Documentary on Catholic Priests Using Nuns as “Sex Slaves” Pulled After Court Challenge
A French television documentary that accuses Catholic priests of sexually abusing nuns has been pulled from the French-German television channel Arte after a priest filed a complaint with a German court. French director Marie-Pierre Raimbault and investigative journalist Eric Quintin shot the documentary, Sex Slaves in the Catholic Church, over three years, basing it on […] APRIL 30, 2019 BY SCOTT ROXBOROUGH P lus Icon
A French television documentary that accuses Catholic priests of sexually abusing nuns has been pulled from the French-German television channel Arte after a priest filed a complaint with a German court.
French director Marie-Pierre Raimbault and investigative journalist Eric Quintin shot the documentary, Sex Slaves in the Catholic Church, over three years, basing it on firsthand testimony of nuns who claim they were used as “sex slaves” by priests. The women say when they presented their allegations to church authorities at the Vatican, they were ignored and often moved elsewhere in a cover-up that stretched across four continents.
Arte first aired the film in March. Some 1.5 million French viewers caught the original broadcast, with a further 1.7 million watching on replay, making it the most-watched documentary of the year for the channel. The film has sold worldwide.
Pope Francis has publicly acknowledged the problem, noting that the Vatican had to dissolve a French order because its sisters had been reduced to “sexual slavery” at the hands of its founder and other priests.
In November, the organization representing all the world’s female Catholic religious orders, the International Union of Superiors General, denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” that prevented nuns from speaking out and urged sisters to report abuse to their superiors and police.
The Vatican’s women’s magazine, Women Church World, has reported that some nuns had been forced to abort the priests’ unwanted children.
Arte was forced to pull Sex Slaves in the Catholic Church from its online site earlier this month after a court in Hamburg, Germany, slapped a temporary injunction on the film following a complaint filed by a priest. The court said the priest said, while he was not shown in the documentary, he was “recognizable” from an interview given by a nun. In the interview, the complaint reads, the nuns “gave the impression that the priest had forced a nun into sex against her will.” The priest was not identified in publication of the complaint.
“For both formal and factual reasons, Arte considers this decision to be wrong and we have therefore decided to appeal,” a channel spokeswoman said in a statement.
For the time being, Arte is keeping the documentary off its replay site. Violations of the injunction carry a possible fine of up to $280,000 and jail time of up to two years.
Another film criticizing abuse by the Catholic Church — Francois Ozon’s Berlin Silver Bear winner By the Grace of God — had to battle two separate legal challenges that sought to block its release.
The film, largely inspired by the real-life case of Father Bernard Preynat, a French priest indicted two years ago for sexual assault and accused of molesting more than 80 boys, faced legal injunctions filed by both Preynat and former church volunteer Regine Maire, who sought to block its release in France. But the French courts threw out both cases and the film bowed in France on Feb. 20.
French Court Rejects Bid to Block Release of Catholic Abuse Film ‘By the Grace of God’
A Paris court rejected a legal challenge from Father Bernard Preynat to the Wednesday France release of Catholic abuse drama 'By the Grace of God.' Preynat's case inspired the Francois Ozon-directed Berlin Silver Bear winner.
Francois Ozon’s Berlin Silver Bear winner By the Grace of God has overcome one legal hurdle ahead of its planned Wednesday release in France, a Paris court ruled Monday.
The court rejected a legal challenge from Father Bernard Preynat, who wanted the block the scheduled release of the film in France on Feb. 20.
The film was inspired by the case against Preynat, indicted two years ago for sexual assault and accused of molesting more than 80 boys. The priest, who denies the charges, said that the film undermines his presumption of innocence and would unfairly impact his trial. He sued to block the film’s release until after his trial, which is expected to happen some time later this year.
However, the French court rejected his bid, though the film still faces an additional legal challenge that could stop its scheduled release Feb. 20.
Ozon’s film, which won the jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival on Sunday night, centers on the stories of three victims, how the abuse impacted their lives for decades and their fight for justice. Ozon has maintained that the film would not impact the trial, as the facts of the case and much of the film’s story have already appeared in the press.
“I think the French legal system is strong enough to withstand the impact of the film,” he said ahead of the film’s world premiere in Berlin. “Most people attacking us haven’t seen the film, so they’re basically attacking us on principle.” However he added that he is “facing big resistance” in France because of the sensitivity of the topic.
The director changed the names of the victims in the film, except Preynat, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin and church volunteer Regine Maire, with the latter two set to receive verdicts March 7 on charges of covering up the abuse. In a separate case heard Monday in Lyon, Maire sued to have her name removed from the film.
In the hearing, lawyers for Ozon and producer Mandarin said if they are required to remove her name it would “mean the death of the film.” That decision is set to be handed down Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Ozon shot the bulk of the film outside of France because of opposition in the city of Lyon. He also said that CanalPlus denied funding because of the topic.
The film has already sold wide across Europe, as well as in Canada, Australia, Latin America and Japan.
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