Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

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Mea Maxima Culpa:
Silence in the House of God
A statue crying tears
Directed byAlex Gibney
Produced byAlex Gibney
Alexandra Johnes
Kristen Vaurio
Jedd Wider
Todd Wider
Written byAlex Gibney
Narrated byAlex Gibney
Music byIvor Guest
Robert Logan
CinematographyLisa Rinzler
Edited bySloane Klevin
Jigsaw Productions
Wider Film Projects
Below The Radar Entertainment
Distributed byHBO Films
Release date
  • September 9, 2012 (2012-09-09) (TIFF)
  • November 16, 2012 (2012-11-16) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is a 2012 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. The film details the first known protest against clerical sex abuse in the United States by four deaf men. It features the voices of actors Jamey Sheridan, Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke and John Slattery, who provide the vocal translation of the deaf interviewees.

The title is derived from the Latin phrase "mea maxima culpa". It is taken from the Confiteor that is part of the Roman Catholic Mass. It translates into English as "Through my most grievous fault".[1]


The film follows documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney as he examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church system through the story of four deaf men — Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn and Arthur Budzinski — who set out to expose the priest who abused them during the mid-1960s at St. John's School for the Deaf. Each of the men brought forth the first known case of public protest against clerical sex abuse, which later led to the sex scandal case known as the Lawrence Murphy case. Through their case the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.


The film premiered on September 9, 2012 at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.[2] It later opened in limited release on November 16, 2012,[3] and premiered worldwide on HBO on February 4, 2013.[4]


Critical response[edit]

Kristen Vaurio, Sloane Klevin, Alexandra Johnes, Lori Singer, Todd Wider, Jedd Wider and Alex Gibney accept the Peabody Award for "Mea Maxima Culpa."

The film received positive feedback from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 98% based on reviews from 42 critics, with a rating average of 7.8 out of 10.[5] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reports the film with a score of 73 based on 16 reviews.[6]

Mark Jenkins of NPR called the film "Alex Gibney's most powerful film since the Oscar-winning 2007 Taxi to the Dark Side."[7] A. O. Scott of The New York Times particularly praised the way that the interviews of the victims were shot writing, "Mr. Gibney films them, against dark backgrounds with soft, indirect light, emphasizes the expressivity of their faces and hands, and will remind hearing viewers of the richness and eloquence of American Sign Language."[8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt the film on a personal level writing, "To someone who was raised and educated in the Catholic school system, as I was, a film like this inspires shock and outrage." He went on to write that the film "is calm and steady, founded largely on the testimony of Murphy's victims."[9]


In 2013, Mea Maxima Culpa was nominated for 6 Primetime Emmy Awards, and won in 3 categories, including Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking.[10] It won a Peabody Award in 2013 "for providing a harrowing story of clerical sexual abuse, empowering long-silenced victims and unveiling clandestine Church practices around accusations."[11] Additionally, Gibney received his fourth nomination for Best Documentary Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America for this film.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mea culpa". The Phrase Finder. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  2. ^ Powers, Thom (2012). "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God |". Toronto International Film Festival, Inc. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  3. ^ "Mea Maxima Culpa: Synopsis". Home Box Office. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
  4. ^ "HBO On 'Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God': TCA". Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  5. ^ "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  6. ^ "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Jenkins, Mark (November 15, 2012). "Ending The 'Silence' Around Priests' Sex Abuse". NPR. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. (November 15, 2012). "A Silent Trail Leads Beyond a Cover-Up of Protracted Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 14, 2012). "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Emmys – Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God". Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  11. ^ 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  12. ^ "2013 WGA Awards: The Complete List Of Winners". Time. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2019.

External links[edit]