This series is not currently available on MHz Choice

The NY Times hails this French series as an “emotionally intense ensemble drama”. The gripping third and final season in now streaming on MHz Choice!

What’s refreshing about The Churchmen is its nuanced treatment of a group that usually gets short shrift in the movies and on TV. These are not your usual milquetoast/villainous/out-of-touch clergymen. The seminarians, their priest-professors and the spirited Sister Antonietta are all full-blooded, passionate, determined people, animated by their faith to make a difference in the world and, as St. Paul writes, to work out their salvation “with fear and trembling.” Where they differ with each other is about how that faith should operate in French society. The series raises a great question – what relevance can the church have in a modern, secular society?

According to the seminarians, plenty. (Remember, these are millenials.) When they attend a local college course in Season 1, undaunted by the disdain they encounter from fellow students, they stay in the class and find ways to make a practical difference with the poor and disenfranchised in Paris. In Season 2, they react to the winds of religious conservatism at the seminary with vigorous and effective protests. And in Season 3, as three of them become parish priests, the decisions each makes in the face of adversity are informed by their determination to stay true to their core convictions as priests.

The series also has its moments of transcendent physical beauty –thanks to the amazing settings around Paris, inside the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palais d’Iéna, and in small villages across France. There are some breathtaking spiritual moments as well – like the scene in Season 1, when the doors of the Capuchin Seminary open wide to a group of illegal immigrants and they worship together with the priests and seminarians as brothers. Or in the depiction in Season 3 of Father Fromenger’s touching friendship with Father Bosco, and his mentoring relationship in Seasons 2 and 3 with Sister Antonietta and Father Jose.

And speaking of spirituality, another interesting aspect of the series is its depiction of all the characters, Catholic and non-Catholic, believing and non-believing, as spiritual beings. In Season 2, when Father Bosco encounters a woman with a gift for healing, he enlists her help to battle his brain tumor. Whatever she does for him makes a difference, and they both recognize when her energy affects his body. While not portrayed as a Catholic, she’s clearly a spiritual person, and Father Bosco respects and benefits from her spirituality.

As idealistic and altruistic as the characters in The Churchmen can be, there are no villains or saints among them – they’re all mixed bags. That’s what makes the series so interesting. The characters’ own flaws, uncertainties and ambitions fuel the drama.

The Churchmen features no car chases or assassinations, but the power plays, the betrayals and the wrestling with sexuality all make for stories as compelling as anything MHz Choice offers. Everyone’s a struggling pilgrim – venial and mortal sins can be seen committed by all, from the lowliest student to the most powerful men at the Vatican. That’s why it makes for exciting viewing.