Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, Service Dept; Legal team,all Elders MS, are encouraged to watch the Documentary,' Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God'.

by Sol Reform 9 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • Sol Reform
    Sol Reform

    Each and every organization that deals with children should have its President, Board, and all employees watch this film, and then read this column so that they can identify the players, the machinations, and the mistakes that institutions make when it comes to children and pedophiles.

    December 3, 2012 Marci A. Hamilton

    A Review of the Documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Which Reveals the Paradigm of Institution-based Child Sex Abuse
    The documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, is spellbinding for its crisp focus on the tragic fate of boys at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin, who were preyed upon by school Director Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who ran the school. The film segues between these more domestic scenes and the exotic, luxurious scenery of the Vatican, where the Popes and the cardinals failed to stop Murphy (and other pedophiles such as the infamous Rev. Marcial Maciel), and who are as responsible as Murphy is for the victims' lifelong suffering.

    The cold, snowy Wisconsin imagery, the beauty of the school itself, and the accounts of the creepy Murphy trolling through the boys' dormitory at night make what until recently was unspeakable, tangible. HBO Films; the producers, Todd and Jedd Wider; and the director, Alex Gibney, all deserve credit for taking on a topic that is so timely, yet difficult to accurately explain. Keep an eye on Oscar nominations this week, as this documentary deserves a nod.
    The timing of Mea Maxima Culpa is fortuitous, not so much because these men are part of the many lawsuits that are now pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but truly because this film captures the paradigm of institution-based abuse. The real issue at the heart of this film is not just the Roman Catholic hierarchy's callous and evil self-interest, but the way in which every institution that has created the conditions for the serial abuse of children by conniving child predators, has done so. Each and every organization that deals with children should have its President, Board, and all employees watch this film, and then read this column so that they can identify the players, the machinations, and the mistakes that institutions make when it comes to children and pedophiles.

    Thus, while this documentary is about the institution of the Catholic Church, it is also about Penn State, the Boy Scouts, The Horace Mann School, Poly Prep Country Day School, Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Orthodox Jews, the Red Sox, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baptists, Olympic coaches and athletes, pediatricians and patients, Pop Warner football leagues, little leagues, orphanages, and every public and private school.

    The paradigm of institution-based abuse always includes three different constituencies: (1) the survivors and their families; (2) the perpetrator(s); and (3) the institution at issue, including its leaders and employees.
    The Survivors and their Families
    The victims of institution-based abuse typically are children in need of adult attention, love, and protection. They are often in broken families that cannot come to the child's aid, and they may have already been abused by family members or others in their lives. They may be isolated or perhaps unsure, or scared, of their sexuality. In a word, they are vulnerable.
    So many of the social disabilities that make kids vulnerable are not visible. The genius of Mea Maxima Culpa is that the survivors are deaf and, so, they are vividly disabled, or as some put it, differently abled. As you see these brave men sign their stories (with the voice of a narrator interpreting), you are constantly reminded that they were in need of extra protection from the school. One of the most memorable moments of the film occurred when one of the men who had survived abuse said that Murphy targeted the boys who came from homes where the parents did not sign. Thus, regardless of how much their parents loved their sons and worked to create a stable home for them, their sons simply could not tell the parents what was happening to them. There were no TTY phones that could have facilitated communication. Instead, the boys were away at a boarding school, with no parents there, and even when they returned home on breaks, they were disabled from enlisting their parents' protection from the predator Murphy. This is the paradigm of the defenseless child.
    The silence of the survivors in Mea Maxima Culpa is the perfect representation of the vast majority of survivors, including those who are not deaf, because shame, humiliation, and confusion keep children silent. So do the threats leveled against them by the perpetrator. The men in this film are the paradigm of the isolated, resourceless child victim in an institution run by adults.
    Most of Jerry Sandusky's victims (at least, the ones that we currently know about) came through his charity The Second Mile and so, like the St. John's students, they were in need. Either a parent had passed away; or the parents had divorced; or the family was dysfunctional to the point that the boy needed an outside organization to supply some warmth and stability.
    These deaf survivors, when filmed, were extraordinarily expressive. Somehow, the use of their hands to sign, along with their emotion-filled facial expressions, conveyed more emotion than mere words can. Each time a victim was on-screen, usually seated by himself, it was riveting and excruciating at the same time. Yet, every victim suffers to the core, just as these men have.
    The children of St. John's loved their school and Murphy, who was jolly and fun. They vied for his attention and felt honored and proud when he wanted to spend time with them alone, at least until they understood what time alone meant. The same, of course, was true for Jerry Sandusky.
    As children, both the St. John's students and the Second Mile boys had a difficult time processing their mentors' betrayal. When Murphy, of all people, told a boy to pull down his pants in Murphy's office, the boy obeyed, feeling that it was wrong to do, but at the same time feeling duty-bound to obey Murphy, whom, after all, everyone loved. The children's confusion in the moment was vivid on the screen as these men in their 40's and 50's explained what happened.
    For the boys at St. John's, the confusion was especially profound, because their families had taught them to respect and defer to priests. But Jerry Sandusky's victims at Penn State felt the same confusion. He was a football deity in State College, who dazzled boys in need with his easy entree to Penn State's football universe. The adult universe had labeled him a hero; who were they, as children, to tell the adults that this hero was, in fact, a monster?
    What happened at St. John's, The Second Mile, and Penn State was typical of the dynamic of child sex abuse in every institutional setting.
    The Perpetrator
    Child predators are wily, patient plotters who calculatingly groom their victims in order to pave the way for them to be alone with the child without others suspecting their true motive. They dole out attention, gifts, and special treatment to children in need. In this film, the perpetrator was the popular priest who ran the beloved school. At Penn State, it was Jerry Sandusky delivering dreams of football greatness, access to Penn State's players and coaches, gifts, money, and individual attention.
    Institution-based abuse is all about perpetrators who use trust to obtain the child sex they seek. They lure the child with single-minded devotion, and at the same time, they make contributions in the adult world that make them valuable to the adults around them, and to the institution. Murphy was a successful fundraiser, a skill desperately needed in private schools, and Sandusky was the country's most successful defensive coordinator. Both bonded with the boys they sought, as they simultaneously made themselves indispensable to the adults.
    This pattern plays out even in home-based abuse, with single working mothers asking their apparently trustworthy, out-of-work boyfriends to babysit a child, only later to learn that the child was sexually abused. The mothers need the help, and the pedophile knows how to manipulate the situation to get the child alone with him.
    There is one thing perpetrators need most to achieve their goals, and that is secrecy. They usually threaten the child in order to keep him or her from telling others about the abuse. They might threaten to hurt the child, and may also threaten to hurt the child's parents or family. Either way, it does not take a lot for a grown-up to instill enough fear into a child to keep the secret between them. Sometimes, as with the deaf boys whose families did not sign, or when one of the Second Mile families was so dysfunctional that family members could not communicate with each other, threats are not needed to ensure secrecy. That does not mean, though, that the criminal mind of a pedophile cannot overcome a supportive family. The more a family might support the child, the more devious a predator will be with his or her threats. Priests and pastors have told children that they, or their parents, will burn in hell if they ever tell. Jerry Sandusky told victim Travis Weaver that he would have his father fired from Penn State, where he had worked his entire career, if Travis ever told. Plenty of other perpetrators have shamed their child victims into silence by saying it was the child's fault. Children are gullible, so these tactics work.
    Nowhere is this pattern of vulnerable gullibility taken over by wily persistence better defined than it is in Mea Maxima Culpa. The image of Murphy, in the middle of the night, strolling by the beds of the sleeping boys, says it all.
    The Institution, Along With Its Leaders and Employees
    The documentary introduces the Roman Catholic Church in its layers, with focus on the campus shifting to Bishop Weakland and the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and eventually to the larger institution at the Vatican. The theatergoer sees Pope John Paul II and his highest lieutenants treat serial abuser Maciel with the utmost respect and affection, even after they knew about his abusing ways. The loving treatment of the charismatic Maciel underscores the respect and affection accorded Murphy.
    Bishop Weakland comes across as a too-late savior, who now admits there was wrongdoing and an inadequate response. You have to like this warm, charismatic figure, even as you know intellectually that he did not do enough to protect kids from Murphy, and neither did anyone else in the organization. While the Vatican is the epitome of the Bonfire of the Vanities, Weakland is Babbitt.
    The film ultimately depicts a bureaucracy of powerful men with deeply interconnected lives, who don't take a single step to protect the children sleeping so innocently in their beds at St. John's. They are successful, and breathtakingly powerful, in the case of Pope John Paul II and of the cold Cardinal Angelo Sodano. (In 2002, Sodano was elected to be Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals. From 2005-06, he served as Secretary of the Secretariat of State; he retired as Secretary in 2006. He still serves as Dean of the College of Cardinals.) Then there was Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger oversaw the Vatican's office overseeing the global child sex abuse scandal, who did much too little, much too late. These men run the largest religious institution in the world, which, as the film notes, is so powerful it persuaded the world's governments to promote it to foreign sovereign status. Its power and wealth leads them, in their roles, to put its image at a premium. So the children are so much refuse in the wake of these powerful men's protection of their beloved institution.
    It takes little imagination to translate the same principles to Penn State, where Joe Paterno was the pope of football, and, therefore, of the university. The Penn State administrators are the curiae. Everyone put Penn State's image first. And the kids in the Penn State showers were left to take one for the team.
    In both circumstances-Penn State and the Catholic Church-the men in power, who could have easily protected these poor children, are themselves far removed from the scene of the crime, emotionally unavailable, and so wrapped up in the matters that they believe are really important, that they recklessly do not see what matters most. Their busy blindness gives the perpetrators free rein, and paves the way to their own downfall, both morally and professionally. While these men concentrated on the heady business of running their institutions, the perpetrators in their midst exploited the freedom that secrecy accords pedophiles. The result: the children, their families, the institutions, and we suffer.

    That is the paradigm of institutional child sex abuse.Marci A. Hamilton is a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, and the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, which was just published in paperback with a new Preface. Her email address is [email protected]

  • Doubting Bro
    Doubting Bro

    Looks like it will be on HBO in Feb

    Thanks for the link

  • Sol Reform
  • Pterist

    Thanks for the info

  • Sol Reform
  • Sol Reform
    Sol Reform

    The shocking documentary debuts MONDAY, FEB. 4 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

    HBO to Premiere Documentary MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD, 2/4

    Friday, Jan, 4, 2013; 2:01 PM; - by TV News Desk

    Related: HBO

    From the row houses of Milwaukee through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican, it was an international and systematic conspiracy to silence victims of sexual abuse. MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD, directed by Alex Gibney (HBO's Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side"), shows the face of evil that lurks behind the smiles and denials of authority figures and institutions who believe that they can do no wrong, because they stand for good. The shocking documentary debuts MONDAY, FEB. 4 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

    Other HBO playdates: Feb. 4 (4:05 a.m.), 7 (10:30 a.m.), 9 (4:00 p.m.), 15 (6:15 p.m.), 19 (1:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m.) and 24 (noon)

    HBO2 playdates: Feb. 6 (8:00 p.m.), 11 (4:00 p.m.), 17 (8:15 a.m.) and 22 (6:00 p.m.)

    MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 Deaf children in a school under his control. The film documents the first known public protest against clerical sex abuse in the U.S., which led to a case that spanned three decades and ultimately resulted in a lawsuit against the pontiff himself. The investigation helped uncover documents from the secret Vatican archives that show the Pope, who must operate within the mysterious rules of the Roman Curia, as both responsible and helpless in the face of evil.

    At the heart of the film is a small group of heroes - Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Arthur Budzinksi and Bob Bolger. These courageous Deaf men set out to expose the priest who had abused them and sought to protect other children, making their voices heard. Gibney uses the voices of actors Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery to tell the stories of men abused by Murphy. However, it is the faces and expressions of the courageous Deaf men that illustrate the indelible effect Murphy continues to have on their lives.
    In addition to the Murphy case, MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD spotlights similar sex abuse cases in Ireland and Italy, and highlights the horrific actions of Marcial Maciel Degollado, a prominent church fundraiser and ruthless sex criminal beloved by Pope John Paul II. The film also reveals that in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger - now His Holiness, Benedict the 16th - ordered that every sex abuse case involving a minor come through his desk, essentially establishing him as the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding priestly sexual abuse of minors.
    Alex Gibney, the founder of and leading creative force behind Jigsaw Productions, craftsdocumentaries that take an unflinching look at the political landscape of America. He wrote, directed and produced the 2008 HBO special "Taxi to the Dark Side," which received the Academy Award for Best Documentary. He also wrote, produced and directed the 2006 Oscar-nominated film "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," which received the Independent Spirit Award and the WGA Award. Gibney's other films as director include "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," "Casino Jack and the United States of Money" and HBO's "My Trip to Al-Qaeda." He is a regular blogger for the Atlantic, and has also written for Newsweek, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the New Republic.
    HBO Documentary Films presents a Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below The Radar Films MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD; a film by Alex Gibney; director of photography, Lisa Rinzler; music by Ivor Guest and Robert Logan; edited by Sloane Klevin; producer, Kristen Vaurio; co-producer Sloane Klevin, executive producers, Lori Singer and Jessica Kingdon; producers, Alex Gibney and Alexandra Johnes; producers, Jedd Wider and Todd Wider; written and directed by Alex Gibney. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

  • Sol Reform
    Sol Reform

    "One of the reasons I called it "Silence in the House of God," however, was the fact that no current officials from either the Vatican or the higher-ups in the American church were willing to talk. So, it was silence from them. And that seemed to me worth celebrating in the title."

    " These guys are fallible men. Who have committed crimes. This is a crime story. It's not a story against faith. It's really about opening our eyes to the fact that people in our most revered institutions do commit crimes. And they need to be attended to. And the third thing, relating directly to the Catholic Church, has to do with making people understand that this was an enormous crime. And it still is an enormous crime. And it won't be settled until the Catholic Church disgorges its documents, which it has in its archives, relating to clerical sex abuse around the world. And we should all demand that that be done."

    Interview: Alex Gibney's Mea Maxima Culpa

    Posted by Jackson Truax on Jan 7, 2013 in Interviews | 1 comment

    Documentarian Alex Gibney is no stranger to taking on difficult subjects and courting controversy. In 2008, Gibney won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Taxi to the Dark Side, a film that exposed the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. Despite winning an Academy Award, numerous festival awards, and receiving a 100% score on, the film never got the release it deserved, having been buried during theatrical distribution and denied showings on television due to its controversial subject matter. In addition, Gibney has taken on corporate greed in America (the Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), corruption on Wall Street (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer), and super-lobbying (Casino Jack and the United States of Money). Gibney's latest film Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God begins with examining Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused more than 200 Deaf children at a Catholic school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin decades ago. As adults, Arthur Budzinski, Terry Kohot, Pat Kuehn, and Gary Smith seek to right the wrongs done to them and countless others.

    As the Deaf men and Gibney attempt to hold the Catholic Church accountable, they unwittingly peel back the door on a decades-long cover-up leading directly to the Pope himself. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God premieres Monday, February 4th on HBO. The film was shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. In celebration, I recently enjoyed a conversation with Gibney about the making of the film. Here's what Gibney shared with me about his passion for making films about systemic abuse, his attempts to get interviews from the Vatican, and crafting Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

    Jackson Truax:You've dealt with a wide range of subjects, but your best-known films all deal with some sort systemic abuse, or an organization that becomes wrapped up in a culture of abuse and on-going cover-up. Where does your interest in these subjects come from, and how did that interest lead to you making Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God?

    Alex Gibney: I wish I could tell you where it came from... There are some people, it's said, who rise high by sucking up and kicking down. I seem to have a bad habit of sucking down and kicking up... My Dad was a journalist. My stepfather was a minister, very interested in civil rights and abuses of power. Maybe it came from them. It does seem to motivate me. And in the case of Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God... I got interested in this story for two reasons. One, because it was clear that by following the paper trail of the Milwaukee tale, it would take you to a criminal conspiracy that went right to the top. That is, to say, the Vatican. And not only the Vatican, but the current Pope. And that seemed to be a story that hadn't been done and was well worth doing. The other part of the story that I found so important, was the fact that at the heart of this story, were these Deaf men who were determined to have their voices heard. And they were heroes... Not like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. But everyday heroes. People who, despite their anonymity and their disadvantages, managed to have an impact and to make a difference. That was something I wanted to celebrate.

    JT:Once you knew you were on the journey of making the film, how did you go about finding people to talk to? What was the process of getting people to agree to be interviewed?

    Gibney: It's always hard... Initially, very few people wanted to talk. I think the survivors came first... A couple of the survivors had spoken before. Two of them hadn't. And I managed to persuade them to come forward. I think, also terribly important to this story, was the appearance of Archbishop Rembert Weakland. He had been Archbishop in Milwaukee during this tale, and actually could give us personal evidence of communication with Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. That was terribly important. It was very difficult to get him to talk. But we spoke by correspondence for a long period of time. He finally agreed to come on board. And I'm glad he did... My view is, you have to proceed with the films knowing that people will never talk. But you have to operate as if - you can't ever stop trying. Because, it's that dialogue that's so important, getting people involved in the story. One of the reasons I called it "Silence in the House of God," however, was the fact that no current officials from either the Vatican or the higher-ups in the American church were willing to talk. So, it was silence from them. And that seemed to me worth celebrating in the title.

    JT:At the end of the film, it states that the Vatican denied every request for interviews. That's not really surprising. But one of the things the film looks at is that the Vatican is such a big, seemingly impenetrable organization, it's hard to figure out how to, for example, serve them with legal papers. How did you figure out whom to approach at the Vatican about potential involvement in the film?

    Gibney: We went in the front door. There's a PR office the Vatican has. And we requested certain key people that were particularly important. One was a man named [Charles J.] Scicluna, formerly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One was a guy named William Levada, also, who was, I believe, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when we were trying to get this done. Both men were critical in terms of understanding the process of holding priests to account. So they were obvious choices. I believe we also wanted [Angelo] Sodano, but we never thought that Former Secretary of State Sodano would talk to us. But I had hopes that Scicluna and Levada might talk. But we were turned down. I also went to Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan, who's the highest ranking cleric in America, over and over and over again. He had just recently spoken to 60 Minutes. But he refused to speak to us. He had been Archbishop of Milwaukee, and so was a terribly important figure for all sorts of reasons... I wanted people who were fundamentally integral to the story to come on board. Those were the people I went after and tried to get to talk.

    JT: Looking at the acclaim you're received, most notably your Academy Award, as well as your overall reputation and filmography, do you feel those things help or hinder you when trying to get people to talk to you for a movie like this one?

    Gibney: It's a double-edged sword. I think the fact that I have an Academy Award helps. Because it confers on my work a certain honor and respectability. At the same time, the subjects I choose, sometimes there's a presumption that I have a particular axe to grind. Which is not true, in the sense that every time I sit down with somebody I try to make a pact with them, that I will treat their testimony fairly. Both in terms of...the interview itself. And also, when I get into the cutting room. That, to me, is a point of honor. Nevertheless, I think there's a view that people, more and more, tend to see the decision about whether or not to be interviewed in the context of some sort of PR apparatus. Everybody's playing a PR game rather than playing the truth game. I think that's the hardest thing of all. Obviously, 60 Minutes is a platform for people. They want to reach a lot of people, they can do so in a very short period of time. Yet, in a documentary film, we're going to probe deeply. Which is not to say that 60 Minutes doesn't. They do. I have a lot of friends over at 60 Minutes who are great reporters. But in a documentary film, you're going to spend a good bit of time looking at stuff. And I think the biggest enemy to truth-telling is a kind of PR mindset, which is, "How can I convey my message in as little interference as possible?" It's like everybody walking around with posterboards on themselves instead of engaging into a dialogue.

    JT: I would imagine that through working with Arthur, Terry, Pat, and Gary, you had access to the footage made by abuse survivor Bob Bolger before he died. How long was the entirety of the tape that he made? How did you decide how to most effectively use that footage?

    Gibney: I can't remember how long the entire tape was. We included quite a bit of it. We included almost every second of the confrontation [with Father Murphy] up at the cabin. The other part of the tape was Bob sitting down and talking to the camera and explaining why he was doing what he was doing. We went to Bob's family to see if we could get a copy of that tape... It's just a riveting piece of footage. Which created a tremendous amount of discussion in the cutting room. Because we knew it was so precious. We debated long and hard about where it should be. There were times where we thought it should be right up at the front. As a kind of a tease. There were other times when we thought that it should be right at the end. At the end of the day we settled on something where we held it back. But...had it at a place in the story where it made sense in terms of the narrative. Because I think its power comes from knowing how much these guys suffered. How they decided to turn around. How when they didn't get justice, they decided to go confront Murphy themselves. So it has to be seen in the context of their journey. And I think after a lot of patience, [editor] Sloane Klevin and I found the right place for it.

    JT: You've said that the big challenge is finding a way to make the docs work as if they're genre films, with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room as kind of a heist film, and Taxi to the Dark Side as kind of a murder mystery. Was that how you approached crafting Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God? What genre were you channeling, if any?

    Gibney: I think it was like a detective story. In this case, there wasn't a murder. But there were crimes of abuse. And it was following on up the chain. It was a little bit like Chinatown in that sense. It starts with the eyeglasses in the backyard pond. And the next thing you know, you're at a conspiracy to steal water from the Owens Valley. So that was the impulse. And in a way, there are a lot of structural similarities between this film and Taxi to the Dark Side. You start with a small crime. And you understand some of the key players in that crime. When I say, "small" I don't mean unimportant. I just mean, not vast. And you follow it up, to those ultimately responsible. The biggest crime here, in a way, is not the abuse of Murphy that he perpetrated on his victims. Which was horrible, a man who abuses two hundred Deaf children. But Murphy was a sick predator. In some fundamental way, the Catholic Church can't be responsible for his sickness. But what the church is responsible for, is allowing him access to children over such a long period of time. And putting his welfare above the welfare of innocent children. That turns out to be part of a criminal conspiracy that goes to the very top of the Vatican, which is not just about Murphy. It's about a campaign throughout the church, throughout parishes all over the world, a billion Catholics. A concerted effort to cover up the crimes of priests, and to allow them to have access, and impunity when it comes to abusing children. It really was a shocking and vast criminal conspiracy.

    JT: Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God walks a really fine line, in which it's a film about a particular case of abuse and several related cases and figures involved. At the same time, this case really serves as a pulling back of the curtain on the Catholic Church and the systemic abuse and systemic cover-up. How did you balance those two realities, and the need to make a film about this specific case, while at the same time wanting to expose the depth and breadth of this within the church?

    Gibney: That was the hardest thing to do in this film, was to find that balance. And I think at the end of the day, there's that famous quip "If you see a gun on the mantelpiece in Act One, it better go off in Act Two or Act Three." Meaning that everything in the film had to fold in on itself. So we kept trimming it down until it seemed like all the pieces kept adding to each other. So the grand story would add to the Milwaukee story. And we would find, sometimes unexpectedly, and to great surprise, bits of harmony that would help us. For example, when we were Italy, spending most of our time in Rome...we heard about protests in Verona, where a group of Deaf students were protesting abuse at a school there. So the idea of another Deaf school, where a priest was abusing Deaf children, in Italy now, showing that the patterns kept repeating themselves in a way that kept illuminating our key story. And finding ways to put different characters together. Rembert Weakland, the reason he was such a key interview for us, was because he has a personal contact with Joseph Ratzinger. He meets with him right around the time they're adjudicating Murphy's case. So you have a way of connecting all these strands. That's what the hardest part was. Because, at the end of the day, when you're in the cutting room, whatever august scenes you're interested in, they have to take a back seat to the momentum of the story. It's the story that's the most important. So we had to find a way to achieve that balance. That was the biggest challenge, I think, in making this film.

    JT: You've once again used voice-over in a really interesting way. When the Deaf victims are signing, their words are being read by Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Jamey Sheridan (TV's Homeland), and John Slattery (TV's Mad Men). How did you decide first on using voice-over that way, and then getting those acclaimed actors to help bring the vision to life?

    Gibney: The decision was a hard one. Because there was a good argument for not using voice over, to simply use subtitles. And to let the Deaf, in a way, speak for themselves with their hands. But we felt that the problem with that was threefold: One, it wouldn't be as visceral and as emotionally satisfying. You'd spend too much time looking at the subtitles and not enough time looking at this magnificent display of visual language... Two, watching Terry, Arthur, Gary, and Pat talk in the film, with their hands and their faces. It was so expressive that I wanted people to be able to look at it, not to look at the subtitles. And the third reason, there's a technical problem. We knew we were going to be cutting away a lot from interviews. Sometimes, you cut away from interview A, to shots of, say St. Johns. And then you stay with shots of St. Johns, while on the audio track, you're starting interview B. The problem was, there's no audio for deaf voices. You would have had to come up with something very sophisticated and complicated for the subtitles. So for all those reasons, we felt it was better to do it with voices. In terms of why we got the people we got, we went on a casting expedition. We wanted voices that we felt were right for the parts. We didn't want them just read. We wanted them performed. We wanted them to inhabit the roles. And they did.

    JT: In the entire time that you were doing this research and conducting these interviews, what did you see, or hear, or learn that surprised you the most?

    Gibney: Two things. One was, I came in somewhat skeptical that there had been a criminal conspiracy that was so vast. I left the film being utterly convinced. That surprised me, just the depth and the breadth of this criminal conspiracy by the hierarchy. Two, the island for pedophile priests, that surprised me... And the fact that one of the cruelest pedophiles in Ireland is also an Elvis impersonator. One of the things that I learned in this film is that that kind of stuff is not ironic. It's actually part and parcel of how the predators do what they do. They're very often charismatic people, gaining access to their victims by being that creative and that engaging. So that was a revelation for me.

    JT: If Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God were win the Writers Guild award, or get an Oscar nomination or win, to even be seen widely enough when it premieres on HBO, what's the impact you hope the film might have, either on those who see it, or American culture or the Catholic Church as a whole?

    Gibney: I guess I have three hopes for the film. One, that the example of the Deaf men at the heart of this film inspires the rest of us to that same kind of everyday heroism... Meaning, that we can all make a difference. And these guys did. And that should inspire us all. Second, I think people should draw distinctions between the hierarchy of an institution, like the Catholic Church, and the beliefs that are behind it. These guys are fallible men. Who have committed crimes. This is a crime story. It's not a story against faith. It's really about opening our eyes to the fact that people in our most revered institutions do commit crimes. And they need to be attended to. And the third thing, relating directly to the Catholic Church, has to do with making people understand that this was an enormous crime. And it still is an enormous crime. And it won't be settled until the Catholic Church disgorges its documents, which it has in its archives, relating to clerical sex abuse around the world. And we should all demand that that be done.

  • Gayle

    I will watch for this in the future. I don't have HBO but eventually, it should become available elsewhere.

  • Sol Reform
    Sol Reform

    'Mea Maxima Culpa' Wins Early Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking 22 Aug 2013 : By Kevin Cronin 'Mea Maxima Culpa' wins Documentary Emmy. ‘Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God’ - which won the IFTA for Best Feature Documentary 2013 - has been awarded an early Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Although the actual Emmys ceremony won’t take place till 15th September, the winners for certain categories are announced early - which require unanimous approval by a jury panel. Funded by the Irish Film Board and directed by Alex Gibney, ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’ was also recently sold to several international territories and to Netflix (UK) by Content Media. It examines the cover-up of child abuse within the Catholic Church and follows protests from the US all the way to the Vatican. It is also nominated in another five Emmy categories, to be decided in September - for Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming; Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming; Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming; Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming; and Outstanding Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score). Among the honours bestowed upon the film to date is the Grierson Award for Best Documentary at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2012. ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’ is produced by Jigsaw Productions, Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films’ Trevor Birney and Ruth O'Reilly. The 65th Emmy awards will take place on 15th September in LA and the trailer can once again be viewed below:

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