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article imageReview: 'Radical Grace' wants to shake up the Catholic church Special

By Michael Thomas     Apr 29, 2015 in Entertainment
In 2008, the Vatican, concerned about a "feminist spirit" in U.S. nuns, launched two separate investigations. 'Radical Grace' follows three "radical" nuns as they demand change within the Catholic church.
Rebecca Parrish delves into questions of equality and social justice with her enlightening and often funny documentary about feminist nuns. Given the Roman-Catholic church's generally monolithic look in the media, even hearing feminist nuns exist will no doubt already be unusual to audiences.
The first big public disagreement within the church hierarchy came when Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was in the process of becoming law. While the bishops were against legislation, the nuns defied them and supported it. In 2012, the Vatican issued a censure of American nuns for their activities.
Radical Grace shines the spotlight on three feminist nuns across the U.S., each with different aims. Sister Simone directs the nun lobby NETWORK and is a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act. Sister Chris aims for church reform to allow women to take higher roles in the hierarchy. Sister Jean tries to help ex-convicts reintegrate into society.
The film chronicles the nuns over several years, from the Vatican announcement of its investigation up to the present day. The driving force of the documentary is the "Nuns on the Bus" tour as the sisters travel across the country and are (mostly) warmly received by Christians and non-religious people alike. Of course, not all are happy; a couple of protesters say the nuns will "burn in hell" with one saying they're "worse than pedophile priests."
The nuns are wonderful anchors throughout the years; Sister Jean in particular is a fiery presence that will change how audiences look at nuns, and Sister Simone is constantly bowled over by the wide public supports she and her sisters receive.
Coming out of the movie, it's hard to deny its arguments, especially during a scene when some of the nuns visit Roman catacombs and spot centuries-old artwork depicting women in high church positions. Radical Grace is unafraid to call for much-needed change within the church bureaucracy.
Radical Grace is now screening at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. See Digital Journal's 2015 coverage here.
More about radical grace, Catholic Church, Hot docs, hot docs 2015
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