CUT TO THE CHASTE

The film's emotional forcefulness carries one past its lack of much intellectual rigor. Making their case, McGovern and Bird duly note that Christ never said that priests had to be celibate, and that the policy may have been inaugurated as a way of keeping the Church from economic responsibility for priestly widows. But when it comes to homosexuality, about which the Bible does have a few choice words, Priest quickly retreats to the usual defensive platitudes about judging not and not casting the first stone and such.

Just once, when some person of orthodox beliefs starts up--as Father Greg does to Father Matthew early on in the film--with that line about how they're just picking and choosing what parts of the Bible appeal to them, I'd love to hear this in response: "You're bloody well right I'm picking and choosing what appeals to me in the Bible, just as you and every other Christian do, because however great the Bible may be, not all of it is still applicable, and not all of it ever was, and you don't own it any more than I do, so God bless you and keep you out of my face."

Priest was originally slated to open on Good Friday, which seems to me an entirely appropriate occasion to open a film about a religious struggle. But Miramax eventually gave in to Church grumbling, and pushed the date back to Wednesday of the following week.

It's infuriating that religious groups are so often capitulated to when they complain about being offended. When do they ever show the slightest compunction about insulting or offending those without a faith, or the nondenominational faithful? Besides, Bird's film bears the imprimatur of a self-styled arbiter of wholesomeness that carries far more weight in modern society than any mere world religion. Don't forget who Miramax's corporate parent is--Priest is a Disney movie.

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