“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 [1]. 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.

[1] Crux, “Papal Commission: Bishops Must Report Sex Abuse Charges”, 2/15/16,



Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Religion, Sexual Abuse

8 responses to “Spotlight

  1. Karmughil Vannan

    Spotlight winning the Oscar for best picture would throw some greater lights…

  2. While not familiar with the film “Spotlight” I am familiar with the history of the church (Catholic and Protestant) as it relates to sexual predators. As you said Anna, this is not ancient history but something that is happening continually today. And lest we think this is some new form of abuse,I recall my own mother telling of stories over 50 years ago of priests sexually abusing boys.

    People who do this to children are not Christian,and we must understand that there is no gray area,no room for debate on this point. There is absolutely nothing Christlike about sexually abusing children. We must not permit their robes or religious garb to hide the fact that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are lost,on their way to eternal punishment except they repent. No matter how much scripture they quote or how well versed in the ordinances of the church they may be, Hell awaits them lest they repent.

    Less than ten miles from me is a church whose former pastor was sent to prison for many years for sexually abusing boys. One of those individuals was a close friend of mine when we were both in our twenties. I can assure you that his life has been one of torment, guilt,and shame, while his abuser is often seen smiling as if he hasn’t a care in the world.Later in life he himself fell into sexual sin and lost everything,including his family. How many tens of thousands of such examples are out there?

    I’m all for bringing attention to the abuse and predation of the innocent and wish much more could be done, but until these predators are removed from society and can no longer hurt another child there is still much more to do.

    From where I sit the church has blood on its hands regarding sexual abuse,and the One who said to “suffer the little children” is one day going to require an answer be given.

    • Well said, Ron. It greatly heartens me that good men like yourself are as distressed by crimes against children as I am. I would add only that the “forgiveness” extended such predators by the church was nothing more than a parody of that sacrament. The church fostered secrecy solely to protect its worldly reputation. Like you, I believe there will be eternal consequences for that decision.

      • Anna,I never thought I would live to see the time when such heinous acts against children would not only become common in society,but also in many factions of the church.

        I cannot believe that the writers of the New Testament could have foreseen such a thing taking place in the one place where safety and security should be automatic.I say that because though they did indeed warn us of many things to come,such abhorrent behavior was not among them.My finite mind sometimes wonders if the Almighty Himself is not shocked at how far His masterpiece of creation has fallen!

        For this reason and many others I maintain that we are living in perilous times indeed.

        May God have mercy upon us.

  3. krc

    thanks for sharing about this film

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