer-director François Ozon’s raw yet restrained By the Grace of God (the French title, Grâce à Dieu, has the sense of “Thanks to God”) has been inevitably if not entirely accurately labeled a “French Spotlight.”
Based on a true story still unfolding in Lyon, the birthplace of French Christianity, the film’s subject is not an investigation but a grassroots campaign by now-adult victims of a charismatic predator priest seeking action against their abuser from a highly respected archbishop.
The film is also an insightful, at times wrenching exploration of the enduring trauma and fallout in each of their lives and the lives of those around them — and how the harm is ameliorated or perpetuated by the responses of family members as well as of Church authorities, both at the time and in the long run.
Tags: Drama, Foreign Language, Priestly, Religious Themes
We cloak the monstrous in euphemisms. We call it “unspeakable” or “unthinkable” — designations that are accurate simply because in using them we make them so. In Catholic circles a dozen years ago, one sometimes heard about “The Crisis”; later it became “The Scandal.” We all knew what these terms referred to, but did we really know?
The Magdalene Sisters Controversy Revisited (2010)
The Ryan report confirms the substantial truth of the sort of stories dramatized in The Magdalene Sisters. These stories need to be told. But the report also reconfirms my fundamental objection to the way that The Magdalene Sisters tells its story, depicting the world of the asylums solely in terms of unremitting abuse, cruelty and sadism unbroken by any hint of kindness or humane treatment. This is not in accordance with the memories of those who endured the Irish institutions, according to the Ryan report.
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