spotlight: the oscar winning movie the catholic church probably wishes you would NOT see…but you should

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Spotlight was the movie we had all heard of sort of, but not really. It wasn’t featuring Marvel superheroes, didn’t have R2D2 and Hans Solo skipping across galaxies far far away, it wasn’t embroiled in Hollywood’s color war. It is a movie so incredibly freaking profound that if you DON’T see it now, you are missing something extraordinary, significant, moving and very, very real.

Spotlight is the story of the Boston Globe Spotlight reporters who did the unthinkable: they took on the Catholic Church in Boston in 2001-2002 over pedophile priests.  This dogged team of reporters and an editor who assigned them the story did the unthinkable at the time. They actually took down Boston’s powerful Cardinal Bernard Law.

Cardinal Bernard Law, now retired, much like has happened with these pedophile priests was essentially sent away and not to a life of reflection and penance, just read here:

Where Is Cardinal Bernard Law Now?

WBUR Boston

 Updated September 22, 2015,

…when critics call for more transparency and accountability, it’s Cardinal Bernard Law they often point to.

Law was forced to resign as bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston after a series of stories by a team of investigative reporters at The Boston Globe found victims and uncovered documents showing that church authorities had protected pedophile priests from prosecution — a story that will be revisited by the release next month of a new movie called “Spotlight.”

But despite the disgrace that befell Cardinal Law in Boston, he found a comfortable and influential second career at the Vatican….

The Globe’s Spotlight team of investigative reporters had revealed that Law and other bishops before him had covered up the priests’ crimes against children, then moved the priests to new parishes and, as it turned out, new victims.

But during that press conference, the cardinal insisted not once, but three times that it was all in the past. Not a pedophile priest was still in service.

“When he made those statements, we knew they were false,” says Globe editor Walter Robinson, who was on the team that uncovered the abuse….Like Nixon, Law said he wouldn’t go. But eventually he had to — a grand jury was afoot and both priests and parishioners were demanding he step down….

A poster boy for the sexual abuse scandal in one country, Law came to another, the Vatican, in May 2004, where protected and assisted by friends and allies he actually became more influential than he had ever been in Boston.

Pope John Paul II named Law archpriest of one of Rome’s four papal basilicas, and its most magnificent: Santa Maria Maggiore, the first church dedicated to Mary….Law, who had only given up his position as archbishop of Boston, was allowed to keep his seat in the College of Cardinals….

Law is about to turn 84 — he’s grown old in Rome, listening to Italian church bells.

Now retired, he can no longer cast a vote to elect a new pope or to recommend the appointment of new bishops. But he still wears a red hat and, by all accounts, lives comfortably in the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome — the Palazzo della Cancelleria, or the Papal Chancellery.

This article, which was a news story September 2015 is long and well worth everyone reading either before or after seeing Spotlight, the movie. And thanks to The Boston Globe, you can now read once again  the story behind the ‘Spotlight’ movie.

This movie Spotlight moved me like no other in years, truly. It wasn’t cute or sweet or a date night movie. It was raw and real and while you don’t want kids to see it they almost should.

And I so got this movie.


Because for years, I lived in a neighborhood in Lower Merion Township loaded with small children and a slightly creepy priest who is now convicted and jailed pedophile priest (now inmate number KL8296 look him up)

After the Boston Globe and their groundbreaking series of articles other major cities in the US with major Catholic Church strongholds started investigating and publishing.  It happened with the Philadelphia Inquirer. I believe 2003 was the start.  You can’t seem to find that far back on the the Inquirer’s website, but Bishop Accountability has articles dating back from the paper to December 2003.

And it was a Sunday in 2005 that I remember a front page story of all of these priests in the Philadelphia Inquirer and all their photos. That was when a slew of information was released in a grand jury report.

There was the priest from my neighborhood. He had been placed on administrative leave in 2003. Eventually he was de-frocked. But no one watched this guy, he wasn’t on Megan’s List, he roamed our neighborhood. And when both his mother and brother passed he inherited a very valuable apartment building property in our neighborhood and lived there.

He drove a Lexus with vanity plates even while a priest. He was even seem driving through our neighborhood in warmer weather in what we swore was an older gold Rolls Royce convertible in a panama hat.

If you flash forward to 2012, you can find on Bishop Accountability an entire file on this guy written by Ralph Cipriano for the Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog:

“Father Ed” … liked to hang out at Smokey Joe’s and drink beer with college kids. He was into sleepovers with altar boys. He also preferred to spin records as a DJ rather than say Mass….The priest, a defendant in the archdiocese sex abuse case, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old, and faces a prison sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years. But that guilty plea didn’t end Father Ed’s role in the ongoing archdiocese sex abuse case.

…A psychological examination of the priest concluded that Father Ed had a bi-polar disorder, and a history of alcohol abuse. A psychologist wrote to tell Msgr. Lynn that Father Ed was also “dealing with shame.” It happened after the victim confronted Father Ed at St. John Vianney. After treating the priest, the psychologist wrote Msgr. Lynn that he had “concern about other victims.”

(here is a PDF of a cache of the original referring blog: _The Avery Files_ _ Big Trial _ Philadelphia Trial Blog )

Yup this guy was not only roaming free until he went to prison (which I wrote about on this blog in 2012) but when he went for “treatment” it was to that St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown. I was told this is a quasi-open campus? And is it near schools?

So anyway there is a scene in Spotlight where one of the reporters realizes a “treatment center” for problem priests was around the corner from his home.  It made me think of all of this.

I wrote in my 2012 post :

In late October 2009 while at a political event for a potential local candidate from my old neighborhood, he approached me.  Why me I will never know, because we weren’t buddies.  He was always filed as be polite and keep on moving whenever I saw him.   He sat there with a beer in his hand and told me how he was being targeted blah, blah, blah.  There I sat with camera in hand not knowing what to do.  It was horribly uncomfortable to listen to someone you did not believe for one hot moment with empathy.  I remember saying to him his choice of venue to discuss his current events with neighbors and locals was inappropriate at best, and if he was innocent, the truth would will out.  Ick.

What I did not write about at the time was later speaking to the person running for office and people volunteering for him asking them if they ever read the newspaper because at that point in time, that guy had already been on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer and in a slew of other articles. Would you have wanted this guy at a political fundraiser where kids were actually in attendance? (Again he eventually pled guilty to abuse charges in 2012.)

(Here is a giant docket on the PA Courts website about these pedophile priests in the Lynn trial.)

Flash forward a couple of years and  it  also brings to mind a conversation I had with a then very pompous and sour Monsignor at St. Catherine of Siena in Wayne a few years back during of all things a viewing before a funeral.  At the time, I was planning a move to Wayne and that would have been my new parish had I chosen one.  This man was all up in my face about getting married in “The Church.” In March 2011, that parish had a priest removed on suspected abuse charges. And it was the one who had given me a “talking to” as it were.

Once again it made me think about the irony of the Catholic Church being worried about my immortal soul, yet for how long in the greater Philadelphia area did they move pedophile priests around like some sort of twisted shell game or chess pieces on a board?

And when I moved to Chester County I was reminded of even more pedophile priests removed from Chester County parishes. They were written up in an article in Main Line Media News in 2011.  They were from St. Isaac Jogues, Our Lady of the Assumption (rectory), and St. Patrick’s parish right in the Borough of Malvern. At the time NBC10 Philadelphia did a great report on this (CLICK HERE).

I will freely admit as a Catholic that I still can’t reconcile what my church and the Archdiocess of Philadelphia did over the years. I can remember when I was in my early twenties when a guy who was dating a friend of mine at the time recounted a story of a abusive priest when he was growing up. The obvious pain when he spoke about it at the time was palpable. Can’t remember the guy’s name – it was too long ago. But I can still remember the pain on his face as he spoke of it and the experience of basically no one much believing him.

These abuse stories have grown and multiplied over the years locally, internationally, and nationwide. They aren’t going away, yet the Catholic Church here in the US really doesn’t want you dwelling on them.

The Catholic Church is by it’s very history a very powerful machine. Politically, socially, religiously. If you speak out about the Catholic church even in a local setting, you are absolutely guaranteed to make someone uncomfortable.  In 2014 when a monsignor involved in the Philadelphia cover-up was released from jail, reporter Karen Heller summed it up beautifully she wrote the Philadelphia Archdiocese was prolonging it’s own suffering.

The Pope’s visit to Philadelphia in 2015 once again placed the sexual abuse spotlight back on Philadelphia (as well as placed an interesting spotlight on the very ambitious and often seemingly cold fish Archbishop Charles Chaput.) The Pope’s comments in Washington DC on the topic were criticized and I am sure Philadelphia’s Chaput wasn’t thrilled the Holy Father met with abuse victims.

This month, a couple of weeks ago another pedophile priest (this time from SS Simon and Jude in Westtown) was sentenced to 20 years in prison. (See February 19, 2016  Philadelphia Inquirer article by Jeremy Roebuck.)

And after watching Spotlight, I think everyone should say “thank you” to both the real reporters from Boston who broke this wide open in 2002 but to the actors and filmmakers who told their story so incredibly well. No wonder these reporters won a Pulitzer in 2003.

This also should make us respect and want to keep our print newspapers across the country alive. So many newspapers are essentially on life support.  They tell our stories, they risk their own careers and lives to tell a lot of these stories.

Here is what CNN said this morning about the Oscars for Spotlight:

(CNN)“Spotlight” is basking in the golden glow of Oscar….when the last award of the evening was read, it was the little film about Boston Globe investigative reporters digging into a sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests that was left standing.

“This film gave a voice to survivors,” producer Michael Sugar said. “And this film amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican.”

It was one of just two awards “Spotlight” took home. The film also won for Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s original screenplay.

I will freely and fully admit that it was the Oscar buzz and subsequent win that made me sit and watch the movie “Spotlight”.

I urge everyone to watch this movie regardless of their faith, but especially if they were raised Catholic.

When you are raised Catholic unless you experienced the horror of clergy sexual abuse you have a hard time wrapping your head around the topic. At first. Then you realize some of the accused are a little too close to where you call home. Then you wonder why your Church expects the fealty and obedience of the devout and faithful is so hypocritical. It’s quite a dilemma.

I myself am Catholic. I was raised Catholic. I am still Catholic but have I been to Catholic church in a few years? Except for funerals, no.  Do I consider myself lapsed? No, even if some would disagree.  I am still a Catholic but I have somewhat lost faith in my church.  How have they protected the children with their ongoing cover their ass? How are those actions God speaking through them?

I can’t answer that. Maybe someday I will. Until then, I know where God is and that anyone can speak to him, you just have to believe.

I am sure this post will be a bit heavy for some, and I am sorry for that.  But seriously? Spotlight really mad me think about this whole thing again. Go see it and if you live in Chester County support non-profits like Justice4PAKids.

Thanks for stopping by

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5 thoughts on “spotlight: the oscar winning movie the catholic church probably wishes you would NOT see…but you should

  1. I just watched Spotlight yesterday, and I also remember the 2005 article when it came out – I googled it while I watched Spotlight, to remind myself of the atrocities that went on in our local churches.

    Our large Irish-Catholic family never missed Mass growing up, and my parents were very generous supporters of our parish in South Jersey. The day that article came out in 2005, we learned that three priests who had been in our home numerous times (Holy Communion parties, etc.) were sex abusers. We had already known about a fourth priest who was listed in the article – he was banished from our church and moved into his family home in Brigantine, where he continued to molest boys until a few residents found out and littered the telephone poles of Brigantine with warning signs about him. In 2005, we also learned the truth about the priest from Philadelphia who had officiated my sister’s wedding a few years earlier. He had molested several little girls.

    For these and many other reasons, I’m an atheist now. I’ll admit that I quietly judge staunch Catholics. How can someone support an organization that actively worked to protect rapists for years and years? I just can’t work it out in my head.

    Thanks for writing about this subject.

  2. Thanks for a most interesting post, Carla, and one that hits home for me, too. Many moons ago, your Lower Merion priest was also my priest, albeit briefly. He was “the cool young priest” at St. Bernadette’s, my elementary school and parish in Drexel Hill. I remember him taking boys away on overnight trips to the Poconos. Ugh.
    I saw Spotlight when it first came out and adored it. (As you know I’m a journalist!) I clearly remember the audience at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute sitting in silent shock as the closing credits rolled. I was ashamed of my religion.
    Only one point of disagreement – your headline. Pope Francis actually urged Catholics to see Spotlight.
    In case you’re wondering, I remain a practicing Catholic, my faith “rescued” by the honorable Norbertines at St. Norbert in Paoli and a pretty awesome Pope from Argentina…

    • I wasn’t referring to Pope Francis I was referring to the American Catholic Church which as you know is not happy with how Francis wants the church to atone for sins

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