69th Berlin International Film Festival Jury Grand Prix winner, By the Grace of God (2018), tells the tale of three men who endured the repulsive abuse of a pedophiliac Catholic priest in their childhood in Lyon, France. Eager to put a stop to this act and get justice for the trauma that the molestation has caused, they established an association and movement to expose the truth that the Catholic Church has concealed for decades.
The Fallen Clergy
There’s nothing more revolting than the thought of an individual perpetrating malicious acts toward innocent children, more so by an ordained minister – Father Bernard Preynat – who is entrusted to be a pillar of virtue, honesty, and piety. To make matters worse, as the investigation unfolds, the victims – Alexandre, François, and Emmanuel – discover that this predator has been protected by the holy institution and its leaders all along.
Ironically, the Catholic Church, deemed as a place of worship and sanctity, has battled decades of conspiracies, malice, and sexual abuse cases, which alarmingly increase as time goes by. Based on true accounts, By the Grace of God (2018) accurately depicts the horrific consequences that victims of sexual abuse have to deal with their entire lives.
Ozon took the time, as evident in the film’s length, to carefully explore the lives of each person thoroughly…
Moreover, the tension and conflict escalate as the truth bares the hypocrisy and treachery of its officials. What’s sickening for the victims is the fact that Preynat is conscious of his wrongdoing and has admitted it to his higher-ups, yet they still allowed him to administer the Holy Eucharist and teach children unsupervised. This ultimately fueled Alexandre, the catalyst of the movement, to reach out to all of Preynat’s victims, which was later brought to the attention of the media and the Vatican.
While the investigation remained unsolved at the time the film premiered in 2018, a huge weight has already been lifted off the victims’ shoulders for simply having the courage to speak up and take matters into their own hands to ensure that history does not repeat itself, especially to their own children.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Award-winning French director and screenwriter, François Ozon, personally researched and interviewed the victims who started the movement and beautifully told their stories in the most powerful and truthful way possible. Ozon took the time, as evident in the film’s length, to carefully explore the lives of each person thoroughly to give us a clear understanding of the gravity and the different ways as to how they coped with the assault. Despite the distress of facing their fears, they fought hard and sacrificed their time and effort to protect their loved ones and the community.
The fact of the matter is that we have the power to change our circumstances and reform the system if we speak our truth and help one another find peace and closure. We shouldn’t sit in silence and let our scars define us. We can’t change the unfortunate circumstances of the past, but we have the ability to make the future better for ourselves and generations to come.
Justice was finally served last July 2019 when Bernard Preynat was found guilty of sexually abusing minors and was instantly defrocked by the clerical state.