A documentary detailing the often-difficult experiences of people who spoke out about clergy sexual abuse to church leaders and civil authorities is set to make its New York City debut.
The film “A Matter of Conscience” Confronting Clergy Abuse” will be shown Feb. 5 at the Cardozo Law School in Manhattan. The film originally premiered Oct. 4 at Boston College, where its producers John and Susan Michalczyk are professors. John is also co-director of the BC film studies program.
The documentary shares the stories of individuals who reported issues of clergy abuse, the stonewall responses many received, and their ongoing efforts to advocate for survivors of abuse.
Participating in the film are numerous members of the Catholic Whistleblowers group, which formed in May 2013 as a support network for those exposing abuse and advocating church reform on the issue. Among those featured are Fr. James Connell of the Milwaukee archdiocese, Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish, and Anne Barrett-Doyle of BishopAccountability.org.
For many of the whistleblowers, the decision to bring abuse to light posed serious repercussions, often resulting in marginalization from the church.
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“Some were ostracized, removed from their positions, and deemed disloyal. Others were looked at as traitors to their religious order or Church for breaking the code of silence,” the producers said in September.
They described the film as attempting to answer how such abuse could have happened “in a Catholic Church that professes to be the highest moral authority in the world.” Their interviews pointed them to three primary factors: the silence of the laity, the lack of transparency and accountability in church hierarchy, and cover-ups extending from local dioceses to the Vatican.
The film is a sequel to the Michalyczyks’ first documentary on the clergy abuse scandal, “Who Takes Away the Sins: Witnesses to Clergy Abuse” (2013). The Michalczyks said the idea for the films came from hearing Robert Hoatson, a Whistleblower and co-founder of Road to Recovery, discuss clergy sexual abuse on National Public Radio.
After the New York screening, attorney and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton, who is also featured in the film, will lead a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers and several members of Catholic Whistleblowers featured in the documentary.
Admission is free, though donations will be accepted to cover the costs of the film.
[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]