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Assistant professor's work examines church scandals

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 21:02

11/17/2010 - University of Rhode Island assistant professor of communication studies and film media Mary Healey was working at a law firm in 1999 when she found reports of a Cranston, R.I. pastor who had been accused of sexually assaulting children.She began to research this topic, and after five years, completed an award-winning documentary, "Holy Water-Gate: Abuse Cover-up in the Catholic Church," which will be featured on The Documentary Channel on Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. The documentary was originally premiered on Showtime in 2005.

Healey wrote, directed and produced the documentary, which exposes the sexual assaults of children by priests of the Catholic Church. She followed the stories of victims across the country to "tell a hopeful story" about the events that these victims faced and help people "come to their own understanding" of the politics of the Catholic Church.

Healey, who graduated from Rhode Island College with a bachelor's degree in political science, started this project by following the story of Father James Silva, a pastor of St. Matthew's Church in Cranston, R.I. Silva played a prominent role in her life; he frequently visited for Sunday dinners and blessed her grandfather as one of the first ordained deacons in the Catholic Church of Rhode Island, Healey said.

She discovered that Silva had been accused of sexually abusing children, but didn't want to believe it at first. She realized that she had to face the "frightening reality" and act as an "advocate" for these victims who deal with this burden every day.

Healey described this documentary as, "a testament to victim survivors and stories that people want and need to hear."

In the documentary, Healey also interviews perpetrators and church officials from across the globe, including Wisconsin, St. Louis and Rome.

The eye-opening documentary originated in the United States, but has also been shown in Spain, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Australia, and has been translated in four different languages, Healey said.

Healey also mentioned that she is in the midst of another production called "Reliance" that is still in early stages of production and won't be released for another couple of years.

Holy Water-Gate has won the cine Golden Eagle award, that director Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have received in the past. It has also won best documentary at the 2008 Rhode Island International Film Festival.

"I'm proud of my work, but never can I take pleasure in it because of the subject," she said.

She added that she doesn't see the film as a means of advancing her career.

"It's really an honor," Healey said in regards to why she made the film. "Victim survivor stories still help other victims to seek help or to not feel alone, which is most important. Children are completely alone, and they hear or see the film and know they are not alone. I can't even put into words why I made the film."

The documentary will also be shown the following dates on The Documentary Channel: Dec. 6 at 9:30 p.m., Dec 7 at 12:30 a.m., Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 31 at 2 a.m., Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 30 at 9:30 p.m., and Jan. 31 at 12:30 a.m.

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