Former Maynooth head has role in 'spiritual' US film

The Irish Times/September 24, 2004

Mgr Micheál Ledwith, the former president of Maynooth College who resigned following allegations of abuse, is appearing in a new film on quantum physics and spiritual enlightenment, now on general release in cinemas in the US. Liam Reid reports.

He is one of a number of theologians and scientists who appear as themselves in What The #$*! Do We Know, also known as What the Bleep Do We Know, a drama-documentary starring the Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin.

Mixing drama, documentary interviews and animation, the storyline centres on Matlin's character, Amanda, and her quest for spiritual enlightenment. Mgr Ledwith is one of a number of academics and scientists interviewed in documentary style, about quantum physics theory and its relevance to spiritualism.

The circumstances of the resignation of Mgr Ledwith are still being investigated by the Ferns inquiry, which is examining the handling of allegations of abuse made against priests in the diocese. Originally a priest of the Ferns diocese, Mgr Ledwith was president of Maynooth for 10 years before he resigned without explanation in 1994.

In June 2002, following newspaper reports, including a series in The Irish Times, the 17 bishops who are trustees of St Patrick's College Maynooth admitted that Mgr Ledwith had been accused by a seminarian of abusing him when the seminarian was a boy. The statement said that, while Mgr Ledwith vehemently denied the allegation, he made a confidential settlement with the complainant in late 1995. The college is also conducting an independent inquiry into the handling of complaints by seminarians in the early 1980s about Mgr Ledwith's behaviour towards clerical students.

Since the late 1990s Mgr Ledwith has been a lecturer at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, a New Age school run by Ms J.Z. Knight, who claims to be the channel for a 35,000-year-old warrior from the lost city of Atlantis.

Ms Knight is one of those interviewed in the film. Matlin won an Oscar for her role in Children Of A Lesser God in the 1980s and has recently been seen in the television drama, The West Wing.

The publicity for the film makes no reference to Mgr Ledwith's clerical status, although it notes his position in Maynooth and his previous membership of the International Theological Commission which, it says, is "a small group of theologians of international standing, charged with advising the Holy See on theological matters."

The film has received mixed reviews in the American press. The Washington Times described it as "a chaotic mess," while the New York Times found it "part perky educational film, part goofy New Age recruitment effort."

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