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The 2012 HBO documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, aired last night on the CBC. This film traces the first exposure of the pedophile scandal in the 1960′s and the history of who knew what, when, from earliest days up until the most recent times. It is very clear and essentially indisputable that the highest levels of the Church hierarchy, including the then and current Popes, systematically engaged in a massive cover-up that tried to protect the Church while ignoring, and at times even vilifying, the victims, while massively failing to prevent new victimizations.

This is an important film, regardless of your religious leanings, insofar as it deals with the psychology of power, trust, control, and the perils of putting your faith in all-too-human authorities.

My wife and I had just finished watching the season finale of Downton Abbey and turned on the documentary immediately afterwards. My wife was getting visibly agitated watching the scandalous shenanigans of the priests and their protectors. “This is very disturbing” she said. “Well, it sure isn’t Downton Abbey”, I replied. “More like getting down at the abbey”, I quipped with black humour. But there’s nothing funny about what these guys did, and what really surprises me the most is how the Church has even managed to survive the scandal. There is no limit to motivated reasoning I guess; people can find ways to deny and excuse just about anything.

If we can stretch our imaginations to find anything positive in the revelations, it would be the revelations themselves, i.e., that such horrors could come to light, says a great deal about what it means to live in a free society. These abominations have likely gone on for centuries in other religions, but have also likely remained hidden under pain of death.