Father Murphy was a priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He ran a School for the Deaf. He was a classic predator in the sense that he would seek out weak people. He was very charismatic like many of these predators are and also was an excellent signer.This is Oscar winner Alex Gibney talking to the ABC's Tony Jones about his documentary, 'Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa'.
But one of the things he did was to use the confession booth to find out things about the children and he would particularly prey on children whose parents themselves could not sign either at all or very well, so in effect he imprisoned them because he was tormenting them sexually and yet they couldn't even complain to their parents without the intercession of Murphy as an interlocutor.
So it was really a horrible, horrible crime. But even he imagined himself to be performing a holy act. He used to say, "I'm taking their sins upon myself."
The film, which is still doing the arthouse (natch) circuit, focuses on the first victims of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal to go public, the deaf boys of Milwaukee.
They pled to the former Pope's racket, Ratzinger's renamed Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They got nowhere.
This incredible film, through its centre in these deaf boys, now men, conveys the pain of abuse better than any other I have seen on this scandal. Sign language has a power that no verbal language does, in this regard.
If you want to watch one thing to understand this issue, this issue's living rawness, seek 'Mea Maxima Culpa' out.
Jones asks Gibney: what are the chances that Pope Francis could demand that the Vatican open up its secret case files on these paedophile priests and the men up the Church's chain of command who covered up for them?
I think the chances are pretty small, frankly. I mean, the new pope is a creature of the old system, so I'd be very surprised if he does it. I think we're all hoping that he might or might have the courage to do so, but I think the chances are extremely unlikely.Why? 'Mea Maxima Culpa' explains why. To do so would upend the very point of this church, the ridiculousness of supposed sexual piety at its core and its absolution in 'confession'.
The film interviews Richard Sipe, a former priest. Sipe names what lies at the centre of Catholic hypocrisy, a syndrome known to police as 'noble cause corruption', the belief that good intentions purify bad behaviour, turning a perversion into a holy act.
A priest who had an affair with this 12, 13-year-old girl brought to one of their encounters what he said was a consecrated host. And he touched it to her vagina and he said, "This is how God loves you." And then he raped her.Francis cannot end that mindset, everything would crumble if he did.
One of the things about Sipe's study was that he discovered that at least 50 per cent of the clergy have an active sex life.Gibney tells Jones he suspects but cannot confirm that the scandal definitively lies behind Ratzinger's resignation. The Church and its enablers cannot admit it. Secrecy is everything.
So if you have that kind of lie or that kind of hypocrisy at the heart of the Church, then what it does is it creates a system of secrecy and blackmail and then that colours everything surrounding investigations into sexual indiscretions or crimes in the Church.
Ratzinger is now protected by Italy, where Gibney's film has had difficulty getting screened, and Ratzinger will live out his days within the Vatican's walls. Here he will be safe from lawyers. Why? Says Gibney:
There's a direct connection to the case that we look at in this film because there was an archbishop in Milwaukee who tried to see that this priest who'd abused over 200 deaf children be defrocked. And they went to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and tried to see if then Cardinal Ratzinger would do it, but the investigation was abated because the priest himself wrote to then Cardinal Ratzinger and said, "Gee, I'm an old priest. I'd like to die in the dignity of my priesthood. Please give me a break." And that is precisely what Ratzinger did. He gave him a break rather than defrock him.The whole film is availables for frees on the interwebs (natch) but it's still in cinemas so I'm just posting the promo clip for 'Mea Maxima Culpa', after the break, plus Gibney Q+A from the BFI Festival, where he compares the Catholic Church to tobacco companies, hoping the 'Global South' will break free: