MEA Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a film by Oscar winner Alex Gibney which documents a decades-old effort to protect and in some instances seemingly aid sexually predatory priests – a conspiracy, the film argues, that snakes through every level of the Roman Catholic hierarchy including the current and past Popes.
The documentary, which premieres tonight (Monday) in the US, comes just days after the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released documents chronicling how Cardinal Roger M Mahony and other church officials managed to thwart investigations into the sexual abuse of hundreds of local children to protect the accused priests.
Last week, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released documents chronicling how Cardinal Mahony and other church officials managed to thwart investigations into the sexual abuse of hundreds of local children to protect the accused priests.
The LA Times‘ Mary McNamara says the film “is not perfect”. But:
By meticulously stitching together timelines, documents and interviews with a wide variety of sources, Gibney effectively depicts a history of widespread corruption. Recent revelations, which chillingly mirror those of the film, make Mea Maxima Culpa that much more devastating and important.
The narrative is framed by the first known case of a priest being publicly accused of molestation — Father Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee’s St. John’s School for the Deaf. There, we learn through the signed testimonials of four former pupils — Terry Kouhut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn and Arthur Budzinski — the boyish and beloved priest systematically raped and abused more than 200 pupils during his unstoppable 24-year tenure.
McNamara adds that by using the Murphy case as a scaffold, the film attempts to follow the inner workings of what would eventually become an international scandal. Interviewing church psychologists, non-predatory priests and former priests, Vatican scholars and journalists, Gibney’s film describes a system in which a near-deification of the ordained creates, as one church psychologist put it, “a perversion of power”.
The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue is beside himself with rage over the film, and thinks Pope Ratzinger should sue Gibney:
It’s too bad Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t sue Alex Gibney for libel. In an interview posted today on The Daily Beast, he calls the Pope “a criminal.” He is accusing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now the Pope) of covering up the deeds of Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest who molested deaf boys in Milwaukee in the 1950s. Indeed, today’s New York Times advertises the HBO show by saying there was a ‘cover-up from rural America to the Vatican’.
The mark of a Catholic hater is to take dirty laundry and then add to it by offering a conspiratorial account. That’s what Gibney has done.
Meanwhile, another Catholic scandal – that of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland – is back with a vengeance to haunt the Church.
Tomorrow the findings of an investigation into state involvement in the laundries is to be published – but sensitive information disclosed to the McAleese committee, which has been carrying out the study, will not be published in the committee’s report.
Campaigners fear that that many of the survivors of the Magdalene laundries will be dead before the State compensates the estimated 1,000 women who were locked up by nuns.
On February 1, The Washington Times carried a horrifying account of the torture and abuse meted out to young women who fell into the clutches of the sadistic nuns that ran the laundries.
Unwed pregnant young women were sentenced to hard labor and their babies put up for adoption as they wept and begged to hold their child just one more minute before they became only a painful memory.
Physical, sexual and emotional abuse became rampant at these institutions. One survivor recounts that one day after school, she was sexually assaulted. Her mother called the police to report the rape and were stunned when police came and arrested the girl. A judge deemed the attack her fault and sentenced her to hard labor within a Magdalene Laundry.
At the age of fifteen, Irish singer Sinead O’Connor spent time in a Magdalene Laundry after she was arrested for shoplifting. She was trapped in intolerable conditions for eighteen months until her father secured her freedom. The physical and sexual abuse she suffered under the auspices of the Catholic Church propelled her career halting 1992 protest, where she ripped up a picture of the Pope following a performance on Saturday Night Live.
The Washington Times said that the Catholic Church has thus far denied any responsibility for the victims’ suffering.
The Vatican states that the institutions were privately run by the orders and did not answer to Rome. Only one of the orders involved in the Laundries has apologized.
The Catholic Church has locked away information regarding the Laundries, making it inaccessible to victims, their families, or the press.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn