Conspiracy of Silence (review)

“Priests can’t deny their sexuality, gay or otherwise.” Whoa. And it’s a man of the cloth who utters this dangerous line. Double whoa. It’s only the future of the largest religious organization on the planet that filmmaker John Deery chose for his writing and directing debut, and the result is a film both astonishing in its frankness and accomplished in its intimacy, a thriller of the conscience that questions the policies of the most hidebound of institutions by examining their effect on those it purports to serve. In a small, rural Irish town, a priest commits suicide almost simultaneously with a young seminarian (Jonathan Forbes: Horatio Hornblower: Duty) getting booted from priest-school, and a reporter (Jason Barry: Titanic) wants to know how the two events are related. Hint: the matter of sex is what connects them, though not in ways you’d expect. Deery gives us lots of candid talk about the issue of priestly celibacy, but not much, um, preaching. Instead, he lets the sorry state of the Church speak for itself: the near-deserted seminary, where applicants are in short supply and still the best prospects are kicked out; the hypocrisy of the higher-ups, who are sowing the seeds of the Church’s irrelevance out of self-preservation more than anything else. With its small, personal take on an enormous issue, this is a bold film, thought hardly one likely to be appreciated by the objects of its censure.

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