Mea Maxima Culpa
Mea Maxima Culpa investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 deaf children in a school under his control.
The film documents the first known public protest against clerical sex abuse in the U.S., which led to a case that spanned three decades and ultimately resulted in a lawsuit against the pontiff himself. The investigation helped uncover documents from the secret Vatican archives that show the Pope, who must operate within the rules of the Roman Curia, as both responsible and helpless in the face of evil.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a 2012 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. The film details the first known protest against clerical sex abuse in the United States by four deaf men. It features the voices of actors Jamey Sheridan, Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke and John Slattery, who provide the vocal translation of the deaf interviewees.
The title is derived from the Latin phrase "mea maxima culpa". It is taken from the Confiteor that is part of the Roman Catholic Mass. It translates into English as "My most grievous fault".
The film follows documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney as he examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church system through the story of four deaf men — Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn and Arthur Budzinski — who set out to expose the priest who abused them during the mid-1960s. Each of the men brought forth the first known case of public protest against clerical sex abuse, which later led to the sex scandal case known as the Lawrence Murphy case. Through their case the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.
The film premiered on September 9, 2012 at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. It later opened in limited release on November 16, 2012, and premiered worldwide on HBO on February 4, 2013.
[photo] Kristen Vaurio, Sloane Klevin, Alexandra Johnes, Lori Singer, Todd Wider, Jedd Wider and Alex Gibney accept the Peabody Award for "Mea Maxima Culpa."
The film received positive feedback from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 98% based on reviews from 42 critics, with a rating average of 7.8 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reports the film with a score of 73 based on 16 reviews.
Mark Jenkins of NPR called the film "Alex Gibney's most powerful film since the Oscar-winning 2007 Taxi to the Dark Side. A. O. Scott of The New York Times particularly praised the way that the interviews of the victims were shot writing, "Mr. Gibney films them, against dark backgrounds with soft, indirect light, emphasizes the expressivity of their faces and hands, and will remind hearing viewers of the richness and eloquence of American Sign Language." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt the film on a personal level writing, "To someone who was raised and educated in the Catholic school system, as I was, a film like this inspires shock and outrage." He went on to write that the film "is calm and steady, founded largely on the testimony of Murphy's victims."
In 2013, Mea Maxima Culpa was nominated for 6 Primetime Emmy Awards, and won in 3 categories, including Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking. It won a Peabody Award in 2013 "for providing a harrowing story of clerical sexual abuse, empowering long-silenced victims and unveiling clandestine Church practices around accusations."