Gemma Creagh was at Teresa O’Grady-Peyton’s documentary The Judas Iscariot Lunch, which screened at this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival.
The world premiere of The Judas Iscariot Lunch saw Screen 3 of The Lighthouse Cinema filled by 6:30pm, Thursday 25th February. As the house lights went down, us audience members, ranging from 18 – 80, were greeted with an opening sequence of older gentleman, toasting wine, and chatting abstractly. This, in the same organic, gentle flow that would progress the whole piece, gave way to the exposition of who those men were growing up – and how they found they found themselves in their teens and studying at the Missionary Society of St Columban.
From the intimacy of their homes, thirteen Irish former priests – all quirky, chatty and charismatic characters from very different backgrounds – spoke frankly about how they came to be missionaries in East Asia, the Pacific and South America in the 1960s and ’70s and their struggles in adapting. This led on to the difficulties in their lives following their return. These men were among 200 priests who made the difficult decision to leave active ministry, many of whom ended up struggling to find their place in society again.
What is most striking about this documentary, and a testament to director Teresa O’Grady-Peyton, is the level of intimacy she reaches with these subjects. These are Irish men in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are chatting openly and humorously about sex – eliciting many a chuckle from this audience, mind you – as well as being honest about loneliness and loss.
Although not avoiding them for a second, O’Grady-Peyton, deals with issues of celibacy and faith within Catholicism, and does so with a surprising level of gentleness and understanding that doesn’t hijack the focus from these men and their stories. This may be in part with the fact Joe O’Grady, Teresa’s husband, was the inspiration for the documentary, after he left the church himself at aged 35.
Most of us left that evening, full of wine, nibbles and the feeling like we had just spent our time are chatting to close friends. These priests were branded Judas Iscariots by Pope Paul VI, and what haunted me for days afterwards is how they were, and continue to be, let down by the Church.
The Judas Iscariot Lunch screened on 25th February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February)