19 February 2013

Mea Maxima Culpa - the movie, and a rant

I’ve spent a portion of my Saturday watching a documentary on catholic priest child abuse. There's a dearth of good docos in Loughborough, the local cineplex catering for the masses, so rather than wait for curzon on demand, I wandered along to Mea Maxima Culpa.

A harrowing exploration of the systematic abuse of deaf children at a Catholic school for the deaf in Milwaukee, specifically by Fr. Murphy.
It was a legal challenge relating to this abuse by Fr. Murphy that led to the uncovering of the Irish child abuse scandals, and realization that the church had known of them for a long period of time. Interestingly a line in the movie suggested the church has documents of abuse stretching back to the 4th century. Their response to allegations appeared rooted in an older age, hide, deny, attack, and never admit. Although the church refused to offer their viewpoint to the documentary, it is unlikely to directly contradict evidence from a former (bishop??) who  at least was concerned by the impact on the victims - something rare by the evidence presented. Sadly he was undone in the eyes of the church by his admission of homosexuality, even though his was a relationship with an adult with no suggestion of impropriety.

No-one in the holy see came out of this looking good, and if even half of what was alleged to be known is true, then Pope JP and Bene appear highly complicit in the coverup.

Here's the trailer:

But it got me thinking. I'm not saying atheism is the correct choice for everyone, but one thing it does do is encourage criticism, whereas organised religion places certain individuals in positions of absolute power. And that seems wrong to me. No one is infallible, failure is the one constant in humans. But a continued mantra of priests are better than lay members offered an opportunity to abuse on a grand scale.
There was some effort at redemption by the group, but I was struck at how it appeared a self help/anonymous group. An argument was advanced that the litigants (remember this was America) were trying to reclaim the church for the people, an interesting humanist perspective.
Complicating matters is the legal position of Vatican city and its position as a state -an invention by Mussolini for support of his fascist party. Fascinating stuff.

So what should they do? Well transparency would be nice, but is unlikely to happen. A truth and reconciliation commission?? Could be a start. Indict pope bene - couldn't hurt. It would be nice to wake people up to the realization that papal infallibility is as real as political integrity.

One glaring point not explored was the stupidity of not enforcing the separation of church and state. I don't want to go all socialist on you, but separating the two helps critical thought. Which is why I am completely against faith based schools and academies. How can you teach critical thought if you are having to teach it with the understanding that Jesus was conceived by a virgin birth, or that Mohammed was the last prophet of god. Ridiculous.
It’s very hard to teach evolution if your default answer is ‘god did it’. For one thing, it prevents a full understanding of the complex issues of DNA change and subsequent inheritance.

I’m not against Michael Gove’s restructuring of the education system here, some of the monkeys I’ve had to deal with certainly argue that it needs it (no more so than in NZ tho’). But allowing academy’s to be faith based schools seems will produce a herd of non-critical, blind, and indoctrinated faith fodder. How, and I ask this in all seriousness, can a faith school of actively teach an intelligent and rational critique of another denomination - given they’re historically so loving and caring.

Aside from my rant, the movie was excellent. Go see it.

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