Throwback Thursday: “Spotlight” exposes predatory priests and cover-up

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 27, 2015 and has been completely revised.

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Prior to 2002, sporadic reports of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests had been relegated to the back pages of newspapers, if reported at all. But in 2001-2002, the “spotlight” investigative journalism team of the Boston Globe uncovered large scale clerical sexual abuse within the archdiocese of Boston as well as the systematic cover-up by cardinal Bernard Law and other diocesan administrators. The film, “Spotlight” (2015), depicts the efforts of the newspaper team to bring the truth to light despite opposition from all sides.

Spotlight
Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci
Open Road Films, 2015, 129 minutes

5 Stars

Plot

It’s 2001 and the Boston Globe’s newly-hired editor (Schreiber) directs Walter “Robby” Robinson (Keaton) and his three-person, crack investigative team to dig into the possibility that the Boston archdiocese hierarchy has been covering up for priest sexual abusers. One of the journalists, Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), contacts a lawyer (Tucci) who has been advocating for multiple victims of priest abuse, although with little success up to that point. The team gets to work and begins to uncover the enormity of clerical abuse within the archdiocese. They begin with a list of twenty pedophile priests, which eventually grows to ninety. Circumstantial evidence shows cardinal Law repeatedly transferred abusive priests within the archdiocese. There’s also evidence that public safety and court officials cooperated with the church hierarchy in keeping the abuse “problem” under wraps. Robby and the spotlight investigative team eventually unearth hard documentation proving Law’s enablement of the abusers and the systematic cover-up. The Globe begins publishing a series of articles on the scandal in early-2002. The movie’s epilogue states that cardinal Law (d. 2017) resigned his office in 2002 and was immediately transferred to Rome and that a total of 249 priests and brothers in the Boston archdiocese were eventually credibly accused of abuse (as of 2015).

Comments

“Spotlight” is admittedly a tough movie to sit through because of its tragic and sordid subject matter. The story is well-written, although somewhat difficult to follow because of the preponderance of names that are mentioned by necessity. It’s tough to tell the “players” without a scorecard. I saw this film at the theater when it was originally released in 2015, but I was able to follow along much better when I watched it the second time via Amazon streaming in April 2020. The cast does an excellent job, especially the spotlight team members, Keaton, Ruffalo, and McAdams. In 2016, “Spotlight” was nominated for six Oscars (including nominations for Ruffalo and McAdams for their supporting roles) and won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Many theater-goers didn’t want to deal with the film’s controversial subject material. “Spotlight” was the second-lowest domestically grossing film to win Best Picture in the past four decades.

I’m so grateful this film was produced and the public got to see the sordid story of the widespread abuse by priests and the systematic cover-up by church officials. Starting in Boston, the breadth of this scandal has been revealed to be nationwide and worldwide with similar circumstances of abuse and hierarchical cover-up. In the last two years, the scandal turned into a tsunami with abuse being exposed in the highest offices of the church. Multiple states have lifted statutes of limitations allowing survivors to sue their dioceses several decades after the abuse was committed. To date, 21 dioceses in the U.S. have filed for bankruptcy to protect their assets from survivors.

In one scene, Ruffalo’s character angrily rails against the totally corrupt church for destroying his “faith.” The faith that’s represented is misplaced. Roman Catholics need to repent of their sin and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to lead them to an evangelical church in their area that preaches the Gospel without compromise.

26 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: “Spotlight” exposes predatory priests and cover-up

  1. I’ve seen this all star cast movie on dvd, months after it was shown, Tom. I regretted that I did not watch it on widescreen. I like the way they did the investigation of documents and witnesses. One of those was a priest who was an abuser because he too was abused back then.

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    1. Thanks, Kent. I appreciated the movie the first time but even more the second time because I was better able to mentally keep track of the large roster of protagonists and antagonists.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, Tom, the movie had many good actors in its cast (some of them would later work for Marvel). It is a journalistic team-based take on Sherlock Holmes, in some degree. Thank you, Tom, for reminding me of this movie, it is good to review and add this in my list for this long vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister! Regrettably it’s not available for free via Netflix or Amazon Prime so I had to pay Amazon a few dollars to view it but it was worth it. A very moving story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought better of getting into that nasty to-do list. Will start working on apologetics post for Friday, May 1st instead. Speaking of May, only 2 weeks to May and today it snowed like January in ROC.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s all melted now but it was coming down pretty heavy for about one hour this afternoon. Yeah, snow is the last thing people in ROC want to see on April 16th.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the name Bernard Law! Tragic the whole affair and it was the first expose I heard about. Hope this film gives more exposure to the problem, and I hope people searching info on the movie will find your review and Gospel presentation

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, Crissy, although “enjoy” isn’t the correct word to use given the focus of the film. Yes, I saw that Pell was acquitted. I’ve included that news in my weekend report. I see the family of the deceased victim is going to sue Pell in civil court and that new allegations against Pell are currently being investigated.

      Liked by 1 person

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