Re:View - 'Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God'

Christopher Fowler
Mea Maxima Culpa Alex Gibney, the director behind the Wikileaks documentary, looks at another kind of whistleblower. It begins with a letter, an accusation of pedophilia, and spreads out like a stain as the deaf children's abuse scandal takes grip within all levels of the Catholic Church - a global religion that is rapidly growing in the developed world. What follows is at first a rather familiar recap of the church's reaction to the accusations, but Gibney is laying the groundwork for a much larger, more devastating story. The largest organisation on the planet is becoming frightened that if it's revealed in court that priests are routinely sexually abusing children and have been doing so for decades, its parishes may lose the rivers of cash that pour in from the faithful. So what do they do to counteract the problem? They promote their serial abusers instead of defrocking them. The Vatican is not a country - it has not residents, no births - but it claims diplomatic immunity when the question of blame is raised. But there are signs that its world congregation now wants and may demand clear accounting, because ultimately, the people are the church. And if the Vatican refuses to respond, it will lose its money, and therefore its power. 50,000 pages of documents reveal the crimes of pedophile priests all around the world, where the priests' attitude to revelations of repeated rape is 'It's a rite of passage' and 'Children heal fast'. As Gibney shows, it doesn't take long for Fox News, the grotesque laughing-stock of a channel that's pretty much hit pariah status in the rest of the world, to take the side of the church in hiding its crimes and smearing the accusers. Although the film (which appeared earlier in the year and is now up for
a Best Documentary award which it's unlikely to win against the astonishing 'The Act of Killing') ends on a positive, upbeat note, it's hard not to come away from this with a feeling of deep despair. In a religion that's paradoxically based on faith in the face of facts, where the highest level of celibacy in the church (an essential tenet of its mission) isn't even estimated at 50%, how can anyone ever admit anything? The phrase 'a time for the church to heal' is thrown around until it loses any meaning. Now I'm not religious, but if I was, I would want my church to lead by example. One single shocking fact remains after the closing titles; that the current Pope - the supposed representative of a god on earth - aided and abetted the rape of children because he was the sole ecclesiastical member
in charge of the abuse files. Well, worshippers have a choice that's just as simple. They can withhold their cash until there is clear accounting, or they can continue to turn a blind eye.