A new short film is seeking to shine a spotlight on HIV among Catholic priests.
Holy Water, which is currently raising funds for production through Kickstarter, centers on a closeted priest who is newly diagnosed as positive. The production tackles the stigma that occurs at the intersection of faith, health, and sexuality.
Filmmaker Sebastian LaCause, who also stars in Holy Water, was inspired to create the film after reading research showing that Catholic priests were disproportionately impacted by HIV. During the height of the crisis, Catholic priests died of AIDS-related illnesses at up to six times the rate of the general population from the mid-1980s onward, according to a confidential survey conducted by The Kansas City Star.
In the groundbreaking survey, hundreds also indicated they were living with the virus. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has gone to great lengths to hide this epidemic from the public.
The issue of grappling with an HIV diagnosis hits close to home for LaCause. As he explained in a statement forwarded to The Advocate, the story of a struggling priest led him to "a deeper understanding of my own demons." In his Kickstarter video, the filmmaker comes out as HIV-positive for the first time publicly. His hope is to tackle the stigma surrounding the virus.
"It was a big moment for me to speak publicly about it but I have been inspired to create work that inspires the LGBTQ community to love themselves. To look within to make changes to live fuller, happier lives," LaCause said.
"Sharing my experience was the first step toward that work. I truly believe [in] knowing our value and believing that we are worthy of love, and our dreams are one of our strongest defenses against HIV. Because when you truly love yourself, you have access to thinking differently and to making different choices."
This is not the first time LaCause has tackled difficult subject matter related to the LGBTQ community. He is also known as the creator of Hustling, a web series that centers on an aging sex worker as he contemplates his life's next chapter.
Holy Water is bring produced by LaCause, Roxanne Morrison, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Jai Rodriguez. Support it at Kickstarter.com. As of the time of this article's publication, it has raised over $9,000 of an $18,111 goal.
Watch LaCause's video for the project below.