I don’t generally write about politics or religion. Touchy subjects indeed and I try for the most part to keep things light and breezy. But sometimes you just have to make your voice heard.
Last week I saw a documentary I have not been able to get out of my mind. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is now showing on HBO here in the U.S. The 2012 film by Alex Gibney focuses on a group of deaf men who were abused as children by a priest at the church-run school for the deaf they attended in the 1950s. They were first to openly protest sexual abuse by clergy but sadly, they would be far from the last in a long and frustrating journey right through to the present day.
Well-known actors such as Jamey Sheridan and Chris Cooper serve as their voices as the victims sign their experiences for the camera. We see photos of Father Murphy, round-faced, smiling, and learn that behind that caring facade was a monster who sexually molested somewhere between 100 and 200 boys during his time at the school. He preferred deaf boys who had hearing parents unfamiliar with American Sign Language. The situation made it less likely they would try to communicate their victimization to their parents.
Murphy later justified his odious behavior by saying it provided helpful sex education for the boys, and practically patted himself on the back for “taking their sins upon myself” by bringing them to climax. While he admitted to his acts, he never admitted to doing anything wrong. He was eventually removed from the school for the deaf, but for “health reasons.” Instead of being defrocked, Murphy was sent to a parish to serve as their priest. And yes, he continued to sexually molest young boys.
In the documentary, we do see the Catholic Church’s various, largely unsuccessful attempts to reform pedophile priests over the years, including plans at one point to put them all on a private island to be purchased by the church (that idea was eventually dropped). We hear from those who tried to work within the system to see priests committing criminal acts brought to justice, often to little or no avail.
It seems there was far more concern shown by The Powers That Be over protecting the “poor” priests and the reputation of the Church, rather than trying to help those victimized by the molesters.
I do urge you to see this documentary if you have the opportunity. It is disturbing and riveting and powerful, a cautionary tale of the abuse of office, of institutionalized corruption, practiced over and over and over again against some of the most vulnerable of our society. It is not easy to watch but it needs to be seen. It both broke my heart and made me angry, but I don’t regret watching it.
I have no intent or desire to vilify the Catholic Church or to get into an argument over religion. But it seems through their actions–or in many cases, inaction–in dealing with the horrific criminal acts of their very own, they have managed to vilify themselves.
And so when I heard this morning that the Pope had resigned, I was somehow not that surprised. Perhaps it is solely due to health issues making travel difficult; perhaps there is more to it. I don’t know, but some say there are no coincidences.
I do know this: when evil takes place, no matter where it takes place, and we know it’s taking place, we cannot and should not be silent.