HBO Documentary Film: MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD

By Jef Dinsmore on Feb 5, 2013 to Documentaries

Overview: This documentary investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 deaf children in aDoc logo2 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.  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. The filmmaker 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 Father Murphy case, this Alex Gibney Film spotlights similaMeaMaxima Posterr sex abuse cases in Ireland and Italy.

Expectations: Pedophilia by clergy; that is one serious hot topic.  Though this documentary will try to look at the large scale problem as it traces all the way to the top echelon to lay blame it has to be broken down. It has to be told to us by citing examples. The main example as mentioned in the paragraph above is a powerful one. 200 molested children are at the heart of the matter. I expect this examination of the problem to really only scratch the surface but stir up emotions.

I also know that those emotions will be the ones Gibney expects from viewers. Also what will remain is the burning question – why was…no, why is this allowed to happen?

Review: It is a gripping 107 minutes indeed. The emotions do easily well up. My own ran the gamut but I leave the emotional impact you feel up to you. It is also a scathing criticism of the Catholic Church. The only problem is the Catholic Church is not present to defend itself or explain what efforts it has spent on preventing crimes as depicted here. Is this truly the behavior of the Church? I’m still left wondering. Mr. Gibney ( at right) leaves us with information that warrants follow-up or expertise and it is just not there.Gibney documentarian

Lastly, to me this documentary is a study of the word “silence.” It causes one to reflect on the silence that seems to settle on a sanctuary; it is about the silence the victims experience, they hold their trauma in silence and they are silent as they are deaf. It also explores the seeming silence of the Church as it seems to turn a deaf ear. The question of why this happens, due to the telling from only one side of the issue, still goes unanswered.

In Conclusion: This documentary could and perhaps should have been about any seat of authority that abuses that allows persons to inflict sex abuse upon another. It could have been about the football coach and the camp counselor as well. Yet, it attacks only the Catholic Church.

I’m not here to debate the issue just to tell you about the approach this documentary takes in addressing the issue. It is a one-sided approach and, it seems, that the filmmaker does not take the task very objectively. The best thing to say is to watch it and decide for yourself.

 


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  • Court

    I strongly disagree with the assertion that the HBO presentation was one-sided in that this documentary spent a considerable and detailed amount of time showing what certain significant Catholic authorities tried to do – in secret – in order to rehabilitate (or re-circulate) the erring priests. It also presented in substantive detail, the testimony of a devout Catholic counselor in high position, who eventually became so frustrated at the lack of “presence” of anyone in higher authority to face the problem that he quit the church to become an independent counselor, free of the trammels of ecclesiasticism. The silence of these other, higher church authorities substantiates beyond all doubt a monumental unwillingness to be present with the problem, to be present with the serially/sexually victimized children. Furthermore, this is the focus of the film itself: the very lack of presence of these other significant Catholic church officials who, by reason of their high position, had the power to stop the abuse, but instead became absent accessories to the soul-murders that their underlings so freely and grimly committed. And what further proof do we need than the presence, in this documentary, of several damning, dismissive documents, written, authorized and signed by church officials exonerating the accused priests, rebutting their accusers in casual, authoritarian dismissiveness? Indeed, the documentary presents one of these documents as “the smoking gun.”

  • Marie

    I think it is funny how you can’t buy this film!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the comments below. There is stone cold evidence, plus the priests have admitted to it, so what other side is there? I am glad that someone has finally put this information out there in an organized way with EVIDENCE of what happened. Honestly, not to put down Catholicism, but the root of the problem is that the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church is not God/The Bible, but it is “the church”. When you allow human beings to dictate things that may/may not be against the will of God, then you have problems. Just as the Arch-Bishop had said in the documentary, they need to “step back down to humanity”. Anyway, this is off topic. Basically, there is no other side to this story. They did it, and anyone who either abused these children AND those who allowed it to happen should be tried and punished accordingly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lance.williams.9619 Lance Williams

    It has to be one sided. No other sexual abusers have there own statehood like the Vatican, comparing these priests to average sex offenders is absurd. Mussolini made the Vatican above the law

  • http://hbowatch.com/ Jacob Klein

    Sure it is one sided but what is the other side? Other people do it too? I dont think it was trying to tackle the entire issue of “child abuse” in the world. It’s just talking about how it’s pervasive in the Catholic church. And they note that the clergy system basically CREATES these predators by keeping them from sex and companionship. Putting them in male only situations. Giving them unlimited trust and then not believing victims when they try to tell the truth.

    Sure you could say the same about some other institutions but the catholic church has been particularly egregious particularly lately. And I think its safe to say they could have done more. And could still do more.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      This is certainly not the first documentary to give a one sided view of a topic. The Catholic Church, however, is one huge entity. It would have been a more well rounded look at the issue if some fiery figure from within the faithful could have added a rebuttal or even offer denial or something here.









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