TV programs explore real-life stories of forgiveness

By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK – Here are a couple broadcasting highlights for this weekend you might want to consider watching: a family-friendly, made-for-television movie  on Fox and a PBS special that explore real-life stories of forgiveness.

The film, “Truth Be Told,” is the fifth presentation of the Family Movie Night initiative, launched in April 2010. True to the stated goals of that effort, this lighthearted drama – which premieres on Fox Saturday, April 16, 8-10 p.m. EDT – is virtually free of worrisome content and makes appealing entertainment for almost all age groups.

When old high school sweethearts Mark Crane and Annie Morgan (David James Elliott and Candace Cameron Bure) unexpectedly run into each other at a social event, their friendly reunion leads to a misunderstanding. Though Mark is a recently widowed father of two, and Annie has never been married, another guest in attendance, influential radio mogul Terrance Bishop (Ronny Cox), mistakes them for spouses.

Since Mark and Annie both have reasons for wanting to perpetuate this mix-up, they soon find themselves posing as husband and wife on a visit to Bishop’s sprawling New Mexico ranch with Mark’s son and daughter in tow, pretending to be “their” children.

The scenic desert setting, some innocent romance — as the dialogue makes clear, Mark spends his nights on the floor of the bedroom he and Annie share — a strong pro-marriage theme via Annie’s work as a family counselor and a wrap-up emphasizing the importance of truthfulness all combine to make this project suitable viewing for a wide variety of generations.

(A slightly spooky scene set in a long-abandoned American Indian village, though, may prove too frightening for the youngest and most impressionable.)

In “Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate” — airing on PBS stations Sundays, April 17 and 24, 10-11:30 p.m. EDT each night —  documentarian Helen Whitney offers a thought-provoking examination of both the promise and the limits of interpersonal reconciliation.

Though her film begins by acknowledging that the ideal of forgiveness is embedded in all the world’s major faiths, the claim is made, early on in the narrative, that there is a “new forgiveness” flourishing beyond the context of religion. This means that the Christian imperative to unlimited pardon – exemplified here by the Amish community’s swift and loving response to the West Nickel Mines, Pa., school shooting in October 2006 – comes in for some secular-minded criticism.

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, national director of the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation in the U.S., by contrast, provides an eloquently expressed Catholic perspective

Author Terri Jentz, a victim — along with her college roommate — of a violent assault in Oregon’s Cline Falls State Park in 1977, describes the long process of psychological healing she has had to undergo to come to terms with her experience. (Protected by his neighbors in the nearby community of Redmond, Ore., her presumed assailant – who wielded an axe in attacking the young women — was never charged.)

Similarly, Claire Schroeder, the daughter of a Boston police officer slain during a 1970 bank robbery carried out by anti-Vietnam War extremists, recounts her efforts to accept the belated repentance of one of the militants, Katherine Ann Power. Power evaded arrest until voluntarily surrendering to authorities in 1993; since then, she has shown increasing willingness to acknowledge her responsibility for Patrolman Schroeder’s death.

Besides the obviously challenging nature of the program’s subject matter — and the discretion required to interpret it properly in the light of faith — the first segment screened includes a few crass terms and a scene of unexpected, somewhat bloody violence, further marking this as adult fare.

“Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate” is rated TV-MA – mature audience only.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at

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