Tossing aside honesty, fairness, and perspective in its desire to browbeat the Catholic Church, HBO serves up healthy doses of factual distortion, misleading claims, and bigoted sources in a new documentary scheduled to begin airing on the network on Monday.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is the latest project from filmmaker Alex Gibney, who has received accolades in the past for such films as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side.
The Catholic Church has long been a favorite target for “progressives” and secularists, as the Church stands in firm opposition to them on just about every hot-button target there is: abortion, birth control, gay marriage, pre-marital sex, and so on. As a result, the tragic sex abuse scandals have provided a useful cudgel for those who oppose the Church to bludgeon it.
Gibney’s documentary purports to chronicle the stomach-turning case of deceased Catholic priest Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who reportedly abused dozens of students while working at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin, from 1950 to 1974. Indeed, there can be no doubt that Murphy wreaked immeasurable harm upon his innocent victims.
And while the topic of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is certainly worthy of candid and critical documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa falls far short as qualifying as one.
Gibney’s work is rife with outright falsehoods and misleading claims about the history, teaching, and operations of the Catholic Church.
For example, the film advances the kooky claim that somehow it has been the "worldwide policy" of the Church not to report priests to police. In fact, there has never been such a policy or anything in the Code of Canon Law stating such a thing. Even when the film trots out a document claiming that there was such a policy in some places, the claim is roundly debunked.
And the film’s claim that the problem of Catholic clergy abuse somehow dates back to the fourth century? Uh-uh.
Gibney also advances his attack by employing a small army of Church bashers and malcontents, most of whom have established records of distortion, misinformation, and animosity against the Catholic Church. (We do not include in this assessment the brave victims of Fr. Murphy who are profiled.)
Gibney’s film is reminiscent of another film that aired on HBO a while back. 2006’s Deliver Us From Evil chronicled the sickening crimes of California’s notorious pedophile ex-priest Oliver O’Grady. Indeed, while the film brought to light the criminal’s abominable actions, like Mea Maxima Culpa, the film fell very short when held up to factual scrutiny. Ultimately, an ugly and bigoted agenda was exposed.
In the end, Mea Maxima Culpa is simply an anti-Catholic broadside masquerading as a documentary. It will surely satisfy those with a harbored animus against the Catholic Church who do not care what the facts are. But the film should trouble anyone for whom the word “documentary” signifies something forthcoming, factual, and enlightening.