** MEA MAXIMA CULPA: Exposing The Falsehoods of HBO’s New Anti-Catholic Documentary ** NYT’s Laurie Goodstein vs. The Facts; More Blunders From the Bigoted Film

Laurie Goodstein : New York Times

Misrepresenting documents: New York Times' Laurie Goodstein

[Click here for the complete index of our review of Mea Maxima Culpa.]

Mischaracterizing facts – again

One interview subject that plays a prominent role in Mea Maxima Culpa is New York Times National Religion Correspondent Laurie Goodstein, who wrote obsessively about the decades-old Fr. Murphy case during Lent of 2010.

Goodstein has a long record of animus against the Catholic Church, and one popular blogger once dubbed her "the least competent major religion reporter I've ever read."

In talking in the film about the Catholic Church's handling of the Fr. Murphy case, Goodstein wildly claims:

"And the response from the Vatican is to have compassion for the priest and almost no thought at all about the victims, and you see that in these documents."

First of all, the Vatican had nothing to do with Murphy or his horrible crimes. The Vatican's involvement in the Murphy case came over two decades after the abusive priest's crimes, in 1996, when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee sought to laicize him.

Most importantly, however, even a cursory look at available documents shows that Goodstein's claim is false. The most extensive document from the Vatican concerning the Murphy case is a summary memo of a May 1998 meeting at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) between Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of the CDF, and two Milwaukee Church officials, including Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

The memo about the Vatican meeting plainly acknowledges the Church's concerns for the victims of Murphy's crimes:

  • "there have turned out to be many victims of the abuses by Fr. Murphy, all of them deaf";
  • "the deaf community is now experiencing great indignation because of this case";
  • "Fr. Murphy has no sense of remorse and does not seem to realize the gravity of what he has done" (bold type in original);
  • "penal remedies" should be implemented, and they may include penalties "not excluding dismissal from the clerical state" (italics in original).

In other words, Goodstein's claim that the Vatican showed "compassion for the priest" and "almost no thought at all about the victims" is demonstrably untrue.

In addition, a number of other documents pertaining to the Murphy case (including some which were conveniently not included in the large trove of papers once posted online by the New York Times) stress the grave effect that Murphy's abuse had on his victims and note the importance of "pastoral care for the deaf community."

Looking at the 1950s sex abuse through a 2012 lens

Another glaring problem in Mea Maxima Culpa is that the film applies a current-day perspective of the handling of child sex abuse to a case from a half century ago.

Sadly, our society did not nearly have the same heightened awareness of child abuse decades ago as it does today. This fact is undeniable.

(For example, take the disturbing 1977 case of popular Hollywood director Roman Polanski. After plying an innocent 13-year-old girl with illegal drugs and alcohol, Polanski then raped her by forcibly performing oral, genital, and anal sex upon the weakened youth. Polanski's initial sentence from a judge was merely a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. A psychiatrist then concluded that the director exhibited "good judgement and strong moral and ethical values" and "incarceration would serve no necessary or useful purpose." Such a determination would be completely unthinkable today in 2013. [Read more])

In truth, bishops' practice years ago of sending abusive priests for "treatment" was very much in line with widespread societal practice. As Dr. Monica Applewhite has explained:

"From the 1950's to the 1980's, [] treatment-based interventions for sexual criminals were not only enormously prevalent in the United States, but surveys of ordinary citizens showed that they were enormously popular …

"[T]he science of human sexuality and sexual offending is extraordinarily young. Virtually all of the information we utilize today regarding the treatment and supervision of sexual offenders has been discovered since 1985."

This honest historical perspective is glaringly absent from Mea Maxima Culpa.

A warped view of the priesthood

Does the Catholic Church really teach that its priests are perfect and beyond reproach, which director Alex Gibney appears to imply throughout the film? Well, once again, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) actually teaches:

CCC 1550 "[The] presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister's sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church."

Indeed, Catholic priests can commit abominable sins and wreak immeasurable harm upon other people. The case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy aptly illustrates this.

Unfortunately, Mea Maxima Culpa repeatedly warps Church teaching in order to advance its anti-Catholic agenda.

[Click here for the complete index of our review of Mea Maxima Culpa.]


  1. Julie says:

    "the least competent major religion reporter I've ever read." RIGHT! Bingo.

    • jim robertson says:

      When will you seperate the corporate body of the Church and it's officers from the faith. There is no co relationship. You and they are the ones blurring the corporate faith line so that you see your faith as being attacked when people sue your corporation for damages. Who does that benefit????When have any of your beliefs been questioned in any court room anywhere in regards to victims injuries? EVER!

  2. Gloria Sullivan says:

    I find Mr. Robertson's comment very insightful.  Seperating the Corporate from the Faith of Jesus Christ is what must be done in these  circumstances( the sexual abuse of children or innocents, by  RCC clergy ) such as the transfering of priests all over the  world, PARENTS  never to be told of their sickness to the new city's parishioners by the previous  hierarachs.  This is a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.  This    Hidious Crime to our innocents  done to them (in HIS name) must be delt with in a manner that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, other than the fact that HE  would throw a millstone around their necks and heave them into the sea.This CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY MUST END THROUGH THE RULE OF LAW!  Anti Catholic it's not..,IE: if you consider catholic a Christian religion.belief in Jesus and HIS Words in the Bible are sacred to you, then this is about men who DO BAD,  bad things in JESUS' NAME .  It must be stopped.

    The man that did this film,   did more than you have done to bring out the truth of this evil Organization   .And that says alot!

    • andom says:

      yes, you right claim that the LAW should punish who did these evils. But do you know that Fr. Murphy was acquitted by the poilice after a student denounced him? Whould you prosecute the policemen  who closed his case leaving him free to do evils or are you interested only in the Catholic Church? do you know that for this evils the civil law has a statute of limitation? and when parents went to the judges their complaints were dismissed? Whould you prosecute the legislators who have introduced this statute and the judges who have applied it preventing to punish these evils or are you interested only in the Catholic Church? Show me that you are not anti Catholic.

      The man that did this film has only presented a distorted truth.

    • Mark says:

      To Gloria Sullivan:

      - no, the relatively small (important phrase) number of priests who committed what was both a sin and a crime did not do so in Jesus' name. They were Judas priests, and the Pope has described their crimes as "filth." They belong not in the Church but behind bars. There is no equivocation on the matter within the Church. So I wonder why people like you are so obsessed with decades-old cases of clergy abuse within the Catholic Church alone. Particularly when these represent a tiny fraction of all child abuse cases in today's society, their number being surpassed by other denominations, religions and cults; and positively dwarfed by secular statistics. I wonder where, if at all, you get your news. Boy Scouts Association, Public Schools statistics, BBC, Penn State, PBS, the list is infinite. Any of this sound familiar? Or even interest you? Or are you using historical abuse cases as a rod with which to castigate the Church? Such abuse of genuine victims for your own personal agenda is small-minded and despicable.

      - "It must be stopped"? No other institution has done more to put a stop to this heinous crime than the Church. In the Catholic Church it has all but stopped. Elizabeth Yore describes the measures in place within the Church as "state of the art." Perhaps you should turn your venom on the many, many other institutions where it palpably has not been stopped.

      - Yes, Catholicism is a Christian religion. In fact, it is the true Church, that founded, not by man, or men (in their droves), but by Jesus Christ Himself.

      - People who use phrases like "evil organization" to describe the Church are increasingly being recognized for the fundamentalist bigots that they are. Such people, who abuse a serious issue like child abuse, and propogate falsehoods and groundless accusations, are the epitome of evil.


    • jim robertson says:

      Ms. Sullivan, I thank you for getting what the issues are re abuse of children by clerics. They did not do "it" in Jesus name. We victims, however, were overwhelmed on every level because we saw these people as being dedicated to him. Closer on some level to God than us yet "it" was happening. That was devastating. Devastating!

      I was talking to an old friend a non believer since birth. Yet he gets that if the hierarchy had done the right thing from the beginning. Cauterized the wound as it were. Truely cared for the injured; createded safe houses and compensated we who were harmed open handedly and honestly.The Church could have saved itself from insult and even brought more people to it by it's Christ like behavior.
      But no; like the Aristocrats in France in the 18th century; they ,the corporate hierarchy, didn't know how to do it. Their rise to power inside the corporate Church  had given them no skills to save it. They rose on gathering wealth never dispersing it. So they created SNAP and VOTF and Fr. Tom Doyle to control the scandal through fraud. Covering  their crimes with more crimes. Unbelievably sad and stupid.

    • josie says:

      Are you the same Gloria Sullivan that also makes comments as "glorybe1929" ? I know  you are proud of your age (83 or 84) and your claim that you left the Catholic Church in 2002. Why do you spout continuously about the 'evil' church that you left? Do you like to hear yourself talk? You claim were a convert yet you know very little about the Catholic religion as I have read in your comments elsewhere.You may have become Catholic when you married your husband and did not have good instruction 50 years ago.  Whatever..I don't think you will last long at this level with your outragious rants. 

  3. andom says:

    I was reading the summary memo of May 1998 meating. Sorry but it is very impossible to think that there were simply errors with an automatic translation.

    Take the point 4. Weakland comparing Murphy to a difficult child disappears from the translation. The exam by three psychologists who has already been done declaring Murphy a pedophile is given in translation as yet to be done. But above all it disappears from the traslation the sentence "non esclusa la dismissione dallo stato ecclesiale" that is "not excluding dismissal from the clerical state".

    As this is the 'smoking gun' document linking ,according NYT, the Pope with Murphy it is very incredible (impossible) that NYT and Ms Goodstein published such a document without controlling them with a professional translator or a NYT journalist who knows the Italian (I hope that there is someone).


  4. jim robertson says:

    "Last long at this level" What level Josie? It's a crime to be 80 now? Or cool to insult someone who's 80. Times and Christianity have changed.

    I haven't seen one person here behave like Jesus would. Not one of the regular posters.

    Are you for Jesus or the hierarchy? And if you picked the hierarchy, why? Do you think they're working for Jesus around this scandal? Do you think they were working for Jesus when they sent perps to new parishes, to new prey?

  5. Delphin says:

    One only "behaves like Jesus" when one agrees with everything AntiCatholic, according to the sickest of minds.

  6. Delphin says:

    Spelling is the least of your offenses, you have the biggest problem with the truth- about the Church, Catholics or your intentions.

    But, do keep chatting, you reveal your hidden mission with every keystroke.

    • jim robertson says:

      For someone who eats their Deity at least once a year. (If u r a good Catholic) You don't seem to have digested Him well.

  7. Delphin says:

    Just wondering how long it'll take the poor, overworked moderator to have to shut down this thread in response to the heavily redacted tirade you are sure to launch.

    You "contribute" to to this site for the sole purpose of bullying (how many more times will you invoke the "good" Catholic mantle in your tired old response diatribes?). You have determined that when you get hit back (and, if you haven't noticed, your baseless and actually embarrasing offerings are just getting killed here), we are being "bad" Catholics.

    This site has attracted Good people because Good people know that the Church is getting a raw deal in the media. You are only here to attempt to beat the Church, and her Good defenders, further into the ground. You do this not because you believe your own tripe on the subject, but because you are simply a hateful, bullying atheist, and of course it is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church that is the biggest threat to your "religion".

    So, now that we all know why you are here and that you have fooled NO ONE with your insane SNAP-Church theories or your incredible revisionist history of Christianity vs. Mohammadism/Islamism and US vs Jihad,  other than continuing to partake of cheap shots (in my neighborhood they were called "sucker-punches", usually employed by the cowardly) against Good people (aka BULLYING) – let's just peel off the sheep suit and reveal you for the wolf preying on the good villagers that you are. Not even St. Francis could appease you because his wolf was only hungry for enough food to live – you are hungry for the carnage and destruction of all Christianity, but especially Catholicism.

    There now, since the truth about you and your unholy mission is finally out there, don't you feel better? We do.

    BTW - still waiting for that gaggle of lawyers (that you wave around like a sickle to attempt to shut me down) to show up at my doorstep- what happened, the SNAP bunch (your friends) fall off the wagon, again?

    • jim robertson says:

      If the fair minded readers would just contrast and compare Delphinium's ad hominum attacks to mine (and I admit I don't always hold back in that area myself). But have  I compared her to Satan? Terrorists? Highjackers? No I haven't. she's outraged that on the whole I've been repectful towards her by not calling her names but by labeling her call's to action to murder as horrific and being un Jesus like. I don't see being truthful as being a bully. Do you?  I'm not your enemy quit treating me as such. Your deeply hostile attacks are completely unnecessary. And more importantly they make no sense.  Everytime I reach out to make peace, to try and resolve our differences  to communicate. I'm called insane an animal or a minion of evil. And you wonder why I wonder: Where's Jesus in all that behavior?

  8. jim robertson says:

    LOL! Delphinium I don't know who you really are. How can I have my lawyer show up? Which P.R. firm should I send him to? I don't have a lawyer but I can get one quick enough.

    What possible connection and benefit would my behavior and most accurate assertions be to SNAP? I say SNAP's a fraud and that does what exactly? It makes no sense, per usual with you.

    Holy and un Holy missions according to you. Your "reality" is definately not mine. Thank god.

    Again my atheism has nothing to do with this discourse. You hate atheists groovy. Who cares?

    The hypocricy however, of your" Onward Christian Soldier" brand of Catholicism speaks for itself. When did Jesus tell anybody to kill anyone????? Never that's when.

    It's really funny to watch your attempts to rally an "army" here.

    Are you training us to walk or trot around the perimiter of your Dog and Pony show?  And is  the Philly show just another act in Queen Delphiniums  P.R.'d "The Church is the real victim" Circus?

    Conservative Catholics arn't as stupid or as easily fooled as you would have them be.

    • TheMediaReport.com says:

      Thank you for your comments, everyone!

      I am shutting down comments on this thread.