Our Fathers

Our Fathers is a docudrama that is a powerful and timely indictment of the Catholic Church in crisis.  It stars Christopher Plummer as Cardinal Bernard Law, the high-ranking priest at the center of a far-reaching web of sexual abuse and institutionalized cover-up.  Based on Newsweek journalist David France’s best-seller about the real-life scandal that rocked Boston.  The movie tracks the growth of the scandal as it follows the major events and the highly publicized accusations against pedophile priests in the Catholic Church.  The story unfolds in procedural detective style with the legal and media proceedings that exposed the rampant sexual abuse, which had been maliciously hidden from everyone for decades.  Specifically, it examines how inadequately Cardinal Law dealt with and protected a known repeat offender priest.  Besides delivering the facts, the movie also explores the emotional by-products of the experience for several of the victims.  Better than a newspaper article or a dry documentary, this vivid docudrama reenacts the interviews of the victims as the best way to show the “overwhelming feeling of almost volcanic eruption of emotions”.  We see them portrayed by actors as they describe how they were children raped by priests, the religious leaders that they and their parents trusted and looked up to.  A docudrama like this is a way for more people to see the story vividly and understand what these victims were going through and still are going through.  The real power of the story comes as film shows the stunted lives of the survivors.  One mother is shown who found out that all seven of her sons were raped by one of these priests.  Possibly hard to imagine now, but during the early 1960s a priest’s words or actions would never be questioned, especially if accusations were made by a child.  But blind faith in religious leaders who have political power and money does not speak well for any religion.  The film does not exploit but rather tries to explain the complex forces at work.  The film in no way condones the illicit actions of the offenders, but reveals that our society failed the most vulnerable among us.  The focus of this film remains on the victims rights in their search for justice — and on the utter failings of the Church, in particular Bernard Law, who turned a blind eye to rampant abuse over time.  Although the Cardinal is an obvious villain, the filmmakers allow the character to present his viewpoint.  Cardinal Law comes off as perhaps too sympathetic in his professed cloak of ignorance.  If one is not familiar with what really happened, one will have sympathy for Law.  So I feel that Cardinal Law was treated way too kindly by the filmmakers.  I so admired Law and was so angry when the truth came out about him.  He is not a stupid man and knew exactly what he was doing.  Cardinal Law admits he knew what was going on but chose to pay a few dollars to the victims and move the kid diddlers to other churches.  He should be called Cardinal Lawless, the creep who shuffled pedophiles to new dioceses instead of defrocking them.  I almost vomited.  It would also be interesting to know how the removal of the powerful Cardinal Law occurred.  It is sad to see that Cardinal Law got promoted to a plush job at the Vatican and now has a cushy post in Rome.  So despite decades of cover-up, Cardinal Law was rewarded with a Vatican post — while the seemingly singular priest who spoke out in disgust was suspended and exiled.  Being from Boston I was very curious to see this movie.  I remember when this scandal came to light and how outraged I was, and still am.  But not until I watched this movie did I realize the scope of the involvement of the Church.  This is the best telling of the hellish story I’ve ever encountered.  A truly compelling account of an episode that will prove to be one of the low points in American religious history.  I was impressed with the scene where the suicide victims were recognized.  Very honest movie.  It was beautifully and tastefully done by excellent actors.  Not a false performance in the cast and special mention go to Ted Danson as the attorney and Christopher Plummer who does an excellent job as Cardinal Law.  There is much more to tell about this cover-up and sinister manipulation.  But, with only two hours to tell the story, this remarkable film does a good job.  You will hardly notice that two hours have passed when this film ends.  Watch it to learn and remember that this did and does happen all the time!  We learn that an internal Church report estimated the number of victims at over 100,000 in the mid-1980s, and yet the Catholic Church did nothing to stop the pedophile priests.  A single priest would rape hundreds of children as he was transferred to different parishes.  I was one of the abused where I lived, molested by two priests in our parish at different times.  They should have been tried and jailed.  But they are now dead, and I am happy to have God judge them.  It destroyed my faith and trust in the church.  I went to Christ The King Church near my home and requested a formal excommunication from the church through the Vatican.  And the Catholic Church wonders why they are losing members!  This is a great film about the uncovering of a problem that still continues.  More should have been done.  The most disturbing part of this problem is that nothing more is being done about it.  When will it end?  Something is surely amiss at the ‘One True Church’.  The celibacy requirements for priests produce repression resulting in dangerous behaviors.  Food for thought and for renovation of a system that appears corrupt by its own design.  This is a truly excellent movie about the Catholic Church scandal of the 2000’s.  Not fun to watch, but we shouldn’t miss its message.  If you have kids, watch this movie and shake in your shoes.  Show Time did an excellent job handling a very delicate subject.  I didn’t find it to have the typical one-sided Hollywood spin.  There was a reasonable attempt to be fair with the Catholic Church, given the heinous nature of the crimes committed.  The movie is well done, not sensational but provocative.  Be sure to watch the Special Feature on this disc, where some of the actual victims are briefly interviewed; it will lend even more credibility to the far-reaching scandal portrayed in the movie.  The movie should be seen by all.  We need more movies on this topic.  There need to be more films made to shed light on these incidents so they never happen again.  Other films of note on this topic are, “The Boys of St. Vincent” (Canada), “Priest,” “The Magdalene Sisters,” and the documentary “Deliver Us From Evil,” the last being perhaps the most horribly disturbing (so tread cautiously).  It may be many years before the last word is written about the abuses of the Catholic Church, or the quintessential film is made.  But this is a fine a place to start.  I loved this film.  This Emmy-nominated drama co-stars Ted Danson, Brian Dennehy and Ellen Burstyn.  Docudrama 2005 R 129 minutes


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