By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, JUNE 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A new documentary, titled “Bad Apples,” reports on the problem of sexual abuse by clergy and the Vatican’s response over the past years.
The 45-minute video, produced by the television news agency Rome Reports, attempts to “translate into images Benedict XVI’s letter to Ireland’s Catholics in a journalistic way,” the director, Javier Martínez-Brocal, told ZENIT.
“We received many requests, emails from spectators that asked us for something like this,” he explained. “What we have tried to do is to show calmly and in a global way” all the aspects of “what has happened and what is being done to resolve the crisis of sexual abuses by priests.”
“If you don’t take the bad apple out of the basket it can spoil the rest of the fruit,” states an adage on the Rome Reports Web site.
Martínez-Brocal noted that the documentary’s title, “Bad Apples,” was chosen because “it is about a minority of priests and because Benedict XVI is asking that they be removed,” as “they are staining the name of the Church and the rest of exemplary priests, who are an overwhelming majority.”
He stated, “We started from the victims and from the three counsels that the Pope gave the Irish, which are healing (closeness to the victims), renewal of the seminaries and reparation.”
The video presents “the example of the North American College, which has a wonderful process of selection of priests.” In other words, Martínez-Brocal said, it attempts to show “how the Church is reconciling with the victims and with God.”
The documentary analyzes the initial confusion of the Church about how these cases should be resolved. It explores in detail the words pronounced by John Paul II on this subject in the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver as well as the meeting he had with the North American cardinals in 2002.
The video reports on the actions of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and his five years of pontificate as Benedict XVI.
Martínez-Brocal admitted that the documentary “is controversial,” and that “it can bother those who were bothered by the Pope’s letter to the bishops of Ireland and those who do not wish to implement his proposals.”
Several commercial networks in the United States and Latin America have acquired the rights to broadcast this production; it has also been requested by stations in France, Spain, Poland and Portugal. The video is currently available in English, Spanish, French and Italian.
The video begins with the testimony of some victims of abuses by priests. Walter, of Canada, recalls: “That year was a genuine nightmare. I was a seven-year-old child and didn’t understand anything. I was too young.”
Lawrence, of Malta, said how he was able to forgive the perpetrators of this painful episode of his life after his recent meeting with the Pope, as “he had the courage to answer for those who have done us great harm.”
Martínez-Brocal clarified: “The majority of the victims are not accusing the Church but their aggressors, who are criminals. They are priests but they are criminals, persons who have betrayed their priesthood.”
“The testimony of the victims is very painful,” he said. “Deep down, what many seek is to be reconciled in a certain way with the Church.”
“They only speak with journalists when they are not listened to by the authorities of the Church,” Martínez-Brocal added.
The documentary presents the expert witness of psychiatrists who have worked with this type of case in order to help viewers “understand who the aggressors, the criminals and the victims are.”
Martínez-Brocal explained that these psychiatrists “have helped victims of sexual abuses to find peace and serenity again. Many have not reconciled with the Church; others have.”
Another part of the documentary deals with prevention and solutions, featuring a visit to an American seminary to show how future priests are chosen. The candidates must pass examinations that test their personality maturity and psychological tests to evaluate if they are able to live celibacy. “If we discover inappropriate behavior, we ask the seminarian to leave,” explained one of the psychologists.
Martínez-Brocal pointed out the way that the Pope “criticized a poorly understood clericalism and love of the Church, which believes that the errors of persons of the Church must be concealed, which has caused a greater problem.”
Both for the Rome Reports director as well as for the producers of this documentary, Benedict XVI’s attitude in regard to the subject of scandals “speaks of his love of the truth.”
Martínez-Brocal noted that this is a historic moment for the Church that, even if it is a “shipwreck,” as the Pope said in his recent trip to Malta, can bear great fruits in the short and long term.
The director expressed the hope that this will make the abusers “flee from the Catholic Church.”
“We are very optimistic,” he said, affirming that the fight against abuses is “a battle that will last many years, but the fruits are already appearing.”
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