New movie casts Church in bad light over sex abuse scandals
Hits Italian cinemas Wednesday18 March, 19:48
In the movie, which hits Italian cinemas Wednesday, the Church appears to do nothing other than attempt to deny, minimize and censure the various scandals of pedophilia within its ranks, beginning with the case of four deaf children sexually abused by a priest in Milwaukee.
The film recounts the stories of Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn and Arthur Budzinksi, now adults, victims in their childhood years of sexual abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy, director of the St. John's School in Milwaukee, in the U.S.
state of Wisconsin.
Between 1950 and 1974 Murphy sexually abused some 200 deaf-mute children, without the church taking any remedial action and letting him continue in his position until his death.
The film begins with the case of the four then covers other cases of child sex abuse in the United States and Europe, including those of Father Walsh in Ireland and Marcial Maciel - a friend of John Paul's - in Mexico. Underlining how the Church's highest ranks were complicit in the scandals, Gibney points out how Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, was for 25 years the head of the Church's Confederation of Faith, and as such was aware of the events taking place. As Pope Benedict, Ratzinger then reiterated the need to maintain secrecy during the ensuing investigations and trials. Meanwhile Ratzinger's predecessor John Paul is accused of both knowing about the abuse crimes and of maintaining his friendship with Maciel despite the latter's criminal actions.
Maciel was deprived only in 2006 of all Church office responsibilities for sexually abusing underage seminarians in his congregations.
Then pope Benedict approved the decision to strip Maciel of his duties.
According to Vatican expert Marco Politi, "Pope Ratzinger did a lot of work on these pedophilia cases, but he didn't create real transparency and he didn't open the Diocesan archives, something which happened in Germany, Belgium and the United States." "The new pope will also have to deal with this problem. In Italy you can count some 3,000 hidden cases considering there are around 200 dioceses and no one ever carried out an investigation, aside from the one in Bressanone, which led to 15 charges," Politi says.
Reflecting on Benedict's surprise resignation from the papacy, Gibney said it is "the most important act of his Pontificate. In this manner he showed he was unable to deal with these things, (that he is) really a man. Let's hope Pope Francis is the right one."