By Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer and Anna Segota, Staff Writer
Manhattan College’s religion department recently screened a pride-inspired documentary, “Wonderfully Made: LGBTQ + R(eligion)”, which dove into the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic Church.
Students and faculty alike gathered in Hayden 100 to witness the representation of communities often repressed in certain religious teachings in the movie.
With creator and director Mark McDermott present for the screening, the film followed the central purpose of portraying Jesus through different races, genders and sexualities, with a Q&A following at the conclusion.
Bryan Massingale, a leader in the field of theological ethics and an activist for social justice, voiced his opinions on the catholic vision in the documentary.
“Our imaginations form who we are, and if we can’t imagine ourselves in the image of God then that does irreparable spiritual harm to us,” Massingale said. “As a black man, for example, when I walk into a church and all I see are white angels, light statues of Mary and white statues of Joseph, I’m not included in that story.”
McDermott and his husband’s relationship is one of the driving forces behind the film. McDermott was raised Catholic, while his husband was Jewish, and they observed the lack of iconography that included diverse bodies.
When they first screened the film in 2022, McDermott received a lot of backlash from the Catholic community among others, but it was not the first time that he had encountered this response.
“About two years ago, we did a little, very little teaser on social media,” McDermott said. “In two weeks we were the subject of 36 negative articles, including Church Militant.”
The documentary team reached out to anti-LGBTQ voices in the community when constructing the film, however, none would participate due to the polarizing nature. As a result, the film was not establishing an argument, but rather showcasing the realities of certain individuals’ lives and experiences.
“We decided there’s enough negativity out there, that we could just find online,” McDermott said. “…We were very purposefully respectful…So what we decided to do instead is a film in three parts, three half hours. The first two are a little more critical, maybe even darker, and the final third, we flip that around. That was how we decided to more subtly argue or let the words speak for themselves.”
Many Manhattan College students attended the screening, and during the Q&A panel following the film, were able to express how it had impacted them; their thoughts and emotions, as well as questions to the director that illuminated his process.
One MC student expressed his depiction of Jesus and the potential for development that he hopes to experience.
“I personally have always thought of Jesus as a figure that sort of transcends the basic ideas we have as binary, it’s a universal thing,” he said. “You know you get to a church in another continent, they’re gonna look like the people that are from that continent. And in the same way, Jesus was never an overtly sexual figure. So it makes sense that Jesus could be evolved.”
As a Catholic institution, Manhattan College needs to have open discussions with people of all backgrounds participating in faith. This is essential due to our Lassalian values, which encourage education for all, regardless of what they identify as. The positive impact the film had on students, especially ones that are underrepresented in Catholic schools, was overwhelmingly apparent.
Another MC student mentioned his connection to the film and its vulnerability stating, “I want to say that this film was very touching and the art was very beautiful. I know it’s gonna anger a lot of people, [but] that’s not what I’m worried about because at the end of the day, that will bring attention to your film, which I think everybody should see.”
note: some sources wished to remain anonymous