A letter that is not 'smoking'
In seeking to portray the Catholic Church as callous to the issue of clergy sex abuse, Alex Gibney's Mea Maxima Culpa airs a blatant falsehood about a 1997 letter written by a Vatican official to Irish bishops. Gibney suggests that the letter was an effort by the Vatican to block reporting abusive priests to police.
While claiming the letter is a "smoking gun," Gibney asserts that the 1997 missive "overruled attempts by archbishops to report sex abuse to the police."
One cannot help but wonder if Gibney even read the letter in question. In fact, neither the words "police" nor "law enforcement" ever appear anywhere in the letter. The missive was simply an important reminder to bishops that it is imperative that they closely follow the protocols of Canon Law when disciplining abusive priests. If they do not, the letter warns, they may undermine their own efforts to remove priests by giving accused priests recourse to appeal their cases to The Holy See.
Most importantly, there is nothing in the letter that comes even close to saying "Don't call the police." [Read the actual letter for yourself.]
In addition, the claim that the letter was a "smoking gun" has even been debunked by "liberal" Church critics.
This bogus "smoking gun" letter claim originally surfaced in January 2011, when the news of the letter first surfaced. See: "Hit-and-Run: Media Slams Vatican With Bogus 'Smoking Gun' Story" (Jan. 2011).
The bottom line: Gibney's claim of a "smoking gun" letter is silly.
A monstrous rape, and HBO blames the Vatican
Gibney's film also attempts to claim that the Vatican is "fundamentally responsible" for a 1994 rape committed in Ireland by the notorious serial former pedophile priest Tony Walsh.
Indeed, Walsh committed abominable crimes for well over a decade and may have had "more than 40 victims." Yet an interview subject in the film attempts to lay blame on the Vatican for the rape of a teenage boy which was committed while Walsh was appealing his dismissal from the priesthood for previous misconduct.
The film claims that Walsh committed the 1994 rape of a boy "at his grandfather's funeral." Yet here are two important facts that the film omits:
- Walsh did not preside at the said funeral.
- The rape occurred after the funeral in the restroom of a local pub.
The sad truth of the matter is this: Whether or not Walsh was still a priest would not have hindered his ability to enter an Irish pub and commit heinous acts.
While Church officials in Ireland admittedly did not handle the atrocious crimes by Walsh as best it should have, to pin Walsh's 1994 rape of a boy on the Vatican is a stretch, to say the least.
In fact, a lot of the blame can be placed squarely on the Irish police (or "garda," as it is called). It was twice aware of crimes committed by Walsh in 1991, but it did not arrest him. [See the chapter about Tony Walsh from Ireland's 2009 Murphy Report, in which Walsh is given the pseudonym "Fr. Jovito."] If the police had arrested him, the 1994 rape likely would have been prevented!
Again, Gibney's Mea Maxima Culpa falls short when standing up to the facts it presents.