There’s no easy way to address a highly charged subject like the sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests, but with Twist of Faith, director Kirby Dick has taken a straightforward approach, using neither fanfare nor frills to create an unflinching but highly personal documentary about this disgraceful episode.
The 2004 film’s focus is on one place, Toledo, Ohio, and primarily on two men. On the one hand, there’s fireman Tony Comes, mid-thirties, married with two kids. Some twenty years earlier, he’d been molested by his then-priest; callow, impressionable, in need of love, Comes found himself in a situation he describes as “too screwed up to question,” with the result that he was “so confounded that (he did) nothing.”
On the other hand, there’s Dennis Gray, the priest in question; a thoroughly repellent individual, Gray is seen in a 2003 legal deposition, evading questions on the advice of his lawyer. But Comes is far from silent. Having spent two decades racked with guilt and shame and thinking he was the only victim, Comes is galvanized into action when the abuse scandal becomes national news.
He shows remarkable courage and honesty, keeping nothing from his wife and young kids, joining a support group, even visiting the cottage where Gray committed his unspeakable acts; determined to make not only the pedophile priests but those who ignored, lied about, and covered up the abuse acknowledge and take responsibility for what happened, he also files a lawsuit.
All of this is done at considerable personal cost. What happened to Comes and the other victims we see here went even deeper than the nightmares and family problems they experienced; it shook their very souls, calling into question their lifelong faith in the essential benevolence of an institution that has betrayed them. Grim but compelling, Twist of Faith makes for very sobering viewing.