HBO Tonight: Mea Maxima Culpa

Click here to read: “Nostra Maxima Culpa,” dish.andrew, Feb. 4, 2013

Excerpt: “Alex Gibney’s new documentary on the child-rape epidemic in the Catholic Church that raged for decades (and maybe centuries), Mea Maxima Culpa, debuts tonight on HBO. 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.”

70 thoughts on “HBO Tonight: Mea Maxima Culpa

    1. gtslevin,

      I signed your petition to President Obama. I sure hope it get some traction (cautiously hopeful).

      I use the word “cautiously” because I was very disappointed with the amount of national news coverage the recent convictions in Philadelphia received. Was there any national coverage? How many people really care?

      But, I’m also somewhat “hopeful” as a result of the national coverage coming out of LA. Cardinal Roger Mahony has always been a worthless individual when it came to protecting children, but Archbishop Jose Gomez is nothing more than a puppet himself. It took a court order to get him to move his lips on a matter that he was aware of for years.

      Then there’s B16, you can be sure that you won’t hear a word from him. Three creeps working to protect a failed institution. I’m convinced that it won’t be cleaned up in my lifetime, but I’ll keep trying!

  1. So many thoughts on the brilliant yet tragic documentary. The boys who came forward were let down by everyone,from the Archdiocese to law enforcement. It was clear that at the time the influence of the Church reached beyond its own borders. The courage it took for those young men to report the crimes to the police and then wait and wait..and nothing . So they printed up their own posters with a picture of Murphy to warn others. The lengths they went to in order to protect another generation of children is the definition of courage and integrity.

    They had each other for support because they knew that Murphy had abused many children at the school. He would sneak into the barrack like dormitory and they would see him molesting the students. So many victims think that they were the only one, it was somehow their fault, something they did. These boys knew they were not the only victims.

    It is so similar to the case in this Archdiocese of Fr John Cannon who abused boys at a summer camp. He would come into the sleeping quarters at night. A group of boys came forward in the 1960’s to report the abuse. Fr Cannon was 2005 …40 years after the first abuse reported…40 years. In that time he was at the parish where I grew up for 13 years..and as you can guess, that worked out real well. I was at the trial last Spring when the Cannon evidence was presented, but I was not there when one of the men who originally reported him in the 1960’s testified. I wish I was there because I would have thanked him for coming forward as a child and trying to warn those in charge about were doing more than the adults . In court it was stated that the AD knew of the abuse since the 60’s but nothing happened in the years other abuse. However Cannon was called into the Archdiocese and removed from the parish in 1985, on the day of my father’s funeral. Gone overnight. Stood in the back of the Church crying at my father’s funeral. He had called earlier to say he might not be able to make it because he was unexpectedly called in to the AD. So what happened in 1985? Priest assignments happen in June..they don’t take a priest who has been at a parish for 13 years and have him pack a suitcase and leave after a meeting in what happened and why did that not make it into the testimony?

    God bless the men who participated in this documentary,who tried for years to expose the depravity at that school.

    1. I clearly remember Fr.Cannon coming up to my parish in Bucks County some years back, after 1984. I believe he was giving the sacraments to my children along with Fr. Schmeer. I guess this was a dumping ground for “problem” priests. Thanks to the brave men who selflessly came forward and to people like Susan and Kathy who continue to support them and who keep us all enlightened about the horror that has happened in the church.

  2. Excellent documentary. Is it just me, but no matter how much I read, see, hear about this issue, watching the horror unfold for these deaf kids, was like hearing about it for the first time. It seriously keeps me wondering if there is any hope whatsoever for this antiquated cult. Ugh. Watching those men be able to stand up and feel some pride after the horrible things that happened to them was really inspiring. Everyone one who calls themself a Catholic now, or at any point, should watch this. How could you keep lying to yourself about what the problem is then?

  3. Kathy, how about the succession of other priests at your former parish who surely knew exactly why Fr Cannon was transferred suddenly and who covered up for him….and who, I suppose are still keeping his dirty secrets to this day. How about the nuns who prob. knew his story too…after 13 yrs of molesting the local kids. They’re all responsible for Fr Cannon’s victims too.
    How much collection money (parish assessment) did the notorious Fr Cannon forward during those 13yrs to his AD bosses…His bosses who clearly knew that Fr Cannon worked as a priest only to gain access to, and rape young boys….Hundreds of thousands of dollars? Has the AD refunded any of the money it took from the unsuspecting parents of the parish children it endangered for 13 yrs? How has it made ammends to these people? Somebody please the me again how this church is anything other than an organized crime operation.

    1. Crystal I have talked to alot of people in the past yr or so it seems from the stories I hear from old altar boys more than a few of the priests at my grade school parish had their own sins and or crimes to work at hiding. I always thought the priests were rather odd misfits there. I am glad that my present parish has two very humble, frank , normal priests who though not perfect are trying their best to love Christ and bring some light into our parish community and the larger community despite all the darkness that as times is overwhelming. I think all Catholics and Christians need to live more genuine honest authentic lives starting with myself:)

      1. Beth, we all decide in our own time what it is we are witnessing in the church, and at what point we’ve had enough of it.
        I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that no matter how nice they may seem, it’s only wise to keep in mind that parish priests are the agents of the archdiocese of Phila. They were educated by the AD, are employed by it, controlled by it, aligned with it, and “down” with it. Their primary job is to control the parish in these shaky times, and keep the money flowing for the AD’s use….money that ultimately funds a cover-up for crimes against children. In many subtle ways, they draw us into this cover up.
        They may seem “humble”….Priests have a lot to be humble about these days.
        They may seem frank and honest…If they were completely honest about he organization they serve, they’d be relieved of their duties and roman collars in about 2hrs.

        As for Catholics who are trying to live honestly and authentically while still maintaining ties with the RCC. This task has become nearly impossible.

        1. Crystal,
          I wish my husband and I would have met Catholics like you when we first came forward.

          I cut parish priests very little slack. And parishioners even less.

    2. Good questions Crystal . I have no idea who knew what. I know that the AD sent priests to new assignments without disclosing their past history in some cases that were presented at the trial last year. I think much of the info was kept downtown..the fewer people who knew the better?

  4. One of the many things Mea Magna Culpa did for me was get me back on track with the victims of abuse. It’s not that I had forgotten them. Hardly. But I expend a lot of emotional and intellectual energy on uninformed Catholics, Catholics in denial, silent priests, and colluding prelates. What a waste. In the grand scheme of the hemorrhaging Truth, what do they matter?

    What matters is that the Truth continues to be brought to light by “the least among us,” by “the very margins of the margins,” and by “loud voices that could not speak.” In the words of Andrew Sullivan, on his blog, “The power of the powerless is what helped stop this mass violation of the souls of children.”

    Today, I’m just really enlivened and inspired by the role victims have played in exposing the Truth. I feel spiritual. I feel my faith. I feel hope. I feel for them.

    It’s just daunting what the victims have accomplished.

    It’s just daunting.

    1. Kate Fitzgerald…… are special, your insight and understanding. Yes, I have just spent a couple of weeks with “expend (ing) a lot of emotional and intellectual energy on uninformed Catholics, Catholics in denial, silent priests, and colluding prelates.” In my particular case, it has been my alma mater, St. Joseph’s University.

      The victims, their families, the brave victims in the HBO movie………they are the shining examples of our faith, their strength, courage, diligence and perseverance in spite of the greatest of emotional, psychological, and spiritual odds.

      We need look nowhere else……our faith is energized by what they have done for all of us. Without them, their suffering and heartache, their courage and perseverance, we all would not have grown in our faith.

      God has blessed us through those who have suffered so greatly.

    2. Kate I felt the same exact way that you describe. What these men accomplished is so empowering. They were fighting the system having been abused and also being hearing impaired . A friend and I have been working on an issue within the Archdiocese for the protection of children and it has been difficult at times. After watching the documentary I told her “I am kicking it up a notch, look at what these men accomplished” .

    3. “. But I expend a lot of emotional and intellectual energy on uninformed Catholics, Catholics in denial, silent priests, and colluding prelates. What a waste. In the grand scheme of the hemorrhaging Truth, what do they matter?” – Kate

      Kate, I think your efforts aimed at Catholics in denial, colluding clergy etc, matter a great deal when it comes to the big picture of the clergy abuse scandal…and ultimately in helping its victims and preventing future victims..These things you spend energy on are all very important factors in this whole sickening equation…. Take ones of those things out and change happens immediately.

      1. Crystal,

        Going at the uninformed and in denial Catholics, the silent priests, and the colluding prelates has been an immensely frustrating, wearisome, irritating, and titanic task over the years. While they are important factors in “this whole sickening equation,” nothing, nothing, points to their reality and to their evil more than the Truth. There would be no Truth were it not for the courageous voices of the victims. For years, I have tried to bring to light the despicable evil forces, but the victims’ words and experiences evidence them! That’s bigger than anything I have or could accomplish. It’s huge, profound, and daunting.

        At the same time, if you think I’m going to stop pinning up priests by their ears and pistol-whipping them every chance I get, you would be wrong. Indeed, in that regard I feel “chosen” and “called.” Fantasy or no fantasy… they have it coming.

  5. I made it through 11 minutes of this film. When the boy entered the confessional, that’s when I turned it off. I have it on DVR and I might go back to watching it at some point, and then again I might not. These producers really know what kind of music to use in the background of the films, and I always know what’s coming just by the music, and since so many victims were abused by priests in the confessional, I can only guess what happened after the 11 minutes I watched.

    It was extremely difficult for me to get through the documentary “Deliver Us From Evil.” It literally took me a couple of months to get through that film a few years back. I think this kind of stuff is easier for non-victims to watch. It’s all too familiar to me and it can lead me to some serious depression.

    Something off this topic. I was watching CNN this morning and the Boy Scouts of America were meeting behind closed doors to vote on whether or not gays should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts. The reporter asked one mother, who obviously didn’t want to be on camera, because she’s a bigoted, uneducated, misguided person who said, “If the Scouts allow gays then I’ll have to pull my boys out of the program.” Is this woman serious?

    I remember just last October when the Boy Scouts were forced to release over 14,500 documents regarding child sexual predators in their ranks. Parents want to remove their children from the Scouts if gays are allowed in, but wouldn’t consider removing their children when the Scouts’ “confidential files” on child predators are released to the public, for all to read? I’ve read many of those files and they’re just as horrible as reading the GJR’s or spending an hour on Bishop-Accountability and Abuse Tracker. In fact, some of the documents I have read of satanic sexual and physical torture of little boys lured from the Scouts by a Scout Master into a cult might be worse than anything I’ve read regarding Catholic clergy’s abuse of children.

    I make no secret of my sexuality. I’m gay. I don’t announce it to the world either and you won’t see me marching in any Gay Pride Parades. I’m just not that kind of homo. Maybe somebody should take away my honorary queer button. However, I wish there could be some program to educate the general public on “who” sexual predators are. It doesn’t matter if someone is gay, straight, bi, asexual or whatever. Children are abused by anyone. Being gay and being a child abuser are not the same thing. As a gay man, I have never once sexually abused a child or thought about sexually abusing a child, and I feel I can speak up for many of my gay friends, who I know (or I hope at least) wouldn’t be involved in such a thing either. It is much more prominent that heterosexual men are most likely to sexually abuse children, regardless of the gender of the child, and more times than any, most child sexual abusers are heterosexual married men who abuse their own children.

    Then I wonder about the knuckleheads who claim that Catholic priests abuse children because they can’t get married. That has never made much sense to me. The majority of clergy sexual abusers have abused boys. The same goes for the Boy Scouts. The majority of children abused by Boy Scout leaders or other “Male” adults within the Scout program abuse boys. Obviously these men are sometimes married, have girlfriends, or have the ability to date and have sex without consequence from the institution they are a part of.

    They were child predators before being married. It’s very unlikely priests would stop abusing kids if they were allowed to marry, since they were child predators before becoming priests.

    I’m sick of the “gay witch hunt” and how gays are constantly thrown into the mix to describe pedophile priests and Boy Scout leaders and any adult who abuses a child of the same sex. It’s got nothing to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality for that matter, and everything to do with pedophilia, child abuse, and child rape.

    1. Victims4Justice, It must be so insulting for you to hear that tired old misconception. “Sex abusers” and “homosexuals” are lumped together due to a void of information and a poor understanding of human sexuality…Fill this void with fearful medieval religious ideas about sex, and you’ve got a real ignoramus on your hands.

      State of the art education is everything to this. My daughter attends a public HS. The idea of lumping these two groups together would seem absolutely absurd to her and to virtually all of her classmates. Among other clubs at her school, she belongs to the gay/lesbian/transgender alliance club, which seeks to promote understanding and tolerance. Times are changing, I promise.

    2. Rich,
      I got into a debate with one of those “uneducated” people the other day about the Boy Scout ruling. They plan on pulling their boys out if the ruling allows it. Their choice. I’m not knocking them for their beliefs.

      What i didn’t undestand was their thought process when it came to the abuse ocurring in the Boy Scouts. I brought up the very point you mentioned about the files and evidence of abuse and yet, they kept their boys in. She had her reasons. They knew their troop. Her dh was a leader, etc. But, she was so adamant that the sex between a grown man and a boy was “homosexual sex.” She argued the definition so hard that she sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

      If a man is having sex with either a girl or boy we call it rape! They are so caught up on the homosexual part of it that they can’t see the forest through the trees.

      , “Stick with that line if thinking and it places your kids at risk. So when adults learn kids are getting raped, you can discuss definitions and homosexuality.”

    3. Rich I couldn’t agree with you more. The only child sex abuse situation I personally knew of before my work with C4C was through the Boy Scouts. The perp was married with children. Whether he was straight or gay is irrelevant. He was a pedophile. Sex between a child and an adult is NEVER consensual – legally, morally, intellectually….

      My husband, all his brothers and my brother are all Eagle Scouts. They all had good experiences with BSA and none of them care about homosexuality, because that’s not a threat to anyone’s safety or well being. But they do care about child molestation and rape. Being prepared shouldn’t mean having to be prepared for that pedophile to sneak into your tent.

      Parents can no longer trust that organizations/institutions have a child’s best interests reflected in their administrative policies.

      1. A few people have asked about a site that might have this film. I watch movies and television shows on several different sites and I can’t find any with Mea Maxima Culpa. However, I have the film on my DVR and I know there is a way to transfer it from there onto a disk or a flashdrive and then it can be posted online, but I am uncomfortable posting it online since there are copyright issues by doing that. I think I would just prefer to send the file to the your email addresses.

        This will only happen if I can figure out how to transfer the DVR recording to the disk again. The last time I did it was about four years ago and even then I remember doing it but not knowing exactly how I had finally done it through so many failed attempts. Give me a couple of days, and if I’m able to transfer it I’ll email it to anyone who wants it.

        Peace out!

      2. I don’t think it is available online yet because it is currently running on HBO. Usually within a year it is available online.

      3. I expect it will be on DVD soon. You might ask your local library to order it now. I doubt you will see it sooner without HBO. It is still airing. You might ask a friend with HBO to record it and watch it together.

  6. I work in a Catholic institution and I am leaving my job this year in the spring…just can’t do it anymore. I need a break from this church, my spirit is just depleted. Who knows what God has in store, but for the foreseeable future- I do not want to be associated with the Roman Catholic Church and its leadership. For the record, I am a convert- I chose the Church and if I had known then what I know now- I certainly would have chosen differently.

    1. Lottie, welcome.

      I commend you for acting according to your conscience. I find your decision particularly compelling because it entails abandoning your job. The corruption in the Church has unanchored many of us is so many different ways, but few of us have had to consider leaving our work, our jobs, our livelihoods, because of it. I am so sorry the Church has failed you but you have not failed Catholicism. As a Catholic convert, you have made a difficult, moral decision in an informed and courageous manner. I am awed and inspired by you.

      I will pray for you.

    2. “I work in a Catholic institution and I am leaving my job this year in the spring…just can’t do it anymore.”

      Understood, I left seminary for the same reason (just couldn’t do it anymore), depleted spirit indeed!

    3. Thank you, Lottie, for your gift of your courageous decision. You will do fine, I expect. You have to live first with your conscience, and you are way ahead of many of us.

    4. Lottie: I see the Spirit, not depleted, but leading you out of a corrupt institution. The Holy Spirit is alive and well.
      I believe the survivors and victims!! Peace.

      1. Lottie, When i read your post (and drwho13’s) i thought how therapeutic it must be to be for a fed-up catholic to able to make a real break, by officially leaving his or her dependence on and attachment to the RCC behind in an actual location, such as a place of employment or school. The act of simply not showing up to mass on sunday doesn’t always quite do it all.. I hope your move will be energizing.

        1. This is meant as a request for Kathy:
          I see you haven’t responded to Lottie’s post as yet. Maybe you can at least understand in some way how I would react if you were to join in the acclamations and well-wishes for Lottie.

          A while back, C4C got a post from someone, I believe the name given was “Steve.” As I remember, without researching the posts, he had been a convert to the Church and was having doubts, or even “second thoughts. ” I responded with an invitation for “Steve” to ask further questions, and if he liked, contact me about his thoughts. You made it your business, strongly, to notify “Steve” and all here, that I owned a non- Catholic website, dealing with Catholicism and other ex-Catholics; and therefore, “Steve” should be FOREWARNED, as it were. I let you know at the time that I found your action unfair and unwarranted. My question then is this:
          Can you explain the moral difference, if there is one, between my response to “Steve’s” post, and these posts to Lottie?
          I do feel your action was uncalled for , and leave it to you to say what you will about this “difference” in approach. Is it FINE AND GOOD to congratulate and virtually CHEER someone’s decision to become Ex-Catholic, but OUT OF PLACE or someway dishonest to offer help or advice to one having doubts, IF I HAPPEN TO BE AN EX-CATHOLIC MYSELF?

    1. Rich, Exactly!!!! I’m with you.

      Those were her feelings and perspective. Very much like every other parent that thinks it won’t/can’t happen to their child. Misguided is, I believe, the word you used…and it applied to her as well. She also laced it with Jesus and protection and Holy Spirit guidance. It was quite a conversation when I asked her how that all fit in with the boys and girls raped by the clergy in the name of Jesus.

      She didn’t see how that had anything to do with the Boy Scouts.

      She wasn’t ready to see or hear it yet. And for that, children on her watch will pay.

        1. I hope not either. But, until the adults pull their coconuts out of the sand, children will be at risk and vulnerable.

          It’s not a child problem, it’s an adult problem. As evidenced by the well-intentioned, misguided mother I spoke with the other day.

  7. I watched it last night, outstanding!

    Doyle, Sipe, Wall, and Berry, in terms of knowledge regarding the sexual abuse of children in the RCC, you can’t find men with greater credibility and integrity.

    1. Fr. Doyle, a canon lawyer who has testified for the plaintiffs, says “many people ask me why I don’t testify on behalf of the Church in these cases. I tell them I always testify on behalf of the Church.” He means that “the Church” is the one billion Catholics who are its members. He’s right on the mark!

  8. The Mea Maxima Culpa film points out the power the clerics have over lay members in regard to Confession. Noting that if the priest chooses to forgive you, you are forgiven, However, if he chooses not to forgive you, you are dammed (condemned to eternal punishment).

    I DON’T BELIEVE that he has this power. I’m interested in what that you other Catholics believe.

    1. A women can only be forgiven/condemed by way of a man/priest in the catholic church ummmm? I wonder why they set it up that way?

  9. Drwho13, I feel that there is a serious need for catholic parents to put a stop to the absurd, reckless practice of sending their 7-8 yr olds (or any minor) to whisper about “sin” in private with a priest. It’s inappropriate on so many levels…How asleep on the job can we be?

    1. Amen, Crystal. Catholics did without confession for many centuries. But, hey! It helps the hierarchy maximize guilt and enhances priests
      “power” to forgive. Poor kids!

      1. gtslevin,

        As I have said here in the past, it was openly taught in my seminary that it is the sacrament of confession that will give us power over the people,

        1. I’m curious. My son experienced his first confession on the lap of the priest. Is that practice encouraged as a way to be “fatherly”? Unfortunately if that was the case it certainly backfired.

          1. I just saw your question and had to respond with a very strong no to the lap confession. The lack of maturity and empathy on the part of some priests is absolutely astonishing.

          2. Mare, Priest/child lap-confession?..Totally not OK. Look him up on

          3. “In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Oblates like John “Jack” McDevitt, Patrick Shannon (removed from ministry in 2005) & Joe Becker (arrested for solicitation in the early 80’s) spent their summers at a summer camp run by the Oblates. Although I was never abused in any way, nor can I prove any misconduct, I witnessed McDevitt holding young boys, ages 7 – 15, on his lap. Taking pictures. Making pins with their images ostensibly for their parents. He insisted that the children call him “Uncle Jack”.

            Might be worth looking into if there are any victims out there. The Oblates sold the camp some time in the mid 1980’s I believe.”

            entry #65


            you wouldnt believe how many ex osfs are tracking these abusers.Also, McDevitt trained so many abusers – had his little osfs group at the camp.

            The only three priests there and all were prevs. Still looking for the article about Becker – remember reading it, and can’t find it on the net.Too many free passes given to thiis group in Wilmington and Philly.

            Yes a witness to the abuse in 81 persued it. I know he reported it in Philly because I suggested it and the sh*t hit the fan soon after. The RCC was still able to contain it.

            “Unfortunately if that was the case it certainly backfired.”

            Mare that concerns me, hopefully everything all right with you and your son.

            Gets you angry trusting the RCC and finding they don’t really care for our kids.

          4. V4J As I said in your chat room, I wish I could remember more, but as one lawyer expressed it – I am memory challenged from the stroke. In 81 and 82 there wasn’t a purge – just a shuffle when confronted about the abuse and I blame all aspects of society for turning a blind eye to the problem.(Hermley GJR 2005 – 1983). He was allowed back into ministry and Ruining people’s reputation when they spoke out when they accused a priest. They complain now about the financia lburden, but if they didn’t go on a wirch hunt for gays they may have identify the real problem – sexual abuse by priests.

            Robert Hermley
            “Accused in 2003 of abuse of boy in Philly between 1976-1980. In 1987 he was reported to Oblates for having abused a youth during early 1980s in NJ. Convicted 1982 in PA of indecent assult of boys age 13 and 14 during Wilmington assignment. 3 yrs probation. Reinstated to ministry same year in VA. Retired 2003. Named in Philadelphia Grand Jury report. Died 8/30/09. Name released as part of 8/11 Oblate $24.8M settlement with 40 individuals.”


            Rich, I think of you always. He was a horrible “person”

        2. Yes, in these times, few Catholics care or have enough knowledge about their religion to be very AWARE what their chosen (I assume they chose it) religion demands. Confession is
          demanded by the Catholic religion since at least when Rome became the self-proclaimed authority over “all Christians in the world.” There has been a sea-change in the reception of the doctrine this century even. I recall my father’s(long deceased) perplexity on one occasion he attended mass with our family and virtually everyone in attendance approached for communion. He couldn’t take it in that so many were “in the state of grace.” Apparently in his day, those accepting communion had practically just stepped out of the confessional. Today, many more go to communion than to confession.

  10. This was in the mid 90’s. I certainly found out later that the priest was one of the biggest pervs on record. Imagine how my son feels about the church,

    1. Lets hope and pray for transparency (open the secret archives on abuse), and a pope who will make the heads of child abusers and those who covered for them roll (bishops, especially bishops).

      Yea, I know, fat chance!

      1. Miracles do happen. Perhaps we can have a pope who knows how to be a real human being first rather than a cleric.

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