Silence in the House of God

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a documentary in which filmmaker Alex Gibney explores the crime of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, highlighting the landmark story of five deaf men who spoke out about a priest who allegedly raped and abused more than 200 children over a 24 year period, between 1950 and 1974. It is an investigative piece about Father Murphy at a Catholic school for the deaf in Milwaukee Wisconsin that ties into the larger scandal at the Vatican itself. Complaints were filed as early as 1960 against Father Murphy, but he was never prosecuted. The arrogance of the abusing priest and the Catholic Church is all too evident. What is stunning throughout is the complete lack of concern for the victims, who finally are given a powerful voice in this film. This story is told by the victims themselves: the now middle-aged men who as boys suffered at the hands of this degenerate. These men speak directly into the camera using sign language, while actors give voice to their comments. One can see the passion of these men who use their sign language so dramatically that they seem to be practically screaming at the viewers. At the time of the abuses some complained to authorities — who did not take their claims seriously. My heart goes out to these men who have the courage to speak out against the Catholic Church. You are true heroes. By telling the truth, these victims are protecting the lives of thousands of children all over the world. The sorrowful revelations that moved me most were the complete lack of action and sympathy for the victims, the corrupted outlook of the perpetrator priests, lack of action from the police at the time, and the Church’s culture of secrecy allowing this to continue. It took many decades of fighting Church hierarchy tooth and nail before anything resembling justice was done. The film chronicles the ins and outs of the case while never straying from the human story of the victims. Then it uses the case of these deaf children, now wounded adults, as a prism to widen the investigation to dozens of cases worldwide, and the international movement to stop the abuses and force the Church to act responsibly. The film is a fine study in the human costs of the abuse, while at the same time it sheds light on the political, ethical, and moral abuses of power by a mighty religious establishment. This insightful and informative film illustrates the widespread sexual abuse throughout the Catholic Church and the Vatican’s complicity in the defense and cover-up of the pedophile priests. Gibney opens up the scope of the film by examining how the Catholic Church has hidden hundreds and probably thousands of pedophile priests from criminal prosecution. From 1981 to 2005, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was aware of every case of child rape and sexual abuse within the Church, but refused to alert police or remove offending priests from interaction with children. A few priests who did inform law enforcement about child rape were excommunicated. Gibney presents solid evidence how this travesty extended all the way up to John Paul II and his eventual successor Benedict XVI. Since 1866, the Catholic Church has had formal rules on how it deals with pedophile priests who rape children — remove the priest from his parish, counsel him, then send him back into a different community where he is free to prey on other children. Because pedophiles are serial predators, the Church must know the abuse will not stop, yet they do little or nothing to keep the offending priests away from children. Since there is a statute of limitations on prosecuting child rape, another method the Catholic Church uses is to exhaust the statute of limitations with delays so as to protect the offending priest and the Church. It is made abundantly clear in this documentary that the Church, at the highest levels, including the Pope himself, care more about protecting the image of the Church than protecting the sexually abused and raped children. What’s almost worse than the abuse is the cover-up by the Vatican hierarchy — all the way up to the Popes — who did nothing to stop it as long as the money was rolling in and life was good for them. This film is full of info that will shock you to know as far as the length of time and amount of cover-up by the Popes and the Church. Sadly, child molestation and abuse is more widespread than many like to think. Children, being weak and naive, are easy targets for the predators among us. And some of those predators are clerics. Those who prey on children are despicable individuals, period. But two features make priestly offenses particularly vile: 1) Normally sexual predators don’t stand on soapboxes to lecture the rest of us about morality and — of all things – “sexual purity.” Not only that, for the faithful they threaten dire and eternal punishment for sexual “infractions” (masturbation, use of contraception) vastly less heinous than some of them are committing themselves. 2) Normally, sexual predators don’t enjoy the protection of a vast and powerful infrastructure that conceals their crimes in the interests of maintaining its own power. What Alex Gibney shows so clearly in this excellent documentary is that the authorities at the Vatican, right up to the Pope, are in it up to their necks. Many cases have been investigated, files collected, and secret hearings held. In virtually all of them, nothing happens. The predator-priests are shuffled around and left to their predations. The Church, self-proclaimed moral beacon to the world with an alleged supernatural mandate, is revealed as running a global, centuries-long child molestation ring. They did it, and still do it, knowingly. And yet they demand the respect of all and the ears and hearts of the faithful. One has to ask whether a blind belief in anything is good. No wonder the churches in my native Ireland are almost empty. Years ago, priests were considered to be on a plane above ordinary men. The thought of lay people holding them accountable was out of the question. But the times they are a-changing. The Catholic Church is no longer able to hide behind the cloak of silence. The truth is out, and they need to be held accountable to civil law just like the rest of us are. Offenders need to be taken through the justice system and registered as sex offenders. Perhaps this is why Pope Benedict is the only pope in the Church’s 2,000 year history to ever resign from the office that popes are sworn to hold until death. If he never again leaves the Vatican, Benedict cannot be tried for the crimes against humanity that some nations have charged him with. Gibney makes it quite clear that the Vatican vehemently refused to answer to these charges and refused to be interviewed to give their side of things. This film will make you mad – but also give you hope that sex offenders may be better dealt with by the Vatican in, oh, a few hundred years. An excellent and powerful documentary. Excellent expose. I have been following the Catholic clergy pedophilia story for years, and this is a summation of everything I have read and seen. Some of this information about sexual abuse by priests is not new, but it was the first time I’d heard the stories about the abuse at the School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. This documentary gives a big-picture view to the whole sordid record. I cannot praise this documentary enough. Really an amazing piece of work. Reveals a whole new level of manipulation and cover-up. The survivors recent testimonies, the level of predatory will, and the immense background legwork and research by Gibney make a credible, solidly compelling film. This alone may get it watched by people who certainly need to see it. Unfortunately some loyal Catholic old-timers will not believe any of these “allegations”, and may believe this film is just another in a long line of attempts to destroy the Catholic Church. But any reasonable Catholic with a conscience must watch it, and I know you are out there by the millions. It’s thoroughly heartbreaking and yet courageous and hopeful — you may be unable to turn away. A must-see for documentary hounds. Highly recommended. Director Alex Gibney deserves an award for giving the victims of abuse this platform to tell the story to the world that they have been trying so desperately to share for decades. Wow, another breathtaking, brilliant doc from Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). Keep up the good work, Mr. Gibney. Documentary 2012 NR 107 minutes. (See also the documentary Deliver Us From Evil (2006). That Oscar-nominated documentary investigates the life pedophile priest Oliver O’Grady, and exposes corruption that allowed him to abuse countless children.)

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