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
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
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