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'Mea Maxima Culpa' Documentary Asks Unsettling Questions Of The Catholic Church, The Very Week Pope Benedict Resigns...

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Alex Gibney must be wondering what strange influence he wields from his documentary-making fingertips.

The last few weeks have seen the premiere of his film 'Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets', exploring the strange world of Julian Assange and his cohorts, just as its executive producer Jemima Khan expresses her frustrations with the subject of the film she helped fund.

mea maxima culpa
Alex Gibney's film asks questions of the highest echelons of the Catholic Church

Now, his documentary exploring the abuse of power in the Catholic Church - all the way to the highest levels in Rome - is being released the very week the Pope announces his resignation, an event unprecedented in 600 years of goings-on at the Vatican.

And Gibney has told the Hollywood Reporter he thinks the Pontiff's departure from office is most certainly "inextricably linked" to the scandals he explores in his film. Read more here...

mea maxima culpa
Father Lawrence Murphy exploited his special authority with the boys in his care

In 'Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God', Oscar-winning Gibney follows the story of four deaf boys who were abused at school by a priest, grew up traumatised and isolated, but united to expose the man who abused them.

The film follows a cover-up of abuse, not just in the US where these four boys grew up, but much further afield, and it is this widespread pattern that struck and saddened Gibney the most.

"You think to yourself, ok, one bad egg, that makes some kind of sense, statistically," he tells me in London (speaking a couple of months ago), referring to Father Lawrence Murphy, the charismatic teacher in Wisconsin, whom the boys pursued all the way to his retirement cottage on the peaceful edge of the lake, with his reaction caught on Gibney's camera.

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Gibney was most shocked by the extent of the abuse as well as the way the Catholic Church covered it up

"But then, when we found out this specific abuse was occurring in other places as well," he reports. "This particular targeting of children who, because they were deaf, had no means of communicating their suffering to parents or other people around them. So these villains never got found out, because they were the only ones who could speak to the children. Well…" Gibney runs out of words at this point, but his film says enough.

It's brave, too, following the chain of accountability all the way to those walking the quiet corridors of the Vatican and, yes, Pope Benedict - or Cardinal Ratzinger as he was when many of these cases were being investigated by his department within the Church - does not go overlooked. Was Gibney intimidated by the formidable power of the Church he was taking on?

Gibney, who has taken a taxi to the dark side of the United States' torture practices in his time, not to mention weathering the fluctuating favours of Julian Assange, pauses a long while before answering.

"I would not have made this film in my father's lifetime," he says. "He, like many, many people of his generation, lived by a strong code of faith and belief, and I would have hated to disappoint him with the kind of events in this film. But we had to tell the truth."

Alex Gibney's 'Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God' (including the voices of Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery) is on general release in the UK from Friday 15 February. Gibney will be attending a special Q&A screening tonight at London's Curzon Soho cinema. Watch the trailer and a special clip below.

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