Hand of God

Ratings: 7.67/10 from 6 users.

Hand of GodIn Hand of God, filmmaker Joe Cultrera explores the very personal story of how his brother - Paul - was molested in the 1960s by their parish priest, Father Joseph Birmingham, who allegedly abused nearly 100 other children. Producer Joe Cultrera tells the story of faith betrayed and how his brother Paul and the rest of the Cultrera family fought back against a scandal that continues to afflict scores of churches across the country.

"I was inspired by my brother's strength of spirit in surviving his abuse," says Joe Cultrera. "His story was unlike any I had seen in the media. I thought a detailed film about his and my family's experience would prove healing and freeing for others."

Paul Cultrera and his siblings were raised in an Italian-Catholic family in Salem, Mass., and attended Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. From an early age they were immersed in the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church. "There was the Catholic Church, and everything else was hell," Paul recalls. "Everyone beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church was doomed. Everything was presented to you in terms of sin."

At 14, Paul, an altar boy at St. James Parish, came under the guidance of Fr. Birmingham. Birmingham was young and friendly, often taking the boys on trips and inviting them to the rectory for Friday and Saturday night pizza parties. It was during confession that Paul's relationship with Fr. Birmingham changed. Confessing to masturbation led to private "counseling" sessions at the rectory, where Paul was sexually abused. Birmingham also abused him during nighttime rides in Birmingham's black Ford Galaxie and on trips out of town. (Excerpt from pbs.org)

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25 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Katherine

    Thank you for the TRUTH!

  2. Reb

    As long as stupid blind parents keep handing over their precious children to these demons this will continue on and on. When you force a child to believe any priest or clergyman is a spokesman for god and they are to obey them, what the hell should be expected?! These men are nothing more than the lowest of the lowest scum of the earth and people actually pay these parasites to rape children.

  3. Big Dipper

    During the 20th Century, many organizations encouraged pedophiles. I am not supporting any of this, but the people on this site seem reasonable, and I would like to put in my perspective.

    The inquisition was Cathoilc Church policy, but the priests who molested children did so on their own urge, and not from a church directive. The real crime was the cover up that followed, but this was again, not a church directive. It was instead, individuals who abused their position.

    Other institutions which have had major child abuse problems are education, and social services. In all of these, grown adults are given extremely huge powers over uninformed and impressionable children, and it is no wonder that child molesters are drawn to these areas. But does it mean that education and social services should be stopped? Obviously not.

    I am no Catholic Church fan, and I am an atheist, but child abuse is an issue in ALL areas where adults have power over children. The fact that molesters are attracted to the church is not the church's fault, but it is certainly something they should have dealt with. Their response was pathetic.

    And by the way, the church as a whole has been abusing people like this for ever.

  4. Reb

    Big Dipper, I suggest you get your facts straight. The RCC as of 2006 has paid out in excess of 800 million dollars to settle pedophile priests cases out of court. Most of these deranged parasites are not jailed nor kicked out of the 'priestcraft', they are moved to another church in another city with a whole new crop of unsuspecting victims.

    I don't give a damn how your mind works but any organization that pays out millions to cover the sins of their own is just as guilty if not moreso. The vatican has the power to see that justice is done but that is never the case. The entire organization is and has been vile and corrupt from the get-go and to try and justify it in any manner just implicates you as an enabler of child abuse.

  5. Big Dipper

    REB - Thanks for the response.

    I think we are on the same page. My point is that there is a big difference between the Inquisition, which was church policy to torture until confession, and the paedophile scandal that rocked the SCC, which was not part of their policy or doctrine. The Inquisition was. I have said the response to the exposed abuse was pathetic. We agree on that. But hear this.

    These are the real facts. The organization of child molesters is very sophisticated. We are so sickened by their abuse, that it is easy to assume they MUST be working alone. I mean, how can anyone plan this with other people for heaven's sake!! But. They do not wear long brown coats and hang out anonymously on their own, with signs saying "get it here kiddies". Instead, they surround themselves with their own kind, who know what is going on, and this allows them to hide their sins with ease. If little Billy complains to his Dad of abuse, and 4 priests claim the child has been acting "wild" and "out of control", then it makes it difficult to not only prove, but prosecute. It just does. Also, if they go to the priest next door and complain, and that priest too is in on the game, then they just tell the child it is God's will, and they will go to hell if they say. There are laws in place to protect the innocent, laws which protect us all and defines our freedom. That is not the fault of the RCC. Finding it is one thing, prosecuting it is a totally different game. Children fear going to hell, and do not speak up. That is what the prosecutors are dealing with.

    None of that is directly the church's fault per se. First and foremost, it is the fault of the priests, and it should never be forgot. Equally, if I was to kill someone tonight, on purpose, and then blame "society", it would be nonsense. The fault would be totally mine. "Society" may have been assisted my decision, but to ignore my culpability directly would be a total sham. At the end of the day, priests are legally employed, and as a result, they have similar workers rights as you and me. You can't just sack someone on hearsay and no evidence. The child molesters know that, and play the game accordingly. They just do.

    But this is not the RCC asking them to do that. It is the priests abusing the RCC, not the other way around. Personal accountability has to take some merit.

    My point, is that this is a different tragedy to the barbarity of the Inquisition. I am not a religious man at all, and have nothing to gain by defending supernatural powers that do not exist. But I do want to defend the society we live in, and preserving the truth is important.

    To finish, the idea that this is a recent scandal is a myth. Throughout it's history, the RCC, and other churches have had child abusers among their numbers, who are very active. The difference is that children today can protest louder, and there are more adequate measures in society to prosecute abusers, and protect children. The huge increase in media awareness has also helped. What has changed is not the activities of a small number of the priests behavior, but our awareness of the abuse taking place. Indeed, sexual abuse is declining overall, but our prosecution of abusers is increasing. This is not due to an increase in abuse, but due to better measures to prosecute, and by creating a better climate for the abused to come forward. So please, this is no defense of the RCC. This is no recent event. The recent event was the breakthrough in exposing it.


    - Of course they are going to pay money to the abused. These are not bribes, but court approved decisions. If an abused child takes them court and wins, the RCC can't with hold payment on any grounds whatsoever, just because it makes them look bad.

    - Yes, you are right, the Vatican should have been much more aggressive in dealing with it, and should have not moved them on to different diocese, but taken them to court. On that we definitely agree. I also assume, the RCC now wish they had done that. But like corruption in Mexico, child abuse was endemic in the RCC, and can't be removed in one day, regardless of how ambitious one is to prosecute. Like the rest of us, they live in the real world.

    - They are priests. They are men who choose to not have sex, hang out with other men of similar disposition and live in a dress, committing their existence wholly to an invisible man in the sky. Their job is to persuade others that we should all think like them. I mean, as a candidate, you've got to be a bit of a weirdo to start with. Surely to take that route means the person is not very well adjusted to begin with, IMHO. A big red flag.

    - My facts are very straight.

  6. Juna

    This is a brave, forthright and honest setting forth of one man's experience of abuse at the hands of a priest. I admire him and his entire, supportive family. I think only because of his loving family has he been able to continue conducting his life without losing his mind, as many have who've experienced such abuse. Shame, shame, on the Catholic Church and its enablers who still obfuscate. Finally the Pope is beginning to admit the truth, but it's been a long, long, time in coming. Now the Pope should fire Cardinal Law and resign himself.

  7. SteveM

    No religion until your old enough to know better, say 18-21 years old. Religion before this is child abuse and the parents are to blame. We could eradicate religion in one generation if this were law.

  8. Charles B.

    I'd vote for no "evolution" taught in school until you can elect to do so at the college level. Evolution before that age is child abuse indeed.

  9. Collette

    Well said SteveM! It makes me wommit what children should go trough by being forsed o believe whatever before their brains are developped enough to really THINK - instead of promotiong critical thoughts and opinions simply...

  10. Big Dipper

    Is it any wonder that priests are sexual deviants?

    No-one wishes to talk openly about their private sexual lives, as it does not allow us to retain our private dignity. However, we all have to admit, that our sexual urges and desires are as strong and as important to our lives as drinking water and eating food. They just are.

    Therefore, for any man to join the priesthood, and to give up or deny his own private sexual life, as a result of that, is just abhorrent. For us to then applaud that, and consider the man to be righteous is just sick and bizarre.

    Surely someone who denies themselves their private sexual life is much more likely to be a candidate for a sexual predator than someone who has a private sexual life within the normal confines of society. Otherwise, men denying their sexual appetite from such a young age is nothing more than a breeding farm for sexual deviancy at a later life. And then these priests instill their own warped sexual deviancy (through rejection of it) onto the children and the youth who attend their churches.

    Indeed, sex shouldn't even be an issue for the church, and yet the only thing they seem to stand for is entirely sexually obsessed. Their main issues seem to be homosexuality, female priesthood, child abuse and condom availability. Outside of that, what has the Catholic Church stood for?

    It has stood for nothing it actually wants to stand for, as the individuals it employs are encouraged to practice a lifestyle which by it's very nature will manufacture men who will become acutely obsessed with all issues relating to sex. If someone does not feed you for a week, go and see how much of your thoughts and conversation and desires revolve around food and eating. It is no different with sex.

    Even from a young age, catholics consider masturbation as an evil act. Again, it is not something we want to scream about from the roof tops, but neither is defecating. Both are private, but both are necessary human functions, that occur naturally. To deny that function, or instill the idea that this private sexual function means that the child or adult is evil or a sinner, and will send themselves to eternal burning is a total nonsense. Beyond that, it is dangerous, and will lead to warped and sexually malfunctioned individuals who have more possibilities of being sexual predators at a later stage in life.

    Beyond this, as previously mentioned, such institutions are going to be appealing to those who have warped sexual preferences themselves, or appealing to those who feel that they will have more opportunities to take advantage of others, especially children, without being caught due to the instillation of authority (from an omnipotent God) and an enormous fear of that authority. Again, it is why schools and social services also attract sexual predators of children.

    The Catholic Church needs to modernize. It needs to allow priests to marry and divorce, and have sex outside of marriage. It needs to allow contraception, and to turn a blind eye to homosexuality. It just does. If it does not, it will never ever be rid of the scandals that have plagued it over it's history. In short, it needs to stop making anyone's private sexual life, it's own public concern. The only thing they need concern themselves with is that they are not harming innocent children, or encouraging sexual practice to those who are below the legal age limit, or between two people whose sexual and personal maturity is not matched. (e.g. a 33 year old with a legally acceptable 17 year old girl).

    The approach from today's society is that sexual advances towards children is a criminal act, and not an internal issue for the church. Covering up such a crime, is no different to covering up information relating to a murder or a robbery, and can not be accepted. The church members are not above the law, and the church does not represent an arena where criminals can be harbored.

    Excellent documentary that shows exactly how warped and sick organized religion can be, and how messed up humans can become when private sexual lives are made the ownership of an omnipotent blood thirsty God.

    At the end of the day though, it is not the Catholic Church which is the crime, but the individuals in it. The Church is just the vessel that makes this happen. It can not be prosecuted, but it does need to be exposed, for being such a lame and pointless organization that has far too much reach into others lives. And much more so than it is at present. The individuals need to do time.

    In relation to Islam, they too are sexual deviants, but in their treatment of women primarily. This too is a sexually motivated stance.

  11. rich miller

    big dipper, you dont get out much do you lol

  12. Hesus


  13. Hesus

    @ Big Dipper

    Long post but a good one. I agree with you.

  14. Santa Claus

    Why doesn't this documentary mention anything about Maradona? Clearly they haven't done their research...

  15. john doe

    why not show docs of vicars, muslim, and other faiths who have abused shildren. its always catholic.

  16. debbye

    The RCC is ABSOLUTELY responsible for their part in the abuse of children. If you want to do some research on this, look up "Crimen Sollicitationis" It is written canon law that protect the priests and scorns the victims of abuse, by threatening them with excommunication!

    Yes, it is the individual priest who has committed the crime, but it is also the church who relocates that priest and all of the people who keep their silence. Canon law trumps criminal law in the eyes of the rcc.

    Do the Pope & other hierarchy actually think they are going to make it into heaven? Until the headlines read, "Law, Lennon, McCormack - DEFROCKED & POPE STEPPING DOWN" the Church will remain in crisis.

    It is certainly not only pertaining to the cases from MA, but worldwide. And this should pertain to ALL those guilty of destroying the innocence of children. It is a loss that never can be recovered.

  17. BeeSmart

    There seems to be a cover-up within the cover-up. This boy was not a victim of pedophile, he was 14. He was, as were too many kids were, a victim of a homosexual priest. Many gay individuals entered the priesthood in the 50s 60s and 70s and many made excellent priests. A large number of the abuse cases were not the result of pedophile. My good fiend left a Catholic training school for priests because he says he was the only straight guy out of a class of 15. Why this abuse of children is lumped into the category of pedophile seems to be an attempt at political correctness. Maybe it is a subcategory of gay activity since these "men" seemed only attracted to young immature males and did not seem to form mature relationships with adults whether male or female. I can understand why the gay community wants NO part of this sorted activity. Pedophiles start on very, very young children and seem to seldom abuse kids over 12. Calling this a pedophile problem seems to avoid hurting a large group of peoples feelings. Or maybe we need a new designation for these guys.

  18. Fred Bazzeeda

    so, are there still those who believe that god is all knowing and all powerful? why doesn't he put a stop to this? complete rubbish. not powerful at all, its all man made fairytales.
    peace, love and unity, not lies!

  19. Jean

    I applaud both of the Cultrera brothers for being honest and open enough to confront the truth. All of us raised in the church have a shared experience of the power given to the heirarchy, and the unfailing loyalty Catholics have given to the institution. It takes remarkable courage to go against any authority that so pervades a social, spiritual, and intellectual center that the local parishes and archdiocese's enjoy. The reach of the church encompasses it's most devout members to such an extent as to blind them to the reality in their midst.
    It is an unfortunate truth that for those of a certain generation they see leaving the church as leaving God. They can't seem to seperate themselves from a greater community, even when it's proven that the community has never been the "rock" they thought it was. They have based their whole life on a fantasy. I feel deep saddness that there aren't some things in this world that are pure, but to live in denial is to abuse the gift of reason.
    I believe that one of my brothers suffered abuse at the hands of a priest and teacher at his high school more than 30 years ago, but is still a titheing, active leader in his parish. He still supports and defends the tenets of the church, as do many other family members. I have contiually tried to dissuade them from supporting this farce, but for them to lose the church would leave them adrift, and they can't even fathom an existence without a base that they have made the church out to be.
    My fervent hope is that someday the revelation will come to them that God is not in a building, institution, or authority, but inside each of us when we look for the truth.

  20. bhupinder gupta

    from the very ancient time one curse is coming on . even gods and devata's , souls were also affected by the curse of evil thoughts of KAAMA (sex) and KAAM(sex) . ( when any god or anyone would had created male and female ,some god would had invented the sex and thoughts of sex (kam) for the birth for childrens ). .but after words the evil thoughts of KAMA (sex) and KAM(sex) became curses . if there would had been no evil thoughts of sex(kaama ) which causes insult and hates . never would had been no one insulted and evil thoughts , the main cause of every quarrel, every insult and every destructions .

    if at those ancients times some wise peoples would have taken wise decissions for the betterment for each others and others , no ramayana, no mahabhartha , no war ,no fight ,no quarrels , in puranic (ancients) times and now nothing would have not taken place .
    A WISH
    never anyone suffer from the evil thoughts of KAMA ( SEX ) and KAM ( SEX ) and evil wisdom , evil thoughts be change into good and noble of every soul ,every molecules of souls ,where ever it may be ,even in any atom under earth or any part of earth ,univers, any kind of hell. . each and every molecule which are taken from humans , souls and be the humans again on the earth as were naturally . every human , soul, molecule get the good wisedom ,good intelegence not to commeiting any sin , not doing wrong bad, not doing anything which cause insult to anyone which makes anyone angry , there be no bad words, no bad thoughts, no hates , no sins, no vengeances, no quarrels , no life lose. be respect for every one , in every soul, human, kundalini , every molecule .there be no any soul, molecule, creatuers, with any kind of suffering , pain , punishment , or any torturings in any kind of hell and under earth or any where in universe ..
    REQUESTS you and REQUESTS to REQUEST and PRAY to EARTH --- there be no any hell under earth .no soul be suffering under earth ,hell ,or any kind of placses under earth for suffering , pain ,punishment or any kind of torturings .
    due to bad wisdom and bad fate every one do mistakes , sins. every one was not born with the good grace nature and qualities not doing mistakes and sins .every soul, every molecule ,every human may be sinner or good get back each and every molecule which are taken from humans ,souls,and be the humans again .and every human ,soul,molecule get the good wisedom ,good intelegence not to commeiting any sin not doing wrong bad,not doing anything which cause insult to anyone which makes anyone angry ,there be no bad words,no bad thoughts,no hates ,no sins,no vengeances,no quarrels ,no life lose. be respect for every one ,in every soul,human, kundalini ,every molecule .there be no any soul,molecule, creatuers,with any kind of suffering,punishment,or any
    torturings .there should not be any hell under earth .no soul be taken to under earth ,hell ,or any kind of placses under earth for suffering ,punishment or any kind of torturings
    in india ,tamilnadu ,human souls are taken under earth ,under rocks ,even to several thousnds kilometers under rocks,taking old revenges ,vengenes ,conspirancies ,polatics and given different shapes .in sevrages and made like aliens .taking under earth and beating and burning .
    even to center of the earth, where no body can be able to find out , under rocks .even converting souls (atamas) to pieces the size of molecules even to newtron, proton size so that no one can search .buring alive .beating , cutting parts of boby of (souls) atama , sending to hell the place like toilt severages where no body sees , making aliens and like aliens from human .joining different souls atamas giveing unnatural shapes .breaking soul cutting hands , legs .stomach ,toungs,seprating layers of body and souls . spoil of budies brains , spoiling souls , kundlanies shakties ,nurves systems ,spoiling humans ,beating souls ,human micro soul powers .
    even taking souls from a very small hole .from the toilet room .and making souls into very very small sizes .
    request ------souls ,grand souls, microsouls or any molecules of human or any creatures should not be taken under earth or any hell for any punishment ,any kind of torturings ,sufferings .and requests, what ever punishment is should be given on the earth only infront of all .
    every one was not born with the god'good grace and nature's good grace of good qualities and the good fate and luck to have good inteligence ,good wisdom ,good qualities ,and circuimstances not to commit ever any mistakes or sins .
    request and pray ---every human every soul either good or bad ,angle or evil ,sinner,demon , god or devil every creature ,every one want to live as a good humanbeing --please save
    request----instead of killing ,spoiling lives,destroying ,sending under earth ,hells ,if some place is given far away from india .and some thing are done for better to improve the qualities of humans and souls .so that every one can live .

    from the time of old vedic (india ancient scriptures time) .puranic stories (indian ancient) time and stories, curses of rishes (saints) devtas (angles) asurans (satans) ( devatas quarrels ) ramanya , mahabharata enemities, conspirancies cheatings ,dirty polatics , mistakes ( THAT TIME MAY BE MISTAKES OF ONE OR TWO PERSONS ) ,old revenges are taking place still going on. due to some bad budhies ( wisedom) ( ????? ) bad thoughts , bad understanding , egos , and adamant natures ( ?? ) ,blaming each others, those enemities and revenges has brought to this level . now it has taken very destruction .
    2 ) if at those ancients times some wise peoples would have taken wise decissions for the betterment for each others and others , no ramayana, no mahabhartha , no war ,no fight ,no quarrels , in puranic (ancients) times and now nothing would have not taken place .

  21. brenns21

    these child molesters, pediphiles, homosexuals, whatever u want to call them do these things on their own, but the catholic church absolutely covers it up, and the reason this has been happening since the beginning of the catholic church is because the popes andd hierarcy kept the truth of the Bible from their perishners and God aloud the devil to take them over, this is where we get anti-popes and this crazy nut that's in their now, every picture of him, if you look at his eyes, you can see the evil.. It's in pain sight...God did not say it is okay to have an inquisition in His name to get rid of so called heritics, from the beginning the popes have gone with the devil and they follow him now...God Bless

  22. robertallen1

    In other words, you as a grown-up believe in the devil. In other words, you know what god (whose existence you can't prove because by nature it is unprovable) "said." In other words, you with obviously no education, especially in the history of the Bible, know which parts of it are true and which aren't. And you expect me or any other well-educated, intelligent person to believe any of your ejaculations.

  23. Hollis Evon Ramsey

    the abusers and enablers clearly do not believe in their god, or any supreme being; else, they would be in fear for their "immortal souls" which they oh so obviously do not believe in, either. the collusion and elaborate cover-up goes all the way to the top, wojtyla and ratzinger knew what was going on and aided and abetted the infamia -- why was law appointed to a prestigious post in rome? as a REWARD???

    here's what should happen -- wojtyla/john paul ii should never be sanctified, beatified, or celebrated in any way, and ratzinger/benedict xvi should be dethroned. and that's just the first step. what should happen next ought to be planned very minutely and exactly, so that true justice may be served.

    if i were to accept pascal's wager, i wouldn't take this god on a bad bet -- it is an evil construct and does not respect its sheeple.

  24. Vic Abacaxi

    Unfortunately, the priests who molested girls were considered less of a threat (see interviews from Deliver Us From Evil), because same-sex rape was more 'natural'. It happens to girls, too. In fact, living in our general culture as a woman is like being trapped inside one big rapey catholic church. 14 is still a child; same sex or opposite sex, it is still abuse. Yes, predators who prefer toddlers are different than those who prefer 9 year olds, and are different that those who go after 14 year olds. But it has nothing to do with orientation.

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