The movie “Confession” went directly to DVD which prevented the mainstream theatre audience from viewing and appreciating this film. It features the young actor Chris Pine who became well known as Captain Kirk in the remake of the Star Trek series beginning in 2009.
Chris Pine - Wikimedia
In “Confession,” Chris Pine plays a different character than Star Trek fans are more familiar with. Chris portrays a high school student, Luther Scott, who attends St. Michael’s Prep Boarding School, and is not atypical of many students who attend such an elite, expensive school paid for by wealthy parents who want the discipline for their child that is provided in an institution such as St. Michael’s. Tom Bosley is cast as Father Abbott Sutton, the Father Superior of the Abbey and School.
As a product of sixteen years of Catholic education, I can truthfully state that the presentation of the Catholic faith in the film “Confession” is done with great credibility and sensitivity.
Luther’s Business on the Side
Luther Scott (Chris Pine) is clearly not enrolled in the school of his choice. At St. Michael’s, he has a little business on the side, providing his fellow classmates with beer, cigarettes, porn movies and magazines, barely escaping the watchful eyes of the priests who conduct classes in the school. We are first introduced to Luther as he rides his bike to a pharmacy dressed in priestly clothes with a clerical collar. He has ordered a medication of some sort but tells the pharmacist he has left the prescription on his desk at the Abbey. The pharmacist believes in the integrity of the man before him and hands over the medication. Further developments would indicate that he probably sold the pills to one or more of his classmates.
On a weekend evening, Chris and his roommate Robbie (Lukas Behnken) host a dorm party for their classmates who must purchase their drinks from Chris. Robbie is a quiet, respectful student who has been drawn into Chris’ antics by virtue of being his roommate. He does not seem to possess the willful spirt of Chris
Cameron Daddo - Wikimedia
The Students are Caught Having a Wild Party
Unfortunately, Father Thomas Parker (Bruce Davison) had chosen that very evening to show the dorm to Senator Givens (Robert Pine) and his wife and son with the intention of sending the Senator’s son to St. Michael’s in the coming year. The family was highly impressed with the school and its discipline until they came upon the antics in the dorm hallway outside of Chris and Robbie’s room. The Senator was livid to the point that he withdrew the promise of a large donation to the school which he and Father Tom had discussed.
Chris and Robbie are Expelled
At a meeting in Father Tom’s office the next day, Chris and Robbie were informed that both of them would be expelled from school the next week. Meanwhile, they would continue to attend classes while preparing for their departure.
When Father Tom looked further into the incident, he was informed by one of the students, David Bennet (Adam Bussell), that Chris and Robbie were responsible for the riotous party that was taking place when guests were being shown through the dorms. David felt guilty and went to confession to Father Michael Kelly (Cameron Daddo) to relieve his conscience that he had ratted on his classmates and had them expelled.
Tom Bosley - Wikimedia
Chris Accosts David
Chris found out that it was David who had been the informant to Father Tom and went looking for him. He accosted him in a hallway of the school, but Chris was dressed in the white monk-style habit worn by the priests. In the tussle in the hallway, David was pushed over a railing to his death. Robbie was a witness to the fight, and promised Chris that he would keep it a secret.
A delivery man had seen the white-robed figure with blood on his clothes leaving the scene and informed the police when the incident reached their ears. Father Kelly had been with David in confession that evening. What no one knew was that after David’s confession, Chris also went to see Father Kelly to inform him that he had killed David. Chris was distraught.
Father Kelly’s Past Comes to Light
When the police looked into Father Kelly’s records, they came upon an incident that occurred in the priest’s past. When Father Kelly was a child, his little brother Tim was swinging on a tree branch and their brother was making the branch swing more to scare the little boy. Tim fell from the tree. Father Kelly (Michael) came upon the scene with his brother on the ground. He tried to revive him without success, but his clothes were bloodied from his efforts. He was accused initially of killing his brother, but the incident was considered an accident and the case was closed.
Detective Fletcher (Peter Greene) made much of this childhood incident and Father Kelly was under suspicion for David’s murder. Because a priest is bound to keep the seal of confession under pain of excommunication, Father Kelly could not defend himself by reporting to the police the killer’s confession to him.
Bruce Davison - Wikimedia
The Seal of Confession
This makes for a tense storytelling. However, in my understanding of the seal of confession, Father Kelly could have said that he was under the seal of confession and could not give the police any further information. That should have taken care of the issue. It is true that Father Kelly was the Confessor to the students at St. Michael’s and his mention of the seal of confession would immediately alert the police that a student was the perpetrator. Father Kelly’s dutiful execution of his seal was perhaps more than was necessary, especially since the suspicion of murder had fallen on him.
The ending of this film was a bit gory, but it was the only practical end that would satisfy everyone’s sensibilities. I was happy with the way Catholic teaching was presented as well as the decorum kept by the clergy under the circumstances. It is a film that the entire family could enjoy and discuss.
If anyone wishes to look further into an explanation of the seal of confession, Averil Beaumont’s book “Under Seal of Confession” can be obtained from Amazon as it is pictured below.