Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Directed by Alex Gibney
HBO, 2012, 107 minutes
I borrowed this excellent documentary from our local library and watched it over the weekend. Mea Maxima Culpa (“My Most Grievous Fault”) examines the Catholic pedophile priest scandal by focusing mainly on the case of father Lawrence Murphy (pictured), a priest who taught at the former St. John School for the Deaf in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis from 1950 to 1974. He later admitted to molesting around 200 deaf boys in that time period. As in most cases of priest abuse, the hierarchy largely turned a blind eye to Murphy’s activities and allowed the abuse to continue. As former victims began to press the church for compensation through legal channels the hierarchy’s priority became protecting the church’s reputation and assets.
The cover-up of the pedophile priests extended to the very top of the church hierarchy. Singled out by the documentary are cardinal Bernard Law, pope John Paul II, and pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic church recently canonized pope John Paul II as a “saint” but the film questions how Wojtyla could have slavishly honored father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ’s Legionaries, when the Vatican had extensive records of his sexual abuse dating as far back as the 1950s. Wojtyla’s leadership in relation to the abuse and subsequent coverup is viewed by many as deficient and even as complicit.
The Catholic church’s rule of clerical celibacy led to innumerable abuses in the confessional and in rectories. The combination of deep sexual frustration fostered by their unnatural celibate lifestyle and their close contact with children in school and ministerial settings set the stage for the clergy’s unthinkable deviancy. Also, troubled souls already inclined toward aberrant behavior were attracted to the Catholic system.
While watching this documentary my heart broke for the victims of pedophile priests. I was an altar boy from 5th through 8th grade but the priests at our parish never laid a hand on me although they appeared to be very troubled men. There was one priest who was a very friendly fellow but years later he was pulled from his parish and not allowed to offer public mass due to a relationship with an underage girl. I was propositioned by an Irish Christian Brother as a senior at my Catholic high school but I laughed in his face. The Christian Brothers were bankrupted in 2011 after paying out settlements to victims of abuse.
It’s easy to point a finger at all of those deviant Catholic clerics but all sin is wicked and none of us can stand blameless before a Holy God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
God’s Word says none of us are able to merit heaven by our “obedience” or “faithfulness.”
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:21
Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ, for leading me out of the chains of Catholicism and for salvation by grace through faith in Him!
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23