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Published: Monday, 1/31/2005

'Twist' promotes healing

Nobody likes to have their dirty laundry aired in public, and certainly Toledo would prefer to be thrust onto the national stage for its contributions to jazz or its place in industrial history rather than for its part in the national clergy-abuse scandal. Sometimes, however, as in the case of the documentary Twist of Faith, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival recently, it is painfully necessary.

The movie, by veteran filmmaker Kirby Dick, is about the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Toledo Catholic Diocese, seen primarily through the anguish of one man, Toledo firefighter Tony Comes, who claims he was abused as a teen by Toledo priest Dennis Gray.

Mr. Gray, who left the priesthood in 1987, was forced to step down as dean of students at Rogers High School in September, 2002, after The Blade revealed allegations of sexual misconduct while he was a priest. He denied the allegations.

Most of the cases against the diocese were settled out of court and Mr. Comes received a $55,000 settlement.

Twist of Faith is not intended to hold the Glass City up to a negative light, although some here may myopically condemn it on that basis. Nor does the film blame Catholicism, although the impact abuse has had on the faith of the characters is explored.

Instead, Twist of Faith, which was planned to air on HBO later this year but could instead be in line for theatrical release after an Osacr nomination as best documentary, is a powerful look at a human failure of leadership.

So far, the Toledo Diocese's response to the film has been to issue an unsatisfying statement expressing its sympathy for the victims of abuse and its actions to prevent a reoccurrence.

It is understandable that many, including diocesan leaders, might not want to dwell on the past but, instead, move on. But it was that very lack of willingness to meet a problem head on that perpetuated clergy abuse decade after decade by sweeping allegations under the rug, transferring rather than exposing sex offenders, and, sometimes, quietly paying off accusers.

Instead of responding with platitudes, what the diocese ought to do - what the whole city ought to do - is embrace Twist of Faith and its central characters, who have found that monetary settlements cannot buy the peace they seek.

Indeed, this film should be embraced because, far from reopening old wounds, it may promote healing for Tony Comes and other victims of abuse, the Toledo Diocese, the Roman Catholic Church, and the nation, and that's not such a bad light for Toledo to be seen in after all.

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