Rod Dreher has a discussion How Blunt Should We Be?
He included a picture of a man falling from the World Trade Center to remind us of the horror of 9/11. I was at the Denver airport on 9/11/2010, and the airport asked from a moment of silence for all those who dies in the attack. An eerie hush fell over the airport. We need to be reminded.
Rod began my book, Sacrilege, but was unable to finish it – and this was the response of many readers. It described what exactly children experienced, and many people were unable to read it. If adults aren’t even able to read it, can you imagine what the children felt and what horrors their memories hold? And I didn’t even include the worst examples – I couldn’t bring myself to type them out.
The abuse in itself was bad enough, but many abuser deliberately involved sacrilege in the abuse. This poisoned the victims against God. In a more energetically Christian age, the abuser would have been burned at the stake. Instead they were reassigned and made Boy Scout chaplains.
The failure of bishops to respond to the sacrilege made me question their faith. I think many of them are mediocre, comfortable careerists who can say soothing words but never reflect upon the deep mysteries of life and sin and death. That is what the little old ladies of both sexes want, and they continue writing the checks to support this situation.
The Vatican was sent dossiers on abusive priests whom bishops wanted to laicize. I wonder of these dossiers were sanitized and phrased in canonical language: delict against the sixth commandment and phrases like that, rather than accurate descriptions of the crimes.
Set to premiere in September at the Toronto Film Festival, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God looks to be a chilling expose of the Catholic Church’s systematic cover up of decades of sex abuse by Rev. Lawrence Murphy (trailer video below). Murphy worked as a priest at a Catholic school for deaf boys in Wisconsin, and preyed upon hundreds of boys during his tenure there, from 1950 to 1974.
Rev. Murphy’s abuse, and the Church’s organised cover up, was written about extensively in the New York Times in 2010. As far back as the 1950s, Murphy’s victims told everyone they could think to tell about what Murphy had done to them: other priests, nuns, priests, three archbishops, two police departments and a district attorney. But the allegations were repeatedly shrugged off or not believed.
The Vatican never defrocked Murphy, even though word of his abuse travelled as far as the Vatican, and to then-future Pope Benedict. In fact, Benedict appears to be at the center of the Church’s non-action and cover ups of sexual abuse for more than a decade now. He ignored two letters sent to him in 1996, detailing Murphy’s abuse.
“From 2001 forward, every single priest sex abuse case went to [current Pope Joseph] Ratzinger. He has all the data,” says testimony in Mea Maxima Culpa’s trailer.
What did Ratzinger in fact have on his desk? Did he learn what was really going on?
Barbie Nadeau in The Daily Beast writes:
In fact, it [the film] should be compulsory viewing for all Catholics, whether they blame or defend the church, for its clarity and insight into just who holds responsibility for decades of child abuse at the hands of clergy. Gibney does not rely on the usual broad strokes of anti-priest propaganda that has come to define this scandal. Instead, he meticulously attends to the details of the biggest cases, giving voice to the victims and even revealing the rarely heard frustration by the “good priests” who tried to stop the sins of their colleagues.
Gibney opens with scenes that any Catholic will recognize immediately: crisp white dresses of little girls making their first communion, burning candles as altar boys prepare for mass, the haze of smoke so familiar one can almost smell the incense. Then he reveals what’s going on. He uses family movies, faded pictures, and actors to paint a portrait of how innocent children were offered up like sacrificial lambs to known “devils in disguise” by unwitting parents who blindly trusted a church they believed would protect them.
The film, which has been banned from festivals in Venice and Rome, focuses heavily on the well-documented abuse at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., where Father Lawrence Murphy systematically molested young boys beginning nearly 50 years ago. Gibney uses both voiceover and subtitles for the victims’ stories, but he leaves the audio high to better articulate the sound of the men’s hands as they fervently sign their tales. One doesn’t need to read sign language to comprehend the pain and disgrace these men suffered.
Some vignettes are nauseating, like one in which a victim says he was chosen by Father Murphy while watching Bambi in a dark theater. He felt Father Murphy bumping the back of his head for attention throughout the film. Years later, he realized that it was Murphy’s erection he felt against the back of his neck. Other men tell tales of how Murphy masturbated them in the confessionals, which in the school for the deaf had an opening between priest and penitent in order to facilitate visual communication through sign language. One man remembers Father Murphy telling him that ejaculation relieved him of his sins.
Gibney illustrates the acts of abuse through hazy images and shadowy figures. Flowing cassocks catch the light as a figure meant to be Murphy tiptoes through the boys’ dorm late at night to find a boy to molest while the others lay still in their beds pretending not to notice. At one stage, according to a victim’s recollections, Murphy relocated the confessional at St. John’s from the tiny cabinet to a closet. Gibney illustrates the point with a young boy kneeling in front of a character portraying the priest. But he is not asked to pray. Instead, he is to open the priest’s cassock and perform fellatio.
Murphy was not alone:
While the focus of the film is weighted heavily on Father Murphy’s sins, several other recognizable scandals are used to bolster the point that sexual abuse was not an anomaly that happened only in America. Gibney nods to the Irish church’s problems with a glance at Father Tony Walsh, an Elvis impersonator who sang with a group called All-Priests Show and was sentenced to 16 years for horrific sexual abuses, including tying a 7-year-old boy to an altar with a monk’s rope belt and sodomizing him.
Why wants to hear about such things? But our desire to protect ourselves is what abusers count on.