Published Sep 23, 2012For more than two decades, the Catholic Church has grappled with a series of sexual abuse scandals and lawsuits, spawning outrage by way of the media and shaking the faith of devout followers. It's become a global pandemic of sorts, creating battle lines between the Church and society at large.
Alex Gibney's Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God exposes the abuse of power in the Catholic Church, following four young deaf men who brought to light a pattern of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy. Focusing on the crimes committed by a charming and well-respected priest, who abused over 200 deaf children at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin, the film traces the protests and revelations that have since transpired in the decades since.
Rather than making this a standard talking-head documentary, Gibney uses the known elder deaf victims to tell their stories via sign language, with accompanying voiceover narration, which gives the film a personal touch. Beyond these individual recounts of abuses are interviews with credible experts, including former Benedictine monks that were privy to the prevalence of abuse in the Church and, even more disturbing, to the internal systems that would inevitably protect and defend the abusive clergymen.
Looking well past the atrocities that took place in Wisconsin, the film explores sexual abuse cases that have occurred in Europe, most notably that of an Irish priest that molested hundreds of boys, yet was kept safe from criminal prosecution by the Church. Gibney also presents an interesting look into the Servants of the Paraclete, the official Catholic organization set up to counsel clergy that have committed pedophilic acts.
Gibney even goes so far as to investigate the Vatican and the Pope, providing evidence that Pope Benedict the 16th has been aware of the sex abuse scandals within his institution, having headed a Vatican council that oversaw the entire history of child sex abuse in the Church, dating back over 1,000 years.
Mea Maxima Culpa (translated as "my most grievous fault" in Latin) presents a well-constructed argument with plenty of evidence to back up the claims. It is interesting to note that the Vatican refused all requests for interviews or comments.
However, given the well-constructed argument and plethora of evidence backing up the claims, anything they could have added would have been in vain. (Jigsaw)