“Spotlight” won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. The highly acclaimed film details the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church sex scandal.
Does this matter to abuse victims? I think it does. Here’s why.
To begin with, the film and the attention it has received have heightened public awareness of abuse. Viewers come away with a better understanding that predators can lurk anywhere, even in plain sight and priestly garb.
More than that, “Spotlight” sheds light on a mindset and bureaucratic structure within the church that facilitated abuse.
The highest levels of authority within the Catholic Church enabled abuse by systematically covering-up what may have been thousands of instances. In the vast majority of cases, the church did not defrock predator priests. Instead, it transferred them to new parishes, allowing them continued access to children without so much as warning the new parishes.
And the church failed to report these crimes against children to civil authorities, abandoning and betraying the children under its care.
For all such reasons, the church must be viewed as complicit in the abuse perpetrated.
This is not ancient history. The victims of clergy abuse continue to wrestle with the scars of that abuse today. Many will never obtain justice.
But change comes slowly. The Catholic Church’s Advisory Counsel for the Protection of Minors now teaches that church officials have a moral and ethical duty to report suspected abuse to civil authorities . As recently as September of last year, however, Monsignor Tony Anatrella had argued that reporting was not required by church law.
Hopefully, what victims can take away from “Spotlight” is a recognition that any shame associated with abuse is the predator’s alone…not theirs. Other moviegoers should already know that.
 Crux, “Papal Commission: Bishops Must Report Sex Abuse Charges”, 2/15/16, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/15/papal-commission-bishops-must-report-sex-abuse-charges/.
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