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HOLY WATER-GATE examines nineteen years of an emerging crisis in the Catholic Church. The film begins as a personal journey of filmmaker, Mary Healey, who was also a Catholic. She films a series of historic events where we meet key players involved in the sexual abuse scandal, including victims, whistle-blower priests and a senior ranking US Cardinal who is called upon by the Vatican to control a waxing maelstrom. The film brings the viewer deep within the institutional mind of the Catholic Church: a powerful institution that now promises to rectify the horrors of the abuse it en-abled upon thousands of children. This intensely personal and political story investigates a myriad of contributing factors that set in motion the on-going crisis in the Catholic Church. The psychological drama that unfolds before the camera soulfully questions one's deepest assumptions about the forces of good and evil.

Something happens when life shows you something deeply disturbing.
At first, you don't believe it.
First, you're terrified.
Then, you make one of two choices: Either you turn away, or you look...
And sometimes that look puts you on a road where all your beliefs, all your assumptions are at risk.


Over the course of the film, five victims' stories are tracked from events preceding their childhood sexual abuse, to their decision to bring their abusers to justice. These in-dividuals include: Peter Isely of Milwaukee, a former seminarian and Harvard Divinity School Graduate; Barbara Blaine of Chicago, the founder of the largest victims support group in the country; Father John Bambrick of New Jersey, a priest who was himself sexually abused by a priest as a young adolescent; Lee White of Rhode Island, a victim of the priest the filmmaker knew as a child; and Mark Serrano of Virginia, a victim who broke the silence of his confidentiality provision. These stories from around the country detail a disturbing behavioral map of sexual predators and point to a pattern of conceal-ment and intimidation by church authorities. More importantly, their stories reveal a stunning depth of faith, inspiration and testament to the power of the truth as pathway to reconciliation and healing for victims of sexual abuse crimes.

In 1985 Jason Berry was the first investigative journalist and author to write extensively about priests, sexual abuse of children, and whether or not bishops were concealing that abuse.

The film examines reluctance within the US mainstream media to report sexual abuse crimes against children by priests. Legal actions, including civil cases ultimately forced such coverage. In January 2002 The Boston Globe began its epic reporting of the story. The Globe's investigations sparked massive criminal inquiries across the country. Many of these investigations remain on-going and revelations continue to occur around the world.

For years, the US mainstream press was reluctant to cover stories about priests who sexually abused children. When national press attention put a spotlight on abuse, the church portrayed these incidents as "isolated problems."

Cardinal Bernadin (1994): "While it is true that Fr. Callicott did engage in sexual misconduct with minors, the psychological assessment determined that this activity was not an expression of a fundamental psychological disorder."

Eventually, it was the media coverage, including daytime talkshows that had a profound effect on what we now know to be thousands of victims.

For a year and a half, the filmmaker follows one of the most powerful US Cardi-nals who reveals his inner-most thoughts on the crisis and his thoughts on how the Church failed to protect children.

Francis Cardinal George of Chicago reigns over the third largest Roman Catholic Diocese in the country with over two million Catholics.

Cardinal George: "Is this an opportunity, you ask. Yes, of course. I mean, in one way, the politicians say any publicity is good publicity. [laughs] So people are talking about the Catholic faith, much to our shame, in ways that they didn't before, and you know, we'll see. Once they start talking about it, they may become interested why is this peculiar animal acting the way it is. Uh, Some will be led by... God's Grace to look into it more carefully..."

As The Globe story breaks, the film documents the unfolding of events and policy changes within the church as a result of public outcry. Travelling to Bishop Conferences in Dallas, Washington, DC and St. Louis, we witness a fascinating interplay between the victims and the US Bishops. Governor Frank Keating surfaces as a hopeful figure to oversee change within the Catholic Church in his role as Chair of the newly created Na-tional Lay Review Board. The film examines the ebb and flow of media interest and bears witness to a growing tidal wave of reportage, criminal investigation and civil claims. Cardinal George comments from the heart of the storm.

HOLY WATER-GATE has exclusive access to important players in this decades-long cover-up. Travelling to Rome and across the US, the film uses these key figures, survi-vors stories, along with suppressed documents and extraordinary archive to weave a compelling tale of unparalleled scope, providing razor sharp insight into the causation and consequences of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.