“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Give us peace.”
A group of aging priests live in a house outside a remote seaside town, looked after by a former nun. They spend their days in recreation and training a greyhound for the local races. They have a regimented life—almost monastic. When a new resident is brought to the house, we begin to learn why these men are here. Controversy arises, followed by a tragedy. In the ensuing investigation, many things come to light.
The Club is Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s look into the sins of the Catholic Church. It does not revel in the sins of the priests or of the hierarchy. Rather it exposes pain that cannot find healing until the sins of the past are confronted.
This house is, as Sister Monica describes it, “a retreat for priests who can no longer work and must leave their parishes.” That is fairly innocuous as far as it goes. When Father Garcia arrives in the aftermath of the tragedy to investigate, we begin to learn a bit about why each of these people has been sent to live here. Each has made his own mistake—not all of them sexual but all very serious. They are here in theory to do penitence for their sins, but they have settled into a routine that is a pleasant enough life for them all. Fr. Garcia would like to close down the house and have the inhabitants jailed. The controversy that brought on the tragedy continues to fester, and will soon threaten to bring all the issues to light.
While the film touches upon the sins that have plagued the Church (and not only the Catholic Church) and the pain that has been caused by those sins, the important issue that comes to light here is not the sins themselves, but rather the lack of repentance and reconciliation that should be central to the way such problems should be handled. When Fr. Garcia speaks with each of the persons in the house, none is ready to take responsibility for their actions or do what would be necessary to try to make things right. In time, the group orchestrates its own severe penitence, but the road to forgiveness will continue to be hard.
There is a sense in which this story reflects not just what is needed for individuals to find their forgiveness, but also for the Church (again, not just the Catholic Church) and society and the task for bringing healing into places where our own flaws and failures have brought pain. It is easy to look at the sins that have come to light in Catholicism and pretend that it isn’t “our church” so we don’t have to confront our own sins. Like the priests in The Club we stand apart from any sense of responsibility or sin. But how faultless are any of us?
Photos courtesy of Music Box Films