Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

The sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church can find its origins in the dismaying (there's really no appropriate descriptor) case of four men of told hundreds who were molested as boys by a priest at St. John School for the Deaf in Superior, Wisconsin. Through years of shame and self-doubt, and Church cover-ups and legal roadblocks that appeared to reach the highest levels of the Vatican, their dauntless actions ultimately led to a multimillion dollar judgement that bankrupted the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and brought to light numerous cases of horrific misdoings around the world. For someone who went to Catholic school for 12 years, and for whom the acts of clergy as documented here would be unimaginable, I don't know how to respond to this documentary. Alex Gibney's "Mea Maxima Culpa" is a sickening and disheartening documentary that in addition to telling its horrific story, helps somewhat to explain the mindset both of how the Church has tolerated such abuse over centuries and also how many Catholics have responded to media reports over the last decade. The film works best when it focuses on its primary story but strays somewhat when the focus turns to a longstanding, serial pedophile in Ireland or tying said cases to Pope Benedict XVI (although it does appear there are dots to connect). Once more, Gibney has demonstrated that he is one of the few documentarians who understands how best to work his medium (I could just picture Michael Moore making a similar movie, shouting into his megaphone outside the Vatican) by crafting another excellent investigative and dispiriting film.