Church Condemns HBO Celibacy Film

BBC News [United States]
June 28, 2004

The Catholic Church has condemned a documentary linking celibacy to child abuse scandals within the clergy.

The programme, to air on HBO on Monday, was made by British film-maker Antony Thomas, who interviewed abuse victims, historians and psychologists.

A review from the Catholic News Service, written by David DiCerto, called the film "a polemic against the Catholic Church's entire sexual ethos".

Thomas said he wanted to examine the spate of abuse cases within the church.

"Why celibacy? Why do people accept it? What are its effects?" said Thomas.

"I felt I had to make this film for my own education."

The documentary was filmed in 10 countries, featuring interviews with current and former priests, including one who underwent castration because he could not control his sexual urges on entering the priesthood.

It also features a former parish priest and Franciscan nun who left the church to marry and raise a family together.

Thomas says he was just trying to answer questions raised by the spate of sex abuse scandals that has seen the Church pay an estimated $1 billion (?540m) in legal settlements so far.


The Catholic News Service report attacked the documentary for "trotting out the hoary chestnuts about the Church's thinking that sex is, at best, a necessary evil".

Reviewer David DiCerto works for the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The Church does not deny that certain members of the clergy have committed heinous crimes resulting in immeasurable harm by their betraying the trust of those they were sent to serve," he wrote.

"But the show's oversimplified prognosis, which recommends ending celibacy as a panacea to the ills facing the Church is hardly convincing."

Thomas said he hoped the film would open debate.

"I hope the reaction of Catholics will not be 'Oh, this is an anti-Catholic film'. It is something we've done, if you like, with strong feelings of love, and strong concerns about something that is unnecessarily damaging the church."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.