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‘Spotlight’ earns critical praise, tells important story: Part I

Posted in Sexual Abuse on Thursday, February 4, 2016.

We are now in the midst of “awards season,” when the film and television industries are honored for their best works and their brightest stars. Although not everyone is a fan of awards shows, many Americans have been pleased to hear about the accolades one film has been earning. The movie “Spotlight” and its cast have already won major awards and have been nominated for numerous Oscars.

Spotlight tells the true story of a small team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the culture of sexual abuse and secrecy within the Catholic Church – particularly in the Boston area. Because the first such exposés were published in 2002, some may feel that this story is too recent to be considered film-worthy. But when you consider how many sex abuse allegations against the church have come to light since then, it is important to remember that these reports were the first to show that clergy sexual abuse was systemic and that cover-ups were often church policy.

The sins of an entire institution

The film focuses on the Spotlight team’s efforts to draw a larger connection between seemingly disparate reports of child sexual abuse by priests. Up to that point, allegations against priests occasionally became public, but the Catholic Church was able to distance itself by condemning these cases as “isolated” and committed by a few “bad apples.” News reporters and the general public largely seemed satisfied with those explanations and failed to dig deeper.

The Spotlight team, acting on tips from victims and church insiders, discovered that sex abuse was common and that cover-ups were the rule rather than the exception. What began as a group of about 13 alleged victims and several accused priests (in the Boston area) quickly grew to approximately 1,000 victims and nearly 100 credibly accused priests. Since then, the list of publicly accused clergy in the Boston Archdiocese has grown to at least 271.

At the very end of the movie, on-screen text notes that sex abuse scandals have since been uncovered in dioceses around the United States and across the globe. The number of these cases is staggering.

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.