Disturbing short film “The Confession” that somehow won Catholic award

I was sent the link to a short film that, apparently, won and award at the International Catholic Film Festival in 2017.


It starts with some good point.  Never mind that the priest is not wearing a purple stole: validity of absolution doesn’t depend on a stole or its color.  Fluctus in simpulo.  There are some good moments in the short.

That said, there are some disturbing elements in this film.

I know that it is a short film and that short means that not every possible angle can be resolved.

The priest lies to the guy, a couple of times, in telling the penitent that he didn’t commit murder.  However, even if “murder” isn’t quite the right technical term for what happened, even if the lie that the priest told was true, the guy would still have committed a horrible sin, several, in fact.

As to the penance, it isn’t always possible to “compensate” a victim.  However, giving something to someone who is not the victim doesn’t strictly satisfy justice.   There is a twist in this case, but that remains.

What I am afraid happened here is that sentimentality trumped reason and, once again, we saw the exaltation of false mercy which betrays truth.  A “mercy” which is apart from the truth is no mercy at all.

Moreover, the film seems to make the the point of the priest’s mercy, rather than God’s mercy.   It is, essentially, about the priest, not God.

I am reminded of my feeling after I read the jesuitical horror Silence by Shusaku Endo.  It’s a story of a missionary Jesuit in Japan who commits apostasy to save the lives of others who are being tortured.   The book and the recent film from the book are much the same as this short.

Silence was simply dreadful.  Of course it was fostered by a certain Jesuit homosexualist activist as a consultant.   Hence…

False mercy leads some in the Church to say that

  • people in an objectively adulterous state and who do not intend to chance can go to Communion if they discern that they can.
  • non-Catholics, who don’t believe what the Church teaches, can admit themselves to Holy Communion if they discern that they want to, and without correction from bishops and priests.



And I hate to have to write this, but… don’t let bishops and priests lie to you.

You must must must get with your copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other great resources and learn your Faith well.   Learn it and love it enough not to lie about it and not to accept lies about it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sawyer says:

    I remember watching the short last year and being disgusted that it won anything, much less was produced. Purely a psychologically therapeutic model of Confession.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It is pretty common in Japanese literature to have a tragic protagonist who lies to himself, or even has delusional visions to support the lies. Things often end in some horrific way, and even this does not change the protagonist. (Often they remain idiots when speaking to the living as ghosts.)

    I still haven’t read Silence, so I don’t know if that is what Endo was doing.

  3. Fr. Kelly says:

    By lying to him about his father’s death, he actually prevents the penitent from being dorry for killing him. and that just before he gives absolution.

    This is not mercy, but its opposite if it is accompanied by the intention Hamlet expresses about his uncle.

  4. Julia_Augusta says:

    Confession is an emotionally manipulative film. I did not like it. Unless a person faces up to all the consequences of an evil act, he cannot truly repent and obtain absolution.

  5. Akita says:

    Thanks for your tireless work in helping us navigate the wider culture, Father Z. You love and care for the souls of the sheep with such constancy. God keep you. I will be sending you some money for you to to spend on God’s glory be it a biretta, a book to enrich your priestly vocation, a meal to sustain you in your travels, etc.

  6. bibi1003 says:

    Father Z, I don’t know how to not let my priest or bishop lie to me. Could you explain what you mean?

  7. Cincinnati Priest says:

    It’s a shame because this could have been a fine film had it had a different ending, without the priest lying to make the man “feel better about himself” with false mercy. The plot line was intriguing, the acting was well done, and it does get to the heart of what true forgiveness is, in a very dramatic way.

    It might be interesting for post-ers here to write a brief alternate ending to salvage the film (especially the priests — what penance would you have given?)

    I haven’t though ttoo hard about it, but I might have had the young priest give the penance of offering a Rosary for the consolation of the family members of the man whose life he took each of the remaining days of the penitent’s life, after explaining to the penitent that the only way he could die in peace would be to make a reparative offering each day. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give extended penances like that one, but given the shortness of the penitent’s remaining life and severity of the offense, I might in this circumstance.

    Aside from the awful ending condoning lying (and terrible theology of “mercy” implicit in it), there were some truly touching moments, such as the priest’s gentle kindness to the penitent in his spiritual and emotional misery, despite the offense against him.

    The look on the actor’s face when it dawns on him that the penitent is the man who killed his father was priceless — a great moment in Catholic films. Maybe one of the best since Montgomery Clift has a murderer in his confessional in Hitchcock’s “I confess.”

  8. Hb says:

    I thought Fr Z was over-reacting until I watched the video —should’ve known better. This is a truly devilish film, unbelievable that it received an award.

  9. Thomas S says:


    [i]Unless a person faces up to all the consequences of an evil act, he cannot truly repent and obtain absolution.[/i]

    I’m not sure that’s true. I’m pretty sure it’s not. We’re not consequenstialists, and couldn’t be even if we wanted to. We can never know all the consequences and so couldn’t be expected to repent of them. The evil choice is what we must repent of, whether we dodge a bullet after or make a bigger mess of things than we intended. Certainly, justice requires we finally be made aware of the consequences of our sins, but that’s what the Last Judgment is for, not the particular judgment.

  10. Malta says:

    This is what a Jesuit used to be: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wri27cruXKE Of course in Quebec at that time they would have spoken French.

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  12. Malta says:

    This missionary spirit of the Church died after Vatican II. You know Archbishop Lefebvre was a missionary priest in Africa, and a handsome, very intelligent man. He could have had a family, but dedicated himself to God instead. I honestly believe he will one day be declared a Saint.

  13. Absit invidia says:

    The modernist Catholic is desperate for the world’s approval. It feeds and survives from it.

  14. Grumpy Beggar says:

    . . . haven’t watched the short yet, but can see how this particular mentality which bestows an accolade for a job badly done (as far as maintaining the truth is concerned), were it to prevail on a large enough scale, could actually undermine some of the most solid counsel that Father Z provides us on a regular basis – namely :


    What’s the sense of going to confession if our confessors won’t tell us the truth ? We need to pray for our confessors.

    When properly done, Confession can prevent us from getting into this little game where we actually lie to ourselves.

  15. SpesUnica says:

    fwiw, I found the BOOK Silence to be more nuanced than Scorsese’s film. The book leaves some room for doubt; the film leaves little to none. The book is a good conversation starter about persecution and martyrdom. The film asks questions and then gives the wrong answers.

  16. Antonin says:

    I thought Silence was a good book and film delving into difficult questions of ends justifying means and what it means to be a witness. We must remember that deception is an aspect of the OT Rebekah lies to Isaac about Jacob being Esau. This deception is necessary in order to fulfill who really should be king. While Esau, by custom, being the older son, should be king, Rebekah knows that he just does not have the proper temperament to be a leader. Esau, is indeed a man’s man – no question about that but he does not have the wily skills required of a king. Rebekah takes full responsibility for her deception -other examples include Tamar and Judah….the movie silence follows a similar track inviting the reader to ask and wrestle with the text. Remember the young priest never TRULY apostosizes ….he remains faithful to our Lord in his silence

  17. Nan says:

    He means you should know church teaching so you realize that you’re being lied to. With the Catechism you can compare what you’re told to Truth.

  18. Malta says:

    This will be my last post on this thread, but this man was a great friend of mine: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/santa-fe-sheriff-deputy-fatally-shot-fellow-deputy-article-1.1989826

    He was shot four times in the back. He was expecting his fourth child. He was a Christian, and had one of the most upbeat personalities I’ve ever seen in a man. He always talked to his wife, almost constantly, when when we were together. It broke my heart to see him gunned-down. But, I’m not a big crybaby about it, like that stupid video depicts. I don’t watch depressing stuff. Check out Big Daws Tv on youtube. Very wholsome, very funny stuff (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwylb0P9_eQ&t=164s). We need more laughter in our lives. Not that drivel that won some award that nobody will remember in five years.

  19. comedyeye says:

    I saw this short a year ago and found it very moving. Had the penitent already suffered enough for his actions? Had the priest suffered daily since the accident?
    It would be just like Jesus to bring the two of them together in this way. Even in our attempts to heal others we are flawed.
    For another film that deals with long term guilt see THE LADY IN THE VAN.

    [Perhaps you need to rethink your reaction.]

  20. KateD says:

    This weekend we went back to our old town and bumped into a gal who knows I’m Catholic. She said she and her husband have started going to the Catholic Church and they love it. It was wonderful to see her enthusiasm. She said at a point, “I don’t mind going up for Communion and taking the bread, but I just can’t do the wine. It’s just not sanitary for us all to be drinking out of the same cup! We really need to talk to Father about getting those little cups that the other churches use.”

    Have you ever had that experience where everything goes into super sloooooooow mooooooooowwwwchuuuuuuun and the only sound is the THUD……THUD……THUD …….of your heart pounding in your ears? It usually happens for me when I hit black ice on the interstate and my car starts spinning out of control towards a cliffs edge and into the oncoming traffic wall of semi trucks and certain death. That’s literally what happened to me physiologically in that moment. For a few seconds, I was just stunned. Luckily, my kids were doing something I had to intervene with, so I told her I was so happy she is going to the Catholic Church, I’d like to talk to her more about it once I straightened out the kids, if she’d wait for me? So I went and got my heart rate back to normal dealt with the situation with the youngsters and went back in.

    We talked for a bit and then I came around to explaining Who the Eucharist Is and that it would be an abuse to use several cups. I recommended getting the Catechism of the Catholic Church and just starting to read a little at a time.

    It’s not her fault. No one is catechizing these people. Come to think of it, I was asked to leave RCIA when I went to get confirmed there 20 years ago, because I was bringing the Catechism of the Catholic Church to class and rejected the notion that God was a woman. It was awful the , and it’s just getting worse.

    This woman and her husband want to be Catholic. They want to do it right. They desperately desire someone to lead them. How is it charity for the pastor to leave them to their own devices, ignorant of the faith? She yearns for it.

    That diocese has hit black ice and is careening out of control, the entire Church seems to be. May God have mercy on us all.

  21. maryh says:

    What I find truly strange about this is that the lie wasn’t even an attempt to help him make a good confession. The man was repentant and had confessed the sin and was prepared to turn himself in and do penance. In addition, he got the heartfelt forgiveness of his victim’s son as well. And he already seemed to me to be able to accept the priest’s / victim’s son’s forgiveness before the priest said his father hadn’t died. Did he think God was LESS forgiving than the priest?
    Leaving it that way doesn’t extend mercy – it makes it seem like the man “dodged a bullet.” Thank God I didn’t actually kill the guy I hit, or God would NOT have forgiven me.
    All the film needed was the priest to be able to forgive the man as his victim’s son. Maybe the priest had never forgiven the hit and run driver. Now he can be at peace too, because we have to forgive our trespassers. That is something the man’s confession did for the priest.
    Forgiveness of sins IS the mercy, which leads to peace. How does minimizing the sin increase the mercy. Didn’t Jesus say that the sinner who is forgiven much loves much?
    It just seems jarring, and completely backwards.

  22. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I am not sure what is so wrong. Let us say that the priest did not know the family or the incident. It was already past the statue of limitations legally. He went to confession. He was truly sorry. What would have done for a crime that the law can not punich. He gave him the pence of giving to the orphanage. What should he have done?

  23. maryh says:

    What should he have done? [Really?]
    Almost exactly what he did do. The man met all the requirements for a good confession. The priest’s penance did not seem out of line. Turning himself in wouldn’t have been a part of the penance – it would be needed to show he was sincere in making restitution (unless someone wants to correct me).
    I missed the part where it was past the statute of limitations – I assumed he was still going to turn himself in, since he’s still guilty of injuring someone in a hit and run accident while driving drunk. Maybe if the statute of limitations is up, that makes a difference.
    I just don’t understand why the priest thought it was more merciful to lie.

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