I’ve watched it twice. It is both an inspiring testament to faith and truth – as well as a devastating indictment of pride, power, and lies. The former come from four boys who attended St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee in the 1970s. The latter comes from the Vatican and everyone in its power structure then and ever since. It really is a story about how the real church finally stood up to a hierarchy that has betrayed us and committed crimes of such gravity and magnitude they beggar belief.
He goes on to detail what the moie is about and the horrors it exposes…the systematic rape of children, by priests of the church since the at least the early 1940s.
The systematic rape of children was then obviously not a function of some kind of major cultural shift in the 1960s and 1970s, although that era might have sent a permissive signal to the global network of child rapists the Vatican was already hiding and enabling. It has been a core problem with the “celibate” priesthood in the US for decades, and every single bishop and every single Pope knew it. Fitzgerald personally met with Pope Paul VI to try and get him to act. Yes, the good folks in the church tried to do something as early as the 1950s and were stopped in their tracks … by the Vatican. The number of souls violated by child-rape in the coming decades would not have happened if all the Popes since Paul VI had acted with more moral sense than most maximum security murderers. (Even the worst prisoners regard child-rapists as the lowest of the low. Popes? Not so much). We’re not talking about priests who are drunks, or priests who fall in love, or break their vows in fallible, victimless ways; we’re talking here about priests committing one of the most heinous felonies imaginable: the systematic rape of children using the authority of the Church as cover.
The current Pope and the last Pope knew all about it:
John Paul II emphatically cannot be somehow removed from this picture. He personally protected one of the worst offenders, Marcial Maciel, who was a serial rapist, drug trafficker, bigamist and rapist of his own son. In fact, John Paul II elevated Maciel to the highest honors of the church – backed by the theocon wing of the American church, from Richard John Neuhaus to Bill Bennett and Mary Ann Glendon. They all adamantly denied that Maciel was anything but a living saint – and he was never prosecuted, merely allowed a gentle retirement from running his order, The Legion of Christ, which continues.
Joseph Ratzinger, when he was Archbishop of Munich, personally signed off on sending a priest to therapy, after that priest had raped several children, never notified the police, never told the parents of the children at the parish the priest was then assigned to, and because of this negligence, was, in my view, complicit in the rape of several more children before the priest was finally caught, arrested and sent to jail. Let me repeat that: the current Pope enabled and abetted the rape of children – and his only way out was to blame a lower official, who subsequently said he’d been pressured. More than that, no one else in the church knows more about this long record of child-rape than Ratzinger. From 2001 onwards, all cases of child rape or abuse were ordered to be sent to his personal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And all of it had to be kept completely hidden from the outside world.
The current Pope has always known, and in fact been front and centre in the cover ups and denials.
Sullivan’s last few paragraphs are powerful:
If those of us are asked why we still believe in the salvation of Christ in the Catholic community, in the midst of all this, we do not have a good answer. All we can say is that we are, in some ways, trying to live in a parallel church, finding those many, many good priests who have been unfairly tarred by the pedophile brush, and living by one simple moral standard that the Pope himself does not agree with and has not done: if you find out someone is raping children, you call the cops.
And finally he calls for the silence to end, and for the prosecution of the Pope and the ridding of the Church of their pedo priests:
What is unforgettable about this documentary is that the loudest voices come from the most vulnerable of all – deaf children who are now deaf adults. The loudest voices were those who could not speak. If I have hope for my church – and I sincerely believe Jesus will never finally abandon us, however corrupt and sinful we become – it is because of this fact. The power of the powerless is what helped stop this mass violation of the souls of children. The change came not from the top, which remains foully corrupted, but from the very margins of the margins: the consciences and courage of those who could not hear evil until it was upon them, but who were surrounded by it. And spoke up. As children. And, then, as adults.
When will the rest of us do the same? When will we Catholics insist in the prosecution of this Pope and this hierarchy for what can only be called – given its duration and gravity and sheer scale – a crime against humanity. When will we lose the deference to a clerical elite that has become its own self-perpetuating clique of sexual dysfunction, that has lost even the most basic moral authority, that even now refuses to hold itself to account.