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18 December 2019

Abuse in the Church on the big screen

There is a surprising number of feature-length films and documentaries on the theme of sexual abuse (and other forms of abuse) in the Church. The following productions are suggested because they are opportunities to raise awareness on the experiences of victims and to reflect on this painful Church reality. In this way, these films prove that media can play a necessary and relevant role in understanding and moving forward.


The Dazzled (Fiction, 2019, France)

Camille, 12, passionate about circus, is the eldest of a large family. One day, her parents enter a religious community based on sharing and solidarity in which they invest fully. The girl must accept a way of life that calls into question her desires and her own torments. Gradually, regimentation becomes sectarian. Camille will have to fight to assert her freedom and save her brothers and sisters.


Prey (Documentary, 2019, Canada)

Basilian priest Father Hodgson Marshall was convicted of abusing boys throughout southern Ontario during his decades-long career. Prey follows survivor Rod MacLeod, and his lawyer Rob Talach, as they pursue justice through a public trial in the hopes of forcing the dark and hidden story of clergy sexual abuse to light. You can watch the documentary here.


Examination of Conscience (Docuseries, 2019, Spain)

Allegations of child sexual abuse in Spain’s Catholic institutions are examined in interviews with survivors, clergy, journalists and other experts. You can watch the series here.


By the Grace of God (Fiction, 2018, France)

Alexandre lives in Lyon with his wife and children. One day he learns by chance that the priest who abused him when he was in scouts is still working with children. He decides to take action and is soon joined by two other victims of the priest, François and Emmanuel. They band together to “lift the burden of silence′′ surrounding their ordeal. But the repercussions and consequences will leave no one unscathed.


The Keepers (Docuseries, 2017, USA)

This docuseries examines the decades-old murder of Sr. Catherine Cesnik and its suspected link to a priest accused of abuse. You can watch the series here.


Spotlight (Fiction, 2015, USA)

A team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe relentlessly investigate a shocking child molestation cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston, also implicating the legal and government establishments. Based on the true story of the “Spotlight′′ investigative team that set off other revelations around the world.


Bad Education (Fiction, 2014, Spain)

In the early 60s, two boys – Ignacio and Enrique – discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them.


Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Documentary, 2012, USA)

Alex Gibney explores the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all the way to the Vatican.


Doubt (Fiction, 2008, USA)

Set at a Catholic school in the Bronx, it centers on a nun who grows suspicious when a priest begins taking too much interest in the life of a young black student. Is she being overly protective or not protective enough? And can she work within the system to discover the truth?


Twist of Faith (documentary, 2004, USA)

A man confronts the trauma of past sexual abuse as a boy by a Catholic priest only to find his decision shatters his relationships with his family, community and faith.


The Magdalene Sisters (Fiction, 2002, Ireland)

The film follows the stories of four young women – Margaret (“guilty” of being raped by her cousin), Rose (unmarried mother), Bernadette (too beautiful and coquettish) and Crispina (mentally-handicapped single mother) – who are all forced by their families or caretakers to go to the Magdalene Asylum.

This list is taken from the Autumn 2019 issue of the ad vitam webzine “Abuse in the Church: Between Crisis and Hope”.