May 17, 2005

The sins of the fathers



Since the 1990s, our examination of the sexual abuse scandal has gone through the phases from cover-up, to investigative journalism’s exposure, to the reports of national committees, to the response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to the commentaries on the responses.

This last year the artists have come forward. On Broadway, the play “Doubt” has pitted a zealous nun against a parish priest in the early 1960s. Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” and Pedro Almodóvar’s “Bad Education” place boy-abusing priests in the dark basements of their plots.

Now prime-time cable TV, which may reach more viewers than Broadway and art films combined, gives us “Our Fathers,” based on David France’s critically admired book Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal. By “church” we mean Boston in 2002, the church of Cardinal Bernard Law.

Showtime, sensitive to critics from both the right, which might accuse it of prejudiced church-bashing, and victims’ groups quick to pound a speaker who sticks up for priests’ rights, has been careful in script, casting, photography and tone to do this right. Within the limitations of its two-hour format, it has produced a work that gives everyone who cares about the church a lot to think about.

Posted by kshaw at May 17, 2005 07:09 PM