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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012)

TV-14 | | Documentary | 16 November 2012 (USA)
Alex Gibney explores the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all the way to the Vatican.


Alex Gibney


Alex Gibney

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Won 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 4 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alex Gibney ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Terry Kohut Terry Kohut ... Himself - St. John's School for the Deaf, 1960-1969
Gary Smith Gary Smith ... Himself - St. John's School for the Deaf, 1954-1970
Pat Kuehn Pat Kuehn ... Himself - St. John's School for the Deaf, 1969-1973
Arthur Budzinski Arthur Budzinski ... Himself - St. John's School for the Deaf, 1953-1964
Lawrence Murphy Lawrence Murphy ... Himself - priest, St. John's School for the Deaf, 1950-1974 (archive footage)
Richard Sipe Richard Sipe ... Himself - Former Benedictine Monk / Mental Health Counselor
Scott Kuehn Scott Kuehn ... Himself (archive footage)
Angela Kuehn Angela Kuehn ... Herself (archive footage)
Patrick Wall Patrick Wall ... Himself - Former Benedictine Monk (as Patrick J. Wall)
Bob Bolger Bob Bolger ... Himself - St. John's School for the Deaf (archive footage)
John Conway John Conway ... Himself - Counselor for the Deaf
Jim Heydendahl Jim Heydendahl ... Himself - Senior Boys' Dorm Supervisor, 1972-1974
Geoffrey Robertson Geoffrey Robertson ... Himself - Human Rights Lawyer (as Geoffrey Robertson QC)
Jeff Anderson Jeff Anderson ... Himself - Attorney for Gary Smith & Terry Kohut


Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney exposes the abuse of power in the Catholic Church and a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee Wisconsin, through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland's churches all the way to the highest office of the Vatican. By investigating the secret crimes of a charismatic priest who abused over 200 deaf children in a school under his control - the film shows the face of evil that lurks behind the smiles and denials of authority figures and institutions who believe that because they stand for good they can do no wrong. Written by Jwelch5742

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Release Date:

16 November 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Den största synden See more »

Filming Locations:

Vatican City See more »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The narration states "In 1929, a cardinal, soon to be Pope Pius XI, signed the Lateran Treaty with the Fascist government of Mussolini to create the Vatican State." Actually, in 1929, Pius XI was already pope, having been elected in 1922. See more »


Featured in 56th BFI London Film Festival (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

Must See Documentary That Will Challenge Conventional Beliefs
5 February 2013 | by nolandalla-447-695930See all my reviews

I've gradually come to see the Catholic Church for what it truly is -- an archaic, oppressive, lying institution that's hopelessly out of touch with 21st Century realities, which destroys millions of lives around the world and has done unspeakable evil throughout human history.

The excesses stem not just a few bad apples. The root cause is institutional corruption. In Catholicism, according to Canon Law, everything flows downward from the very top. This means the Vatican ultimately bears responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Strong words? Hardly. If anything, those words aren't strong enough.

The Roman Catholic Church remains wielded to the Dark Ages. And its not just because a bunch of men chose to walk around in black robes speaking a dead language that went out of existence 500 years ago while waving containers full of ash dust, or nuns suppressing their own individuality in observance of unconditional servitude.

Look at the facts: Catholic policies towards women are degrading. Catholic commandments on birth control creates imminent poverty for millions who starve and die in developing countries. Catholic beliefs toward basic human rights are often are cowardly and self-serving. Catholic teachings on sex are Neanderthal. Catholic practices on economic and social issues are reprehensible. And Catholic teachings on so-called "morality" are duplicitous.

All this aside, the Catholic Church's policies and practices in the tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of sexual abuse scandals around the world involving priests is downright disgusting. Many heads need to roll -- starting with just about every Pope dating all the way back to the 4th Century. Indeed, the Vatican has been a collaborator in innumerable crimes and cover ups since the fall of the Byzantines.

The Catholic Church is an empire of corruption. This has nothing to do with matters of faith or a belief in God. It has everything to do with making the appropriate choices as to which institutions in our society deserve our reverence and trust.

The Catholic Church and the Vatican deserve neither.

That said, no one wants to read or hear about priests and sex scandals.

It's a hideous subject. It's certainly not entertainment. There's no satisfaction to be gained from subjecting oneself to the indescribable evils committed by members of the clergy. Contemplating these horrible acts against innocent children which have gone on for so long in so many places is painful to look at.

But look we must. And re-think everything we believe about Catholicism, we should.

HBO has just debuted a new documentary on this subject. The title is Mea Maxima Cula: Silence in the House of God. I had heard about this powerful film by award-winning director Ale Gibney, which runs about 90 minutes. Late last night, when I saw this program was coming up as the next feature show on HBO, I considered tuning in.

Then again, why would I have any desire to watch such a thing? I thought to myself -- why would I want to subject myself to something like this? Who in the world would willingly stop and watch people doing such repulsive things to children? So, I did what most probably do. I turned the channel.

But curiosity got the best of me. I found myself flipping back to Mea Maxima Culpa and watching bits and pieces of the documentary. As I watched, I began to realize this wasn't only a film about controversial subject. It was a story about politics and power. It was also a story about extraordinary courage -- those who initially stepped forward and told of what happened. I came to realize this was a masterful documentary that becomes increasingly more intense as the viewer gets absorbed into the story.

Essentially, Mea Maxima Cula focuses on several deaf adults who are now in their 60s and 70s. Back during he 1950's as children, they were sexually abused by priests in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, as we would gradually learn there were many more Milwaukees -- hundreds, if not thousands of Milwaukees around the world.

While the Vatican continues to lie, engages in cover ups, and postures itself as being above all the crimes committed at the parish level, this film indisputably links Rome with just about all the filth done by its faithful servants. Church hierarchy was far more than just an enabler. They have been confederates in these conspiracies for the past 1,700 years (watch the documentary -- the evidence is clear).

The Inquisition. The war on enlightenment. The Crusades. Pacts with fascism. Sex crimes and cover ups. Why isn't the Catholic Church being tried for crimes against humanity? I urge you to not miss this program.

A Final Thought: The word "hero" gets overused.

Worse, its often misapplied to athletes and celebrities in our culture who frankly do nothing to deserve such adulation.

Thank goodness there are real heroes in this world. Some of them appear in this film, as the brave men who were courageous enough to step forward and tell what happened.

Imagine the humiliation of revealing one of the worst things imaginable -- committing sex acts on children. Imagine what it took for these brave people who risked finger-pointing, hushed whispers, and public ridicule for the sake of justice? Why is this important? Why should you care? Maybe you won't.

But if hundreds of years of history, institutionalized corruption from top to the bottom, and a continuing conspiracy of denial from the Vatican doesn't sway you towards contempt for the Catholic Church, then nothing will.

Thank goodness there were men brave enough to step out of the shadows and one very dedicated filmmaker willing to shine a lens and a light into the darkest corners of the church's soul.


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