Vows of Silence

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 15, 2008 | Categories: Accountability, Scandals

Jason Berry, the renowned Catholic journalist who wrote a groundbreaking investigative report on a priest abuser in New Orleans in 1985, hoped that his findings would lead to reform in the Catholic church. He made his book, Vows of Silence, into a film. It’s now available on DVD.

It chronicles the history of Father Marcial Maciel, who won the favor of Pope John Paul II despite years of pedophilia accusations. The greatest fundraiser of the modern church, Maciel founded the Legionnaires of Christ, a religious order with a $650 million dollar budget and history of controversial tactics.

The film tracks 1998 abuse charges against Maciel filed with Cardinal  Joseph  Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, tried to abort the case. In 2004, with Pope John Paul dying, Ratzinger takes action.

Vows of Silence documents the church’s coverup as well as Maciel’s predatory trail of seeking out and abusing young men and youths aspiring to the priesthood. While John Paul II refused to investigate the allegations, then Cardinal Ratzinger took up the investigation. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow through, citing Maciel’s age.

Berry interviewed former members of the order and used the Maciel saga as a metaphor for the larger sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church. Berry rightly points out that the real culprit in the priest sex abuse crisis are the bishops who are not held accountable for their refusal to act against priests who abuse children and teenagers.

Former Legionary and 1984 Marquette alumnus, Christopher Kuzne, said Legionary members who were victims of sexual abuse didn’t readily come forward because initiation into the order required them to vow they would not speak against superiors and report any who did. Kuzne said rumors suggest that Pope Benedict eradicated that vow, but there has been no public statement from the Vatican or the order.vow-of-silence.jpg

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