by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
In 2002 The Boston Globe newspaper exposed a widespread practice by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston of routinely moving pedophile priests between parishes and settling with abuse victims out of court and out of the public eye. Now we get to see ‘Spotlight,’ a remarkable film that shows us what Globe reporters had to go through to expose this secret.
A recent Boston Globe article (11/10/15) reports, “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in September drew up the guidance and statistics in anticipation of the movie’s release.”
A spokesman for the bishops said, “Church leaders wanted dioceses to be ready to speak to victims who experienced pain with the release of the movie–and to show them–and the wider public that the church has changed.”
The movie’s cast is stellar. The Spotlight investigative team is headed by Michael Keaton, believable as the seasoned editor, Walter “Robby” Robinson. Mark Ruffalo does a fine job portraying the passionate, young investigative reporter, Mike Rezendes. Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery round out the newspaper team whose performances will resonate with every journalist who sees this film. Stanley Tucci is terrific as Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney representing abuse victims.
Tom McCarthy directed and co-wrote this extraordinary movie. It is no surprise that this film is already generating award talk among many film critics. It’s the best movie about journalism since the 1976 Watergate story, ‘All the President’s Men,” if not the best ever.
What made the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, which began in 2001, so significant was its demonstration of the efforts of the corporate church to hide a catastrophic problem that eventually was uncovered across the nation and around the world. This film provides insight into the maze of cover-ups faced in confronting the culturally privileged Roman Catholic Church. In the film, the Globe itself is not above scrutiny and references are made to Globe leadership ignoring early reports of abuse. The film brilliantly shows the dogged, painstaking work that’s required of investigative journalists to get the facts and hold institutions accountable.
The Boston Globe initially uncovered the cover-ups and navigated cultural road blocks to expose the Catholic Church in its wrong doing. Now ‘Spotlight’ takes the evil of child sexual and spiritual abuse by priests out from under the dark rock where it tries to hide and makes it easily available to the realm of public scrutiny. This film is terrific. It is a full feature “public service announcement” on the bright, big screen.
“For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed.” (John 3:20)
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels