Let me start with this: I’m 29, straight, unmarried, and accept (somewhat begrudgingly and sadly) the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. That having been said, I live in a state with gay marriage and work at a company that is a cheerful proponent of gay rights. I have gay relatives and friends.
I think this film ultimately fails at its objective, which is to present Catholic teaching on homosexuality both realistically and positively. Though the film does pretty good at telling us the interviewees who are gay have pretty happy lives, it does a poor job at showing us, and that makes it ultimately unconvincing. I watched the film twice; here are my thoughts:
Who is this film for?
I don’t know. Because this film is from Catholics, non-Catholics and gays (Catholic or not) are going to view the film suspiciously, because of the source. (Yes, even Catholics want to spin things their way.) I’m guessing it’s for Catholics looking for clarification on what the Church teaches and non-Catholics trying to get a better explanation of why the Church teaches what it does. I think the film does a decent job at that, although having the interviewees themselves explain the teaching didn’t come off to me as a great idea.
It looks good
Very, very high production values, which is rarer in religious-film circles than it should be. The graphics are well designed, and the music is fair to decent, although it occasionally is a bit over the top in trying to convey a mood. Overall, very well done.
Is there pseudoscience?
A lot of the people discuss their backgrounds, which walk into the stereotypes that science apparently largely rejects as an accurate description of gays as a whole. And that’s going to bring (and has brought) it under attack, even though the film doesn’t explicitly make the claim that their experiences are typical. But why someone is gay is beside the point, isn’t it? The point isn’t why they are gay, it’s the real hurt and alienation they felt because they identified as gay.
There’s that Fulton Sheen quote
I had a feeling I’d see that. The problem is he said that a while ago. And, frankly, I don’t know if he’d say that today. Many gay people oppose the Church because it opposes gay sex and gay marriage.
Fun with apologists
Sister Helena Burns, Jason Evert, and Chris Stefanick are some of the better known Catholic names who pop up to discuss Catholic teaching, and they add some value — Burns especially, since she’s voluntarily celibate. Together, they make a very good case for Catholics to get their act together in terms of treating gays with respect and dignity. This is a very, very weak spot in the Church, and they do a good job of diagnosing the problem and offering the solution. Nice job, all involved.
If they’re happy, and you know it, then you really ought to show it
Here’s the biggest flaw in the film: Why are there no scenes of the interviewees with friends, with family members, living normal, happy, fulfilled lives? We have to take it on faith that they have found happiness in the Catholic faith, and quite frankly, their insistence that they’re happy is less than convincing; they sure don’t seem happy to me, even if they are. And it’s this impression that ultimately sinks the film. Documentaries are better when they show instead of tell, but this film does no showing. The interviewees tell us the Church has helped them, but we’re not given much of a reason to believe them.
I’ve identified what I believe to be the fatal flaw of this documentary, but I think it can be remedied fairly easily, thanks to the age of Internet video. Let’s get some footage of the gay interviewees in real life, interacting with friends and family and just living their lives happily. Weave that into the end sections of the film. Voila! You now have a director’s cut while only adding a few minutes to the film. Let that happen, and we have a film that’s much harder for critics of the Church to ignore.