Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Mea Maxima Culpa

The renowned documentary film-maker Alex Gibney whose documentary projects have ranged from such subjects as economic breakdown (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), American in Iraq (Taxi to the Dark Side) and  baseball (Catching Hell)

Now he returns with Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God a documentary that pushes back the veil on the rampant sexual abuse by Catholic priests in North America.  Gibney focuses on the transcripts of four courageous deaf men who recount the molestation they suffered at the hands of Father Murphy whilst at the Hearing School in the 1950s and 60s.

Archive footage obtained by Gibney and his indispensable editor, Sloane Klevin, portrays Murphy as a saintly figure who works with deaf children and helps them become better men, leading them to college and employment.  However, the boys soon learned that Murphy would molest the boys by watching them touch themselves, then sleep in the same bed with the boys.  What is all the more sickening, is that Murphy chose boys whose parents could not read or understand sign language; meaning the young boys were locked in a hell of accepting the punishment with no-one able to help them.

The accusations against Murphy ran from 1957 up to 1963 when our protagonists were first complaining, meaning Murphy had been accusations of sexual abuse for some twenty years.  Gibney uses the archive footage to piece together the boys attempts to make a case against Murphy which more and more is being ignored by the higher powers, who chose to ignore the complaints as the life of a Priest is more important than that of a young deaf child.

Gibney uses the three boys on screen now as they appear doing sign language to the screen, so they speak with all the fury of their convictions, yet he has them voiced by famous actors, Terry (Jamey Sheridan), Arthur (John Slattery) and Garry (Chris Cooper).  This is a clever device as you see the anger in the faces of the deaf men, yet the voices are given clarity by the actor's delivery.

Gibney, quite possibly the best documentarian currently alive, again creates an important piece of not just cinema but also of social awareness of an ever-increasing problem which in this current day and age of apparent rampant peadophilia; think of the Jimmy Saville cases and the continual claims of sexual abuse against Catholic priests across the world.

Mea Maxima Culpa is not only a document of a past era, but an attempt to show behind the curtain of a very powerful organisation that has too much influence over too many people, the thoughts that the priests are not only above and beyond the law and that the Diocese and even the Vatican can deal with this in secret and deal with the matter how they feel is appropriate - by denying and refusing to acknowledge the presence of sexual predators in the Catholic church.

Mea Maxima Culpa is released on DVD on Monday 24th June from Peccadillo Pictures

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