Mea Maxima Culpa
"The system of the Catholic clergy selects, cultivates, protects, defends and produces sexual abusers," says a religious leader in Alex Gibney’s detailed and devastating HBO documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God."
Focusing on Father Lawrence Murphy, writer/director/producer/narrator (and Oscar-winner) Gibney follows the complicity of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s administrative and governance apparatus, through generations of global child sexual abuse by priests.
Murphy ran Milwaukee’s St. John’s School for the Deaf, a "beautiful, castle-like campus, a heaven," from 1950-1974. He molested at least 200 boys for decades, raping them in the confessional, in their shared dorm rooms, in his cabin retreat. Since Murphy knew sign language, but many of the parents, who often lived far away, didn’t, the children were unable to tell other authority figures about this uninvited violence. The nuns working at the school also remained silent.
When a few of the abused boys grew up, they reported their cases to local law enforcement, which did nothing, often because the statute of limitations had expired, and to higher-ups in the church, who were also impotent due to Catholicism’s omerta, or institutionalized silence (the breaking of which is punishable by excommunication).
When the first publically recognized sex scandal broke in the Boston diocese in 2002, pedophile priests were thought to be only an American problem. Certain monks were assigned damage control positions and pay-off budgets ($7 million in 1995) to snuff out any scandals. Some wrote to the Vatican to "remove these incurables for their target populations" because they were like "vipers infesting the seminaries." A Caribbean island near Grenada was even considered to be purchased as a paraclete (advocate) place to quarantine these abusers, but instead other sites around the world were set up to "rehabilitate and recirculate."
In 2010, a rash of clerical sex abuse scandals surged across Europe, from Elvis-impersonating Father Walsh in Ireland to dioceses in Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium. Every single incident of sexual abuse of minors was processed through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
Various newspaper investigations led by the New York Times (journalist Laurie Goodstein is interviewed) found that the CDF holds documents on all church sexual abuse dating from 4th century Spain. The Vatican has recorded 1700 years of violence and responds with silence or dismissiveness (telling insiders that molestation is "part of growing up"), or, if any statement is issued, it usually asks for sympathy toward the abusers, never for the victims. Pedophile priests such as Father Murphy were usually moved to cushy retirement positions and were never defrocked or civilly prosecuted. Before his death in 1998, Murphy wrote Ratzinger, asking "I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter."
Murphy had eventually admitted his abuse, using what police call "noble cause corruption," excusing unspeakable acts under a "noble cause." Murphy said he was giving these disabled children "sex education," helping them "have their needs met," and that he took "their sins on myself." In recent years, eight American dioceses have filed for bankruptcy, Boston has lost 50% of its parishioners, and many faithful have left the church in Ireland as well. As a state formed under a deal with Mussolini’s fascist regime, the Vatican maintains diplomatic immunity and the Pope and his minions are still considered infallible by many. Yet this handful of deaf men filed a lawsuit against the pontiff, and others have also charged the Holy See with crimes against humanity. Benedict, the former Ratzinger - who had detailed knowledge of every single Catholic sex abuse case, payoff and pedophile reassignment - resigned on Feb. 11, 2013, the first Pope to voluntarily leave in 600 years. Through his very great fault, indeed.
"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God"