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‘In Plain Sight’: Once a Priest, Always a Priest

posted by Donna Freitas

I love ‘In Plain Sight,’ the Marshall Service/Witness Protection show on USA. Not only does it star two fantastic actors from West Wing, Mary McCormack and Joshua Malina, but I find the relationship (and growing, sweet romantic tension) between the show’s two primary characters, Mary and Marshall, rather riveting.
The last episode, “A Priest Walks into a Bar,” was particularly good. At the beginning, a Catholic priest witnesses a murder by criminals wanted by the Feds, and they put him into witness protection. Mary becomes his handler. She explains how witsec works–you have to leave everything and everyone behind and truly start a new life. This means that her new witness can no longer be a priest. At first the man is relieved and relinquishes the collar within seconds of hearing this.
But the real question of this episode was this: can a Catholic priest every truly become something else? For a while, this “former” priest becomes a bartender, dispensing inspirational and motivational advice to the regulars. He feels okay. This works. Mostly. At once point he even takes Mary into a church to pray–tells her he is listening for a sign from God, that God is still there in his life. He hears nothing but doesn’t lose faith. Then when someone from his old life gets in touch and puts him in danger, he takes this as a sign that his life as a priest is not over–even if by going back to the priesthood it (literally) will kill him.
The show’s characteristic humor was maintained throughout, but there were incredibly moving moments, too, as this man fell away from the Church and then slowly made his way back. His faith and vocation both were respected, and the dialogue about faith and belief between him and Mary wonderful. I highly recommend watching it at some point over the holiday weekend. The full episode is here.



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