Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his resignation — or abdication, if you rather — today, is profiled as part of a new HBO documentary that examines the pedophile priests child sex abuse scandal of the Catholic Church, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.
The film, which is both gripping and extremely upsetting, is showing on HBO this month. I watched it Saturday, as difficult as it was to do so, and strongly encourage those who can to as well.
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 Deaf children in a school under his control. The film documents the first known public protest against clerical sex abuse in the U.S., which led to a case that spanned three decades and ultimately resulted in a lawsuit against the pontiff himself. The investigation helped uncover documents from the secret Vatican archives that show the Pope, who must operate within the mysterious rules of the Roman Curia, as both responsible and helpless in the face of evil.
At the heart of the film is a small group of heroes – Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Arthur Budzinksi and Bob Bolger. These courageous Deaf men set out to expose the priest who had abused them and sought to protect other children, making their voices heard. Gibney uses the voices of actors Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery to tell the stories of men abused by Murphy. However, it is the faces and expressions of the courageous Deaf men that illustrate the indelible effect Murphy continues to have on their lives.
In addition to the Murphy case, MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD spotlights similar sex abuse cases in Ireland and Italy, and highlights the horrific actions of Marcial Maciel Degollado, a prominent church fundraiser and ruthless sex criminal beloved by Pope John Paul II. The film also reveals that in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger – now His Holiness, Benedict the 16th – ordered that every sex abuse case involving a minor come through his desk, essentially establishing him as the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding priestly sexual abuse of minors.
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