Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Season 3, Episode 23

Silence (17 May 2002)

TV Episode  |  TV-14  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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A murder in a church leads Benson and Stabler to an alleged cover-up involving sexual abuse by a priest.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Bishop Mallinson
Bobby Douglas
Robert Harte ...
Ben Campion
Rory O'Halloran
Lizbeth MacKay ...
Mrs. Douglas


A murder in a church leads Benson and Stabler to an alleged cover-up involving sexual abuse by a priest.

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Release Date:

17 May 2002 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode isn't the firstborn episode from the brain of this particular writer but it is the first to contain wholesale swearing. See more »


When bail is set at Father Michael's arraignment, his lawyer protests that the amount is punitive because priests "...take a vow of poverty.", and Father Michael later mentions vows of "...poverty, chastity and obedience." to Stabler. This is not true. Catholic priests take vows of obedience to the church and celibacy, but poverty is not included unless he is a member of a cloistered order (i.e. a monk or friar). For example, an ordinary parish priest with independent means (such as an inheritance) would not be required to give up his assets, although he might be pressured "unofficially" to make substantial donations or name the church as his heir. See more »


Elliot Stabler: [to Father Michael Sweeney] What about the faithful, Father? Who protects us?
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An old story
16 January 2015 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

I've never yet seen a TV film or a big screen item that has flat out said that celibacy is one insane policy. So I shouldn't blame SVU all that much. Still with what we know now about the human sex drives that the Catholic Church hasn't caught up with that should be the theme of these kinds of programs, but it never is.

A transgender sex worker is killed and the body laid out in an almost respectful manner in a Catholic Church brings the SVU squad in the case. Father Eric Stoltz discovers the body and it turns out the person was someone he knew. That opens the whole field of sexual abuse of boys which by 2002 was really an old story.

When talking about this today we must remember that priests have the same sex drives as anyone else. And those drives range from the weak to the strong. At one end are people like Samuel Tilden, William Pitt the Younger, Sir Isaac Newton all of whom probably died celibate because sex was not all that important to them. At the other end there are the Errol Flynns in the world where it becomes all consuming. Back when the Catholics adopted celibacy the concept of sex drives was non- existent. This is true of gay and straight people.

There's also the fact that a lot of priests give lip service to their vows. They're having a closeted sex life albeit gay or straight, just a fact of life.

Eric Stoltz tries very hard to stay chaste because he might not be Errol Flynn, but does occasionally feel the need. In this day and age we call that repression.

Stoltz takes the church seriously as does Detective Elliott Stabler. As you can imagine this case is tough on him.

In the end the abuser is caught and the difficulties also lie in that Catholic tradition of the Confessional. Stoltz has to make a life altering decision here. This reminds me Montgomery Clift as a priest in I Confess, except Clift in the end had the decision taken from him.

Until the day that church once and for all decides celibacy is insanity we will continue to get TV stories like this which just dance around the issue.

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