“Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God” is a documentary on child molesting priests and how much the Vatican knew of these abuses and what it did about it.

Most of the documentary deals with some of the students of the St. John’s School for the deaf who were molested by a priest named Murphy.  From boyhood to young manhood, the victims suffered in silence; but as older adults, they found their “voices” and started to fight back against Father Murphy and the church that knew of his abuses toward the children he was supposed to protect.  This was the start of the investigations of countless child molestation charges against priests.  Investigations leading to denials, cover-ups, lawsuits, payoffs, and ultimately, a heavy price paid by the Vatican.

The horrific stories of the victims followed a pattern.   Usually the victims are boys who are picked because of their vulnerabilities (such as being deaf and having a difficult time communicating to their parents as to what was happening to them, or being the type who would most likely not say anything).  If the child mentioned the abuse to someone, the child would usually not be believed.   If the accusations are believed,  the higher ranking priests who investigate would either stall the investigation, or they would kick it up to their bosses who would either kill the investigation, or send the offending priest to a secret, pedophile priest rehab for a while, and then recycle the offending priest back into another congregation, which would most likely result in more children being sexually abused.   The Catholic Church was concerned more with the protection of the image of the church, protecting its sizable assets, protecting its power and influence, than it was with protecting the victimized children and making them whole.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the part when documents revealed that the Vatican knew of the various charges of child molestation by some of their priests, and instructed the lower ranking members to keep things quiet in order to protect the Catholic Church.  You see, the Vatican has always denied knowing of these abuses; and that was their excuse in not defrocking priests and handing them over to the police to be charged with sexual abuse of children.

Well, the Vatican knew.  They’ve known for a long time.  And the knowledge goes all the way to the top, according to the documentary.  For those of you who have a hard time believing that any Pope knew of child abuses by priests and did nothing about it, keep this in mind: to rise to that top level, you have to be in the “system” for a long, long time; and when you’ve been in a job for a long time, you hear things, you see things.  The current Pope knows of the systemic problem of child molesting priests because prior to being a Pope, he was in charge of investigating priests who were suspected of such crimes.   Credit has to be given to him for trying to make things right, but in my opinion, it is too little, too late.  One has to wonder if the Catholic Church is coming down hard on sexual abuses by priests because they want to do the right thing, or if it’s because the entire world is aware of what is happening and the Vatican can’t hide/deny it any longer.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God” is the part when it is mentioned that there is a document from the Catholic Church over 1,500 years ago that mentions problems with priests who abuse children!

Oh, man.  One reason why priests got away with molesting children for such a long time is the high regard that many people have for priests, believing priests are high and mighty, more than mere mortals, and should always be trusted and respected.  I was raised and live in NYC, and so I’ve developed a healthy distrust of people, regardless of what job they have or what uniform they wear.  I will never understand how some people look at a cop, or soldier, or priest, or fireman, and automatically give them respect and honor and think the best of them.  People are people.  Most are good, but some are bad.  And it is that simple belief that some people are bad that should make us all be more careful with whom we place our trust in, especially with those who watch over children.

Respect and trust should never be easily given.  They should be earned.


— M