In recent years, the Catholic Church has faced countless accusations of child abuse, cover ups and institutional secrets. The cases number in the thousands. And all of them are horrific. But one of the most shocking took place in Milwaulkee. It involved a priest named Father Murphy and 200 deaf children in his care.
Alex Gibney delves into Father Murphy's history of abuse, and the church's decision to cover it up, in his new documentary, "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God."
Gibney, when asked to describe what kind of person could commit these kinds of crimes says, "Father Murphy is an interesting but also appalling character. I mean many of the worst clerical sex abuses turn out not to be the kind of people that are Gollum-like in the corner muttering about precious. These people are very charismatic, they're charming and that's their cover."
Recently, the church in Milwaukee criticized the film for causing more pain to the victims by re-opening old wounds.
However, Mr. Gibney claims that this is not true. He says, "[What] we discovered in talking to the survivors was that their way forward was being finally able to speak out. That was their epiphany, that was their resurrection…For these guys to be able to finally get it out was so important that it saved them emotionally. But then they also felt like they were on a mission which was to save others. That was their quest because they knew that others were being abused so they needed to speak out. "
He references that in the context of the Catholic Church you have confession – which is supposed to act as a way unburdening yourself. Gibney also mentions Freud's belief that was an important way to get over one's trauma.
Gibney says, "We call it 'Silence in the House of God,' the subtitle of the film, obviously it's the silence of the church in face of this criticism in the face of this abuse. But its also the silent ones that have no voice, that have no voice who were determined to have their voices heard, and for 30 years they were trying to do it and now finally that their voices are being heard they feel pretty good."
Gibney also talked about the challenges in making the documentary. He says, "There were two challenges: one was penetrating the world of the deaf. The other big challenge from a story-telling perspective was seeing if there was some way to balance narratively the intimate story of these survivors with the more panoramic story of the global cover up by the Vatican and that was a big challenge. Luckily we were helped, as documentarians often are, by serendipity. You go and you discover surprising things. One of the things we discovered was while we were in Italy we heard about this deaf school in Verona, where the very same thing had happened that happened in Milwaukee and it was a kind of beautiful simplicity then to show it was a global pattern and that's one of the things that helped us reconcile the story."