Skip to comments.Sex, Lies, and HBO Documentaries (Mea Maxima Culpa is long on vitriol, short on facts)
Posted on 02/14/2013 11:35:36 AM PST by presidio9
Catholic and non-Catholic moviegoers alike should be concerned about a new film that purports to document decades-old abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, created by HBO Productions, attempts to chronicle the Churchs response to the crimes of the notorious pedophile priest Lawrence Murphy, who is alleged to have abused dozens of innocent boys at St. Johns School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin from the 1950s to the 1970s. The episode was the subject of a series of high-profile articles by the New York Times Laurie Goodstein during Lent of 2010.
The film also recounts the criminal episodes from a while back involving Irish priest Tony Walsh and Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ.
Indeed, the abusive crimes committed by the profiled priests were abominable. Murphy, Walsh, and Maciel wreaked immeasurable damage to their victims and brought tremendous shame to the Church. We always must be mindful of this.
In fact, one redeeming aspect of Mea Maxima Culpa is that the film allows the victims themselves to effectively describe the grievous harm and criminal activity that was perpetrated upon them and the devastating impact that the abuse had on their lives. The stories from Murphys victims are at the same time stomach-turning, heart-rending, and maddening. In this sense, the film has delivered an important service to viewers.
The agenda creeps in
However, the film takes the unfortunate yet predictable turn in simply using the scandals as a tool to advance a nasty anti-Catholic agenda.
As media outlets have widely reported, in 1973 victims of Father Murphyformer students of St. Johns School for the Deafbecame more vocal in their anger at the abuse committed over the years by the cleric. At least one victim actually went to the police, and other victims took their complaints to Milwaukees district attorney, putting a flyer directly on his car.
A victim also filed a civil lawsuit against Murphy in 1975 (it was settled out-of-court in 1976). And according to a recent interview with Father Thomas Brundage, former judicial vicar for Milwaukee (more on him below), the archdiocese actually reported Murphy to the Milwaukee County District Attorneys Office around the same time.
But what did the police and the D.A. do? They did nothing.
While the film certainly recounts the victims episode with Milwaukee police, the film ultimately gives law enforcement a pass, even though an arrest and conviction of the abusive priest would have halted his crimes against children immediately.
Criminal charges against the priest would have protected the innocent. However, as the film unravels, the viewer sees that the ultimate aim of the film is not to tell the full story, but to lambast the Catholic Church.
Swift action taken
In May of 1974, at the urging of victims from St. Johns, Milwaukee Archbishop William Cousins met with Father Murphy and a number of those whom the priest had abused. The session was reportedly quite contentious, as the meeting was also attended by teachers at the school, who defended Murphy.
Very notably, the film forwards the claim that the victims got nowhere with the archbishop following the gathering. It also portrays Archbishop Cousins as being more concerned about the financial well-being of the schoolMurphy had been quite successful as a fundraiser for the institutionthan about the abuse allegations.
However, a review of events suggests something entirely different: a swift and firm response by the archdiocese to the wretched stories of abuse by Murphy. The contentious meeting with victims took place on May 4, 1974; the May 18 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper was already reporting that Cousins had relieved Murphy of all teaching and pastoral duties as they relate to the students at St. Johns. And by September, Murphy was gone from St. Johns completely.
In other words, Archbishop Cousins discipline of Father Murphy was forceful and immediate, especially by the standards of the 1970s, when the awareness of the scourge of child abuse was not nearly as heightened as it is today. In contrast to the claim that victims got nowhere with the Church, the facts reveal that the Church actually took strong action against Murphy, although the film certainly does not suggest this.
Following his removal in 1974 to his death in 1998, Murphy lived with family members in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, nearly 300 miles away from St. Johns. The archdiocese gave Murphy no formal assignments, although it appears that Murphy assisted in some capacity at some local area parishes, which violated the restrictions that the Church had placed on him.
Mea Maxima Culpa argues, nevertheless, that the Church could have done more to punish the abusive priest. Specifically, the film laments the fact that the Catholic Church never formally laicized Father Murphy.
However, the film ignores a very important aspect of the act of laicization. Had the Church laicized the abusive priest back in 1974, or even earlier, it would no longer have had any control over Murphys life activities whatsoever. With the police already having decided not to pursue criminal charges, Murphy would have been as free as any regular citizen to go and work wherever he pleased. The man would have been free to prey indefinitely on unsuspecting, innocent boys.
The film, blinded by its ardent efforts to attack the Church, does not address this glaring difficulty.
The definitive sourceignored by the filmmakers
Father Thomas Brundage is the former judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He probably knows as much about the Murphy case as anyone. From 1995 to 2003, part of his job was interviewing Murphys victims as the Church worked for the clerics permanent removal from ministry.
The case was a tremendous tragedy, Father Brundage said in a recent telephone conversation. And, as he wrote in 2010, the interviews with Murphys innocent victims were gut-wrenching.
These were the darkest days of my own priesthood, having been ordained less than 10 years at the time, Brundage wrote. Grace-filled spiritual direction has been a Godsend.
But contrary to claims in the media and in the film that the Church was indifferent to the plight of victims, Brundage reports that the archdiocese pushed hard to punish Murphy and that they had done everything within Canon Law to sanction the abusive priest. Unfortunately, Murphys passing in 1998 meant that he escaped [laicization] by death.
And while the film portrays a number of deaf victims as being justifiably angry towards the Church for its response to the Murphy case, Brundage insists that he has been thanked by many victims for the efforts that he and others made to hear their stories and to take action against Murphy.
They knew we were sincere, says Brundage of those victims.
But did the makers of Mea Maxima Culpa contact Father Brundage to speak with him about the Murphy case, or extend an offer for him to provide his first-hand perspective? No, they did not. Neither did they speak to any of Murphys victims who were grateful for the Churchs efforts.
Such an omission speaks volumes about the films true motivations. The producers committed the exact same exclusions that the New York Times Laurie Goodstein did when she reported the case in 2010. While Brundage had more intimate knowledge of the Murphy affair than anyone other than the victims themselves, Goodstein never even bothered to telephone Brundage until after she had published her first attack on the Church about the episode.
Bringing in the usual suspects
Mea Maxima Culpa capitalizes on the painful episodes of abuse, portraying the Church as insensitive, secretive, and callous to victims. In doing so, the film recruits a number of long-time critics of the Church, some of whom have established records of deceit and misinformation when discussing the scandals.
The film interviews a number of individuals who have frequently appeared in the media to bash the Catholic Church. Veteran Church-suing lawyer Jeff Anderson, dissident priest Tom Doyle, former monks Patrick Wall and Richard Sipe, and atheist author Geoffrey Robertson are just few of the subjects that the film profiles.
There is also the New York Times Laurie Goodstein, who has a long history of biased reporting against the Church.
Meanwhile, the average moviegoer will have no idea of the anti-Catholic agenda that many of these subjects harbor.
A vicious attack on Pope John Paul II
It was first reported by the media in 1997 that former Legion of Christ seminarians had accused the orders founder Marciel Maciel of sickening sexual abuse. It is disputable what level of knowledge Pope John Paul II had of the crimes perpetrated by Maciel. By the late 1990s the Pontiff was in declining health and suffering from Parkinsons disease, and it is unclear how much information the Popes advisers provided him.
Indeed, Maciels crimes and his double life inflicted unfathomable pain upon victims and grave scandal upon the Church.
However, Mea Maxima Culpa cynically manipulates this truth by smearing the late John Paul II. Recounting the appearance of reports in the late 1990s and early 2000s about the abusive Maciel, the narrator announces to the audience: And even when stories in the press began to emerge about Maciel, John Paul did not investigate it. He celebrated it.
Thats right. The film actually claims that the late pontiff celebrated the reports that Maciel was abusing people. At the screening that this author attended, the line actually elicited audible gasps from the audience, who genuinely believed the films wild claim. Oh, my God, one woman responded.
While Church leaders can be rightfully criticized for their responses to reports about Maciel, the films claim that John Paul II celebrated the clerics abusive ways not only crosses a line of decency, but also clearly reveals a blatant disregard for honesty in order to advance an anti-Church agenda.
A missed opportunity
Considering the vast media coverage that the issue has received in the past two decades, the topic of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is certainly worthy of an honest and compelling documentary. Sadly, Mea Maxima Culpa does not qualify as one.
Mea Maxima Culpa is presented in a very similar manner to the 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary Deliver Us From Evil, which attempted to chronicle the sickening narrative of Oliver OGrady, the notorious serial pedophile priest who abused numerous children in California. Unfortunately, both films are so overwhelmed by their desire to browbeat the Catholic Church that basic facts, honesty, and perspective are dismissed.
Mea Maxima Culpa was directed by Alex Gibney, a much-heralded documentary filmmaker. Repeated efforts were made to Gibneys publicist to interview him about his film, but were unsuccessful.
I have been away from FR since the election because I have been behind the lines as a graduate student at the local Ivy League institution.
This week a gay Episcopalian classmate has been especially vocal with his theory that this film is the main reason for Pope Benedict’s resignation. I have not seen the film, and have no interest in doing so. I did an internet search and all I can find are confirming articles from places like HuffPost. The response threads devolve into scriptural disputes on why there should or should not have been a pope in the first place, and does he or does he not wear a funny hat.
What I am looking for is an unbiased account on Cardinal Ratzinger’s and then Pope Benedict XVI’s involvement in the scandal. If any of you could help me out, or point me to some a couple of useful articles, I would very much appreciate it.
The media-—filled with “pedophiles” as Corey Feldman stated when he wrote last year about how he and the other boy (Corey Haimes) was raped by Hollywood Producers, who have NEVER been identified and are STILL producing filth such as Glee and things which normalize and glamorize sodomizing each other— ignores current pederasty for decades-old abuse.
Is there not some hypocrisy in the MSM attacking Catholics for something which they are trying to normalize and force on the Boy Scouts (so they can be like the Weimar Boy Scouts, founded by homosexuals, just for orgies with boys in the woods.)
Anyhow, they ignore the fact that it is a normal homosexual desire to molest young boys-—since before Ancient Greece. Even today’s Afghanistan is all about men molesting the pretty little boys-—and no condemnation of the pederasty there, either, which ALWAYS accompanies the immaturity of homosexual behavior, since it is a fixation in the Latency period where maturity—which is needed to accept the “other” (different sex)—is never reached. They learn to hate the opposite sex. They are of a puerile mentality which never matures, so it targets youth. Their worldview is warped and sick and learned from child abuse.
The fact that the APA (government) forced the Church to look at homosexuality as NOT a mental illness is the cause of the mass sodomizing of little boys.....but they never name “homosexuality” for the evil “Vice” that it is and the immaturity which is its basic component.
The media is against the only organization left (besides the Boy Scouts which is trying to be destroyed as I speak) that states that “homosexuality is intrinsically disordered”. That is why these sodomites (Freemasons/illuminati/Marxists/Leftists/Progressive) have to destroy it.
The worldview has to accept “sodomy as “good” and a “Right”, before they can totally destroy Christian Ethics and destroy individual Rights from God-—and dignity and worth from every human being—which sodomy does. So the Marxist state can destroy whomever.
Normalizing homosexuality by force of law by changing marriage, etc., will condition little children to think the behavior is normal and natural-—just like in the heads of little Afghani boys where the practice is in the open and not condemned. Schools with “Pride” days and “Sex Ed” (Lukacs) are normalizing the Vice in American schools. It is corrupting the worldview of children—destroying Natural Law which is the source of Reason. Women are always hated in homosexual cultures and men and boys are objects for recreation. It is a real creepy, unnatural, evil organization of society which is always “learned” by culture.
BTW, in “Just” legal systems of government, “Vice” can never be promoted in Just Laws-—which is the only Constitutional Laws in the USA. Justice is a Virtue. Unjust laws—ones that promote Vice like sodomy, are “Null and Void” according to the jurisprudence of John Marshall. There is actually a “Right” to criminalize sodomy like it was for more than 200 years.
I generally agree with what you are saying, though I would generally try to use more diplomatic language when dealing with gay liberal classmates. That being said, the only subject this particular classmate is interested in discussing (and he has been anxious to do so whenever he get the chance this week) is the insinuation the docmentary makes regarding then Cardinal Ratzinger’s direct involvement in covering up one particular incident in Germany. By this classmate’s own admission, his understanding of the events is based entirely on his having watched this documentary. I was hoping on finding a thread that discusses this particular subject in detail.
Pointing out the left’s anti-Catholic agenda, or the fact that “pedophila” and cover-ups are not unique to the Catholic Clergy won’t get me where I trying to go in this case.
Thank you for this information, but put yourself in the mind of a gay liberal Columbia graduate student who is thrilled to have a rebuttal to Catholic theology’s denunciation of homosexuality.
His response to this release could only be that Gerhard Gruber is taking a bullet for the Pope.
I need a more concrete rebuttal.
All very helpful. I was hoping for more information specifically as it relates to Pope Benedict XVI and his resignation.