Earlier this week, I was privileged to attend a screening of Alex Gibney's latest piece of documentary brilliance, "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God." It's released today. To be honest I want to see it one more time before writing a length about it. It's about the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis – and the criminal conspiracy reaching right to the current Pope that will one day surely bring the whole house of cards down, so that the church can be rebuilt amid the ruins created by deeply sick and psychologically crippled men at its core. No one is more implicated in covering up this institutionalization of sexual abuse and secrecy than the man who controlled and oversaw every single case of clerical sex abuse in the world from 2001 onwards: Pope Benedict XVI, who knows more than anyone else on the planet about the horrifying psycho-sexual truth beneath the ermined, bejewelled veneer.
One feature of this last election was the complete failure of the Vatican hierarchs to dictate the vote to the flock. American Catholics voted for Obama over Romney. The docile fools in dresses – from Dolan to Chaput – were ignored as they now routinely are, and should be. They actually think they still have moral authority. But moral authority has to be earned with each generation, and the corruption in the Vatican is so deep and so rotten and so incapable of self-reflection it has effectively created two Catholic churches in America: those few in the pews who still listen to the bishops and those who exist almost in a parallel church, focused on their own parish, their own priest, and their own faith, which remains, for many of us, undimmed.
But every now and again, that parallel church actually encounters – and cannot elide – the hierarchy. In Minnesota, where a third of the population is Catholic, the hierarchy insisted that the state amend its constitution to keep gay couples out of civil society and civil marriage. The hierarchy failed – as miserably as they failed in their trumped up "war on religion" nonsense. The Amendment didn't pass. You cannot be exposed as an institution that is responsible for covering up the rape and torture of thousands of children and have any moral authority when it comes to the constitutional equality of gay citizens or the contraceptives that 99 percent of Catholic American women use at some point.
And so in Minnesota, a 17-year-old Catholic, Lennon Cihack, who goes to mass weekly, and who was diligently preparing for his confirmation, posted on his Facebook page a picture of himself and a poster opposing the Amendment. His mother is then called into the rectory by the local priest and told that the confirmation cannot occur. Then she is told that the entire family is now barred from communion. She appeals to the bishop. He tells her that if Lennon stands in front of the whole congregation and denounces marriage equality, he can be confirmed. The priest in question has denied barring Lennon from confirmation, but does not dispute any of the facts of the case. Meanwhile, of course, Lennon's Facebook page is brimming with likes from his class-mates who are still being confirmed.
This is where we are. It feels like the last days of the Soviet Union. And I believe the mother, not the priest. Given what we now know about the hierarchy's corruption, isn't that the default position?