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The Keepers

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Two former students launch a dogged investigation into the cold case of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a nun who was slain in Baltimore in 1969.

 

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Now grown, survivors describe sexual abuse at the hands of a predatory priest and how his actions may have led to Sister Catherine's murder.

 

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In 1992, one survivor finds the strength to face the abuse she suffered and to disclose an appalling threat that frightened her into silence.

 

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In 1994, two former students file charges against the accused priest, but they face intimidation and powerful resistance from their archdiocese.

 

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Interesting news before the show even drops;

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The Keepers hasn’t even been released, but there have already been new developments in Netflix’s latest docu-series. Directed by Ryan White, The Keepers seeks to solve who murdered Sister Catherine Anne Cesnik over the course of its seven episodes. Along the way, the series uncovers a deeply disturbing string of wrongdoing connected to the Catholic church. If you don’t want to be spoiled by some of the twists in Netflix’s docu-series, don’t read any further.

Bolding is theirs. Click through at your own risk!

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HuffPo's overview from 2015. It's "spoilery" in the sense that, if you want to wait to see who's still alive in the present, this article won't let you do that. There are also some phrasings that the key players repeat in interviews in the series, which is kind of off-putting to me. If I had it to do again I'd read it after watching the full series.

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As survivors and victims' families seek closure, they face frustrating law enforcement bureaucracy and a legislative fight with their archdiocese.

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As Catherine's younger sister joins the cause, the group tries to get straight answers from authorities and additional potential suspects.

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A tip line yields compelling stories that point the group's investigation to two more men who might have been involved in Sister Catherine's murder.

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My God, this is horrific. These poor girls and the abuse they suffered at the hands of these sick men. And they call themselves men of God. I felt physically ill when the women said he did the holy sacrament in his cum and made her swallow it. That is some lowdown terrible shit. The women that said the men told her it was her fault for being molested belong in the deepest part of hell. I really hope they get what's coming to them.

This is a tough series to watch, I might not be able to binge this one.

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I just finished this episode and I'm so angry that I don't even know what to do with it. I need to hit something. I need to hit all the things.

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In what world does anyone think that it's ok for a priest to administer a douche to a teenage girl!!! And this Dr. Richter said this was ok?? Didn't the parents ask any questions? I just find all this completely unbelievable. I believe the girls, but this is a mind-boggling level of abuse and no one was watching these men? I don't know anything about this case, I have never heard anything until now, but I am absolutely enraged. Maskell buried all his info somewhere and some other guy knows where it is, and more importantly what it is, and he let it molder in the ground for years? I get that its dangerous to come forward and these are very powerful people, but grow a backbone! This man let HUNDREDS of girls be abused and raped and god know what else and he hid behind his own fear. I am sick. I love that the priest wrapped all his precious records in plastic before he buried it. Gotta save those records for his perusal when he is too old and frail to get it up anymore and he can look back and remember. I just can't.

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you will be ready for an Abbie/Gemma spinoff

You bet! They were great - honestly, all the former student talking heads were interesting. As the graduate of a (albeith unisex) Catholic high school, the pictures of the young women at desks, in their portraits, with their uniform skirts and sweaters took me back, even though my graduation wouldn't be for a few decades after.

Agree that the episode is a bit slow, but I suspect that will be important in the overall telling of the story. I know this is going to be a painful watch - one of those that you don't want to say you 'enjoy' it, but rather, you're fascinated by? Thanks for covering it, I think I'll greatly appreciate having others on the journey with me, as painful as it will be.

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I had to keep pausing and backing up, because I was in disbelief of what the women were saying. And I'm still sitting here in shock fifteen minutes later, even though I had already read a lot of what they covered.

These poor girls.

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I had to step away when Jane Doe said the priests used the fact that she had been abused by an uncle to further abuse her. Her descriptions of what they did is one of the most graphic descriptions I've heard. 

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I'm so glad that Jean's family was supportive about her reveals. I loved how her brothers all had her back, years after this happened - there was no question to them that it had happened. That's not always the case when molestation or sexual abuse is involved.

Teresa's story so moving. The images of her family at the beach made me wonder, especially the shots that seemed to have a finger over the lens, cutting off the head of whoever was in the shot - was that real? It seems so telling, and a bit on the nose.

Also, shout out to Beverly - she totally should be played by Kathy Bates in any future dramatizations!

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There were 50 priests that were known abusers in Baltimore and only one was convicted? He was only convicted because he plead guilty. That is police/DA incompetence or flat out collusion. If the Archdioce (sp) is saying these priest are abusers, then they are. Shirley May or whatever her name is has to be one of the worst liars I have ever seen. She knew exactly what was going on and still didn't prosecute. There is a special place in hell for her. Maskell was walked out in handcuffs and there are no records? The records that Maskell buried were in a flooded room and ruined? I thought they were ruined before they even pulled them out of the ground. This whole case stinks.

I can't even comment on the vagina in the newspaper. The vagina is inside, did he mean the labia? I just can't wrap my head around it, so I am going to move on until I hear more info on that.

This show is really making me examine all sides and who is telling the truth. The girls? Absolutely yes. The DA Shirley May? Total fucking liar. Everyone else I can't figure out.

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That the lawyers for the defense basically attacked the victims in court just makes me sick to my stomach. I am just..sickened by it. I'm so glad that the study of memory has come so much farther twenty five years later, but that they had to be put through that is just repulsive and insulting.

And I am so glad to see that Teresa became a lawyer, and is using that to help fight for the disadvantaged today! I just wanted to hug her and her husband when he said she became a lawyer at 49 - you're never too old to make changes in your life, and she did it with young children and a heavy load. That's showing the assholes, Teresa!

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Rarely do I get goosebumps, hair raising experience whilst watching tv but that autopsy and maggots is what I was waiting for all along. I knew Jane Doe was telling the truth but I just had a tiny bit of scepticism. But that corroboration? It means everything.

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That was incredibly bleak. I hope the victims find some kind of peace.

I hope this show and the exposure it brings will move this case forward. It seems like there are people out there that can answer some questions and  help solve this.

As far as the Catholic Church goes, they have much to answer for. I can't even form a response I am so angry. These men that covered this up are still in power. Today. I just don't get it. This goes so far beyond what the church teaches and what any religion practices that I am in total disbelief.

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Karma, Maskell. It's a bitch, ain't it?

I was confused about the other possible suspects, until 'Brother Bob' came back up. Suddenly, I'm starting to get all these ideas in my head...

And dammit. I was thinking all along that something had happened to Jean's husband, Mike. His death had to be such a blow.

I can't believe I'm binging this show, it's not going to be helpful for sleeping tonight. But WOW. Putting this story together? It's been masterful.

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I grew up believing in religion. This show is basically why I left. It is so corrupt and evil. God is supposed to be love. But there is no accountability or payment for the evil these people sow. It makes me sick and sad that we are taught to trust these people and then there is no punishment for the hurt and lifelong mental suffering they cause. I never want to be hateful or bitter but after watching this I just want to curse.  Fuck.

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The extent of this abuse web and cover-up is truly staggering. The whole city was just a big dirty boys' club.

It seems to me that

Spoiler

Edgar Davidson and the other guy are the likely perps, probably acting on the orders of Maskell. Apparently the DNA from the cigarette butt does not belong to Maskell.

Koob didn't have a motive that we know of, and it seemed to me that he genuinely loved Cathy. It's odd that Cathy never mentioned the abuse to him, but maybe she thought it was better not to involve him.

It's a shame Russell never talked, she must have known a lot more than she let on.

The whole series is really a tribute to Gemma, Abbie, and the survivors. 

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Cathy's sister, Marilyn, is so full of life, I can understand why the young women were all drawn to Cathy if she was anything like that.

I  can't agree with the reporter's assessment that Cathy would have told Gerry about what was going on. I think because they were in religious orders, and still trying to figure out what was happening between them, and what their future would be, that she would understandably kept the information about Keogh from him, so as to not further complicate their situation/relationship. That makes complete sense to me, and I have known many nuns and priests, as well as former nuns and priests.

And WOW. That ending.

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This really dragged; halfway-through I was bored, looking at the time and wondering when exactly the twist/wider story was going to come--not until the last few seconds apparently, but I will still watch episode 2 at this point.

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That moment... "Those FUCKERS!"

I'm going to need time to process this all. I had to take a break from watching it last night, because I knew I needed to not go to bed with it all in my head, and I'm glad I did that.

So much unnecessary pain and hurt. Truly, those FUCKERS....

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Unbelievable and yet it happened. Such grim stories I don't know how these women survived it. Having gone to an all girls Catholic HS I can see how it would happen given the deference that everyone paid to the priests. 

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This was too heartbreaking/stomach churning and I had to quit halfway through episode 3 in favor of catching up through forums and articles. Unsolved cases get under my skin in a crawly way.

I actually let the series play through unwatched so Netflix can notch my viewer stats. It's so well made and worthwhile and I want to give whatever small encouragement I can to Netflix to continue supporting nonfiction series.

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It doesn't surprise me at all that Sister Russell said nothing after what happened to Sister Cathy. I'm sure the two priests showing up at their apartment was frightening, and the fact that this sort of abuse was happening at all would shake devout people like those nuns right to the core.

It's insane to think how Maskell was able to consolidate his power- chaplin for both the state cops and the city cops- he's essentially a mob boss. Given the way he picked the vulnerable girls, he probably used cops in a similar way-found out who in power liked teen girls and how that could be manipulated, found out who could be intimidated. Sister Cathy was probably killed by someone under Maskell's control- if one imagines him as a mob boss, he put a hit out on her. He's got the cops in his back pocket and the Church in his back pocket, who is going to stop him?

Joyce Malecki is also tragic- I have to imagine that her murder is related, somehow, to this consolidated power- it's just too much of a coincidence that Maskell was her parish priest and she lived so close to the rectory. Him sending them a card after her funeral- he knows their name, he knows them. He was a collector of information.  Her brothers asking for basic updates and getting nothing- just terrible. I'm hoping this series gets something going for that family.

 

The women of this series touched me- for their bravery and their intelligence. My mother was born in 1951, which makes her roughly the same age as the students at Keough. These women just reminded me of my mother and her friends- they've lived a whole bunch of life, are retired but are still full of energy. My mother isn't out there trying to solve homicides, but she's of this generation. 

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4 hours ago, saoirse said:

Cathy's sister, Marilyn, is so full of life, I can understand why the young women were all drawn to Cathy if she was anything like that.

I  can't agree with the reporter's assessment that Cathy would have told Gerry about what was going on. I think because they were in religious orders, and still trying to figure out what was happening between them, and what their future would be, that she would understandably kept the information about Keogh from him, so as to not further complicate their situation/relationship. That makes complete sense to me, and I have known many nuns and priests, as well as former nuns and priests.

And WOW. That ending.

I too can't agree about the assessment that Cathy would have told Gerry about the abuse. We have to remember that these people were young, too, and very devout. Cathy was probably trying to process it herself, as well as trying to figure out whether she should remain a nun or marry Koob. If you become a nun, you are marrying God. She'd be ending one marriage to start another.  She also might've been protecting him, too. Or worried that he wouldn't believe her or think she was crazy. 

Sister Russell might've known, based on her own observations  and they might've shared stories of stuff they'd observed, even basic stuff like "what's up with the intercom and the girls being summoned to Maskell's office?" or "Does Maskell creep you out at all?" 

I loved Marilyn, too. I was quite touched when Gemma told her that she sounded just like Cathy. It's been almost 50 years and they can still remember what Cathy sounded like. 

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This show is so upsetting but so important. I watched the first two episodes, then napped and dreamed about the show. It dug into me.

People either uneducated about abuse or who have never been abused generally don't understand the amount of shame that comes with abuse. Victims feel somehow deserving of the abuse, whether being told that outright, as these women were, or not. You are almost always told to "keep it our secret" or that you'll (or your family will) be further harmed if you tell. You can't "just tell someone." Most victims are young and therefore easily manipulated.

I wanted to jump through the screen back to the 1990s and punch the hell out of the smug lawyer or whoever he was who basically said after the trial, "Tough shit; it's been too long to prosecute Father Maskell. It's just this girl's word against his." Except it was 100 girls' words and abuse has no statute of limitations on real lives. Survivors of abuse are haunted by the memories and feelings for their entire lives. Fuck those fucking fucks who disbelieved a single word from these incredibly brave women.

Edited by bilgistic
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Some of the articles about the show;

A review from Decider; ‘The Keepers’ Isn’t the New ‘Making a Murderer’ — It’s Better

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In this true-crime loving era of TV, there’s something immediately compelling about Netflix’s latest docu-series, The Keepers. The reality that the seven-part series ends with is, in a word, horrifying. However, The Keepers starts from as pure of a place that an examination of a murder can — two former students who just want to know what happened to their beloved teacher. As a result, the series is a deeply human documentary that becomes increasingly darker and more disturbing with every turn.

From Uproxx - Netflix’s True Crime Series ‘The Keepers’ Is Captivating Viewers With Murder, Mystery, And Conspiracy

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The central story, which focuses on the murder of nun Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969 in Maryland, expands far beyond that one crime and into lawsuits surrounding Catholic school abuses, cover ups, and violations that would be familiar to anyone that has seen the Academy Award-winning movie Spotlight which tackled much of the same subject matter in Boston, Massachusetts.

A good story from Vanity Fair; talks about the various people from the show (may be slightly spoilery, so read at your own risk if you haven't seen the whole series yet); The Dead Nun, the School Sex Scandal, and the Amateur Detectives Fighting for Justice

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"We never set out to solve the murder,” director Ryan White says of his new Netflix docuseries, The Keepers. The seven-episode show explores the 1969 disappearance and murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a 26-year-old nun and beloved English teacher at Baltimore’s all-girls Archbishop Keough High School. Still, White knew this was no ordinary crime: “The truth had been deliberately buried from the beginning,” he says.

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2 hours ago, Pogojoco said:

I too can't agree about the assessment that Cathy would have told Gerry about the abuse. We have to remember that these people were young, too, and very devout. Cathy was probably trying to process it herself, as well as trying to figure out whether she should remain a nun or marry Koob.

It's possible neither Cathy or Russell knew the full extent of the abuse since the girls were too terrified and brainwashed to give details. (And in Jean's case, she was so naive about sex that she didn't even fully realize what it was.) Vague reports by the victims that "something bad" happening could mean any number of things and thus be easier for adults to explain away in their own minds.

I'm NOT blaming anyone in hindsight, but speaking as a former Catholic high school girl during that same time period, there was just more of a pained acceptance that "this is what happens to women sometimes." There weren't mandatory reporting laws and certainly nobody challenged or stood up to the priests.

Even today, estimates are that only 16% of sexual violence is reported to law enforcement.

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1 hour ago, Lord Donia said:

It's possible neither Cathy or Russell knew the full extent of the abuse since the girls were too terrified and brainwashed to give details. (And in Jean's case, she was so naive about sex that she didn't even fully realize what it was.) Vague reports by the victims that "something bad" happening could mean any number of things and thus be easier for adults to explain away in their own minds.

I'm NOT blaming anyone in hindsight, but speaking as a former Catholic high school girl during that same time period, there was just more of a pained acceptance that "this is what happens to women sometimes." There weren't mandatory reporting laws and certainly nobody challenged or stood up to the priests.

Even today, estimates are that only 16% of sexual violence is reported to law enforcement.

I completely agree that many of these girls were afraid and wouldn't have told anyone. And I'm not blaming either nun for not saying something- but I think they knew more than just "something bad" was happening. I think the whole crux of the issue is that Sister Cathy was going to say something and was silenced. And that would shut Sister Russell up, too. It's also telling that both nuns had left Keough (neither were still teaching there when Cathy was killed. They had transferred to a public school.) 

In the Huffington Post article that is the basis of this series, it talks about how girls would go to the nuns' apartment and play music and talk. They were very close. The fact that a Keough girl was at Sister Cathy's apt the night before she disappeared means she was still very much involved with the girls there. 

They knew and were trying to figure out what to do. To quote another story about corruption in Baltimore- You come at the King, you best not miss. 

Edited by Pogojoco
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On 5/20/2017 at 5:49 PM, Lord Donia said:

This was too heartbreaking/stomach churning and I had to quit halfway through episode 3 in favor of catching up through forums and articles. Unsolved cases get under my skin in a crawly way.

I actually let the series play through unwatched so Netflix can notch my viewer stats. It's so well made and worthwhile and I want to give whatever small encouragement I can to Netflix to continue supporting nonfiction series.

I don't see myself making it through this (I had to tag out of Handmaid's Tale and that's fiction), but I'm going to take your cue and let Netflix cycle through it a few times.

I just read the HuffPo article, and maybe this comes up in the documentary, but this really stuck out:

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Hoskins started by seeking out more women who might have been victims of sexual abuse at Keough. In September 2013, she logged onto the official Facebook page for Keough alumnae and asked whether anyone knew of such abuse taking place at the school in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The page started buzzing. Women who had been silent for years came forward with stories of abuse by Maskell and others. When Hoskins mentioned Cesnik’s murder, she said “all hell broke loose.” Some Keough alums accused her of launching a “witch hunt,” and school administrators kicked her off the Facebook page for posting “inappropriate” content.

People should really think about *why* they're accusing someone of a witch hunt these days, especially under these kinds of circumstances.

ETA: I've made it much further than I expected, can't stop watching.

...and I'm annoyed that we all know this case will never be considered as desperately important as the case of what's his name from Making a Murderer, or Adnan. The outrage won't be there. You know, it's just raped and murdered women. 

Edited by kieyra
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I think that Cathy and Russell had probably discussed this between themselves, possibly figuring out the best action to take, and then when Maskell and Magnus showed up at their apartment it so frightened Russell that combined with the murder it sealed her shut for all those years.  Out of all the people that raised their voices hers was the one I feel I wish I could have heard but death is the ultimate silencer, with fear.

I could have grabbed that May woman thru my screen and done some major damage to her.   

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I wanted a conclusion but I don't think we will ever get that with the church. I just hope that the women that dealt with this horror have found peace somewhere. And I love that Sister Cathy was there for them.  The fact that these women remember her light and her soul, makes me sad. When her sister talked about her is when I cried. I don't think we will ever kmow who killed her. But I'm glad I found out about this amazing soul. 

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I watched the whole series yesterday. I stopped after Epi 3 but just had to finish it when I got home. I won't spoil but this is like the movie Spotlight x 1,000,000. Not to insult anyone's faith or religion, but I just don't have the slightest idea how anyone can be affiliated with the Catholic Church. I know not all priests are bad, but the fact that there is institutional corruption from the Vatican down. If it was money or politics that's one thing, but doing this to children, and covering it up and lying and God know what else. And for police, prosecutors & politicians to be complicit is even more infuriating.

I loved the attorney who was told as a child she was a heathen for not being Catholic. Take your holier than thou bullshit and shove it.

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And this is precisely why, no matter my nascent attachments to ritual and symbolism of the church, I will never be a practicing Catholic again. I absolutely cannot belong to a church that puts their image above the people who believe in the institution with all their souls.

A few years ago, a story came out here about a man in my area who was receiving one of the settlements the church was giving out. The man had been sexually abused by a priest. His mother believed him, the church did nothing to help. He tried to overdose at the altar of the church where I received my first communion. He survived it, and was even the janitor at my Catholic elementary school. That church doesn't exist any more, but I knew if it did, I could never watch a priest consecrate the sacraments without thinking about that man and what they did to him.

I haven't started the series yet, but my heart is so broken for poor Jean. She had so much taken from her that can't be given back.

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1 hour ago, teddysmom said:

I watched the whole series yesterday. I stopped after Epi 3 but just had to finish it when I got home. I won't spoil but this is like the movie Spotlight x 1,000,000. 

Yeah, Spotlight came to mind for me repeatedly during this.

And I lived in Palm Beach County FL when their own similar scandal broke very shortly after Boston. I just went to go find a link to these events (circa 2002) and instead found this:

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/whistleblower-priest-claims-palm-beach-diocese-forced-him-out/2G4j6AH9ryOU1dZmhB10BJ/

TL;DR: Nothing has changed since the scandals of 2001/2002.

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I've watched through episode five, and one of the things I think this series is doing best is detailing what kind of position the Catholic church had in a Catholic community like Baltimore in the '50s, '60s and '70s. Priests and nuns were so revered that the very IDEA that there could be individuals hiding behind the shield of the church who would use/abuse children, commit murders - basically do as they chose, indulging any vice they chose - was simply unthinkable. The fact that Jean was afraid to tell her parents about this because Fr. Maskell was helping her, and she was a slut (he calls her that!), and that he manipulated her so fully is absolutely disgusting. The darkness he carried within him was used to blight the light in so many of these girls, and it is appalling. Here they were, getting what seems to be a pretty magnificent education, ready to bloom out in the world, and he took that away from them....and invited others to do the same. What I am taking away from this is the strength of so many of these women, not just Jean, but you will keep hearing how many of them end up triumphing over this initial circumstance. I think the film itself will help accomplish even more. I just want to turn the city of Baltimore over and watch the remaining roaches scuttle out for some final punishment. I think this is a must-watch so people are aware of the power we voluntarily give to churches, politicians, doctors, attorneys, etc. Just beware, and make a conscious decision as to whether or not you really want to turn that power over - are those individuals truly deserving?

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