Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa (2012)

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Released 7-Aug-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Interviews-Crew-Alex Gibney with Tony Jones
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 102:28
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alex Gibney
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ivor Guest
Robert Logan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Made for HBO, Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa is a distressing and sobering study of aspects of the systematic abuse of children by clergy within the Catholic Church over decades and the efforts of the Church, going right to the top of the Vatican, to cover up and contain the damage. The documentary is written and directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)) and, given the subject matter, it is a model of restraint.

     Silence in the House of God starts with the first known protest against sexual abuse in the USA, that of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, the cherubic and master fundraiser who over two decades between 1950 and 1974 molested over 200 boys in his care at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and efforts of some of those boys over the years to alert the church, the authorities and the police. A number of the victims are interviewed for this documentary; they are now grown men who were brave enough to try to make the abuse public when they were not believed by the Church or the authorities. Murphy was never charged and not defrocked by the Church even when he admitted his acts and tried to justify his actions; when things looked like getting out of hand because a court case taken by one of the parents, in what seems to be standard practice within the church around the world he was counselled at a treatment centre then moved from St John’s to another parish, and allowed to continue to abuse children. In addition, the new parishioners were never told about Murphy’s past.

     Gibney uses the events in Wisconsin to broach a wider theme; the actions taken by the Vatican to deny, limit or ignore the signs of sexual abuse of children by priests. He touches only briefly on the scandals within the Boston Archdiocese, but Gibney is more interested in the role of Cardinal Ratzinger, who before he became Pope was responsible for receiving within the Vatican all reports of abuse by clergy throughout the world. To suggestions within the Church that abuse by clergy was limited to American, Gibney looks at the activities of Fr. Tony Walsh in Ballyfermot and Dublin (he was finally arrested), at abuse at a school for the deaf in Verona and adds the systematic abuse of boys over 3 decades by Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel, who also had two mistresses and four children, was a confident of Pope John Paul II and was protected at the highest levels within the Vatican.

     Silence in the House of God uses stills, archival footage, home videos, reconstructions and interviews with victims, current and former priests, journalists and prominent figures such as Geoffrey Robertson to trace the story. Information includes the statement that the Vatican has secret records of sexual abuse by clergy that go back a thousand years and that it all along has acted to protect its structure and to stuff out scandal through obstruction, silence and paying off victims, with secrecy clauses (estimated to be over $2 billion); while counselling and treatment centres for offending clergy were provided, regard for the victims seems still to be non-existent.

    If Silence in the House of God has a weakness it is one of focus. While the documentary concentrates on the events in the St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it is powerful and compelling, due in no small part to the interviews given by the victims of Fr Murphy and the story of their attempts to get recognition and justice. The video of a victim who tracked down Murphy after years, and tried to get him to admit his crimes, is unforgettable. But when the documentary draws a wider scope and points to the Vatican and Cardinal Ratzinger, it contains far more speculation and inference which, while forceful, lacks the power of the eyewitness accounts.

     Silence in the House of God won three Emmy Awards in 2013. Not surprisingly, the Vatican did not co-operate with the programme. Obviously, with Royal Commissions in Australia and Ireland the story is not yet over: and it is of interest that I just saw on the news that the Vatican is still refusing to release its records to our Royal Commission saying "that requests for all information regarding every case - which include requests for documents reflecting internal 'deliberations' - are not appropriate" and that The Holy See maintaines the confidentiality of internal deliberations related to its judicial and administrative proceedings. Have things really changed?

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Silence in the House of God is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original broadcast ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The documentary includes archival and video footage of varying quality, which is to be expected. Modern interviews and reconstructions have good detail and natural colours. Blacks and shadow detail are fine. There is some aliasing but otherwise marks and artefacts are absent in the modern footage.

     There are yellow subtitles for the hearing impaired, and automatic white subtitles for the sign language and non-English interviews.

     The layer change was not noticeable.

     A perfectly acceptable print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps.

     The narration and interviews are clear and easy to understand. The rears added some music but really were not required for anything else in a documentary with is almost exclusively interviews and narration. The sub-woofer added bass to the music and when “heart beats” were added to the audio track.

     The music by Ivor Guest and Robert Logan was effective and was augmented by other music including by Mozart.

     As this film featured interviews lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Interview between Alex Gibney and Tony Jones (13:52)

     Tony Jones interviews Gibney on ABCs Lateline and elaborates on some of themes examined in the documentary. Gibney doubts the new Pope will open the Vatican’s records, in which he is being proved correct.

Theatrical Trailer (1:46)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for Jesus Camp (2:11), The Cove (2:13), The Imposter (2:25) and Dreams of Life (2:18).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are Region 1 US and Region 2 releases of Silence in the House of God that seem to be without extras. The Tony Jones interview appears a Madman exclusive. A win to Region 4.

Summary

     Made for HBO, Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa is a model of restraint. It is distressing and sobering and extremely topical given the current Royal Commission in Australia. It seems the story of the systematic abuse of children by clergy and the efforts of the Church to cover up and contain the damage is not yet completed.

     The DVD has acceptable video and audio. The extra is interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, July 11, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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