The film “Spotlight”, the story of the journalists who covered the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston from director Tom McCarthy, won the Academy Award for best picture this Sunday. The film starring big name actors such as Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and others tackles the sordid, disgraceful, and heartbreaking investigation into the case of laicized former priest John Geoghan.
While one might expect the Vatican to react defensively to such a high profile award being given to a film that shows the Church in negative light, the reaction however from the Vatican’s newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano” was honest and forthright.
The editorial states that “The film is not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.”
It goes on to point out that while the movie explores the theme of how “too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes” the movie does not show the full picture of the “tenacious battle that Joseph Ratzinger undertook against pedophilia in the Church”. The editorial rightfully points out that “one film cannot tell all.”
The article makes no equivocation concerning the grave nature of the sins of the churchmen involved in the scandal covered in the film. “All this cannot justify the extremely grave fault of those who, while seen as God’s representatives, use this authority and prestige to exploit the innocent. The film is adept at recounting this detail, giving space to the inner devastation that these acts generate in the victims, who no longer have a God to plead with, to ask for help.”
The former priest John Geoghan who was investigated by the Boston Globe, as portrayed in the movie, was eventually convicted of sexual abuse, laicized, and sentenced in 2002 to nine to ten years in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison. Less than a year later, he was was strangled and stomped to death in his cell by a fellow inmate.
The editorial closes with “The fact that a call arose from the Oscar ceremony — that Pope Francis fight this scourge — should be seen as a positive sign: there is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor, then still a cardinal. There is still trust in a faith that has at its heart the defense of victims, the protection of the innocent.”