Pray For Us Sinners – Film Review

Pray For Us Sinners – Film Review

Director: Sinéad O’Shea
Writer: Sinéad O’Shea
Genre: Documentary

Run Time: 81 minutes

There was a time, recently, when we supposedly knew nothing. Or if we did know, we said or did little or nothing about what we knew or suspected. That was part of being Irish, who during their liberation, replaced our status as a British dominion with one of being a Clerical dominion. The British aristocrats were replaced by Papal princes and our blood spattered republicans bent the knee and gave away all the promises of the equal society others sacrificed their lives for a century ago.

Many of us are still of that, hopefully, last generation that incarcerated young pregnant women and trafficked their babies for profit. Now we know. There are films like ‘Philomena’ which exposed the tyranny of the nuns in Sean Ross, Roscrea. Mary Rafferty’s great documentaries ‘States of Fear’, Reports, Inquiries and apologies all peeled back the screens of secrecy essential for a Church to operate and control the people.  It’s a neat trick to invent the sin and then invent the power to forgive. Some sins don’t deserve forgiveness for what was done to women and children.

There are so many stories still to be told that ‘Pray For Us Sinners’ can seek out new information and present it to us on our screens. But this latest story has a worthy approach, to focus on a few more revelations, despite all we already know.

There is a difference, as time passes, when the film-maker is no longer of the generation who lived through and knows this story first hand. Sinead O’Shea tells this story with courage and respect. Already, we are a generation away from that brutality and that step away can influence how these stories are told and understood. O’Shea is thorough as she enquires and understands.

There is always an element in history, even when looking at the facts, that prompts a questions, did it really happen? How can fulfilling the strong call of a vocation to serve, result in collaboration with such abuse, in the name of a loving God. Church always put obedience to man ahead of love of God.

Now we know, thanks to the courage of a few, required to deny or lie by a Church that claims to hold the truth at its core. It is true…all of that, and if the storytelling heals then, let us listen and hear. There is much in this film to hear.

In this insightful documentary, we meet real heroes in Navan, County Meath. Our heroes are Dr Paddy and Dr Mary Randles, Norman and his astounding Mother, Betty, another victim of the regime in Sean Ross. Another, Ethna helps us understand by telling us that ‘people were afraid of everybody’.  Then, we get the story of Fr Andy Farrell – the fixer. It is an Ireland that may be gone, but people are still living with its cruel legacy.

My main issue with this important documentary is the title. It is a clerical phrase. This is a civilian story of triumph, risk taking and fearlessness in the face of an abusive power. It does not need to promote another clerical reference. There are no ‘sinners’ here, just heroes, real heroes, some unknown before O’Shea liberated their stories.

Ireland needs to be reminded of its heroes and this district has more than its fair share. It is important to remember and celebrate that despite the iron grip on our people, there were a few who challenged and regardless of the risk, called foul until things changed. The Randles should be honoured nationally and it could have begun with the title of this fine work. It is the least they are owed. I hope it is not the last we see of O’Shea’s work. She has ‘done the State some service’.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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