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‘It’s being abused by an entire belief system’: a haunting film on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy

Netflix Procession Clergy Abuse

Title: ‘It’s being abused by an entire belief system’: a haunting film on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy
Author: David Smith
Publisher: The Guardian
Date: 09NOV2021
Everything in the bedroom is white including a white crucifix on a white wall. A holy man sits on the corner of a bed, trousers off, legs open. “You need to confess everything,” he says, gripping a young boy’s arm to pull him closer. “The Catholic church has been very good to you, to your mother, to your brother and sister.

“You don’t want that to all go away, do you? So tell me, what else have you done wrong? What about when you think of girls? What do you do when you think of girls? If you can’t tell me, then you can show me. Show me what you do when you have impure thoughts.”

The disturbing scene, with its sinister music, is interrupted by a roar of “cut!” It comes from Ed Gavagan, on whose childhood memories this narrative was based. Later, discovering that the criminal case against his alleged abuser has been dropped, Gavagan vents his frustration by smashing up the all-white set with a sledgehammer.

This is one vignette from Procession, a haunting documentary that follows six men making short films inspired by their childhood trauma of being sexually abused by Catholic clergy and priests.

The Netflix movie shows the group from Kansas Cityworking through their experiences as a collective by scripting, directing and acting fictional scenes based on their memories and dreams. They dig into the rituals, culture and hierarchies of the church that silenced them.

Director Robert Greene’s inspiration was not Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film about a church sex abuse scandal in Boston, but an August 2018 press conference with four men who spoke of being abused as boys by Catholic priests and called for grand jury-style investigations.

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