New book explores portrayal of priests on the silver screen

Fr Peter Malone MSC

Fr Peter Malone MSC

A Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest who has been reviewing films for more than 50 years has launched a new book about the cinematic portrayal of Catholic priests since 1900, the ACBC Media Blog reports.

Screen Priests, Depictions of Catholic Priests in Cinema, 1900-2018 was written by Melbourne’s Fr Peter Malone MSC. Fr Richard Leonard SJ, director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting, launched the book at the Yarra Theological Union earlier this month.

Fr Malone, a prolific writer who has written more than 20 books about film and theology, said his latest text was designed for reference, rather than academic study.

“It’s an overview of as many priests on screen that I could track down, some commentary on significant films, notes on others,” he explained.

“Moviegoers might like to read right through. For others, there are 30 pages of indices so that film titles, actors playing priests and film directors can be referenced, which makes the book accessible to the specialist as well as to the ordinary reader.”

The main sections of the book offer historical background and film information for each decade and a key film for each decade: Going My Way for the 1940s, On the Waterfront for the 1950s, Of Gods and Men and Calvary for the current decade.

“There are also extensive chapters on priests in Irish films, in Australian films, priests in exorcism and possession films, priests and sexual abuse issues,” Fr Malone explained.

Fr Malone has served as president of OCIC (International Catholic Organisation for Cinema) and SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication).

He has been reviewing films since 1968 and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Fr Malone has described his ministry as “a dialogue between faith and movies, working with ‘secular’ reviewers”, and, “one path to promoting the credibility of faith”.

This article was originally published on the Media Blog of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.