This afternoon I went out to see the movie Spotlight. It was in one area theater for a while and the run ended perhaps a month ago. After winning the Oscar for best picture this theater brought it back for another run.
For those who don't follow movie news, this is the story of the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe newspaper. They (not their bosses) pick a story and investigate it in detail. A new boss encourages them to write about a Catholic priest and allegations of him sexually molesting kids. They accept the idea. The team encounters such things as no public records because cases were settled through mediation instead of the courts. They listen to victims telling their stories. They pore through published books of what priests are assigned to which parishes when they realize what an assignment of "sick leave" means. As the list of priests lengthens they shift their focus to what the cardinal knew and when. They shift again to document a problem in the whole Catholic system. And they come to terms with how many times the story was given to the Globe over the years which produced a short article and nothing more (the movie takes place in 2001 and the first incident was in 1972). They also learn some on the team were a part of that earlier apathy, which allowed for more victims. A well made, fast paced movie, that I think deserves its award.
I can't exactly say this is a spoiler alert because we've been hearing about the priest pedophile story for 15 years now. I mention the possible spoiler alert because there were two bits at the very end that touched me. The big article is published on a Sunday morning. A couple of the Spotlight team goes to the paper's offices even though it is their day off. The phone crew near the main entrance say they've had no calls, but had to send a few colleagues down to the Spotlight offices. The two rush into the room to hear constant phone ringing. One says most of the calls are from more victims.
The second bit was just before the credits. We get the usual notes of what happened because of the article, the number of predatory priests identified, the estimate of the number of victims, that the cardinal was removed from Boston and ensconced in a comfy job in Rome. Then came the list of cities across the country and around the world where the scandal uncovered more predatory priests. There were too many cities to be able to read them all. I think I saw three screens and three columns per screen, for a total of about 160 cities caught up in the scandal.
Just so we don't forget, this is the scandal: A priest psychiatrist said about six percent of Catholic priests molest children. When an abused child came forward the church hierarchy did all it could to smother the story, then reassigned the priest to another church, where the abuse continued with fresh victims. The requirement that a priest must be celibate is mentioned as a possible contributing factor.