As a rule, if a movie stars Christian Slater, and it was made in this century, avoiding that movie is a safe choice. "The Confessor" (also known at IMDB as "The Good Shepherd") isn't really an exception. Like so much of Slater's recent fare, this was direct to video rather than a theatrical release, but it's confession month here at Movie Churches, and the film does have that title, so I didn't really see a choice here.
Christian Slater plays Father Daniel, a priest whose specialty is fundraising. I don't remember that being listed in Scripture as one of the spiritual gifts, but I might have to give it another look. Another priest, Father Andrew, is accused of murder and asks for Father Daniel's help. Father Andrews claims innocence. He also claims to know who the real killer is, but says he can't reveal it because he can't reveal what was told him in confession. So it's up to Father Daniel to find the real killer, as priests do, you know. (I don't remember homicide investigation being listed as a spiritual gift either, but again, I'll have to check.)
As always, we're here to critique the churches in the movie rather than the movie itself. And the churches in the movie are pretty awful. The Roman hierarchy over Father Daniel is a duplicitous bunch. They are much more concerned about the image of the church than the young man who was murdered or the priest accused of the murder.
Spoiler alert! (Which perhaps isn't possible with a Christian Slater direct-to-video film. It's like being concerned about spoiling a quart of milk that's been out in the sun for a month.) Father Andrew is murdered in prison (though it's made to look like a suicide). Father Daniel takes over Andrew's church.
Now there are things to be said in behalf of the church Father Andrews pastored. It's next to a halfway house for teenagers. So, yay for caring for the disadvantaged. Unfortunately, the halfway house is run by Lucy Gallagher, an abusive, middle aged heroin addict. She uses the kids as a part of a prostitution/drug ring. On the plus side, she does seem to be concerned about the spiritual lives of her charges. In fact, she requires that all who live in her halfway house go to confession at the church.
On the negative side, Ms. Gallagher tape records all of those confessions, and uses the information to abuse and blackmail the teens. I thought that tape recorder was the most interesting thing in the film; it's really the reason I decided to write this review. Though many churches don't have literal tape recorders around when we're confessing, we're still scared of 'em. The Catholic Church, through years of tradition, came up with a system for making confession as safe and private as possible. I do love the idea that a priest would rather go to prison than reveal what he heard in confession.
Many of us are afraid of sharing anything more personal than an allergy flare-up at a prayer meeting because we're afraid our information won't remain confidential. Our deepest secret shared as a prayer request might be used as a conversional filler when there's a lull during a friend's coffee break. And yet James 5:16 commands us to confess our sins to each other. I don't think James would have thought kindly of tape recording confessions.
I'd like to be in a church where I could confess my deepest secrets and know they won't be used for gossip, let alone for the purposes of blackmail. Perhaps I could find a place where I could even feel comfortable confessing I'd watched a Christian Slater movie without fear of rejection or judgment.