Silent signs speaking volumes about sexual abuse
When I talked to some catholic friends about it years ago, they made it sound like a small and isolated problem. As if someone had gotten an infection in the nail. “That’s in US. They’re different there”.
I hadn’t realized the full extent of the problem until I recently watched the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.
It made it perfectly clear that it’s not just question of occasional incidents; abuse of children has existed in the church since the fourth century. What is even worse: the way that church has dealt with it over the years has been to keep it a secret.
Every effort has been taken to keep the abusers’ track records free, but very little has been done to give the children redemption. It’s not the case of an isolated affair. People on high positions knew perfectly well what was going on, but chose to hush it down rather than take measures against it. Priests can’t do wrong; they’re as close as angels, right?
This film didn’t just open my eyes and bring tears into them. It also made me angry. The question is: why does it get to me in a way that the ordinary news reports about the same deeds don’t?
Maybe it’s because I finally sit down spending some time on those news stories. Glancing over the headlines is one thing; spending one and a half hour on one topic is something else.
It’s told very thoroughly, systematically building the case. It begins with one testimony from one victim, and then level after level is added until you finally get the full, shattering picture (as full as it ever can get considering the secrecy of the Vatican). The shadows fall as high as to the very top and you can’t help wondering about the true reasons of the resignation of the former pope.
What also makes this film very convincing is the way the testimonies are made. While it brings up cases from different places, such as US, Ireland and Italy, the central story is the one about the abuse that went on for years at a boarding school for deaf boys.
The victims – now grown-up men – sign their stories, and this adds another layer of emotion and intensity on top of the spoken word. Their wrath cuts right through the screen, grabs you by your heart and just won’t let go of you.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Alex Gibney, US 2012) My rating: 4,5/5