Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a documentary in which filmmaker Alex Gibney examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church through the story of four deaf men, set out to expose the priest who abused them.

I have not seen this show yet, but here are some excerpts from a description by Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan.

The story begins as long ago as 1974 when four boys put fliers on the windshields of the cars in the parking lot of the church run by the man who raped them. They simply said “Wanted” with the priest’s name (the more explicit flyer in the video above came later). Instead of being listened to, the kids were disciplined. Eventually, in Murphy’s psychiatric record, Gibney finds Father Lawrence Murphy confessing to raping over 200 boys over a long period of time. He raped them in their dorm rooms; he raped them in the confessional, using the small window as a glory hole and granting absolution based on rape or masturbation. The detail I cannot quite recover from is that he picked out for abuse those deaf boys who had parents who could not use sign language – so that even if the boys had the courage to say what had happened to them, their parents would not understand….

We know from public documents that as far back as the 1940s, pedophile priests were showing up at these centers. Father Gerald Fitzgerald founded the order. And he was not yet corrupted by the Vatican’s insistence that no scandal ever become public and no priest sacrificed for the sake of mere children. As early as 1947, he is writing letters to his superiors about the problem…

It has been a core problem with the “celibate” priesthood in the US for decades, and every single bishop and every single Pope knew it. Fitzgerald personally met with Pope Paul VI to try and get him to act. Yes, the good folks in the church tried to do something as early as the 1950s and were stopped in their tracks … by the Vatican. The number of souls violated by child-rape in the coming decades would not have happened if all the Popes since Paul VI had acted with more moral sense than most maximum security murderers….

John Paul II emphatically cannot be somehow removed from this picture. He personally protected one of the worst offenders, Marcial Maciel, who was a serial rapist, drug trafficker, bigamist and rapist of his own son… They all adamantly denied that Maciel was anything but a living saint – and he was never prosecuted, merely allowed a gentle retirement from running his order, The Legion of Christ, which continues….

Gibney pulls no punches and condemns Joseph Ratzinger, currently known as Pope Benedict XVI, who has a history of hiding abusive priests from his days as Archbishop of Munich. he continues his support for the abusers into the 21st century.

Ratzinger himself, in a letter on “grave sexual crimes” addressed to all the bishops under the date of 18 May, 2001, warned the bishops, under threat of ecclesiastical punishment, to observe “papal secrecy” in such cases.

Watch the preview here.


Sullivan goes on to discuss how he can still call himself a Catholic after following the news and watching the documentary, and it is quite revealing. He ignores it all. He calls for ‘real’ Catholics to rise up against the hierarchy and call for an accounting of the corruption. However, to be a Catholic requires at least some adherence to the moral authority of the organization; an authority that more and more people are ignoring. From the acceptance of contraception, abortion, divorce, sex without procreation, gay marriage, and more, the flock is abandoning the teachings of the church, although many are staying catholic in name.

Rather than sell assets, the LA Archdiocese is considering a $200 million fund raiser to pay the costs of the lawsuits brought by victims. Money to be raised from the pockets of believers while the leader, Roger Mahony, goes quietly into retirement.

To me, when someone gives me Catholic theology/teachings as a rationale for any actions, the simple answer is “Why should Catholic authority be greeted with anything other than ridicule?”

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