Monday, December 10, 2012

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God

Director Alex Gibney

After watching Kirby Dick's Academy Award nominated TWIST OF FAITH (2005) about the sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest and how despite his victims, now adults, speaking bitter truths publicly, he got away with it. The priest wound up in Ireland leading tourist pilgrimages. By happenstance I was sitting next to the principle accuser and his wife in a small theater at Sundance when it premiered, I did not know who this couple was but I will never forget his trembling and her comforting him during the screening.

All of the victims were adolescent boys.

Kirby used the term pedophile and I was curious to know if any distinction could be made between prepubescent and pubescent children. I remembered the book and movie Lolita, the Roman Polanski scandal and the outrage when Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old cousin.

I discoverer there were other words but rarely used : hebephilia , adult sexual desire for 11-14 year olds; ephebophilia adult sexual desire for 15-19 year olds. I was convinced that both pedophilia and hebephilia were not the same as homosexual desire. I was troubled by ephebophilia given the different age of consent laws state and world-wide. Popular culture treats the sexuality of teenagers differently. What I did know is that issues of abuse and authority did not level the field when it came to coercion and seduction. Sex education is sorely lacking in public school education in almost every state. Teens are targeted by marketing campings selling life style product frequently laced with explicit erotic underpinnings.

I knew it was a very difficult subject to get people to discuss So when I went to see Maxima I thought I would be in for more tragic abuse stories.

But Gibney had another agenda. It was dangerous.

He wanted to expose the institution and its leaders who protected the perpetrators and had little concern for the victims. He exposes systemic cover up of priests from the Bishop level and exposes the Pope Benedict XVI , the current Pope, as being the person, in his previous Vatican position, who oversaw all cases of sexual molestation of children world-wide. We learn of how Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) and head of the Propagation of the Faith , put avoiding scandal over dealing directly with the abuse of power and the lasting damage done to the victims We lean of the failed programs to treat Priests .. not through mental health treatment but through prayer and meditation. Ratzinger thought he could solve the problem by declaring homosexuals unfit for priesthood. He instituted a homo-hunt in seminaries around the world Using stereotype criteria to identify homosexual to boot out. His assumption that all religious who were homosexual could not honor a vow of celebarcy, unlike heterosexual men defied factual statistic. The perpetration of girls was not addressed directly.

It is shocking to see! Protecting the priest and the institution took precedent over protecting the perpetrated and truth and fairness. His principal subjects are two very different priest one Father John C. Lawrence

  who ran a Catholic boarding school for deaf children, and the second the head of a Mexican Religious order which also ran schools for the deaf. The four abused deaf people now adults and their 20 year long fight to be heard .When charges of sexual abuse, their prodigious fund rising abilities made them protected at the highest levels of the Vatican.

Gibney has always been interested in showing the relationship between abuse of power and the protection money buys. Gibney's documentaries at their core deal with the abuse of power,coercion and the power of money. Enron (The Smartest Men in the Room), the Washington DC Lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Casino Jack and the United States of Money) and Elliot Spitzer (Client 9 The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spritzer ) all centered on the abuse of money lubricated power. In Client 9, Gibney showed how Wall Street power and money was behind the fall of Elliot Spritzer. How Wall Street operatives exploited his consenting adult indiscretions to stop his investigations of financial irregularities that had become normal every day practice on Wall Street.

Shockingly he also makes the link between than Bishop Timothy Dolan now Cardinal Dolan of NYC in his own cover up of sexual abuse and the attempt to stifle charges. We learn of the Servants of the Paraclete, who treat wayward priests and whose founder once declared "there is no cure for pedophilia."

To his credit Gibney does have an adult Catholic priest in a committed homosexual relationship talk of the power of coming out to enrich his spirituality and sense of purpose. Roman Catholics will be disturbed by what is revealed. But I was reminded of the Pharisees who turned against Jesus to protect their own wealth and political relationships with the powers that be. Jesus the story goes sweep them out of the Temple. Like wall street in its undoing of Spitzer, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God points the Catholic Church as a human, not spiritually run institution .. and it seems to be­ calling for a broom brigade to help DEAF POWER clean house.

Mea Maxima Culpa : Silence in teh House of God trailer 

                      (cc) jim fouratt 10.22.12
a version of this review appeared in WestView News

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