So I doubt that many of you have heard of Priest, especially in light of that other Priest movie about killing vampires. It seems to override most of the searches for the 1994 movie. Unfortunately, Priest (1994) doesn’t really fall into geekdom, though Robert Carlyle who plays Rumplestillskin from Once Upon a Time is in it. For that performance alone, Lady Geek Girl has declared this movie a part of geekdom.
It’s really not, but we’ll go with it.
Besides, it does have a lot going on it, mainly in terms of religion and sexuality. For me, it calls attention to how people who differ for the norm face negative prejudices, when all that negativity should be focused on something else.
So our movie begins with Father Greg Pilkington getting newly assigned to a chapel in Liverpool. There, he discovers that Father Matthew Thomas is in an ongoing sexual relationship with Maria Kerrigan, their housekeeper. Sometime after the transfer, Father Greg faces another challenge: a young girl named Lisa tells him that her father sexually abuses her, a fact that her father confirms, but Greg is bound to secrecy as he learned this in the confessional. And despite numerous attempts to “drop a hint” to Lisa’s mother, as Mathew puts it, he is conflicted by being unable to help Lisa through her suffering.
Furthermore, during all of this, Greg struggles with his homosexuality, and he engages in a relationship with a man named Graham—see Rumplestillskin—who he meets on a night out in the town.
Long story short, he gets caught with Graham, and naturally, due to his profession, he faces a lot of criticism for it. There are newspaper headlines, a new priest is called in to keep him in line, and no one wants him at church anymore. The new priest even goes so far as to call him things like a wart or a boil on the body of Christ.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s problems are like a background noise. For a girl who’s very quiet in a social setting, she practically screams through her body language that not all is right.
To me, I feel that this movie raises a very important question, especially in terms of what matters to God.
When is it okay to shower derision on someone for his or her sexuality?
We can easily say that Father Matthew would face scorn, as he’s in a relationship with the housekeeper, but he’s with a woman, and most people wouldn’t make that much of a fuss about it. Or at least, not as much of a fuss as they do about Father Greg’s relationship.
But the real person who should be belittled and ostracized is Lisa’s father. Father Greg’s relationship isn’t hurting anyone, whether they agree with it or not. Lisa’s relationship with her father is very hurtful, and that’s the one people should be focusing on. In fact, the only person who faces any kind of pain in Greg’s relationship is Greg, who at one point attempts suicide as a means to escape his humiliation.
The end result is that, yes, maybe we could argue that Greg did something wrong. He took vows of chastity when he entered the priesthood. According to his faith, he should be against homosexuality and all that it stands for. But did he actually do anything wrong?
He didn’t force his homosexuality on anyone. He didn’t attack anyone. He didn’t rape a child. All he did was enter a relationship with another man. Between everything that goes on in the movie, I’m more inclined to believe that God doesn’t care whether or not he loves another man. But He would care if a father rapes his daughter.
The movie also draws attention to the fact that just because Greg’s homosexual, it doesn’t mean that he’s the one trying to have inappropriate relationships with minors. Sexuality doesn’t automatically make a person a pedophile. In fact, Greg spends most of the movie being the only one who knows about Lisa’s problems, and as such, he’s her only outlet.
At the end of the movie, the people in his chapel try to kick Greg out, and when the parishioners lines up to take the Eucharist, they all go to stand in line before Father Mathew. Lisa is the only person who goes to Father Greg—though the housekeeper can be seen as about to go to Greg too—and after she receives the Eucharist, both she and Greg hug each other and have a very-much-needed sobbing fit.
Priest didn’t do that well in the ratings, and some people have called it shallow. And I can see the argument. The message isn’t exactly hidden. But regardless, I think it does raise some very important questions about what’s right and wrong from a religious point of view.
If any of you have seen it, give me your thoughts.