Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

I have just finished watching a wonderfully done yet singularly disturbing piece: the HBO documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.  In it, writer/director Alex Gibney exposes the depravity of the catholic church regarding sexual child abuse by priests, particularly but not exclusively in its defense of one Father Lawrence Murphy, who had a two-decade history of such abuse at the St. John’s School for Deaf Children near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

There is no way I can convey in a few words the level of horror represented by what Fr. Murphy and literally thousands of other priests are documented to have committed against children, as reported by this film.  Watching it has made me unspeakably angry, though I doubt anywhere near so much as those who attempted to gain a response from the hierarchy of the RC church to their abuse, to the failure of both church and civil authorities to respond initially to that abuse, and to the incomprehensible fact that this is a problem not years or decades old, but, indeed, centuries.  Worse, this is a problem which is well-known to the current vicar of Christ, Joseph Ratzinger, himself, as he personally directed during his tenure as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that all cases of priest child abuse were to be vectored through his office.  He MUST know what has been going on as regards this perfidy and know it in detail … yet he fails to be in any way forthcoming with that knowledge.

As upsetting and dislocating as this documentary is, I must recommend it, strongly and fervently.  If you have access to HBO, watch it.  If not, find someone who can record it for you and see it that way.  And get angry, get very, very goddamned angry … because this business demands anger.

And it demands action.

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Comment by Loren Miller on February 25, 2013 at 12:01pm

Honestly, Kelly, I'd be dubious that there is a connection between the release of Mea Maxima Culpa and Joe the Rat's abdication.  I DO think that all the pressure that is coming to bear on the RCC regarding the increasing number of reported cases of child abuse by priests IS weighing on him and has ever since he was elected pontiff.

The sad fact is that Vatican City is in desperate need of a top-to-bottom housecleaning, yet it's extremely unlikely that it will get it.  The next pope will likely carry on the same way that JPII and Bennie the Dick did ... until and unless pressure is brought to force them to do otherwise.

People have to be shaken out of their indifference and naivete.  The supposed sanctity and inherent goodness of the church and its representatives needs to be disposed of.  Most of all, the catholic church needs to be held as accountable for their actions as any other organization, guilty of similar transgressions, would be held.  There is NO REASON why they should be exempt from being subject to the rule of law, other than people's own hesitance to pursue justice against them.

Tall order, I know, but there it is.

Comment by Bimmerella on February 25, 2013 at 11:46am

I was completely disturbed by this film as well! What's going on in the Catholic church is what has been going on for centuries and is a prime example of the fact that religion not promoting the well being of its followers, but of itself....and at all costs. There has NEVER been a more clear case of how dangerous being educated and informed is to religion, and it shows in the steady decline of religion and in particular the catholic church. It has been happening in Europe for awhile now, and now in the US. On the other end, there has been a steady increase in 3rd world nations, where the people are uneducated and poor. I was raised catholic and there are progressive priests within the church who are pushing for major reforms, like birth control, women in the clergy and allowing priests to marry, however I can tell you, they are outcasts and one I have known for YEARS, is on the verge of being excommunicated for his views.  At any rate this was a VERY GOOD film!  

Loren, do you find it a bit strange that the pope decided to retire the very month this film aired on HBO and outed him for his utter failure to act on ANY of these issues presented to him??  I particularly found the statements the pope made about this issue only showed concern for the priests and not once acknowledging concern for the victims involved in this abomination! It should outrage EVERY PARENT ON THIS PLANET THAT LOVES THEIR CHILDREN!!!!!!  

Comment by Loren Miller on February 11, 2013 at 3:47pm

Yeah, his days are numbered ... and whatever time he has remaining will go to prayer and meditation and all that happy hasenpfeffer when it SHOULD be spent doing the same thing ... BEHIND BARS.

Meantime, like Christopher Hitchens once said, I await the day when the state of tempe sede vacante, which will obtain when Bennie the Dick abdicates, becomes PERMANENT.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 10, 2013 at 12:34pm

Tim Minchen at least has the balls to call a spade a spade with that song.  I find that I am at once amused and disturbed by it, reactions which I think are completely appropriate.

Fact is, if people are just offended by the actions of the catholic church, it's clear that their offense hasn't risen to the level where they feel that action is necessary, or they are intimidated by an organization which only has power because those same people have granted that unearned authority to them.

It's time that authority was REVOKED.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 10, 2013 at 12:07pm

Cartoons and pix like that don't offend me, but then, I'm not someone who would let a similar picture attacking someone like Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens bother me.  People who let pictures or words raise their hackles are sad sacks, and I will not be numbered among them.

I AM more than just offended by the RC church - I am incensed and angered by their actions and their presumption from a position of supposed piety.  I may be angered even more so by those who see the actions of Fr. Mahony or Murphy, and while they wring their hands and wonder at "how could anyone do such a thing," They Do NOTHING About It!

And until we can move a sufficient number of such people off their uninvolved asses, the status quo of priests abusing children and largely getting away with it will continue to obtain.

Comment by matthew greenberg on February 10, 2013 at 12:05pm

well i hope i didn't offend Loren.  this is a serious issue, not a laughing matter.  that's why i've avoided posting Tim Minchin's pope song in this thread, although it would be quite relevant.  fuck the motherfuckers!!

Comment by matthew greenberg on February 10, 2013 at 11:36am

if you're gonna be a curmudgeon this is an issue to feel that way about.  i was watching the documentary this morning and was struck by how much he looks like the sith lord.  when i went to see if anyone else had thought that i found this pic.  hope i didn't offend.  

Comment by Loren Miller on February 10, 2013 at 11:26am

The perfidy of Joe the Rat is made all the more egregious by the fact that he himself ordered all reported cases of priest child abuse to be forwarded to his desk while he was a cardinal in Rome ... where, for all intents and purposes, He Has Done NOTHING About Them, certainly not anything which the general public can discern as being effective in countering this disturbing practice.

Call me a curmudgeon if you want, but I can't laugh at pictures like the one you post, Matthew.  It's just too close to the truth to be funny.

Comment by matthew greenberg on February 10, 2013 at 11:19am

coincidence?

Comment by Loren Miller on February 10, 2013 at 9:17am

Pat, I am reminded of the Intelligence Squared debate of 2009, whose topic was: "Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?"  The result of that debate was an overwhelming loss for the "Yes" side of the debate, in no small measure owing to Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, the two debaters arguing against the proposition.  The powerful and inarguable points they advanced made it clear that, whatever good may be perceived in the actions of the RC church, they are badly outweighed by the transgressions they are guilty of now, never mind the historical wrongs they have committed over the centuries.

These points need to be made more public, more a part of the public discussion.  In addition, I think that the kinds of false positive spin which the church puts on the activities of Mother Teresa needs to be promulgated more, along with their proscription of the use of condoms in AIDS-ridden countries such as Uganda.  Indeed, the very fact that the church is looking to expand in one of the most ignorant areas of the world should be very telling as to its attitude and intent.  The informed and intelligent world is turning away from catholicism, so should it be any surprise that Vatican City turns to those who have no education or sophistication in an attempt to restore their ranks?

Making the argument against the RC church a bipartisan issue would be the best way to go.  Creating such a coalition would be difficult, granted, and there remains the old issue of rational claims based in evidence coming up against the irrational support based in emotion.  Still, if any one issue can cement such cooperation, the abuse of children, continued unabated for more years than anyone can reckon, may with repeated emphasis and focus be that issue.  Such a thrust will require public exposure for those who have been abused, and that will be painful.  It will also likely require a near-constant tattoo of this issue in the media to the point where people will either tire of it and tune it out or, one hopes, resolve to take decisive action to STOP the cause of the abuse.  It will be exceedingly difficult, but very often, those things worth achieving have to be that difficult.

I agree entirely, Pat: the catholic church has no intention of fixing itself.  Indeed, the only "fix" for it which would be most beneficial to all parties is its eventual dissolution ... which cannot happen soon enough to suit me.

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