During a trip to San Fransisco in 1980, Australian gay liberation activist Gary Schliemann (Sister Medusa) happened upon the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – an eccentric “world-wide order of gay male nuns and lesbian cleric” who employ absurdist, queer appropriations of Catholic imagery as a means of “promulgating universal joy and expiating stigmatic guilt.”
Gary brought this bizarre form of activism back to Sydney and, with the help of other gay activists, they created a Sydney Chapter. Gary and the other founders tell this story of the OPI’s grassroots establishment during the tumultuous gay liberation movement of the 1980s.
43 years later, the Sydney Sisters are still around, but inhabit a very different world. We follow Sister Rowena and the other still-active members of the maturing group during the state-sponsored corporate behemoth of Sydney WorldPride 2023, a Mardi Gras vastly different to the protest of 1978. During history walks, blessings, and a tour of Taronga Zoo, we see a younger queer audience’s reaction to their work.
Interspersed amongst this contemporary plot are intimate profiles of the individual nuns, exploring their lives and what motivated them to join. Their stories are moving, diverse and heart-felt, but share an understanding of the importance of pride.
The film briefly takes us to San Francisco as Gary visits to reflect on his trip there 40 years ago. We meet the San Fran Chapter – a thriving group who we follow during the street parties of their Easter celebrations.
Back in Sydney, we begin to see a violent backlash from far-right protestors in response to WorldPride, some of it directly against the Sisters. Confronted by this rising wave of hatred and the sudden death of one of their key founding members, the Sisters are forced to affirm their relevance in modern Australia.
No More Guilt is a contemplative examination of activism, queer pride, and the importance of leaving a legacy in a world where history repeats itself.