Film Festival to challenge the Vatican’s claims to the moral high ground

The National Secular Society is staging a film season in the days before the Pope arrives in Britain. The films will look at aspects of the Catholic Church which both the Government and the Church itself would prefer were not mentioned during the visit of the “Holy Father”.

We intend this film season as a counter to the propaganda-fest that is being planned by the BBC.

The first film, on Monday September 13 is Sinners – a powerful exploration of the scandal that was the Magdalen asylums. These Church-run institutions were for supposed “fallen women”. Some of the women had done nothing more than flirt openly with boys. Others had become pregnant outside marriage, yet others had become involved in prostitution. Often it was difficult to say why they had been incarcerated in these slave camps – sometimes just because the local priest didn’t like them or they’d been feisty at school.

The conditions they found when they arrived would have done credit to a concentration camp. They were turned into slaves, working unpaid in horrific conditions in laundries that enriched the Church. As with all institutions that are run without oversight, they were hotbeds of abuse, torture and sometimes unexplained death.

It is estimated that 30,000 women passed through these places and the last one only closed in 1996. The remaining survivors have called repeatedly on the Church and the Government in Ireland to recognise their suffering. All to no avail.

On Tuesday 14 September we have Deliver us from Evil – an Oscar-nominated documentary about Fr. Oliver O’Grady, a priest of such abiding wickedness that it is almost impossible to believe what he did and got away with. And yet the Catholic Church colluded in his activities by moving him from one parish to another where he was able to start up his vile child raping activities once more.

The extraordinary thing is that O’Grady agreed to be interviewed for this film. His reactions are shocking in the extreme. He is now living quietly in Ireland, while his victims continue to suffer – and will do so for the rest of their lives. Their pain is not alleviated by the Vatican’s cruel indifference to their plight.

On Wednesday 15 September we have Unrepentant, a film about the Church-run Indian Residential Schools in Canada, which appear to have been set up to “Christianise” the aboriginal people. Needless to say, once the native children were forced into these schools the abuse and persecution began on a scale that beggars the imagination.

The movie also explores Rev Kevin Annett’s efforts to document and make public these crimes – and the efforts of the church to stop him. We are pleased that Kevin Annetts will be with us to introduce and discuss this important film and the terrible crimes it exposes. You can see Kevin Annetts talking about his experience here.

First-hand testimonies from residential school survivors are interwoven with Annett’s own story of how he faced firing, “de-frocking”, and the loss of his family, reputation and livelihood as a result of his efforts to help survivors and bring out the truth of the residential schools.

On Thursday 16 September we have The Crime of Father Amaro, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. This critically-praised film looks at how a young, idealistic priest is sent to a country parish, only to find it wallowing in corruption and hypocrisy. Any attempt to challenge the Church’s involvement with organised crime is immediately quashed by self-serving bishops.

Father Amaro soon finds resistance is futile, and his own crime against the Church — and against an innocent girl who become infatuated with him — makes a powerful case against the over-bearing power of Catholicism in Mexico.

The Church declared that seeing this film is a mortal sin. Nevertheless, it became the most popular film ever in Mexico. The film will be preceded by a talk by David Ranan, author of Double Cross: Code of the Catholic Church – which is available from the NSS online shop.

Admission to each film is £3 and as places are limited, we suggest you book in advance at or by post from NSS Film Season, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.

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