New documentary stacks deck against the Catholic Church, say U.S. bishops

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A review of a new documentary on chastity states that the film is “unbalanced,” “full of unsubstantiated, anecdotal assertions” and falsely links abstinence to the Church’s sexual abuse scandal.

"Celibacy," a new documentary by Antony Thomas, will be aired on HBO June 28. The Office of Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed the documentary in advance.

The review states that the documentary starts “on a seemingly unbiased note” with a comparative study of the practice of celibacy in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.

However, it  “quickly becomes a polemic against the Catholic Church's entire sexual ethos, which attempts to claim that a repeat of the recent sex scandal could be avoided if the Vatican lifted its ban on a married clergy," the review says.

"Of course, no mention is made of the fact that married and single men of all faiths and no faith can be pedophiles, without having the excuse of religious celibacy as an explanation," it continues.

The documentary does not “take seriously that following the example of the celibate Christ is a motive for priestly celibacy,” states the review. “Primacy is always given to motives other than spiritual.”

The review also faults the film for singling out Christianity and for not considering the positive aspects of the Church’s teachings on celibacy.

It criticizes the film for citing the departure of thousands from the priesthood in past decades and fewer religious vocations today in its case against celibacy, never situating these two facts within a social context, which has seen an “overall decline in all lifelong commitments,” including marriage.

The film also ignores the healthy number of vocations outside the Western world, as well as secular polls indicating that most priests are happy with their lives.

The review states: “The show's oversimplified prognosis, which recommends ending celibacy as a panacea to the ills facing the Church, is hardly convincing.”

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