Kler / Clergy (2018)

There is now a Polish movie being played in cinemas, in my country and throughout Europe. There are over 200 screenings planned in the UK alone (beginning today!), and that’s a lot for a Polish movie, our pictures rarely go beyond niche festivals. Tickets are mostly bought out by my compatriots living abroad, but they are not its whole audience.

Why? 7856555.6

Well, the title is Kler (our word for ‘the clergy’). Specifically, in the Polish context, the catholic clergy. Catholicism is the default option here. Not just as a religion. To a large extent, especially outside large cities, it’s the foundation of social life and a powerful political and economic force.

In the days when diocese after diocese goes bankrupt trying to pay off the victims of their functionaries’ abuse and, in Chile, the entire bishopry episcopate submits resignations, there are not enough movies about the issue. Spotlight was very good, and certainly educational, Calvary show how a catholic country might look after the problem is largely processed. Clergy is about Church militant, unapologetic and intertwined with the state as close, as the Irish one during the heights of its power.

It is about the kind or Church that enabled sexual predators to hunt their victims with impunity. It will help you understand how the crimes and abuse were possible throughout the Catholic world, just a few decades ago. Also, how and why the Church, lead by its princes (bishops are often called here, and quite unironically, princes of the Church) protected the perpetrators. Money, sex, power… a very earthly institution populated by very earthly people. Billions of largely unregistered , ability to direct the fury of the hardcore believers and command a significant percentage of votes. Inherent misogyny, directed both against nuns and lay woman. Really, if you listen to your average priest, it’s not far from Kinder,Küche, Kirche.

A very complicated issue. This movie is not just an attack on the institution though. Its black-robed protagonists are complex people, most struggling to live decent lives, just as all of us do. Their job does not make it easier, but ultimately it’s one of them who… but lets not go into spoilers.


It is not the best Polish movie ever, but one I’d recommend to anybody who wants to either understand a bit about our current political (and societal) problems, or about the wider crisis of Catholicism.

Not a genre movie, but highly recommended!

A few other voices from NYT, Guardian and the Irish Times.

6 thoughts on “Kler / Clergy (2018)

  1. A movie that has already made a huge impact on Polish society – and one I regret I couldn’t see yet. But whatever its faults, it was a much needed voice in a topic that’s been left without commentary far too long.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. piotrek

      Oh, but there are not that many faults. Apart from being important, it is also a very good movie. It’s crazy popular, so it’s becoming fashionable to be slightly condescending, but I can find no reasons for that…
      Of course, it is mainly a very important commentary. Church is so powerful, and so supportive of the current regime, that seeing it is a kind of a demonstration.
      I wander if there are any screenings in the US, Poles there tend to be way more conservative that the ones you can meet in Western Europe.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Personally really did enjoy Spotlight and found the delivery of that story quite terrifying. Glad to see more movies bringing this issue into the light. Sounds like something I’d definitely give it a go. Hopefully it’ll find itself on Netflix Canada someday! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. As I’m fond of repeating, I went to an all-boys school run by Irish Christian Brothers, and they weren’t all Irish, nor necessarily Christian in their attitudes, and certainly didn’t all exhibit brotherly love when individuals gleefully strapped me on the palms for misdemeanours, real or imagined.

    I went on to teach in another Catholic school which was at first more liberal and less dogmatic, but successive heads came down all heavy with religious dogma and dumped the humanity, after which I removed myself from that institution.

    That cloying, claustrophobic atmosphere of my youth was designed to repress, dominate and frighten but luckily I neither suffered sexual abuse nor was aware of any — Irish Catholicism had less sway in England at that time so the RC Church had less influence on societal norms and in institutions.

    I did find some brothers creepy though, and I did come across some priests whom I felt very uncomfortable around, and quite a few who gave off plausibility (as the Cardinal in Spotlight did) but were perfectly capable of covering up wrong-doing, I’ve little doubt.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. piotrek

      That’s a wealth of personal experience I myself lack. When I considered myself part of the flock, it was limited to weekly masses.
      I have a deep admiration of other people’s personal faith, but I strongly believe the institution of RC Church outlived its usefulness some time ago…

      Liked by 1 person

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