Bishops invited to screening of Prey, depicting Sudbury student's search for justice

By Alan S. Hale
Sudbury Star
September 22, 2019

The film Prey, which won best Canadian documentary at this year's Hot Docs festival in Toronto, will open the Forest City Film Festival Oct. 24.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops holds is gathering next week, as it has annually for several years now, in Cornwall. But this year, bishops have been invited to take a break from their week of meetings for a night at the movies.

Members of the Canadian chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have rented a theatre in Cornwall where it will be offering a free screening of the new documentary, Prey, on Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. The group has extended an invitation to the bishops to attend and will reserve seats for them inside the theatre.

The documentary, which screened Wednesday at the Cinefest film festival in Sudbury, tells the story of Rod MacLeod, who was sexually abused by Rev. William Hodgson Marshall while attending a Catholic boys’ school in Sudbury in the 1960s.

Marshall pleaded guilty in 2011 to 16 counts of indecent assault of minors and one count of sexual assault. He died in 2014. The film follows MacLeod during his civil lawsuit against the priest’s order, the Congregation of St. Basil, which eventually ended with the court awarding him $2.75 million in damages in 2018. The decision is currently under appeal.

The screening in Cornwall will be the first time the documentary has been played outside of a film festival, and SNAP members want the bishops to come to view together with abuse survivors. The screening is also free for anyone from the general public.

SNAP sees the screening as a learning opportunity for the bishops they shouldn’t pass up.

“I was raped and abused when I was 12, and every day of my life has been a challenge because of that abuse. If a film about sexual abuse provides the bishops with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the harm done, that would be progress,” said Tim Lennon, president of SNAP.

The woman responsible for bringing the screening to Cornwall, Brenda Brunelle, was more forceful, saying the film helps drive home their demands for change within the Catholic Church. She said she plans to make it as hard as possible for the bishops not to come, having even rented a school bus to shuttle the clergymen to the theatres.

“We want them to share in our pain. We want them to know what we have gone through and to take seriously what we are saying to end this crisis. We want them to understand what zero tolerance means,” said Brunelle.

Brunelle and other members of SNAP are travelling to Cornwall and will be protesting outside the Nav Centre all week while the bishops are meeting. These protests will also include the involvement of members of The Pathways Foundation NL and Ending Clergy Abuse, who also advocate for transparency and accountability within the church when dealing with priests accused and convicted of abuse.

Brunelle said they have requested a chance to address the conference, but have been refused.

The group is calling for a number of measures including the defrocking of any priest that has been credibly accused of sexual abuse, as well as any clergy who protected him. They also want a public registry of all accused priests so families can avoid parishes where they are ministering.

Postmedia contacted the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, but did not receive a response.

According to Brunelle, after some personal appeals to specific bishops, the bishops did offer to meet with SNAP members privately this Sunday — a day Brunelle said most of them will still be en route to Cornwall.

There has been no promise any of the bishops will come to the screening.

As a documentary, Prey has been getting a considerable buzz. The film won the $50,000 Rogers’ audience award for best Canadian documentary and the DGC special jury prize for Canadian feature documentary at Hot Docs. It placed second in audience voting for favourite of all films at Hot Docs.

Director Matt Gallagher said he was on board with the Cornwall screening idea as soon as Brunelle — who was involved in its production — contacted him. He said it is an appropriate way for the film to have its debut outside of film festivals.

“This is the first screening in Canada that is for victims. It’s not something I normally do, but its what the survivor’s groups wanted so that’s what we did,” said Gallagher. “I think the bishops need to see the abuse from the point of view of the survivors. Oftentimes, the bishops don’t even talk to the survivors.”



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