German film tackles aftermath of Church abuse

Deutsche Welle

The film “The Culpable” by Gerd Schneider is about three priests whose friendship and careers are shattered by accusations of child abuse. The German film director has an insider’s view on Church hierarchy.

The film “The Culpable” (orginal title: “Verfehlung”) tells the story of three priests, Jakob, Dominik, and Oliver, who are good friends. Then all of a sudden everything changes: Dominik is suspected of child abuse. How do the three priests deal with the accusations?

Gerd Schneider’s debut film, released in Germany last week, has already received several awards at film festivals. DW met the director, who studied to become a priest in 1998 before turning to film studies.

DW: What inspired you to do “The Culpable”? Why did you choose this topic?

Gerd Schneider: That happened a while back. At the beginning of this century, child abuse by members of the Catholic Church wasn’t a very hot topic in Germany yet. In the United States, there had been different scandals and the outrage was intensified by attempts to cover up the cases. At that point, the German bishops were still laughing. They were sure this couldn’t happen here. Not that they wanted to hide something; they genuinely thought there had not been the same extent of abuse here. But in 2006 the stories started trickling out.

At that time, I was a Second Unit Director on a film production. That’s when I suddenly got this idea: I had the image of a prison chaplain accompanying a colleague, a friend, who would have landed in prison. How should he deal with the situation? How do you deal with uncomfortable truths? That got me started. For my first film, I wanted to tell a story with substance. It’s always a major challenge for a filmmaker.

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