First-Place Winner, May – October 2003 Screenplay Contest – Teleplay/Short Series
Written by SCOTT A. MCCONNELL
A justice-loving priest, on probation for breaking the privacy of confession, learns during a confession of a female parishioner who his superior is sexually abusing.
Father Tim O'Hare joined the ministry to do justice. As a priest on probation for breaking the secrecy of the confessional, he has been sent to a new parish. Tim’s new superior and “guide” is Father Richard Lawrence, an imposing man with a ruddy, warm face that might hide a terrible secret. After a rehearsal for her wedding, Linda Alvarez, 18, requests a confession with Tim. Linda is a visual contradiction. Her face expresses a glowing sexual innocence, but her body is strangely over-covered. Linda confesses that Father Richard is sexually abusing her and begs Tim’s help. Although unsure of the truth of her accusation, Tim promises to help her.
As Tim sits in the confessional thinking of what to do, the door of the other box closes. Richard confesses “one small slip” with the predatory Linda, thus locking Tim into keeping his secret. Tim must now help Linda without breaking his confessional vows, for which he would be expelled from the church. Tim finds a way to use the confessional to trap Richard and save Linda.
FADE IN: INT. CONFESSION BOX - EVENING
We hear the strains of THE WEDDING MARCH, played somewhat somberly.
CLOSE-UP: The sliding panel between the two chambers in the confession box is slid open by a large hand.
We see the man behind the hand: Father RICHARD LAWRENCE, imposing build, middle-aged, with a ruddy face that exudes warmth.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.
Father Richard looks up in surprise.
Timmy me lad, is that you then?
Yes, Father Richard.
TIM O'HARE, early twenties, medium height and slim, is a very serious but now nervous young priest.
What mischief is this? I knew you were a
little wild, but your first night in the parish
and already something to confess?
No injustices, Father, just some doubts I
need to confess.
Richard becomes serious. After looking caringly toward the young priest, Richard looks at a folder in his hand.
Go ahead, lad. What doubts are these you're
Tim looks nervously at the portal.
My future in the Church.
Richard looks sadly at him.
Young Tim, let God's heart hear this from your
own lips. I'll note beforehand, for the Bishop
sending you to Saint Christophers, I'm thankful.
At the seminary, I broke the confession's vow of
Richard nods, pleased. He puts the folder aside, while Tim, conflicted about what he is about to say, needs to say it.
I know I was wrong, but hearing that man
confess raping his step daughter--and that he'd
do it again...
Richard looks away as he hears this.
A terrible thing to experience, to be sure, but
yer sacred oath to God?
Yes, Father. I'll never again break my oath to
God, but I joined the church to defend people,
I know where you're headed, young Tim, every
priest's surely been there, but we'll be wanting
you to stay on as a priest. Now pick up that Bible
before you and swear that you'll never repeat this
lapse again. Swear it to me, swear it to God.
Tim, more confident, slowly picks up the Bible.
I swear before God never to reveal outside of
confession anything I will ever hear during it.
Amen, Tim. Well said. I pray that you come to
love the church and its ways as I do. It's a great
home in which to earn a fine name doing God's
work. That's what warms these old Irish innards.
Now, Timmy lad, let's talk more gently about your
fine future in the church.
INT. CHURCH ALTAR/AISLEWAY - EVENING
A wedding rehearsal is taking place. A male church ASSISTANT steps onto the altar platform at the front of the church. Standing before him are a very much in-love young couple. Beautiful latina LINDA ALVAREZ, 18, is a visual contradiction. Her face expresses a glowing sexual innocence, but her body is strangely overdressed, covered from collar to toe in blouse and slacks. Especially hidden are her ample breasts.
Linda sweetly takes the hand of her fiancé, early twenties NICKY SUAREZ, a flirtatious, handsome boy with lively eyes only for his senorita.
As the Assistant searches through the prayer book, Nicky leans across to Linda.
My little sweetheart, in 24 hours no mas
will you be a unhappy virgin.
Linda swats Nicky, who grins, but then she can't resist him and takes his hand, which melts into hers. As they nuzzle up:
Richard and Tim are walking from the confessional to the altar down the aisle along the far wall of the church. The folder under his arm, Richard is whispering to Tim, while his other hand is gently holding Tim's arm. They reach the altar.
The Assistant and Nicky stop their conversation and look to Richard. Linda looks toward the floor. Richard nods to the three and pauses his gaze on Linda, who folds her arms across her breasts.
Richard steps onto the altar, higher than the assistant, and looks down at the others.
At last the wedding of our lovely Linda, but
first I must introduce a new addition to our
flock, and a new assistant shepherd here at
Saint Christophers, Father Tim O'Hare. Aye, a
good Irish name.
Tim smiles at Linda and Nicky. Linda stares back, her eyes very intent on his face. Richard sees this and proceeds quickly.
Linda darlin’, for this rehearsal I'll pretend I've
never kissed the Blarney stone and give only
a summary of what I'll be saying tomorrow on
your blessed day. What a history we have, dear
Linda. It warms me to remember that I've known
you and your honorable family for all your pretty
Linda looks away, as if shy.
INT. CHURCH ALTAR - EVENING (LATER)
Richard is climaxing the rehearsal.
Now, you may not kiss the bride.
Nicky mocks a pout while looking lovingly at Linda. Tim is touched by their love. Richard's face is impassive.
And now tradition demands that the bride
on her last night before her wedding day must
take confession. Linda, be a good lass and lead
Linda looks at Richard a little apprehensively.
My Linda doesn't need to do confession. She's
Oh no, Father Richard. Nicky still doesn't
know his lines very well. Could you please
work with him some more? Father Tim can
hear my confession.
Tim is surprised, but flattered by the suggestion. Richard seems displeased. Linda takes Tim's arm and pulls him toward the confessional.
Nicky playfully steps toward Richard, inadvertently blocking his way to Linda.
When do I kiss the bride--and for how long?
Richard stops, anger flashing across his face as he stares at Linda.
EXT. CONFESSION BOX - EVENING
Tim gallantly opens a door of the confessional for Linda. They both, now very serious, enter their respective boxes.
INT. TIM'S CONFESSION BOX - EVENING
Playing with his sash, Tim looks at the closed portal before him.
INT. LINDA'S CONFESSION BOX - EVENING (INTERCUT)
Linda is sitting very tensely, staring at the portal. Tim slides it open.
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned...
Go ahead, Linda. All that is said here is
solely between us and God.
Linda takes a deep breath.
I'm unworthy to marry a good man. I'm not pure.
Linda is straining, but pushes herself.
I've... I had sex, some of it. Not everything, but
some, dirty things.
Tim is surprised but his confidence is increasing.
It might surprise you, but having sex sometimes
shouldn't be thought of as a bad thing when
done with someone you love, a man you're going
to marry. Many good couples have gotten lost in
It's not that. It's not that.
Oh, what is it?
I've betrayed Nicky. I cheated on him.
Linda is becoming more agitated.
Go on, please.
You won't believe me. You'll condemn me,
call me names before God.
Linda, God already knows the truth, and I'm
not here to condemn you, but to offer His
absolution and greater love.
It was with Father Richard.
Tim lets his sash fall.
Linda, in confession you're speaking directly
to God. You must tell Him only the truth.
It's true. I can't fight him. I need your help.
Tim looks at the door, wanting to run away, but faces the portal.
I've known him all my life. Always with my
family it's been "Father Richard this, Father
Richard that. Obey Father Richard. He's a good
What did he do?
Linda squirms, as if reliving some nightmare.
I'm sorry, Linda, but I need to know.
He made me, he ordered me--as God's priest--
to--to undress here, in the confessional and to
Linda trembles with great anger and shame.
And then, during my penance. (beat) He showed
himself and made me kneel before him--and
do dirty, sick things. Please stop him.
Tim is horrified, believing her, doubting her, fearing her.
Did he hit you?
No. He twisted me inside. He told me it wasn't
a sin because he's a priest, that he speaks for
God. He had my father bring me here, every
Saturday, for six months now.
Tim struggles to control his shock and disgust.
It's... I don't know what to say. It's...Who,
someone must, who knows?
No one. He threatened that if I told anyone
he would tell Papa that I was a slut with Nicky,
and we should never marry. They would obey
him, they revere him.
There must have been someone?
No one would ever believe me against a priest.
I tried to tell Mama. She slapped me.
I don't want it to come out--ever. My parents’d
shame me and throw me out. Nicky, it'd crush
him. He loves it that I'm so "pure and innocent"--
like him. I want to be a good wife to him. Please
help us. The church allowed this. It has to stop it.
Will you stop him, for me, and any others he's
done this to?
Tim is horrified that there may be more.
I have to think about it all. But I'll protect you.
Thank you. Thank you. I'd almost given up
hope, especially for my wedding. God has sent
you to me.
The door to Linda's confessional CLICKS open and shut.
INT. CHURCH - NIGHT
The church is empty, except for Father Richard on the altar putting out candles. Seeing Linda, he stops. She sees him and rushes from the church. Richard looks to the confessional and blows out the last candle.
INT. TIM'S CONFESSION BOX - NIGHT
Time is sitting with his head resting on his hands. He is shaken from his thoughts by the CLICKs of the other confessional door opening and closing.
MAN'S VOICE (OS)
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
Tim looks up, shocked. He knows that voice.
INT. OTHER CONFESSIONAL BOX - NIGHT (INTERCUT)
We see Richard staring hard at the portal between the boxes.
What sins do you have to confess?
Remember, Father, anything heard during confession
can never be repeated or questioned outside the
Richard's Irish accent is gone, and his face is hard and cunning. Tim becomes more uncomfortable.
I fell victim to a minor weakness of the flesh. It
happened once, that's all.
Only once? Are you sure?
Of course I'm sure. Why do you doubt me?
Tim fumbles with this.
Tell me what happened.
(with genuine need and honesty)
Absolve me--so God can forgive me.
Was Linda Alvarez the only one?
Richard flares, but then controls himself. He checks the door, reassuring himself that all is private and leans closer, more charmingly, toward the portal.
Come on, Tim. You're more experienced than that
with the games of women. I've been a priest for
over 30 years and I've seen it all. Be careful about
believing Linda's or any woman's fantasies.
Tim leans back, controlling his self-doubt.
To be absolved, you have to make a full and open
Richard's facade of Irish charm is now completely gone.
You're now her favorite; order her to stop spreading
her lies. Show her they'll only hurt the church and her
family. She'll do what a priest tells her, especially a
handsome young buck like you.
Tim is threatened by Richard's pressure but pushes himself on.
Was it consensual?
She seduced me. Absolve me, now. Do you hear me?!
I can't. I just can't.