A Survivor’s Take On ‘Spotlight’

by C4C Guest Blogger

Last Friday night, I saw the movie “Spotlight” with two friends. It had been on my “to do” list since I had first seen the trailer. As a Clergy Abuse Survivor, it was interesting to me how the Catholic Church would be portrayed. All too often, Catholic apologists bash the media and critics as being “anti-Catholic” and haters – convenient defenses to cover the scandal within the Church. I was hoping that “Spotlight” would not fall into that trap.

One of the defenses that is also used is “that was in the past – it is not happening now.” However abuse from the past continues to surface involving present day priests. Two years ago, it became public that my abuser was being investigated.

This public announcement caused dozens, myself included, to file additional complaints with the Archdiocese. After two years of investigations, both by the Archdiocese and law enforcement officials in several counties, my abuser decided to quietly remove himself from the priesthood after one claim was substantiated by the Church. He disappears from the roll of active priests in good standing however does not appear on the list of priests who have had their faculties suspended or removed – sort of a clergy “limbo.”

The movie takes place in Boston – a city with many similarities to Philadelphia. A city of neighborhoods. A city where people identify so closely with their parish – their high school. A city where the Catholic Church has substantial influence. All of the major characters, with the exception of the Jewish editor, identify themselves as Catholic even though they admit that they are not regular churchgoers.

First, I want to say that every Catholic should see this movie. Many have closed their eyes for far too long and failed to educate themselves on the extent of the clergy abuse scandal and cover up. As has been said, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

“Spotlight” does an excellent job of creating a profile of victims and how the abuse was cultivated. In one scene, that was particularly relevant to me, a Boston Globe reporter is reading a case file of an accused priest. His victims are listed as “7 boys – 1 girl” and another reporter is shocked that a girl is a victim. It is a standard misconception – that this was a crime against only boys committed by homosexual priests. It was not.

In another scene, Michael Keaton’s character realizes that one of the priests that has been removed taught at his High School – probably a scenario that all of us have experienced. He meets with the Board of Trustees of the High School who proclaim that no one could have known that this was going on. Until one brave man speaks up – “they ran this school as a tight ship – they knew everything – they had to know.”

It was a scene that struck myself and my friends very deeply for it is a question that we have all asked. My High School was a small one. The principal was an old school priest who knew when a piece of paper was in the corner of a hallway. My abuser was at the school for 11 years. They had to know.

Finally, there is a scene with Mark Ruffalo, who plays a Boston Globe reporter and should win an Academy Award for his performance, is upset because the Globe is waiting to print the story. His anger – his frustration – come out in this scene. “They knew and they let it happen. It could have been you, it could have been me. It could have been any of us.” Truer words have never been spoken.

I have heard stories of people standing and applauding as the final scene fades to black and, across the screen scrolls city after city, throughout the country, throughout the world, where abuse claims have been made. In our theater – dead silence.

How was the Catholic Church portrayed? The film plays like a documentary and the evidence presented as well as the investigative process that went into it were both flawless. Apologists cannot argue Catholic bias or hate – it was cold hard facts that dominated the script. In fact, several of the main characters struggle with these results and their Catholic upbringing – a point that was not lost on me as I have faced the same struggle personally and when telling people about my abuse.

As a Survivor, this was a movie I needed to see although I could not have seen it alone and was blessed to have two friends who offered to go with me and have been supportive throughout my recovery. We did not have a doubt as to the magnitude of this scandal – in Boston or in Philadelphia. The question remains – does it still go on now? As the movie portrays, my abuser could be living across from a school, from a playground, from your family or mine. Investigations are still taking place – victims still coming forward. So I think the answer is clear.

48 thoughts on “A Survivor’s Take On ‘Spotlight’

  1. Thank guest blogger for this wonderful summary of this great expose of injustice which began in Boston but has spread like a plague throughout the whole Church, including bishops and clergy, perpetrators and liers and cover ups.
    we can only hope that the whole church will be outraged at this horrible deception, especially the lies which so many in the hierarchy have used to deceive the faithful people.

  2. Dear Susan, Thank you for the heads up on this film – goes to the top of my list. I talked to a Mennonite woman today who was saying that a relative of hers had been bullied and beaten and abused by a now deceased husband. She went to see a counselor about her feelings about the abuse, and now her counselor has attempted to sexually assault her. I had previously researched incest and sexual abuse among Mennonites and Amish and the incidence is virtually the same as it is among non-Plain People. Perhaps the issue is not with any particular faith – perhaps the issue is men who choose to prey rather than pray.

    1. Absolutely. This isn’t reserved for any one faith. It’s a problem that plagues society. The Church should be at the forefront of the battle. Instead, the Catholic Church covers it up and fights legislative reforms that would help children of all faiths.

  3. I also saw the movie “Spotlight” and it should win a ton of awards for it’s well written script that lays out the abuse cover up in a factual and entertaining, due to excellent acting, smooth flowing film. I recently read an excellent book that I highly recommend to everyone. It is “The Black Wall of Silence” written by a local priest Paul F, Morrissey. He wrote it as a novel but it is filled with FACTS! It is a MUST read!

    1. Thanks Joe for your comment. I saw Spotlight last Friday night and the theatre was dead silent after. After reading the book, I attended a meeting with Paul Morrissey on the novel, “Black Wall of Silence” and the dialogue was as beneficial and honest as the book. There is also a website for this book for those who want to know more. Google it! This issue cannot die in the history books. Its not a crime of the past. Its a crime of the present, past and future.

  4. I have heard from many distressed Catholics about seeing this film. It does’nt seem to change their feelings for their church. They think its agreat film, should win awards etc.& Law should be in prison.Nothing more ,nothing less. What’s w r ong with this? “A,must read” but no activeisim…why?

    1. Law definitely belonged somewhere other that where he was assigned by JP II the lesser after he fled Boston, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the fourth most prestigious church in Rome.

      According Wikipedia he now l lives in “The Palazzo della Cancelleria (Italian for “Palace of the Chancellery”, meaning the Papal Chancellery).”

      I have always believe that Law was untouchable because arguably he was once the most powerful cardinal in the US, and knows where “all the bodies are buried.” If Law was were not treated fairly (as he perceivesit) he’d could do a lot of damage to the RRC.

      A parallel example would be Donald Trump handing the presidency to the Dems if he feels unfairly treated. If he were dissed by the RNC he then runs as an independent, and the whole Republican Party comes apart.

      Law, like Trump, is a very powerful man, and has to be handled with the up-most care. Law has the ability to bring down a lot of powerful men including “saint” JP II.

      1. You’re analogy is something: out of outer space, The comparison of a” Company man” and a ‘man of moral certitude. Trump, never had a cigarette ,a drink or drugs during his life. Trump is brilliant and has proved it. by his life and worth. Law is a cowardly lion, proved by where he hides out. ! Law, never made an honest $ in his meager life. Pathetic thinking on your part, Showing your poor judgement, especially linking politics to this analogy.. This is completely: unrelated to a thinking mind who wishes to save a country rather than . a man who wishes to save his skin …… These 2 human beings have nothing to do with each other…. in any way!.THINK AGAIN. !

        1. Sorry you missed my point completely. My point has nothing to do with Trump being good or bad. It has everything to do with power. Both Trump and Law have power, and they can use that power to shape history. If they feel that they are being treated unfairly they may exercise that power. It as simple at that; don’t read anymore into it.

          1. You had no point to miss. It was just a foolish analogy. Law is a complete anti christ.. He could be compared to nothing,because thats what he is. Get it now? The Power, (REAL)belongs to a Godly man, through The Holy Spirit!

      2. I thought Cdl. Law “got off easy” in the film “SPOTLIGHT.” It didn’t show at all that he was the villain; just mentioned in print that he resigned. I have not found anyone agreeing with me though. ???

    1. My experience in a different religious order supports the information provided by Michael Voris. As in his case, I was never sexually attacked, but the the psychological abuse I went through was brutal.

      I was an older (late vocation), and had the means to leave at anytime. Instead, I stayed on for another year to collect evidence against them; yes I was a mole.

      Following that year I sent some of the info to major bishops and cardinals. Among them was Cardinal Law; this was four years before the Boston story broke, so I had no idea he was part of the slime within the RCC (thought he was a good holy man).

      My former order once had multiple million dollar houses in 1st world countries. It now operates primarily in the 3rd world. This was the result of many dozens of successful lawsuits by victims. The orders’ wealth was significantly depleted, and they were thus forced into the 3rd world to find both affordable property and vocations.

  5. I didn’t know Micheal Voris was a survivor of clergy abuse as well. As he states not so much sexual as emotional and spiritual abuse by a predator priest.

    1. Beth that was an amazing video…can’t say I agree with all of it, as it wasn’t a problem of homosexual priests as we know of so many female victims ,but some really hard truths touched on in this clip. There are times over the past few years that I have dealt with the Church in various ways that I have experienced the mentality that he speaks of and do not doubt for one minute what went down at that meeting. That mentality can also be found in organizations in the secular world but is always more shocking when it comes from those who are to be representing Christ.

        1. drwho…can you imagine parishioners taking those steps 20 years ago..even 10 years ago? The blinders are off for many and thank goodness

  6. Yes Kathy I agree. I was going to add that very comment that I am aware that there are many survivors of clergy abuse that are woman and I realize he looks at things thru the lenses of his own experience.

    1. When I was in the RC institution (religious order), I saw that it went far beyond pedophilia. Priest/priests love affairs, blackmail, bath houses, leather SM bars, when it came to perverted sexual behavior, you name it, and they had it going on. I was even aware of one case of bestiality.

      I couldn’t get away fast enough. The RCC is a moral mess. There are good priests, but they’re not running the show. Remember the pope spoke of the Gay Mafia; it’s almost everywhere in the RCC.

      1. drwho13, I saw Spotlight tonite and what struck me was the priest who admitted to “fooling around” with boys. He didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with it. It seems also the bishops and cardinals almost expect the above behavior you mention etc. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a survivor that said he had told Cardinal Krohl he was being abused by a priest and the Cardinal said something to the affect that’s what men do. They are all living double lives. Preaching one set of sexual morality and living another. What do they really believe? Do they even believe in the teachings of the church. I have heard some priests specifically went into the priesthood so that they could abuse children. You are right it is one complete mess. I am interested in what may come out concerning Dolan in this lawsuit as the lay people are suing him directly.

      2. For anyone interested there is a video on churchmilitanttv where they present documents and interview the lay people of NY who are suing Dolan. Its labled “Dolan must go”. The lay person in the video makes a good point if Dolan covered this up what else is or has he coverup?

  7. Your lite chit chat about the goings on in the Catholic church, make me want to throw up with disgust , that this can be known and nothing ever happens to the abusers and the victims are left to disintegrate any religion they might have left and faith goes into the sewer . Talk is so cheap! The devil has done his work & the peoplee say” ok”so what can we do? LEAVE and get on . with your GOD GIVEN LIFE! Iam just as guilty except , I am one less in their midst , fighting with prayer and suplecation at the age of 86.

    1. “Your lite chit chat about the goings on in the Catholic church, make me want to throw up with disgust…” (glorybe1929). “Talk is so cheap!” (glorybe1929).

      I exposed a priest pedophile which resulted in a significant prison sentence. In addition, there are a number of people who have posted here who also have contrubited to the welfare of victums, and taken down criminal priests.

      glorybe1929, why are you so condescending? What have you done?

      You stated,”LEAVE and get on.” You left, but you never managed to “get on.” That’s evident; your still here!

    2. glorybe929, Hm well I had a pedophile tell me I was the reason he was in jail and I have spent over $50,000 in donations to a group that helps survivors of child abuse and have lobbied in Harrisbug with Matt Sandusky in Harrisburg as well as many others on this site. I helped organize and spoke at a meeting on the clergy abuse scandal in Philly in which Vicky was able to speak. I have attended vigils at the AD building and cathedral. I have lunch occasionally with survivors. I have gone to other talks. I have attended walkathons to raise money with Kathy, Susan, Vicky for child sexual abuse awareness and education groups. I went to the Lynn trial to show my support for the survivors. I have written Archbishop Chaput and gotten responds. I have had meetings with my parish priests.Should I continue? and what have you done?

    3. I asked God if I should leave and he said no. God helped me put a predator in jail and I trust in him although I don’t understand everything he wants of me. I have encountered Christ a few times and the devil twice sometimes I wish I was still ignorant it doesn’t require sacrifice. When you know God requires more of you and its a struggle daily.

    4. Glorybe please move on..it is only a matter of time before you start yelling at us in all CAPS again..I have no idea how your posts managed to surface on C4C again but enough is enough. You have offended everyone at some point over the years ..victims, advocates,survivors, family members, catholics, non catholics. Goodbye and good luck

      1. Kathy thanks. I think people should be able to say how they feel. She just hit a sore spot as I have been directly impacted by child sexual abuse and I will never be the same. I have asked God many times to show me what he wants me to do. On another note churchmilitantv is very conservative but they have a tipline and a news van that travels the country trying to expose corruption in the catholic church just an fyi they usually are able to get to the bottom of things and I hope they continue to expose the evil in the church for the public to see so it can be cleaned up.

  8. I am also the mother of 3 kids and I have 2 dogs and have had a number of health issues so I think I have done the best I can.

  9. I am tired so I was rambling on. God knows my heart and that’s all that matters. Child sexual abuse has basically destroyed my life but I am coming out of the ashes thanks to friends here and other places.I just want you to know I don’t take any of this lightly I am well aware of how horrible and sad it is.

  10. I wrote earlier that I was sorry I hit a defensive sore spot on this blog. I know you all care and are doing your best. I believe Im doing the same thing . I hope you will forgive me as that’s what is required of us. Jesus said 7 x 70 and He didnt say, minute, day, hour, month , just 7×70. Thats how my husband & I did it for 64 years,before he died in July of 2015. Please forgive my insensitivity. At 86 , I should know better.Please forgive me. No excuses from me!

    1. glorybe1929,
      I forgave you yesterday. I am sorry for the lost of your husband. It is very difficult to lose a loved one and especially difficult around the holidays. The good news is we will see them again God willing so on that note Merry Christmas and God Bless you!

  11. Thank you so much Beth for your kindness. My daughter and I , who I live with, in Parker,Colo. are flying to Scottsdale, Ariz. for Christmas where we are all getting together, all 9 of us at our sons haceinda….First Holidays without granpa will be hard. God bless you all and The Peace of Jesus be with you all!

  12. Gloria Sullivan,
    It’s the first I knew of your loss and you have my prayers and condolences. I am glad you returned to ask forgiveness. I am right behind you at 83 and I share your impatience with
    what sometimes seems stubborn resistance from Catholics we have been trying to reach for so long. Just keep on planting those seeds.

  13. Thank you Nichols and those who share my impatience in getting the laity to believe the reality of the evil we’re all tryng our best to remove from a once ( what we thought was a )holy place) .. It was my life. for so long. My faith then was in a place where clergy told me what to do….I was faithful and arrogant in that ! I did all the right things. The clergy was a supposed god, a Christ on earth here to listen to & obey. I did all that. Until I could no longer brag about
    my church being the” one & only true church”. God showed me in no uncertain terms, to worship HIM &,HIM ALONE. HE said ” the Kingdom of God is Within you!” HE will never leave y ou or forsake you!” HE hasn’t! HE,won’t and being a. believer
    in HIM is better! Where you do it is your business.

  14. I’m not Catholic. And I hope you’ll excuse my intrusion, but I felt a need to uncover the reality of the current situation regarding clergy abuse victims. As a victim who recently lost my civil action due to Statutes of Limitations, I quickly found myself completely isolated and not knowing where to turn if I had any expectation of a chance at recovery. The Pope’s “Commission to Prevent the Abuse of Minors” has stated that one of their missions is to help support victims as they recover. I want all Catholics to know this is simply lip service to appease the public. I have made considerable attempts to contact the director of this Commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, his victim’s support coordinator as well as the Secretary, Msgr Oliver at the Vatican and was consistently ignored. I then asked “with whom should I establish contact in order to request help and support?” I was met with deafening silence.

    I’ve since learned that many parishioners under the Charlotte Diocese believe that I recanted allegations, there was no confession and the media “got it wrong.” Of course all the of the are completely incorrect. One parishioner told me “someone with the church” when I asked where this information came from.

    Like @Beth, my life has been destroyed by this abuse. And while most of my life I found myself uncomfortable with the notion of religion, I can proudly say that I am a much better person than many of the Catholics who have failed innocent children and continue to fail desperate survivors of priest sexual abuse by trivializing the damage and shame placed on the shoulders of victims, denigrating and bashing victims who simply want a chance at a happy life, the Pope who speaks one way but does another and the many hateful Catholics who belive that survivors are anti-Catholic and push their hate every chance they get.

    I’m not specifically addressing anyone here, unless I am. In which case you know who you are. The church has taken no measurable steps to protect children from future assaults and especially not taken steps to assist, embrace, support or help heal survivors. Msgr Oliver offered that I attend a local parish and participate in the trauma support groups, finally. After I raised hell with a British Member of Parliament who serves on the Commission. His offer, needless to say, is insulting of not condescending.


    1. You’re welcome here. No intrusion. The lip service is just icing on a $h*t cake they served. Pardon my vulgarity but I’ve had it today and can’t muster your eloquence. What is measurable are the steps the Church continues to take to protect itself at the expense of children. If the Catholic Conference would stop lobbying against statute of limitations reform ALL victims of child sex abuse would be far better off and ALL children today and in the future would be better protected. Until they do that, I don’t believe a word. I’ll take spirituality and morality over empty religion any day.

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