Monday, February 4, 2013

Andrew Sullivan on Mea Maxima Culpa Documentary: Real Church Is on the "Very Margins of the Margins"

In two statements at his Daily Dish site today, Andrew Sullivan reflects on Alex Gibney's documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," which will air tonight at 9 P.M. ET on HBO. Andrew Sullivan has seen the documentary twice. His take on it (this is from the first of his two postings today about the documentary):

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.

Sullivan notes that the record, we now know, is unambiguous: "[T]he current Pope enabled and abetted the rape of children . . . ." And: "More than that, no one else in the church knows more about this long record of child-rape than Ratzinger."

And if this is what Catholics (and, let's face it, the entire world) now know about the chief shepherd of the Catholic church, then how are "ordinary" Catholics to retain any kind of affiliation with or faith in  this institution which professes that its mission is to mediate between God and us? Sullivan writes,

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.

And then in a subsequent gloss on the preceding statement, he adds:

One wonders: Can he [i.e., Benedict] grasp the enormity of what has happened? Does his own veneration of the priesthood and lifetime of being obeyed without question render him incapable of seeing things from the side of a raped child who has struggled to achieve some kind of sanity and healing in adulthood? This is not some ordinary person here. This is the man who represents Christ on earth. I cannot see how he can not resign, why he has not resigned – and begged for forgiveness on behalf of the entire hierarchy. I cannot see how, after a catastrophe of this proportion, we still are barred from even debating married or female priests.   
At some point, obedience to authority and to an institution is not a virtue. It is a crime.

For a posting of mine last November gathering links to commentary about Gibney's documentary when it was first being shown to select audiences last fall, see here.

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